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What Do You Think Cultural Appropriation Is?

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1 hour ago, Zorral said:

Altherion is missing the additional point that white people claiming oppression and victimization is not only appropriating what actually happens to enormous groups among the diversity of groups that live in the world who are not white, but a political ploy to pretend that the actual victimization and oppression isn't happening, has never happened, and happens at the hands and systems of white people.  I.e. this is white supremacy tactics talking on his part.

I agree this is a huge problem, but the counter should be to call propagandists out for what they are, not diminish or wave off the suffering and generational trauma that European immigrants (Jews, Irish, Poles, Armenians, etc.) have faced.

2 hours ago, Darth Richard II said:

edit: no, must not

I try to hold to the old axiom: Don't wrestle a pig, you just get yourself tired and filthy and the pig enjoys it.

I also notice that folks who refer to others (particularly on the internet) in derogatory language meant to feminize tend to do so out of a pretty transparent terror of what's on the other side of the mirror.

Edited by Let's Get Kraken

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4 hours ago, Lady Winter Rose said:

I really don't think Native Americans are those who are most vocal. It's usually your closes neighbourgh who hates your guts and use it to hate you like gentlemen.

Native Americans would rather oil and no fake Native Americans claiming oil. Child dressing in NA is not claiming oil. Fake NA are claiming riches based on fraud. Which no child committed - children aren't interested in oil after all.

What a bunch of useless handwaving bullshit. My question wasn't complicated. Stop sniffing your own farts.

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20 hours ago, Linda said:

Is it nice to be purposefully mocking an important part of another culture/religion? Maybe not, and a bit of politeness never hurts, but no one much bats an eye when it comes to making fun of Christianity, for example.

Well... that's not really true, though, is it?

I mean, what is the ongoing kerfuffle about the 'war on Christmas' in the US but people raising a fuss about cultural appropriation? And that's not new, either: I was raised in the church, and have heard people all my life complaining about how non-Christians are appropriating Christmas. And Easter, for that matter. (Of course, ironically aspects of both Christmas and Easter are in part appropriated from other cultures in the first place, particularly the dates.)

And I can recall numerous other instances from my life of just such complaints of non-religious people appropriating Christian imagery and icons for non-religious purposes. Rosaries and crucifixes being worn for fashion reasons in the late '80s, for example.

When it comes to making fun of Christianity, you can found an entire media career in the US on being outraged about that. People have.

There are other white Western examples - a couple have been given in this thread. One which I think we can all agree is awful would be the appropriation of Viking culture and imagery by the far-right. Twenty years ago, if I heard someone say they were an Odinist, I might be curious. Now, I'm instantly wary.

Returning to the Christmas example, it's a really good one because it shows one of the dangers of cultural appropriation (which you might actually argue is also a benefit): a cultural tradition can become so widespread and used by so many different people that it loses its cultural meaning and becomes something that belongs to many cultures. In doing so, it adds to those cultures, but loses some of its special meaning for the originating culture.

But there really is a difference when we're talking about minority or oppressed cultures, I think, and I'm going to have a bash at explaining that although I'm sure there are people better qualified to do it than I am.

The thing is, if you're in a minority or oppressed group, things your culture creates have an additional value. They show the value of your identity and culture, when the dominant culture often treats those things as lesser or worthless. So, to have the dominant culture take them over, and even take credit for them, is a slap in the face.

Take those black American musicians mentioned earlier. Early white rock'n'roll artists were treated as some sort of intrepid cultural anthropologists for having 'discovered' these guys and used their influences. They got the credit for 'finding' this music that had been there all along. The people who had created it and were right there playing it, got little or no credit. That is hugely damaging, not only to those individuals but to their culture and, by extension, those that live in that culture.

That's why I say respect and credit are necessary to avoid cultural appropriation. For me, there's a distinction between appreciation and appropriation, and respect and credit are the basis of that difference.

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4 hours ago, mormont said:

Well... that's not really true, though, is it?

I mean, what is the ongoing kerfuffle about the 'war on Christmas' in the US but people raising a fuss about cultural appropriation? And that's not new, either: I was raised in the church, and have heard people all my life complaining about how non-Christians are appropriating Christmas. And Easter, for that matter. (Of course, ironically aspects of both Christmas and Easter are in part appropriated from other cultures in the first place, particularly the dates.)

And I can recall numerous other instances from my life of just such complaints of non-religious people appropriating Christian imagery and icons for non-religious purposes. Rosaries and crucifixes being worn for fashion reasons in the late '80s, for example.

When it comes to making fun of Christianity, you can found an entire media career in the US on being outraged about that. People have.

There are other white Western examples - a couple have been given in this thread. One which I think we can all agree is awful would be the appropriation of Viking culture and imagery by the far-right. Twenty years ago, if I heard someone say they were an Odinist, I might be curious. Now, I'm instantly wary.

Returning to the Christmas example, it's a really good one because it shows one of the dangers of cultural appropriation (which you might actually argue is also a benefit): a cultural tradition can become so widespread and used by so many different people that it loses its cultural meaning and becomes something that belongs to many cultures. In doing so, it adds to those cultures, but loses some of its special meaning for the originating culture.

But there really is a difference when we're talking about minority or oppressed cultures, I think, and I'm going to have a bash at explaining that although I'm sure there are people better qualified to do it than I am.

The thing is, if you're in a minority or oppressed group, things your culture creates have an additional value. They show the value of your identity and culture, when the dominant culture often treats those things as lesser or worthless. So, to have the dominant culture take them over, and even take credit for them, is a slap in the face.

Take those black American musicians mentioned earlier. Early white rock'n'roll artists were treated as some sort of intrepid cultural anthropologists for having 'discovered' these guys and used their influences. They got the credit for 'finding' this music that had been there all along. The people who had created it and were right there playing it, got little or no credit. That is hugely damaging, not only to those individuals but to their culture and, by extension, those that live in that culture.

That's why I say respect and credit are necessary to avoid cultural appropriation. For me, there's a distinction between appreciation and appropriation, and respect and credit are the basis of that difference.

Well said.  This is also the difference between intellectual - cultural - artistic influences, and appropriation / plagerism / stealing.  

Also the difference comes when those employing the influence and appreciation, understand the principles of what they working with, and why they are working these elements into their own works.  It goes both ways, which is why there are objections on the part of some of how Christmas is played with in, say, Asia -- though divorcing the commercial and design aspects of what have become integral to the Day from the religious and reverent aspects is as much true in Christian countries, and where it began in the first place, turning a day of religious observances into a season of capitalism consumerism.

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To delve deeper into these fractal-issue matters:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/guess-whos-championing-homer-radical-online-conservatives/2018/11/02/af3a49f6-dd40-11e8-85df-7a6b4d25cfbb_story.html?

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But as Yiannopoulos and Bokhari noted, the alt-right has also embraced identity politics . Progressive scholars apply gender and race theory to the study of the classics to open the ancient Mediterranean to more inclusive readings that emphasize the roles of women and slaves, for example. Alt-right readers focus on race and gender, too, but with the aim of praising whiteness and masculinity — and justifying the privileged place that white males enjoy in society.

The alt-right takes a two-pronged approach to defending the classics. First, it pushes back forcefully against what it considers the “wrong” (i.e., progressive) kind of classics. In the summer of 2017, the BBC aired a cartoon about Roman Britain that included several people of color. In response, Paul Joseph Watson, editor at large of Infowars, wrote on that site: “Few things are more insidious than attempting to re-write history to achieve your unhinged political agenda. Resist all attempts to historically normalize politically correct myths. Who controls the past controls the future.” (In fact, Roman Britain’s population was somewhat ethnically diverse and included a North African contingent.)

This response embodied many alt-right tropes found in discussions of the classics. Watson accused the cartoon of being anachronistic in service of an agenda, whereas he considers his version of history to be apolitical and factually accurate. He also called the left “unhinged,” even as he dropped ominous hints about an apocalyptic cultural nightmare as the natural consequence of cartoons that depict nonwhite Romans. (“Who controls the past controls the future.”) . . . .

. . . . Sparta’s efforts to stay ethnically “pure” appeal to the white supremacists of the alt-right for obvious reasons. Meanwhile, the military culture of Sparta has been embraced by white-nationalist militias including the Oath Keepers , and Spartan imagery is common at far-right protests. The response by Sparta’s King Leonidas to the Persian King Xerxes’ demand at the Battle of Thermopylae that the 300 Spartans turn over their weapons — “Come and take them” (“molon labe”) — has become an all-purpose right-wing rallying cry; the Oath Keepers have a “Molon Labe Pledge.” . . . .
 

 

I was watching a documentary on the swastika and other symbolic and occult / mystical elements of Hitler's nazis.  This contemporary USA version comes right out of the nazi system of recruitment, motivation, propaganda and insane thinking in everything, including contempt and disgust for women.

Plus so much more.  Gads even ancient history cannot provide respite from these murderous insane people.

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I tend to rate "impersonation" and "uncredited theft of particular individuals' work" as bigger concerns than incorporating elements of stuff here and there (for example, the way that Sichuan Cuisine uses hot peppers that came from the Americas). The latter is simply reality - cultures are not distinct entities with solid boundaries that can be transgressed, at least not most of the time. 

 

Edited by Winter Bass

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22 minutes ago, Winter Bass said:

The latter is simply reality - cultures are not distinct entities with solid boundaries that can be transgressed, at least not most of the time. 

I think that's about right. There is no ownership to culture. The influences that shape all cultures are manifold and uncountable. In the modern era we are better able to shape influences in literature, music, film, fashion, cuisine, etc. than we once were, but it's obvious enough that ancient cultures influenced one another, sometimes through antagonism, sometimes peacably. Culture's symbiotic with human society, and if there is any single quality about it that is universal, it is that culture spreads. 

There are many, many injustices that have taken place across the history of humanity, and are still going on today. Culture spreading, being adapted and remixed, and being spread in new forms, is not one of them.

Edited by Ran

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49 minutes ago, Ran said:

I think that's about right. There is no ownership to culture. The influences that shape all cultures are manifold and uncountable. In the modern era we are better able to shape influences in literature, music, film, fashion, cuisine, etc. than we once were, but it's obvious enough that ancient cultures influenced one another, sometimes through antagonism, sometimes peacably. Culture's symbiotic with human society, and if there is any single quality about it that is universal, it is that culture spreads. 

There are many, many injustices that have taken place across the history of humanity, and are still going on today. Culture spreading, being adapted and remixed, and being spread in new forms, is not one of them.

Well, parasitism is a type of symbiosis.  And when you have a world where imperialism, colonialism, and captialism are present that world is going to be rife with examples of an oprressive dominant culture parasitising others.  Just because culture spreads doesn't mean it's not happening by fucked up, unjust means.  And when that happens it's cultural appropriation.  

Edited by larrytheimp

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39 minutes ago, Ran said:

There are many, many injustices that have taken place across the history of humanity, and are still going on today. Culture spreading, being adapted and remixed, and being spread in new forms, is not one of them.

Spreading is one thing, but how would you describe, say, the use of native iconography by teams like the Washington Redskins? Or, to take a classical example, the practice of Romans adopting local gods as their own as part of a process of cultural assimilation? Syncretism is a form of culture spreading, if you like, but it's definitely been used as a tool of colonisation.

I just don't think we can take this morally neutral view where culture spreading is somehow just something that naturally happens. Often it is. But often it isn't. It can be morally neutral, but that doesn't mean it must be or always is.

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24 minutes ago, mormont said:

Spreading is one thing, but how would you describe, say, the use of native iconography by teams like the Washington Redskins? Or, to take a classical example, the practice of Romans adopting local gods as their own as part of a process of cultural assimilation? Syncretism is a form of culture spreading, if you like, but it's definitely been used as a tool of colonisation.

I just don't think we can take this morally neutral view where culture spreading is somehow just something that naturally happens. Often it is. But often it isn't. It can be morally neutral, but that doesn't mean it must be or always is.

Another way of saying it, is that many things go on simultaneously in the realms of language, style, art, culture, entertainment and fashion -- and even religion -- and always have.  Some of them are intentionally demeaning and cruel (such as so many caricacturist depictions of African Americans in the Jim Crow -- and even now -- some of them truly provide answers to important issues of protest and resistance as with reggae and hiphop in nations across the Middle East and Asia who are very far away from the originators of these forms -- some are purely exploitive for profit as with fashion designers incorporating calligraphy of the suras -- others show a new way to handle narrative in fiction as sf/f writers and others adapt oral traditions of certain cultures to the page, while others like Rowling's Potter universe wizarding moved to the USA are incredibly tone deaf and ignorant, and so on and so forth.

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  I've struggled with this a bit lately.  The definition.

When I was a boy, I was part of a YMCA program, Indian Guides.  Dads and sons grouped into tribes, using names like Blackfoot and Comanche.  The dad in charge was the Chief, the boys referred to as braves. The chiefs did wear headdress and sometimes other garb based on actual native american dress, though generally only at the campfire ceremony.  It was the early 80s (at that time the Y program would have been about 65 years old, as it's about 90 now).  It used the terminology and, yes, the dress to a small extent, but it ultimately was a program that framed a lot if the YMCA's Christian messaging and themes (though ultimately even that was tamped down in favor of being a really good excuse for dads to spend quality time with their sons).  

Fast forward 35 some years and I've got both Little Jax and the Little Lady in the current versions of the Y program (my little sister was in the girls version of father and daughters called Indian Princesses in the 80s also).  The YMCA program we've joined up with here in Wisconsin still used the Native American terminology and ways of grouping the kids and dads. (When still in Illinois when Little Jax was just old enough to join the program, the group we were with was contemplating moving away from the appropriated aspects). And now, nearly a year in, the Wisconsin group is doing the same.  

The group we're with now has a number of dads in my general age range who came through the program in the 80s into the early 90s.  Some are resistant to the changes, though most do seem to understand the why. I look at the references to "the Great Spirit" and use of garb and I see it through the eyes of my 8 year old self and it doesn't seem wrong.  We're not now, or then, trying to become Native Americans or emulate them.  We're not making money, nor is anything in the program blatantly racist in its presentation, at least I truly believe it isnt meant to be.  But I get it and I have no desire to protest moving away from the use of Native American symbolism.  The program's slogan is "pals forever", so it doesnt actually need the Native American framing.  The "aims" that the boys and girls learn as a part of the program, other than one referencing the Great Spirit when talking about dealing with nature, don't actually refernence Native American ideas, as the aims are more about citizenship and is more reflective of Y's Christian background.  

I do get it.  Truly the worst aspect of appropriated culture is the dads, the "chiefs" in full headdress (no matter how proper they been made) hosting the evening campfire ceremonies.  It isn't needed, regardless of effect.  I'm okay with moving away from the "tribes" and calling the groups based on animal names. 

Ultimately it's interesting that the recent movement in the direction (certainly later than it should have been) helped me see what wasn't actually correct, even if it was meant to innocent framing device.  I still get to spend quality time with my kids the way I did with my dad.  The program is Y Guides now, and the basic tenet of being Pals Forever with your child hasnt gone away, it has just been brought into the 21st century.

Man I hope this ramble makes sense.

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52 minutes ago, larrytheimp said:

  Just because culture spreads doesn't mean it's not happening by fucked up, unjust means.  And when that happens it's cultural appropriation.  

And yet the spread of culture would have happened regardless of the "means". As soon as two cultures meet, they remix one another's elements. There is no justice or injustice in cultural spreading. It's simply the nature of culture. The first paleoamerican to pop corn didn't necessarily intend for it to pass its way up from Mexico to the eastern seaboard, and we can be sure that knowledge didn't always spread "peacefully", but it is what it is. Culture spreads, will we or nil we. Putting false boundaries on who can use culture is like trying to put boundaries on where rain falls. 

Quote

Or, to take a classical example, the practice of Romans adopting local gods as their own as part of a process of cultural assimilation? Syncretism is a form of culture spreading, if you like, but it's definitely been used as a tool of colonisation.

Anything can be used as a tool of colonisation.  This doesn't change the fact that culture spreads by its very nature, because no one actually owns culture. The attempt to apply ownership, moral or otherwise, to cultural practice is such a bizzare thing, because it's so explicitly capitalist in conception. 

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I just don't think we can take this morally neutral view where culture spreading is somehow just something that naturally happens. Often it is. But often it isn't. It can be morally neutral, but that doesn't mean it must be or always is.

It is always inevitable that culture spreads. The spread of culture is not a bad thing. Oppression of people is, but whenever people meet, culture spreads, so I think you do have to divorce these things. In fact, the only injustice I can imagine in terms of culture spreading is its opposite, namely actively attempting to destroy culture and prevent its free spread.

I can't even imagine a world whose first principle is "No cultural appropriation". It'd be a world of cultures not meeting, not mixing, not reforming. One has to take the good with the bad, from a historical perspective. As to the present day, we can certainly both attempt to understand history and attempt to avoid committing injustices. Don't steal someone else's song or writing, give credit where it's due, and so on. But don't freely borrow new ideas and new ways of looking at things? It's antithetical to the human experience.

Edited by Ran

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1 hour ago, mormont said:

Spreading is one thing, but how would you describe, say, the use of native iconography by teams like the Washington Redskins? Or, to take a classical example, the practice of Romans adopting local gods as their own as part of a process of cultural assimilation? Syncretism is a form of culture spreading, if you like, but it's definitely been used as a tool of colonisation.

I just don't think we can take this morally neutral view where culture spreading is somehow just something that naturally happens. Often it is. But often it isn't. It can be morally neutral, but that doesn't mean it must be or always is.

How would you suggest we differentiate between that which is natural and that which is evil?  Perhaps those combinations that result from direct imperialiam as opposed to secondary or tertiary acquisitions like the example of Chinese adopting the use of peppers from    the Americas?

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Quote

Spreading is one thing, but how would you describe, say, the use of native iconography by teams like the Washington Redskins? 

I would describe the above as, at very best, problematical.  Sports stand in for war (and thus killing). Wars with the Natives are not unfraught history here in this nation, at this time either.  Putting Native tribal names upon opposing teams who fight it out for the entertainment of prominently white percentage audiences, for the sake of the profits of the white owners of the teams -- and when many members of the sports teams are African American -- this is where it gets really dicey.  Why Native tribes object to their names being upon sports teams is perfectly understandable, particularly right this very minute, when refusing human rights and voting rights to Native tribes is going on right this minute, as in North Dakota putting up rules and regulations that people living on reservations can't vote in this election. And putting up ballot measures for this election on Tuesday that paves the way for anyone to be disenfranchised for any reason the powers that pee on us all see useful:

 

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NORTH DAKOTA MEASURE 2: A statewide initiated measure that would amend the North Dakota Constitution to state that "only a citizen" of the United States is qualified to vote in elections, as opposed to the current language in the Constitution that says "every citizen" of the United States is qualified to vote.

The measure also states that "only a qualified elector may vote in any general, special, or primary election for a federal, statewide, state legislative, district , county, township, city, or school district office or ballot measure."

 

 

Putting together just these two actions that have happened right now makes it really easy to understand why Native tribes don't want their names on sports teams.

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4 hours ago, mormont said:

Spreading is one thing, but how would you describe, say, the use of native iconography by teams like the Washington Redskins?

I'd lump that under "impersonation". It's not like they've something else that uses feathers in the team graphics - they are openly, explicitly using a caricature of native American imagery without being indigenous, nor even with consent from an indigenous group.

 

Edited by Winter Bass

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The thing that strikes me, when travelling through the USA, is that the only time I've seen First Nations representation out in public is a statue of an "Indian chief" outside the entrance to tobacconist shops. I wonder how First Nations people feel about the main public imagery in mainstream USA being associated with the sale of cancer sticks?

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16 hours ago, mormont said:

When it comes to making fun of Christianity, you can found an entire media career in the US on being outraged about that. People have.

People have, but this kind of outrage does not have the power that its left-wing counterpart does (i.e. it's not likely to get people fired from their job over a Halloween costume).

16 hours ago, mormont said:

Take those black American musicians mentioned earlier. Early white rock'n'roll artists were treated as some sort of intrepid cultural anthropologists for having 'discovered' these guys and used their influences. They got the credit for 'finding' this music that had been there all along. The people who had created it and were right there playing it, got little or no credit.

This is a general feature of the market system: the entity which gets paid (both in money and in cultural influence) is the one which successfully sells its product to the mass market. It's quite often the case that this is not the same entity as first develops a product of this type; the earlier products are either lacking in some way or simply aren't marketed properly and their creators get very little. The successful artists in the case you describe put made the work palatable to the mainstream so they reaped the rewards.

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