Cultural appropriation

Clothes

Re: World's Greatest

Postby adiabatic » Tue Apr 12, 2016 3:02 am

CheerUpBrokeBoy wrote:can white people pull off jackets with kimono-style features or closures? seriously asking as a white dude

i know white dudes get clowned on for wearing noragis but idk if that's just because they're usually denimbros

hanten jkt looks really good though, i usually always like kimono-style outerwear but not enough to be an orientalist idiot


Google Image Search seems to suggest that they work OK as a casual thing to throw on with a formality level somewhere between a bathrobe and an unstructured blazer. Am I wrong?
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Re: World's Greatest

Postby adiabatic » Tue Apr 12, 2016 2:29 pm

no but he was looking at it more in terms of the connotations/nuance than the physical look of the piece itself


Another possibility is that people around him don't have much, strong, or any connotations surrounding Japanese outerwear and so it isn't an issue around him.

…then again, outside of ethnic-studies departments and internet fashion fora, where in North America would one find a sizeable number of people who have at least moderate associations with noragi?
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Cultural appropriation

Postby adiabatic » Tue Apr 12, 2016 3:49 pm

noragis are definitely culturally recognizable as a distinctly "japanese" garment that will come off as some sort of tone deaf costume


They'll look Japanese if you're sophisticated enough to already know what they are. I'm not sure many people do.

As for your "costume" comment, do any the following pictures look like people wearing costumes, and if so which and why? I'll caption each with my take on the outfit.

Spoiler:
dude walkin' around

Image

dude standin' around

Image

another dude standin' around, not at all looking like he's about to go to a cosplay convention

Image

ok, this kinda looks costumey, but a lot of that is the way he's folding his arms and how the jacket is a bunch of patches — anything that patchy would look costumey to me

Image


Now, if I saw a garment with a mon on it, I'd figure it's Japanese, but I'm probably more clueful about Japanese things than at least 99.5% of the people living around me and probably 95% of all North Americans — and I'm relatively clueless about this sort of thing compared to people who know lots about Japanese culture. Given that most people in NA know very little about what's Japanese and what isn't, why are you confident that "will come off" is the proper phrase to use as opposed to, say, "might come off to a handful of people"?
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Re: World's Greatest

Postby mc-lunar » Tue Apr 12, 2016 4:39 pm

why is the discussion "how many people will realize that this is bad" vs. "is this bad or not"
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Re: World's Greatest

Postby adiabatic » Tue Apr 12, 2016 5:06 pm

mc-lunar wrote:why is the discussion "how many people will realize that this is bad" vs. "is this bad or not"


"how many people will realize that this is bad" assumes that it is bad. I'm asking "under what conditions will more than a tiny handful of people recognize that a particular garment is actually a noragi, is therefore Japanese, and ought to be considered in that light?".

Most people who talk about non-japanese people wearing japanese garments talk about whether this sort of thing is bad or not. I'm simply interested in a different question.
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Re: World's Greatest

Postby jrisk » Tue Apr 12, 2016 5:17 pm

Are you basically presenting the concept that cultural appropriation isn't bad if some people don't recognize the culture from which it was appropriated?
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Re: World's Greatest

Postby adiabatic » Tue Apr 12, 2016 6:07 pm

I'm only interested in figuring out how widespread knowledge about Japanese garments is. I think that if you assume other people around you know lots about the things you wear — and your assumption is incorrect — then you'll be more likely to mis-guess how your clothes will be perceived.

Discussions on whether it's good/permissible but neither encouraged nor discouraged/bad to wear garments largely made for people in another culture are very popular and so it's very reasonable to think I have a position on that, but I…just don't. At least not yet.

I'm happy to continue talking about the contours of clothing knowledge in another thread, but I don't think this belongs here unless Supreme drops a noragi of its own. Can we have this discussion moved to a new thread of its own?
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Re: World's Greatest

Postby Eddie » Tue Apr 12, 2016 7:31 pm

adiabatic wrote:
Image


this is a Hiroki Nakamura cosplay
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Re: World's Greatest

Postby oucho » Tue Apr 12, 2016 8:26 pm

jrisk wrote:Are you basically presenting the concept that cultural appropriation isn't bad if some people don't recognize the culture from which it was appropriated?

And are you basically presenting the concept that wearing a noragi is definitely cultural appropriation? I understand when people have an issue with large brands doing a vapid knock off and I think that is a negative thing. But is culture no longer allowed to spread or influence people outside of certain limits? And where's the line? Should I read Chinua Achebe but never apply anything he wrote to my own life because I'm not Nigerian?

I think the reason cultural appropriation has become an issue is because of the way that big businesses have done it, i.e. Valentino. Because big businesses don't have morals and primarily exist to make money. I don't think it makes any sense to come down on individuals for it. Also what are you going to do, learn about every culture in the world in detail and analyse each person's outfit to decide if it's respectful or not? You can't demand of people to respect cultures because that's just demanding people to respect your view on a culture. Sometimes people take something from another culture, or their own culture, and turn it into something new, something very different from what it originally was. For example members of care-tags wearing old workwear. There is no moral obligation to be respectful to your own, or other peoples' cultures. Although you may offend and annoy people if you aren't. Nothing new would ever come about if we set rules on how you are allowed to interact with culture.

The only action I have seen from the growing conversation about cultural appropriation is negative enforcement on individuals, which just devolves into completely absurd arguments about the specific nature of some aspect of a culture and people on youtube making videos about whether white peoples' hair naturally dreadlocks or not. There is too much grey area in this topic. I don't agree with telling people that what they are doing is wrong, I think it's better to put forward and promote something that you think is positive.

I think the issues with cultural appropriation are a symptom of wider issues we have with our capitalist system. Separating the symptom from the cause and treating it as an individual phenomenon is not the best way of doing it. I'm not saying we should ignore Valentino's stupid show, but we should take into account that everything Valentino does is shit, and that getting Valentino to cast African models next time they knock off tribal clothing will not change the core issues with the business. I also find that people are just sticking this cultural appropriation label on so many things without looking at each case independently, for example the Junya show. Although Junya was clearly trying to say something with that show beyond 'hey this tribal stuff looks cool' that seemed to be ignored because of the way it was presented, even though it was clearly presented like that for a reason. Dries doesn't seem to have come under any criticism despite his slapdash magpie approach to aesthetics from other cultures. I think that's because we find what Dries does tasteful, whilst what Junya did wasn't, but what Junya did wasn't meant to be tasteful. I do kind of feel that a big part of this conversation is people demanding other people to treat, interact with and appropriate other peoples' cultures tastefully. Which is a bit like trying to teach someone that having a Raf archive is dumb.
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Re: World's Greatest

Postby ramseames » Tue Apr 12, 2016 8:48 pm

I think jrisk was just contextualizing the end point of the argument adiabatic was making, I don't think he believes it.

when i see white dudes in raws and noragis they usually look bad because usually they look bad in the clothes that they're wearing, not because they're desecrating a cultural artifact of the japanese people.
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Re: World's Greatest

Postby jrisk » Tue Apr 12, 2016 9:12 pm

No I don't think noragis specifically are an example of culture appropriation but I do see that i was needlessly aggressive with my post. Positivity is definitely a better approach to this conversation.

I agree that demanding others to abide by certain standards when interacting with other people's' cultures is not productive. and can easily miss the larger picture. But I do think that you can't claim ignorance (for you or your audience) when it comes to appropriation in general.
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Re: Cultural appropriation

Postby Eddie » Wed Apr 13, 2016 5:29 am

I'm very glad my post made it to this new thread
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Re: Cultural appropriation

Postby trasparenti » Wed Apr 13, 2016 9:08 am

edited because everyone is both more eloquent and more succinct than I can ever hope to be online. Good points made by all.
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Re: Cultural appropriation

Postby CheerUpBrokeBoy » Wed Apr 13, 2016 10:17 am

i think the debate about wearing japanese clothes has less to do with cultural appropriation and more to do with orientalism

like whether you're wearing a noragi cause a kimono-style collar actually improves your fit or because it makes you look like a samurai champloo character

something that still interests me is the steadfast and constant connotation of the kimono-style collar/closure with japan – even when someone like haider ackermann does a fairly basic shirt with a kimono collar it's immediately categorized as "japanese-inspired". which is funny cause i don't think it works the other way – do japanese people see, say, an EG andover as a "western-style" jacket, or is it just a jacket to them
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Re: Cultural appropriation

Postby saveed_samir » Wed Apr 13, 2016 10:22 am

i dont "get" cultural appropriation i mean isnt everything cultural appropriation if u reduce it down enough?? i mean i get those super obvious examples but i dunno , u cant even prove the origin of some certain things like i dunno.... like dreads or some shit.. it just seems so hard to figure out what is and isnt 'appropriation' cuz its all about intent and tahts like subjective.. i think for me it comes down to context well at least in terms of clothes like how someone is wearing it with regards to what other stuf that theyre wearing , like if u see a guy wearing a full samurai master level suuit or maybe a dude falsely wearing monk robes or some shit then its messed up yeah? but i guess thats kind of about intent anyway .
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Re: Cultural appropriation

Postby coolteen49 » Wed Apr 13, 2016 1:07 pm

I feel like the big issue with cultural appropriation has less to do with what individuals wear and more with big corporations/fashion houses lifting things from other cultures for use in shows and designs without any context. Sort of like KTZ copying a traditional Inuit shaman's robe or UO using the term "Navajo" to refer to a generic pattern. obviously somebody just wearing a full native headdress for fun or whatever is still not ok, but it seems to me that the monetization of other cultures by big firms is much more of a problem then some white dude in a noragi looking like a goober.
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Re: Cultural appropriation

Postby anotherdayhere » Wed Apr 13, 2016 1:16 pm

general cultural sensitivity as well, esp if you're white, there's such a legacy of violent appropriation that I think you should try and be as aware as possible of what you've struggled with vs other people and if you think there's a chance its inapproriate its because it is. I personally could not justify myself wearing a kimono or noragi or whatever for fashion and think that it was cool based on US treatment of asian people, esp japanese, and how recent that was. i think not only considering eastern culture in regards to this but asian american culture and how there are no active stigma against asian people in asian countries but there is still plenty here.

dreads is more cut and dry because they have been popularized by black people and as such regarded as exclusively dirty by white culture until recently and you can't just abolish the damage of that stereotype so that you can look cool at coachella, it's offensive to not acknowledge that people suffered as a result of them practicing their culture, and then go ahead and appropriate because you think it looks cool. I don't think ignorance is a good card to play either, if you're emulating another culture you should make a decent effort to understand it like the million UO/F21 shirts that just say "Gypsy" on them. just do some research!

this perspective absolutely is completely different based on your race and the culture of whatever country you're from, but if you're a privileged person in a relatively wealthy country i think playing by the "could this be offensive? then I won't do it" rule is pretty good to follow, which is marginally easier than people pretend that it is.
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Re: Cultural appropriation

Postby titkitten » Wed Apr 13, 2016 1:38 pm

cultural appropriation is a tricky topic because as @oucho and others have pointed out, cultural lines are blurry and get blurrier every day. increasingly many different cultures intersect and interact, online and in the "real world"; and aside from that, it's sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly the culture(s) of origin for things. on top of that, a lot of the current language i see about cultural appropriation relies or makes assumptions on the specific intents of individuals, which is also hard for an outsider to know for sure.

these are the reasons i see being brought up as reasons to dismiss thinking about or taking cultural appropriation seriously. may i suggest: they are specifically the reasons why we should take cultural appropriation seriously. we will only see more and more cultural boundaries rubbing up against each other in the years to come. just because it is a difficult thing to disentangle doesn't make it not worth it. it is often the difficult things that are important.
I do kind of feel that a big part of this conversation is people demanding other people to treat, interact with and appropriate other peoples' cultures tastefully.

that is precisely what i expect, and i fail to see why this expectation is unreasonable. maybe i'm missing the point?

i have two things to say (for now) about cultural appropriation.
  • i think i'm coming at this topic in a different way from everyone else in this thread. fundamentally i think context matters. the reason why cultural appropriation is so offensive, as i understand it, is that a minority culture is clumsily appropriated by the privileged culture. think white festival goers wearing native headdresses. this sort of appropriation is offensive to native americans because historically they have been oppressed and faced systemic injustice because they are natives. the american/canadian treatment of natives leaves a lot to be desired still to this day. it is upsetting that, as they live and embody their culture, they are discriminated for it; while on the other hand, someone else who is not part of the culture, not suffering the hardships that come with being part of that culture, is able to just take pieces of it to their liking.
    it is the same kind of story with "urban", "ghetto", or general black culture appropriation, why there is a lot of unhappiness about why artists like iggy azalea can sell an edgy/urban/cool image by putting on a "black" persona... while actual people or black artists who act in the same way are viewed as trashy or ghetto or uncultured.
    the whole point is a privileged culture being able to try on superficial aspects of another culture with no consequence (and often no deeper understanding of the culture) while at the same time those who are actually part of that group are discriminated against specifically for being part of that group.
    so yeah -- an important thing is social and historical context. are these people marginalised precisely for the same aspects of their life that other people (who are not part of this group, who are part of the privileged group) are celebrated for embracing? (i think this point is the one that @anotherdayhere is also making.) that's a good rule of thumb for evaluating whether or not something is ok. but the more fundamental thing is...
  • the whole point of being sensitive to culture and marginalised groups is to try to reverse this status quo social structure. the basest, most fundamental thing is to give them a chance to speak, and to take them seriously when they do. ultimately it doesn't matter what we as outsiders think is ok or not ok. let the culture speak for themselves, and listen. in the end, those people's opinions are the opinions that matter -- not our opinions as outsiders.
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Re: Cultural appropriation

Postby ramdomthought » Wed Apr 13, 2016 2:36 pm

I hope people appropriate what little culture I have so I can find good kielbasa and sauerkraut more places

I will be mad if they bring in not tasty versions of the things though
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Re: Cultural appropriation

Postby ramseames » Wed Apr 13, 2016 2:36 pm

the problem with native headdresses is the context within their culture around them. they're given to people who deserve them for political or spiritual reasons, and its offensive in a similar way to how veterans would perceive someone wearing a fake purple heart medal on their jacket.

dreadlocks by contrast are just a hairstyle (so many black people with dreads aren't rastafarians at this point that the argument that they're primarily religious holds little water). Noragis are similarly mundane, being a type of farmer's/peasant's clothing.
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Re: Cultural appropriation

Postby khayandhi » Wed Apr 13, 2016 2:42 pm

Something I agree with is that cultural appropriation is often a very Western issue and most deeply relevant to diaspora/immigrant communities, because the anxiety and discomfort around it comes from a place of marginalization – Japanese-Americans, who face various forms of discrimination and othering based on cultural markers, will be much more sensitive to appropriation than non-diasporic Japanese people, whose experience of their own culture comes from a position of being majority-ethnicity within their own country*. The context of a noragi in Japan and a noragi in the West are different because there's no long history of stigma against Asian people and things associated with Asian people in Japan.

And of course it's inextricably tied up in global power structures, which are deeply rooted in the capitalist system and not necessarily generated by individuals. But in the same way that we wouldn't say (or, I would like to think we wouldn't say), "____ wasn't racist because my black friend told me it was okay", I don't think it's fair to say that because [group x] doesn't mind cultural appropriation, it's not a real issue worth deconstructing. It's unfair to say that we shouldn't respond with "negative enforcement on individuals" – although of course we're all in a system and our tastes and desires are shaped by the systems, we're intelligent people with the ability to self-reflect and think critically about how our behaviour affects others. And this discussion started in an individual context – of course we can also discuss brands culturally appropriating, or how tasteless fashion shows affect the discourse, but I don't think it's at all unreasonable to want to comment on individual cases.

the problem with native headdresses is the context within their culture around them. they're given to people who deserve them for political or spiritual reasons, and its offensive in a similar way to how veterans would perceive someone wearing a fake purple heart medal on their jacket.

dreadlocks by contrast are just a hairstyle (so many black people with dreads aren't rastafarians at this point that the argument that they're primarily religious holds little water). Noragis are similarly mundane, being a type of farmer's/peasant's clothing.

While the place of an object in a culture matters – I'm definitely more uncomfortable with the appropriation of Native headdresses than I am with the appropriation of a specific style of Indian sandal or something along these lines – it's not the only thing that matters! The reason that appropriation upsets people is that it isn't happening on an even playing field – white Americans appropriating elements of black American culture would not be a problem if black culture was not so heavily marginalized, penalized, and dismissed.

There is no moral obligation to be respectful to your own, or other peoples' cultures. Although you may offend and annoy people if you aren't. Nothing new would ever come about if we set rules on how you are allowed to interact with culture.

But of course there is! I think there absolutely is an obligation to be respectful to your own culture and to other people's! Because there's an obligation to respect other people in order to exist in society without being an asshole! Your actions affect others! Which is not to say, don't reimagine, don't invent, don't make art, but it is to say – as a relatively privileged person in a relatively wealthy country, perhaps think before acting, be prepared to listen honestly and understandingly to claims that your actions have affected others negatively, consider things. And of course new art will come about under reasonable rules – in the same way that new jokes keep springing into existence even when racist jokes are deemed unacceptable.

And are you basically presenting the concept that wearing a noragi is definitely cultural appropriation? I understand when people have an issue with large brands doing a vapid knock off and I think that is a negative thing. But is culture no longer allowed to spread or influence people outside of certain limits? And where's the line? Should I read Chinua Achebe but never apply anything he wrote to my own life because I'm not Nigerian?

Isn't there something materially different between reading a Chinua Achebe book and dressing up as Chinua Achebe? Appreciation doesn't always have to be participatory.

–––

* barring US influence
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Re: Cultural appropriation

Postby mellownyellow » Wed Apr 13, 2016 2:44 pm

@ramseames
the problem with native headdresses is the context within their culture around them. they're given to people who deserve them for political or spiritual reasons, and its offensive in a similar way to how veterans would perceive someone wearing a fake purple heart medal on their jacket.

dreadlocks by contrast are just a hairstyle (so many black people with dreads aren't rastafarians at this point that the argument that they're primarily religious holds little water). Noragis are similarly mundane, being a type of farmer's/peasant's clothing.


I think that titkitten's point was that rather than argue amongst ourselves about what is and isn't appropriation we should listen to and take seriously the people who are asserting that it is in fact an act of appropriation, as we as outsiders cannot attest to it. Sure, maybe some objects (native headdresses) are much more charged than others but that doesn't make it less appropriative.
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Re: Cultural appropriation

Postby ramdomthought » Wed Apr 13, 2016 3:30 pm

What's wrong with cultural appropriation?
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Re: Cultural appropriation

Postby ramseames » Wed Apr 13, 2016 3:41 pm

mellownyellow wrote:
I think that titkitten's point was that rather than argue amongst ourselves about what is and isn't appropriation we should listen to and take seriously the people who are asserting that it is in fact an act of appropriation, as we as outsiders cannot attest to it. Sure, maybe some objects (native headdresses) are much more charged than others but that doesn't make it less appropriative.


I get why you'd make that argument but I don't think it has a lot of use

"everything is appropriative if an individual from the source culture says it is" doesn't really mean anything, and ignores the fact that you're basically blanketly demonizing one direction of a 2 way transfer of cultural goods and ideas rather than actually trying to determine what is harmful and what isn't.

the term appropriation is distinctly negative and doesn't fit every situation.
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Re: Cultural appropriation

Postby ramdomthought » Wed Apr 13, 2016 3:54 pm

@tomsfood

Not answering it isn't constructive. You may think it's obvious, and it probably is.

Is cultural appropriation just a racial thing? Did we not appropriate the culture of all kinds of other internet fashion forums with our WAYWT thread, random thoughts, etc? Are these internet groups culture? Is there something bad about it? Is there something good with it?


I think there's a lot to outline about why something is bad, and more importantly how it could be good and healthy instead.

Cultures will all continue to blend, that's where we get the blurred lines titkitten brought up. It's obviously very circular and as more people end up being a part of more cultures (even tangentially) the lines will fade more and more. Unless we can identify why in the meta or in the minutiae of why something is bad (and my hope would again be how to stop it from being a negative appropriation -- what is a negative appropriation? what is a positive? Is there space in between? Does it matter?)
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Re: Cultural appropriation

Postby Syeknom » Wed Apr 13, 2016 4:16 pm

ramdomthought wrote:Is cultural appropriation just a racial thing? Did we not appropriate the culture of all kinds of other internet fashion forums with our WAYWT thread, random thoughts, etc? Are these internet groups culture? Is there something bad about it? Is there something good with it?


Cultural Appropriation as a concept and term is commonly thought of as a power dynamic - where members of a dominant/privileged group take from a culture that isn't their own, and one that has been oppressed by or is less privileged than the dominant group. Internet dudes taking ideas from other internet dudes is not the same as blackface, dressing up like a geisha, wearing "ethnic" tribal clothes, etc. There is no systemic imbalance of power, opportunity or privilege between the groups.

This is bad because:

  • It exercises a privilege that is only available to the dominant group to freely take from other cultures with or without permission.
  • It (may) trivialise historical oppression.
  • It superficially enjoys cultural trappings (clothes are fun!) while not addressing any prejudice against the people of that culture
  • It lets people with systemic advantages benefit or profit from the work of minorities (see: cultural appropriation of black music in the 20th century by white artists)
  • It enforces and maintains cultural or even racist stereotypes
  • It allows dominant groups (e.g. white people) to use something or engage in something that either has significance (e.g. religious, traditional) or danger/risk (cultural signifiers that lead marginalised groups to be discriminated against e.g. black women's hairstyles) superficially and without the danger/risk the minority group would face.

Cultures will all continue to blend, that's where we get the blurred lines titkitten brought up. It's obviously very circular and as more people end up being a part of more cultures (even tangentially) the lines will fade more and more. Unless we can identify why in the meta or in the minutiae of why something is bad (and my hope would again be how to stop it from being a negative appropriation -- what is a negative appropriation? what is a positive? Is there space in between? Does it matter?)


There is a difference between cultural exchange (where no systemic power imbalance is exercised), assimilation (adoption of the majority's culture by the minority in an effort to fit in/get jobs/be treated with respect), gradual adaptation between cultures (multiculturalism) and cultural appropriation.

The onus to be considerate of the implications of your actions regarding another culture, as someone from the dominant/majority/empowered/privileged culture, is on you. There are no hard or fast rules but the more understanding, respect and thought one applies to the subject the better one can be in not accidentally contributing to passive (or even active) oppression or disrespect of others.
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Re: Cultural appropriation

Postby oucho » Thu Apr 14, 2016 10:27 am

I think there are two proposals which are being lumped together as the same thing in this thread. I feel like that's what this discussion has become about.

1. Interacting with your own and other cultures in a tasteful way as an individual

Obviously this is something I try to do myself, and I can't see why anyone would have an issue with encouraging people to do this. On an individual level this seems like a pretty easy thing to do. As individuals we pass moral judgement on other individuals for things we find distasteful and disrespectful, this is inevitable.

2. A movement to get people to interact with their own and other cultures in a tasteful way

An ideal that can be relatively easy to live as an individual, will not necessarily be easy to transmit to large numbers of people, or even more than one person.* Therefore you have to view this as a purely practical exercise with an end goal. Ask yourself, is your own knowledge of global cultures and are your own attitudes towards other cultures so perfect that they could be scale and applied to everyone, and we would no longer have any issues? If the answer to that is no then you should understand the point I am trying to make. I find that lots of the arguments in here are effectively saying that cultural appropriation is a phenomenon, not a moral question but a practical issue that should be addressed.

*Tolstoy said it better than I can
War and Peace wrote:At that meeting he was struck for the first time by the endless variety of men's minds, which prevents a truth from ever presenting itself identically to two persons. Even those members who seemed to be on his side understood him in their own way with limitations and alterations he could not agree to, as what he always wanted most was to convey his thought to others just as he himself understood it.


There was once put forward an idea that putting a behavioural scientist in every government in the world would solve all of the world's problems. But in reality there are a lot of complications to this idea: How much power would the behavioural scientist have, in order to force governments to act correctly they would have some sort of concrete powers. In which case what makes them different from any other figure in power, other than the fact they have studied behavioural science. How would the behavioural scientists be selected, and how would you stop this process from being corrupted. Would the behavioural scientists need more behavioural scientists to control them? Would you realistically be able to get every country in the world to agree to inserting the exact same system into their governments? If there was any compromise in this would it still work? How would you develop a global theory of behavioural science that would cover everything and be agreeable to everyone?

Similar questions come up about cultural appropriation because once you apply something to more than one person you need a defined system. What extent of knowledge of a culture is required before you can interact with it? Within a single country cultural values can be very wide-ranging. What if within a culture there are groups of people who believe opposing things or have different interpretations of their own culture? My Granny finds certain ways I act rude and would say that there are ways in which I am not respecting English culture and history. You can't just say 'Be respectful, it's not that hard.' because people can have very different interpretations of what that is and you will just end up getting lodged in deeper, more fundamental questions, which you will not be able to persuade people of the answers to.

There is a difference between cultural exchange (where no systemic power imbalance is exercised), assimilation (adoption of the majority's culture by the minority in an effort to fit in/get jobs/be treated with respect), gradual adaptation between cultures (multiculturalism) and cultural appropriation.

Is there ever a situation where there is ever perfect systemic power balance? How do we define what an acceptable level of imbalance is?

It (may) trivialise historical oppression.

Where do we set the limit on historical oppression, temporally? Obviously we can't be going around worrying about whether we are trivialising things that happened in the 12th Century, or should we? This also requires us to define everything in history that was oppression.

And of course new art will come about under reasonable rules

But what are these rules? You have to define them otherwise this doesn't mean anything.

khayandhi wrote:Isn't there something materially different between reading a Chinua Achebe book and dressing up as Chinua Achebe? Appreciation doesn't always have to be participatory.

Yes of course there is a difference. But that's not actually an answer to what I was saying. My point was that no one would have an issue with me taking lessons from reading Chinua Achebe, but as you pointed out it would be distasteful for me to dress as him. As an individual there is no moral argument for why I should/shouldn't be influenced by either. What makes one ok and the other not is historical and contemporary context. This highlights the fact that reasonable and respectful interaction with culture and more complicated than at first glance, and are not in line with how an individual would naturally interact with culture, and that to be correct they need to be based on some sort of defined system.

I am playing devil's advocate to a certain extent here by completely dehumanising the topic. But that's what you need to do when looking at how to apply something to a large group of people. Also to point out there there is a HUGE difference between looking at how an individual operates/can operate and how society as a whole operates. I just think that saying 'Come on, everyone be respectful, it's not that hard!' is not really going to achieve anything. Otherwise we could all hold hands and there would be world peace. Just because I'm saying that there is no perfectly idealistic solution to an issue doesn't mean I don't think we should try to do something about it, or that I don't believe we can improve the current situation. And I resent that insinuation a little bit to be honest.

I'm not even really talking about cultural appropriation any more, and I never really was I suppose. I'm saying that an ideal that can be relatively easy to live as an individual, will not necessarily be easy to transmit to large numbers of people, or even more than one person. Therefore you have to look at wider phenomena from a purely practical point of view.

I'm not really arguing with what anyone is saying about cultural appropriation, more the resulting actions taken as a result of that knowledge.
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Re: Cultural appropriation

Postby wolflarsen » Thu Apr 14, 2016 1:22 pm

An Al Jazeera opinion piece just took on this topic as well. Some interesting points for me as an "artist," some questionable things for me as an activist:


After all, to suggest that it is "authentic" for blacks to wear locks, or for Native Americans to wear a headdress, but not for whites to do so, is itself to stereotype those cultures.

Cultures do not, and cannot, work through notions of "ownership". The history of culture is the history of cultural appropriation - of cultures borrowing, stealing, changing, transforming.
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Re: Cultural appropriation

Postby simo » Thu Apr 14, 2016 3:13 pm

raise your hand if you are against cultural appropriation as it is an exercise of privilege in an imbalanced power relationship between cultures/countries/races, but have also spent less money than you make in an hour to buy a piece of clothing from a high street fashion shop that knowingly/repeatedly contracts with factories or those who subcontract to other factories with a record of criminally abusive behavior towards those sewing your garments.
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Re: Cultural appropriation

Postby lyysander » Thu Apr 14, 2016 9:45 pm

wolflarsen wrote:An Al Jazeera opinion piece just took on this topic as well. Some interesting points for me as an "artist," some questionable things for me as an activist:


After all, to suggest that it is "authentic" for blacks to wear locks, or for Native Americans to wear a headdress, but not for whites to do so, is itself to stereotype those cultures.

Cultures do not, and cannot, work through notions of "ownership". The history of culture is the history of cultural appropriation - of cultures borrowing, stealing, changing, transforming.


I disagree with this quote. If I saw a goy with a kippa I would tell them that they are appropriating my culture and should therefore take it off. Like many other cultural objects and clothing pieces, the kippa holds spiritual and cultural significance that most goyim do not understand. And, further, for someone who is a descendant of those who were the cultural majority when my ancestors and relatives were being persecuted and murdered for wearing kippot (or more specifically for the beliefs embodied in the wearing of kippot), well that is extremely disrespectful and, I would argue, immoral. That is our culture. It is part of our religion, our history, and it is a symbol that we have survived thousands of years of persecution. It is not a stereotype, but an homage to our beliefs, our culture, our history, and our community.

Similarly, I believe that Native American headdresses and locks (when worn by Native Americans and Black folks, respectively) are more than just a statement that they "own" these cultural signifiers. They are about empowering oneself through one's history, beliefs, and community, after centuries of discrimination, oppression, and genocide.
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