• Matias
    76
    If you steal something from me, you infringe on my possibility to use my property as I wish. If you steal my car, I can no longer use it. If you steal my intellectual property, for example the song I created, I can no longer make money with that song as I did before.

    Most examples of "cultural appropriation" are just examples of cultural transfer, one culture adopts ideas or practices some other people invented. Did the Maori invent tattoos? Or maybe did their ancestors adopt it from some neighbor tribe long ago?
    But when we in the West adopt tattoos or a music style Black people created, the possibility of those who used it before is not infringed. The Maori can still practice their tradition like they did before. Black people could still play the Blues like they did, even after white musicians started to adopt this kind of music.

    IMO, the whole concept that a culture "owns" some idea is rubbish. Do we Germans "own" our words? Did Americans, when they adopted German words like "kindergarten" or "zeitgeist" steal our property? Does not make sense to me.
  • Baden
    8.9k


    It's a misused and misunderstood term as is apparent from your post. There are cases where vulnerable/dominated cultures may suffer degradation through misuse/misrepresentation of their practices/traditions by others and cases where they may not. But rather than analyze them, let's just bash a strawman, and by extension all things PC, because that's much easier and more fun than actually exploring the real damage to people and their way of life that can potentially be done by stupidly fucking with stuff that is very serious to them.
  • fishfry
    848
    let's just bash a strawman, and by extension all things PC, because that's much easier and more fun than actually exploring the real damage to people and their way of life that can potentially be done by stupidly fucking with stuff that is very serious to them.Baden

    You're right. I'll stop eating burritos now.
  • Baden
    8.9k


    Oh dear, I hope you find a more appropriate place to put them. :halo:
  • fishfry
    848
    Oh dear, I hope you find a more appropriate place to put themBaden

    You seem emotionally invested in the topic. What most of us hear about the subject is college kids who demand that sushi be banned from campus menus, or that parties featuring Mexican sombreros are racist. What we hear about cultural appropriation mostly seems like childish acting out by spoiled leftists. If you can articulate some specific examples where it's really something that is evil, and perhaps give us some guidelines as to what's evil and what's silly, it would be helpful.

    Some young woman wore a Chinese-influenced dress to the prom and the SJWs went nuts.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/may/04/american-woman-qipao-china-cultural-appropriation-minorities-usa-dress

    Can you give me a razor by which I can distinguish the serious from the silly? That would be helpful. Telling me to stick a burrito up my ass isn't helpful. Perhaps you can see that.
  • Baden
    8.9k


    Lol. Have I now upset your PC sensibilities? It was a joke. At least you got it, I suppose. Anyhow, try Googling cultural appropriation to find out what it is and why it may be more than what Fox News (or whoever) tells you. I'm not going to hold your hand on this.
  • Baden
    8.9k
    I will leave this here though which presents a fairly balanced view of an issue that is not about PC outrage over people eating burritos or using German words.

    http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~rar/papers/RogersCT2006.pdf

    "Cultural appropriation ... is an active process ...The active ‘‘making one’s own’’ of another culture’s elements occurs ... in various ways, under a variety of conditions, and with varying functions and outcomes. The degree and scope of voluntariness (individually or culturally), the symmetry or asymmetry of power relations, the appropriation’s role in domination and/or resistance, the nature of the cultural boundaries involved, and other factors shape, and are shaped by, acts of cultural appropriation."
  • andrewk
    2.1k
    Cultural appropriation lies on a spectrum. Most people, regardless of their politics, would find acts at one end of the spectrum reprehensible, and would find acts at the other end harmless, and consider criticism of them as over the top. For each person, the question becomes where on the spectrum they draw the line.

    Take the case of dot paintings by indigenous Australians. These are culturally unique and come from a rich, millennia-old, tradition of producing these paintings on bark using ochres made from clay and other natural ingredients. The pictures have special meanings and even the tiniest detail of a pattern can have a significance. The style is popular and affluent non-indigenous people buy paintings from aboriginal workshops to display in their homes. The sale of such paintings by indigenous people is a rare source of income for a people that suffer enormous socioeconomic disadvantage.

    Sometimes non-indigenous businesses start making and selling their own paintings, that are either direct copies of aboriginal designs, or made up using the same general style, intended to look as though it was done in the indigenous tradition, but lacking any of the meaning that the original works had. Such businesses can get the paintings made in some low-wage country, without involving any indigenous people, and they undercut the authentic market, thereby taking income away from the indigenous people.

    Would you agree that in that case, the activity of the non-indigenous business is harmful?

    If so, it is then worth exploring less extreme cases. Perhaps the incident of the fashion designer Carolina Herrera launching a line using indigenous Mexican patterns, without using any indigenous Mexican people or allowing any profits to flow to the indigenous Mexican community, is what piqued your interest. It sounds bad to me, but I am not across the full details of the case, so I would be interested to see a discussion of that.
  • I like sushi
    1.8k
    Examples please? I have one, just curious what yours are.
  • I like sushi
    1.8k
    Most of what we see is politicised nonsense. Much like the basic idea of eugenics took on a whole other meaning so that today the term is looked upon with distain - the initial uses fo these terms were innocent and well meaning enough, but we’re always going to get some bunch of idiots pushing this or that agenda with a misappropriated concept .... wait a minute!?

    I think that is the crux of the issue ;)
  • Bitter Crank
    8.4k
    Humans have been appropriating neighbouring tribal cultures since the get go.

    Culture is one thing (hula dancing) material resources are a different thing. It isn't wrong for people in Iceland to practice hula dancing of the sort that is done in Hawaii. There is something wrong with the industrial production of SW American Indian folk art (blankets, pottery, baskets, etc.) by non-Indians and then wrecking the tribal economy by setting up markets for fake "authentic American Indian Art" down the road from the real tribal art sales rooms. There might be something wrong with tribal members selling fake folk art work too -- but this falls into the category of fair trade practices and unfair competition -- not cultural appropriation.

    The accusation of "cultural appropriation" comes out of the authoritarian urge to forbid people from behaving normally -- like eating other culture's foods, wearing their fabric designs, or learning their languages.
  • Coben
    1.1k
    IMO, the whole concept that a culture "owns" some idea is rubbish. Do we Germans "own" our words? Did Americans, when they adopted German words like "kindergarten" or "zeitgeist" steal our property? Does not make sense to me.Matias

    I have heard uses that are absurd, so there is little question in my mind that it can be used poorly. I do think there are clear examples. I think the way black music was more or less stolen - paid very poorly for, rights not granted around, etc. - then appeared via white artists earlier in history is an example where the term has meaning. Of course white artists could be exploited by corporations, but blacks were per se exploited with a difference in quality and degree of exploitation. Other people made money off their work, people of other races. They often barely got by or did not get by while others stole the products of their culture. And this would include white artists who would use their songs adn not be exploited as badly by the industry as the blacks were.
  • Matias
    76
    But in this case the problem is not cultural appropriation, but economic exploitation. The problem is not that Whites adopted the music style of the Blacks, but that Black people were considered to be an inferior race.
    The central question remains: Do human groups own their culture?
  • I like sushi
    1.8k
    In the manner you’re framing the question you may as well ask if English people own the English language. If you meant something else I don’t see it.

    If you fail to see why some people are offended by misrepresentation there’s probably not much I can say. I do care if someone believes I have purposelessly offended them though when I haven’t (could be due to my ignorance or their’s), or possibly if they take an insult as a compliment.
  • Coben
    1.1k
    But in this case the problem is not cultural appropriation, but economic exploitation. The problem is not that Whites adopted the music style of the Blacks, but that Black people were considered to be an inferior race.Matias
    Those are not mutually exclusive. You can be racist and economincally exploit also, without culturally appropriating. Slavery being an extreme example. A facet of the dynamic was taking cultural 'things' from a group without compensating them or acknowledging them for their creation.

    There are other kinds of cultural appropriation, but this is one kind.
  • Coben
    1.1k
    The central question remains: Do human groups own their culture?Matias

    If someone is getting paid for it, they should. Disney don't let nobody touch their stuff even stuff made by a guy long dead. They even extended the copywrite via lobbying.

    I don't think people own their culture, but if someone is getting paid, they should. If you are using a part of someone's culture and making them look like idiots,w hen they are not and/or when you are distorting that culture, that's ugly.

    You are benefitting - if you are - through mispresentation and using something you either do not understand or twist for your own purposes. Yes, there will be all sorts of gray areas.
  • I like sushi
    1.8k
    Show me a clear example of cultural appropriation where someone “stole” from another culture please.
  • Coben
    1.1k
    Show me a clear example of cultural appropriation where someone “stole” from another culture please.I like sushi

    Black artists systematically did not get royalties for their music. White artists did. White artists or their companies/agents have to pay royalties on music written by black artists. The was systematic in the 50s.
  • Coben
    1.1k
    Show me a clear example of cultural appropriation where someone “stole” from another culture please.I like sushi

    Aboriginal art was copied by whites in Australia and sold as authentic aboriginal art.
  • Baden
    8.9k


    @Coben has pretty well covered the type of examples I'd want to talk about though I may dig up a few more later. In any case, my issue here stems primarily from the fact that cultural appropriation is another buzz concept (like PC), the misuses of which are presented in the media as typical in a way that obscures the potential import of the issue in certain contexts. It's much more entertaining and profitable—and often politically expedient—to select examples of misguided, or even downright perverse, accusations of cultural appropriation—the "Unhand that burrito!"/"Unmouth that German phrase!" type—than to seriously explore the other side of it. And the result is a sowing of seeds of ignorance, the harvest of which is not only bushels of increased ad revenue but streams of useful idiots to spread an anti-PC, anti-left, anti-progressive message. (Of course, if overzealous/confused liberals kept themselves more in check, the media wouldn't have so much to buzz over, so it's not all on the newsies.)
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    If you steal something from me, you infringe on my possibility to use my property as I wish.Matias

    I don't agree with that definition, by the way. I only steal something from you if I take something that was yours, against your consent, so that you no longer have it. If you still have all of the stuff you had, but something I did has an impact on your opportunities to do things with the stuff you have, that doesn't count as "stealing."

    Unsurprisingly, I disagree with the conventional wisdom about "intellectual property."

    Cultural appropriation primarily seems to be an idea people adopted to have something else to be offended/outraged by, because people seem to enjoy being offended/outraged, especially lately.
  • I like sushi
    1.8k
    So you both think this is about money? That is not what I understand as ‘cultural appropriation’.

    I thought, and at a glance the definitions I’ve found agree, that it is about the misappropriate use of certain cultural - in a disrespectful manner. I may have been wrong about part of what I thought which was more about misrepresenting certain cultural attributes (I was thinking of ‘cannibals’ being views as bloodthirsty killers).

    I wouldn’t say copying is stealing either? With the dishonesty involved it is certainly not a great thing to do - I thought, and correct me if I’m wrong, this wasn’t a matter of plagiarism?

    Funnily enough I’ve just been writing about how “sushi” is misrepresented in the west; many people think it refers to “sashimi” - is that cultural appropriation if people sell “sashimi” as “sushi”?

    If I want to wear a bindi, cross, kimono or Indian headdress because I think it looks cool is that okay? If I sing with a Jamaican accent because I prefer tone is that okay?

    What does ‘disadvantaged minority cultures’ mean anyway? Do we take this on a city by city basis or country to country?

    Thanks
  • Baden
    8.9k


    It's clearly not only about money. Even in the examples given, that's only part of the equation. Aping cultures' (especially endangered ones') traditions in a way that stereotypes or denigrates them, regardless of financial considerations, is just as much, if not more, a form of unwelcome appropriation. How damaging it is would depend on the power relations involved, the type of cultural behaviour copied, its importance to the culture, in what way its appropriated, the level of impact on the culture and so on. @Bitter Crank tucking into a bowl of Irish stew would not bother an Irish person in the least (though they might wonder why he couldn't find something decent to eat). On the other hand, a well-known actor wearing an American Indian headdress and traditional tattoos for fun and encouraging others to do so could be offensive and damaging. Etc.
  • I like sushi
    1.8k
    Why could that “damaging”? That is what I don’t understand. And why actors? What if I chose to?

    I see people with all kinds of tattoos from all manner of different cultures. Basically I still don’t understand what the issue is - as in how to specifically distinguish between ‘misuse’ and simply ‘use’ of other cultural symbols and traditions.

    I think you get plenty of crazies pushing against people because this term doesn’t seem clear enough.
  • Baden
    8.9k


    Cultures subsist in a tension between the sacred and the taboo. That's the energy that holds them together. Threaten that dynamic and they can fall apart. I don't want to speak for any culture other than my own, but a basic understanding of how culture's function should allow for an appreciation of their strengths and vulnerabilities. And as @andrewk pointed out, there's a spectrum of affect there. Many accusations along these lines will be trivial and misguided, but some are not and even those that are don't justify the tin-foil-hat-left-wing-guilt-trip conspiracy theory fostered by the right-wing media that the stupider among us will gobble up like catnip .
  • Bitter Crank
    8.4k
    a bowl of Irish stewBaden

    I'm not sure what irish stew is. In this part of the world, irish stew, spaghetti, goolash, chilli, spanish rice, and chow mein descend from a single basic slurry: browned ground beef with chopped onions, and canned tomatoes in various forms, including ketchup. Canned mushroom or chicken soup are often added, along with just a few other ingredients, mostly canned.

    I occasionally engage in promiscuous eating, so I gather other people around the world eat food that is quite a bit more interesting than our poorly appropriated versions. The Hung Aryans make delicious Goulasch, but here "goolash" is just the basic slurry plus elbow macaroni. Spaghetti is exactly the same thing. Goolash and spaghetti are indisquishable.

    The basic slurry menu is what you get when you don't appropriate enough of other people's cultures. For instance, Actual Chinese chow mein would never, never never have cream of mushroom soup in it, and it wouldn't be served on canned fried noodles (at least not THOSE canned fried noodles).

    Minnesotans are suspicious of smelly cheese, so you won't find hausfraus putting Kraft™ parmesan (sold as dry cheese in a plastic container) on the basic slurry + elbow macaroni. There won't be any obscure Eyetalien flavourings like parsley, sage, rosemary, or thyme either. Maybe just a slight bit of garlic salt. Garlic is much too smelly to actually put enough in food to taste it.

    I'm in favour of raiding other people's cultures. It's the only way to get a decent meal around here. It might be the only way to get a better religion, more interesting fabrics, new ideas in tattoos, or sustainable agriculture. Maybe there are fucking rituals I'd like to try.

    Now I don't want you to appropriate upper midwestern culinary culture. I want you to come here and steal it lock, stock and barrel. Take away all of the canned mushroom soup and canned chow mein noodles. Leave the markets stripped of the sacred 15 ingredients from which the menu of the Minnesota diet can be transposed. You've heard of turning Gold into Lead? Steal the secret, please.

    Please deprive us of elbow macaroni, and the know how to brown hamburger and onions together. I like maid-rights (the basic slurry of beef, onions, ketchup, cooked thoroughly and served on a bun) but really, maybe the Afghanis would enjoy them for a few centuries while we eat their quite acceptable lentil and rice dishes.
  • Learning to die
    3
    None of the examples thus far are specific to an entire culture: blues music, tattoos, artistic designs. A specific "thing" (any of the aforementioned)may have originated with a select group of people and this "thing" may have been fairly prominent among many people in a specific geographical area...but it was not all of those people and there are various differences, and adaptions, not to mention general dislike. The term "culture" is a monstrously large term that really doesn't hold any true value in describing a group of people. Because a group of people (i.e. a "culture") is a collection of independent people with differences. Is blues music "black culture? No. The style of music may have originated with some black artists but that is not, in any way, even a defining aspect of "black culture." Same with tattoos, or tribal designs, etc. Can/could you be a Maori without a tattoo? I'm sure someone has.
    So a white fashion designer sees a pattern from and decides to copy that pattern. It is unlikely that the design was a defining piece of the entire group of people. It is far more likely that the design was specific and "owned" by a small group of people. Then you could argue for stealing, infringement, copyright, etc. But it's not an entire culture. To say that an entire group of people are defined by one specific thing is usually inaccurate.
    I don't believe in "culture."
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    Cultures subsist in a tension between the sacred and the taboo. That's the energy that holds them together. Threaten that dynamic and they can fall apart.Baden

    What in the world? First, what would be evidence of this?
  • I like sushi
    1.8k
    You don’t seem to be able to make any clear distinctions so I’ll assume there isn’t one and continue to regard the term as rather silly.
  • Maw
    1.6k
    I found this article to be particularly useful in understanding the nuances of 'cultural appropriation', and I strongly recommend reading it. The author understands cultural appropriation as twofold: "first, an issue of cultural exploitation, and second, an issue of cultural disrespect". It does not mean that a culture "owns" something that cannot be adopted or re-purposed by another culture.

    What most of us hear about the subject is college kids who demand that sushi be banned from campus menus, or that parties featuring Mexican sombreros are racist.fishfry

    First, if it's coming from college students who hold very little power or influence, particularly regarding political and social matters, then who cares? Second, in some of these stories, such as the incident at Oberlin and sushi, and Vietnamese banh mi sandwich, the truth is far more banal than the various publications, ranging from The Atlantic, The New York Times, and right-wing publications such as National Review and Breitbart led on. No one was demanding that these food be "banned" from campus. A Vietnamese student was disappointed that a cafeteria dish advertised as a traditional Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwich was made with the wrong type of bread, the wrong type of pork, and the wrong type of other fillings and that it was disrespectful to advertise it as such despite complete lack of authenticity. According to the original article from the Oberlin Review, several students who initially raised complaints wanted to meet and collaborate with the Oberlin dining service and cultural student organizations in order to rework the dishes. The way I think of it for myself, is if my school had 'New York Pastrami Sandwiches' but it was served on potato bread instead of traditional rye bread, I would seek to have it corrected. If someone unfamiliar with your cultural foods were given a very inauthentic version of it, you'd seek to have it corrected, surely. This happens across cultures.
  • Coben
    1.1k
    So you both think this is about money? That is not what I understand as ‘cultural appropriation’.I like sushi

    It can be about money, yes, under most definitions I find. But it is not limited to this. The term seems to cover presenting facets of other cultures in disrespectful ways, getting cred or coolness by using facets of other cultures and more. I went for examples where I thought more people would agree something wrong is going on. Then we have a concept many can agree has some validity and from there we can move on to more controversial examples. I don't think everything that gets labelled CA is bad. I do think however that the concept can be useful and that there are examples of it happening.
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