The phrase “cultural appropriation” appears in many forms and in many contexts. And the debate around it has intensified from time to time, especially over the past 20 years. But what does this really mean, and when exactly does it become problematic?
The type of cultural appropriation we need to be vigilant about is quite simple. This occurs when members of a dominant culture – for example, white Americans or white Australians – take elements from the culture of an ethnicity or racial group they have generally oppressed – such as indigenous peoples – and use them for themselves. use. that is, they Suitable A culture that is not their own. And it is most problematic when that appropriation is for reasons of power or profit.
When cultural appropriation = profit
Let’s use an example of profit from cultural appropriation in an industry highly associated: music and entertainment.
few years ago, Nicki Minaj calls out Miley CyrusMTV Video Music Awards for appropriating elements of hip-hop culture without actually engaging with black issues. She wrote on Twitter: “Come on, you can’t wish the good without the bad. If you want to enjoy our culture and our lifestyle, bond with us, dance with us, have fun with us, twerk with us, rap with us, you should also know what influences us. does, what bothers us, what we do is unfair to us to feel. You shouldn’t know that.” –Nicki Minaj (2015,
These comments came at a time when Krauss was experimenting with elements of hip-hop culture in his music, videos and overall public image. Miley was attempting to drop her public image as the flawless Hannah Montana and transform herself into a fully grown woman – somewhat deliberately borrowing the musical and aesthetic languages of hip hop. And of course, she was not the first.
Christina Aguilera, P! NK, Britney Spears, Iggy Azalea – the list of white female musicians who have worked with hip-hop artists and producers or explicitly appropriated elements of black culture goes on long. The common thread is that for many of them, these experiments of appropriation allowed them to gain funding and publicity by enlivening their performances with elements of a culture that was not authentically theirs. Music managers and executives have followed this pattern over the years, using it to transform their artists and keep them relevant.
There are many reasons they do this, but the bottom line is simple: White artists can use the language, sounds, and style of hip-hop and R&B, which are predominantly Black art forms, to shape their public perception. To change in a way that is often beneficial to their career. It is a prime example of cultural appropriation in the service of profit and public image.
Professor Lauren Michelle Jackson, who has written extensively about white appropriation of black culture, cites the late scholar Bell Hook when she explains the phenomenon in her book white negro: “‘Ethnicity’, in this case blackening through hip-hop culture, becomes ‘spice, the condiment that can bring to life the dull dish of mainstream white culture.'”
The difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation.
Nicki Minaj’s callout for Miley Cyrus underscores another important feature of cultural appropriation: Its perpetrators often don’t connect with the cultures they’re from. And that’s exactly what helps us differentiate between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation.
Many critics of cultural appropriation argue that it is very difficult to differentiate between the two. Culture is such a broad concept, he argues. Cultural exchange is a good thing, they oppose. And his arguments don’t quite fall on deaf ears – most people my age grew up with multiculturalism – a celebration of cultural difference and ethnic diversity – as a mainstay of schools, community organizations, and even family life. .
But in this country, there is a long history of appropriation and slander that coexists with the relatively recent multiculturalist ethos.
One of the earliest (and still the most talked about) examples of cultural appropriation is blackface, which occurs when white people impersonate black people by darkening their skin with cosmetics.
The history of blackface actually begins with a man whose stage character was named “Jim Crow”. Thomas Dartmouth Rice (1808–1860) was a white New York actor who became famous for his blackface minstrel shows, in which he portrayed the lives of slaves in skits and musical numbers, all while in blackface. These shows were of course aimed primarily at white audiences.
Blackface minstrelsy, as it is now known, became an incredibly popular theatrical form in America, peaking between 1850–1870—including the period in which enslaved people were first emancipated. It was an early example of white artists appropriating and exploiting the experiences of black Americans for the benefit of them.
Interestingly, after the Civil War, some black Americans reimagined the minstrel show format and created their own traveling music circles, giving some former slaves (and their descendants) economic freedom, celebrity, and the opportunity to travel the country. Gave.
These travel shows also began to attract black audiences, which meant that they naturally included subjects and art forms that were more geared toward our communities. Among these was a new form of soulful music that originated in the Mississippi Delta and had deep roots in Black Spirituals: The Blues.
By the 1920s, America had its first record label stars and household names, many of whom were actually black female blues musicians. Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith became nationally recognized artists and even managed to garner some real money due to the popularity of the blues and rapid production of the record.
But eventually – not unlike hip-hop’s appropriation – white artists, managers, and record label owners felt they could market these new “race records” (as any blues and jazz record was called at the time). can. white spectators.
Historians such as Amiri Baraka have argued the folk and rock music that took hold of the country in the 1950s and ’60s – popularized by mega stars such as Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and even the Beatles – without blues music. Could not have existed, a quintessentially black American art form. Baraka thought the blues were “the original national voice of the African-American people”, and argued that since the 19th century white America had consistently appropriated black musical styles, stating that Blues People: Negro Music in White America: “…after each new wave of black innovation, i.e., New Orleans, Big Band, Bebop, Rhythm & Blues, Hard Bop, new music, there was a commercial collaboration of original music and a desire to replace it with corporate dilution. The effort was made. Predominantly white players were portrayed and a predominantly white middle class audience.”
It is difficult to clearly determine who “owns” a musical genre or who has the authority to perform it. A musician’s commercial success depends on their ability to reach a large number of people, and some of those listeners are bound to be musicians, who learn from what they hear, regardless of their ethnic or racial identity. eager to imitate or develop.
However, when it comes to dollars and cents, we know that black musicians such as Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith (as well as many other blues and jazz innovators of the time) were not paid as much as their white counterparts. Nor did they receive any meaningful acknowledgment by white actors for their role in this history. Elvis never had to acknowledge the dark history behind the blues to benefit from his appeal.
This form of cultural appropriation is deeply intertwined with the systemic and institutional racism inherent in capitalism. In theory, art and other cultural products are created for the benefit of all. But in practice, they are also monetized for the benefit of the few. That’s why we need to be aware of the dynamics of appropriation when we’re talking about who makes money and what art earns publicity.
In today’s world, globalization and digitization have made it easier than ever to access different cultures and their artistic creations. This can be a beautiful thing. But it also makes them easier to fit.
The fashion industry has come under scrutiny in this regard, as they are at the center of global trade in design, textiles and craftsmanship. Just last year, the Mexican government publicly condemned mega retailer Zara for appropriating the original style of indigenous craftsmen in the Oaxaca region. In response, Zara apologized and removed some of the clothes from her website, but there’s really nothing stopping her from repeating this behavior.
Other designers have made it a point to bring indigenous people into their process from the start. When Osklen, the director of a Brazilian sportswear brand, visited the Ashninka tribe in South America, he didn’t just pick up motifs and styles from his traditional craft for his next season. He worked with the tribe to ensure that they received a share of the profits, as well as publicize their struggle to protect their land from industrial encroachment. It may not be a perfect exchange, but it’s more thoughtful and engaging than your average “inspired-by” collection.
Moving forward in a multicultural world
The globalized world we live in is the product of centuries of colonial conquest by Western, predominantly white superpowers. European and American imperialists handed us a racist legacy – and part of it is the systematic denigration of indigenous cultures as inferior (and therefore winnable).
We have to acknowledge that the appropriation of indigenous cultures without proper engagement, credit or economic benefits advances the imperialist project in a culturally violent manner. So when we talk about cultural appropriation and its pitfalls, we don’t really focus on your Italian espresso-maker or your Russian vodka. We are looking for examples of dominant cultures historically appropriated from oppressed or marginalized communities.
Because of our multicultural world, it is inevitable that there will be cultural appropriation, appreciation and exchange. Overall, it is a great thing to share different cultures with each other. That said, there are some very basic guidelines when it comes to cultural appreciation, especially if you are a member of a major culture:
- Never use other countries or cultures as jokes or costumes that are not your own (e.g. wearing a sombrero to your Cinco de Mayo party)
- Do not misrepresent traditional or sacred elements of a culture that have deep meaning for its members (for example wearing a Native American warrior headdress to a concert)
- If you are connecting with another culture, make sure you engage with its members and see how you can use your platform to benefit their interests
- Do not allow cultural appropriation to promote benefits without acknowledging the contribution and historical origins of the cultural product – and where possible, work to share those benefits with the communities you are joining
Cultural appropriation can be a huge gray area, but it can also be very straightforward. If it feels like you need to ask questions or make some calls, chances are it’s worth digging deeper into the situation. ,A popular British chef also has a team of cultural appropriation experts on hand to make sure he’s giving due credit when creating dishes inspired by other cuisines.,
if we Huh In order to borrow or learn from cultures beyond ourselves, we must ensure that we engage with them on a deep social and economic level. This means raising the voice of underrepresented communities and giving them compensation or equity for their contributions. It also means going beyond the blame game to make room for deeper conversations about appropriation. Calling it out is only the beginning: we need to talk about how appropriation dynamics work and why they are harmful.
The culture is vast. There is much involved in this that makes a man great. Arts, crafts, music, literature, dance, sports, language, food – all the great things in the world live under the huge umbrella of “culture”. These things must be cherished and protected, and when they intersect with wealth and power – which they often do – we have to be vigilant about who benefits from them.
This article was adapted and reprinted with permission of definition of diversity,