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  1. #1
    Senior Member Viridian's Avatar
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    Default Cultural appropriation

    I've been reading a few things about the appropriation of elements of other cultures by the dominant ones - usually white American culture - and how it can result in "exoticization" of such non-dominant cultures or use of their symbols without respect or knowledge towards them. For instance, the use of Native American warbonnets/headdresses by white people (outside of the proper ceremonial occasions), as well as dressing up as an "Indian" for Halloween* can be quite offensive to those cultures.

    With that in mind, I do wonder... Considering the way cultures interact, is appropriation part of the whole "coexisting cultures" deal? What is or isn't appropriative? Are "Chinese" restaurants with food adapted for non-Chinese tastes offensive/imperialistic? Where do we draw the line?

    * Look up "Pocahottie". I dare you.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Viridian's Avatar
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    ...Anyone? @CzeCze?
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  3. #3

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    Although the dressing up as indians was originally a homage to them, like the noble savage idea, it was part of the Boston Tea Party.

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    royal member Rasofy's Avatar
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    Your thread is good but it is very broad.
    Let's see...most people tend to see their cultures as the best one avaiable. Mocking other cultures is a side effect. A side effect that requires knowledge of other cultures (in some cultures the access to this kind of information is difficult, so they don't have the opportunity to do that).
    When cultures clash, people either:
    a) Think people of the other culture should be enlightened (e.g. China in regards to animal rights)
    b) Make fun (e.g. muslims and their 72 virgins)
    c) Accept they are different, but a bit weird (e.g. England and monarchy)
    d) Ignore (e.g. African cultures)
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    A man creates. A parasite says, 'What will the neighbors think?'
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  5. #5
    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Mole's Avatar
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    The best thing we can do for another culture is to learn the language. When we learn to speak like them, we become them. And strangely enough, when we learn to speak another language, we appreciate our own even more.

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    triple nerd score poppy's Avatar
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    So far in my experience it seems that the best way to know what is and is not cultural appropriation is to listen to and seek out the opinions of people from those cultures. Listening without being defensive is hard, but possible. Coming up with a clear standard for what constitutes cultural appropriation is probably even harder, because it is so intensely contextual.
    "There's no need to be embarrassed about it, Mr. Spock. It happens to the birds and the bees!"

  7. #7
    Senior Member Viridian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by poppy View Post
    So far in my experience it seems that the best way to know what is and is not cultural appropriation is to listen to and seek out the opinions of people from those cultures. Listening without being defensive is hard, but possible. Coming up with a clear standard for what constitutes cultural appropriation is probably even harder, because it is so intensely contextual.
    Yes, I wanted to hear minorities' thoughts on this issue - particularly Cze's, since she knows quite a lot about this sociology stuff.

    The catch, though, is that it's hard to extrapolate from "This person of X minority finds Y offensive" to "This Y thing is offensive to all X people", since you put them into the position of Ambassador of Xtopia - thus holding one person accountable for their whole ethnicity/sexuality/whatever in the same way that, say, a person of X minority acting stereotypical is "an embarassment" to all Xers, which doesn't happen with straight white males (well, except for Pauly Shore, disgrace to white men everywhere). It's like that Wanda Sykes routine where she says she had to "act properly" in front of white people (look it up, it's awesome ) before Obama became the US President.
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  8. #8
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Viridian View Post
    With that in mind, I do wonder... Considering the way cultures interact, is appropriation part of the whole "coexisting cultures" deal? What is or isn't appropriative? Are "Chinese" restaurants with food adapted for non-Chinese tastes offensive/imperialistic? Where do we draw the line?
    A few relevant thoughts:

    1. I have heard/read objections to the use of Native American cultural elements by those not of that culture. This has often been in the context of new age or neo-Pagan spirituality, where someone or some group adopts some practice or follows some myth of Native Americans. Some people believe this is disrespectful of the original native culture. To me, it is disrespectful only if one does it superficially, without attempting to learn about the real meaning and history behind what one is appropriating.

    2. The U.S. is big on appropriating the superficial elements of all sorts of foreign or "exotic" cultures. A day at Epcot Center in Florida is sufficient evidence of this. It is unfortunate since our nation is made up largely of immigrants, who came here with much to add, and unfortunately much to lose, culturally at least.

    3. The flip side of questioning the appropriation of other cultures is asking whether we must be bound by our own culture, meaning the culture into which we are born and raised. What if we marry into a different culture? Is it "valid" to learn about and enjoy the culture of our in-laws? What if we simply find beauty and meaning in a different culture? I can find no objection, if someone earnestly tries to understand what they are "appropriating".

    4. Victor raises a pertinent point in mentioning language. It is an important conduit of culture. Learning how to communicate in another language is more than learning grammar and vocabulary; it is learning to communicate in a different way, and to see things through others' eyes. Another area where we Americans fall very, very short.
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  9. #9

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    There's a line between appropriation and exploitation. All cultures seem to appropriate to some degree, which is a natural and often healthy outcome of interaction between cultures. It's when that interaction becomes one-sided and exploitative that things turn ugly. Europeans in the 19th century committed a massive mistake by assuming they were racially superior when really they only possessed arguably superior tools and technology. The Japanese brought that entire line of thinking into question in the very early 20th century (1902 - 1906?) by appropriating European means of warfare and nearly obliterating the entire Russian fleet. For the first time Europeans began to question their racial superiority, though some continue to do so in light of huge evidence to the contrary, not to mention the evidence that "races" don't really exist except as a lingering social phenomenon. But as long as empires exist we'll have cultural imperialism, but we seem to have come up with new ways of justifying it rather than racial or "manifest destiny" means, though variations on that thinking still persists in multiple places even today.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Viridian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    A few relevant thoughts:

    1. I have heard/read objections to the use of Native American cultural elements by those not of that culture. This has often been in the context of new age or neo-Pagan spirituality, where someone or some group adopts some practice or follows some myth of Native Americans. Some people believe this is disrespectful of the original native culture. To me, it is disrespectful only if one does it superficially, without attempting to learn about the real meaning and history behind what one is appropriating.
    Yes, that seems to match the main objections I have heard. I admit, not without shame, that I happen to own a dreamcatcher I bought from a street vendor and use it mainly as a decorative element in my room - despite not even being American (unless we're talking about the continent).

    Not to mention that these aesthetics often meld all the different Native American cultures into a mishmash of elements clumsily placed under the same umbrella.

    2. The U.S. is big on appropriating the superficial elements of all sorts of foreign or "exotic" cultures. A day at Epcot Center in Florida is sufficient evidence of this. It is unfortunate since our nation is made up largely of immigrants, who came here with much to add, and unfortunately much to lose, culturally at least.
    This raises an intriguing question - considering the status of United States as a nation so influenced by its immigrants, is there such a thing as a "pure" American culture? Or is it, like Frankenstein's monster, a mélange of different external elements without its own identity?

    3. The flip side of questioning the appropriation of other cultures is asking whether we must be bound by our own culture, meaning the culture into which we are born and raised. What if we marry into a different culture? Is it "valid" to learn about and enjoy the culture of our in-laws? What if we simply find beauty and meaning in a different culture? I can find no objection, if someone earnestly tries to understand what they are "appropriating".
    That's a good point. Although it's a dangerous path to tread.

    4. Victor raises a pertinent point in mentioning language. It is an important conduit of culture. Learning how to communicate in another language is more than learning grammar and vocabulary; it is learning to communicate in a different way, and to see things through others' eyes. Another area where we Americans fall very, very short.
    True. Language is a facet of culture, after all.
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