March 27th, 2009
|12:12 pm - Excellent Video & Further Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation|
On Wednesday, teaotter and I watched an interesting and well done half hour video about cultural appropriation (link below). I found it well worth watching, but I also fundamentally disagreed with many of the perspectives given and further reinforced the thoughts I considered in this post on the same topic. Ultimately, I see cultural appropriation not only as non-negative, but as something that genuinely enriches people's lives and in a larger sense, all cultures. It's also inevitable and has been going on since at least the neolithic, when groups of people saw a piece of pottery with a symbol created by another far distant culture, which may have deep meaning for the culture that created the symbol, but which is adopted as a interesting design by the second culture. During the Roman Empire, the Romans borrowed a few Chinese designs, just as western mechanical clocks and automata were status objects in Ming and Qing dynasty China. Similarly, today Celtic knotwork tattoos and t-shirts, Celtic music, and all of the various St. Patrick's Day nonsense are all quite popular in the US, and this bit of cultural appropriation harms absolutely no one.
Of course, the reason that it harms none one is that there is essentially no anti-Irish prejudice or bigotry in the US. Sadly, that's vividly not true for people from East, South, and Southeast Asia. As several people state, white people wearing bindi or sari fabrics does absolutely nothing to combat prejudice against South Asian people – which is because cultural appropriate is clearly completely unrelated to prejudice – it doesn't make racism and prejudice better or worse.
So, for me the issue isn't any sort of cultural borrowing, it's the racism and bigotry, which is most definitely a very serious problem in the US. I also wasn't at all impressed with the associations between consumerism, global capitalism, and cultural appropriation. Unless you wish to definite all exchange as capitalism, which makes it a uselessly broad term, then cultural appropriation has been going on far longer than any sort of capitalism has existed. The only differences are that now the scale is larger, which means that everyone can get access to goods and symbols from other cultures. More than a couple centuries in the past, this was largely only true of the wealthy, so in this way I see the modern commodification of culture as an actively good thing.
Also, while the video makes some truly excellent points about the damage that the view of "eastern" culture as being changeless and serene can cause, the focus on how capitalism makes cultural appropriation far worse seems to buy into a view of the historical past as a less greedy and materialist time, which is simply untrue. Humans are much the same as ever, and if there are nifty symbols or pretty patterns to be borrowed &/or profits to be made, humans have always been willing to take advantage of this, so maintain anything else is to perpetuate a ludicrously romantic vision of the past. From my PoV, there are many things to blame capitalism, and especially global corporate capitalism for, but cultural appropriation is not one of them.
Of course, while I firmly believe that while every person deserves respect, symbols in and of themselves, are too me not entitled to reverence. I see absolutely no harm in anime creators in Japan using Christian iconography as a source from creepy occult imagery, just as I see nothing wrong with people from all over the globe wearing t-shirts with sacred symbols from other cultures on them. Also, I find the concept that certain publicly displayed symbols, ideas, designs, or whatever "belong" to a particular race, faith, or culture in the sense that this group in any sense owns or controls access to these symbols to be abhorrent to the extreme.
All publicly displayed symbols, both secular and sacred by their very nature belong to every person who sees them and they also mean very different things to different people and the fact that one person may see something as deeply sacred, while someone else might see the same symbol as something that would make a pretty tattoo doesn't make either interpretation better or worse. However, all this only works if people are not being targeted for their choices. There's clearly something very wrong when young white women wear bindi to be trendy, while young Indian women become targets of racism for doing the exact same thing. The part of the video I most agree with with the bit on and after 28:15 or so, when the man who was speaking talks about how he fully supports white people wearing bindi and suchlike if they are also working to combat racism. It seems to me only just and right if you are going to wear symbols of another culture where the members are oppressed in your country to, at minimum, speak out against racism against this group of people and work to help eliminate it.
yellow apparel: when the coolie becomes cool from Yellow Apparel on Vimeo.
Current Mood: contemplative
I think your point is well made. I do think that here in America we like, we wear, we eat, we share. It's when a culture does not want to share for whatever the reasons, that it becomes obsolete. Unless, you have a culture that is growing by leaps and bounds, it will adventually die out.
Even though, for example and I could be way off base. But, for the American Indian, if a lot of the tribes had not taken in others and adopted them, the race would have completely died off. Hence, why you don't hear too much of a lot of Indian Tribes. If you are unable to adjust and grow, then all will be lost. About predujice, it is the same everywhere and through out history, the less shared the more ignorant the masses are. You can not blaim a culture of ignorant people from disliking somebody or something when the belief has been handed down from generation to generation. It is plainly what they know and are comfortable with. Though it is unfare and injust if a people want to be known for whom they are then they will have to do their own marketing. Get who they are out there as leading personalities: Actors, Politicians, Judges, Doctor's, etc. The more people you meet and let them get to know you. The more people on yourside/friends associates the less ignorant people are. Otherwise, the situation perpetuates itself and there is no way of correcting the problem. You can not expect a Parent like community to come in and say Play Nice, it doesn't work that way. A lot of resentment works that way and takes a lot of money and dedication. Hiding doesn't work either. So, either they adjust and become their own spokespersons or not. The mass solution is that.
Now, remember it is only my opinion and feel free to delete what I have said, no hurt intended. I think you are very passionate in your beliefs and that is always good. I am always pleasantly surprised to read your writings.
Be Well..and have a good Weekend.
|Date:||March 27th, 2009 09:14 pm (UTC)|| |
I tried to view the video, and got the error
Sorry, "Super Hot BRAZIL Bikini Blond Girl" was deleted at 12:30:39 Fri Aug 22, 2008. We have no more information about it on our mainframe or elsewhere.
|Date:||March 28th, 2009 01:01 am (UTC)|| |
|Date:||March 28th, 2009 01:02 am (UTC)|| |
BTW, I've mentioned my appreciation of your choice of icon? If not, let me do so now.
|Date:||March 27th, 2009 10:11 pm (UTC)|| |
psst -- the video link is 3846269, not 384626.
|Date:||March 27th, 2009 10:51 pm (UTC)|| |
I completely agree. The very phrase cultural appropriation seems largely to be born of people's misdirected anger toward the natural process of cultural diffusion when it's prejudice that's the real problem. I'm not a fan of superficially adopting fragments of another culture for the sake of image or caricature, but as you point out, it's not like they do things any differently in the East when adopting fragments of Western culture. It is simply the way these things go, and I believe that cultural diffusion very well can help to reduce prejudice, but one can't expect all people to be similarly effected in short order. These things unfortunately take time; old prejudices are hard to break.
Edited at 2009-03-27 10:52 pm (UTC)
Something that makes me cringe...
....is when New Age entrepreneurs pass off fake "Native American" spiritual and cultural trappings to spiritual seekers as the genuine article. Passing off the profane as the sacred to make a quick buck is far more blasphemous than any "dirty" words or defiance expressed towards a deity. It also arouses the animosity of many Native Americans towards both seekers and hucksters alike.
Besides, people who don't know what they're doing should not go around invoking deities they don't know, or they could be really sorry. Pissing off a deity by worshipping him or her improperly is not a good idea.
|Date:||March 28th, 2009 08:15 am (UTC)|| |
Re: Something that makes me cringe...
Such things are most definitely cringe-worthy and silly, but they harm no one another nothing, and I firmly believe that people have a right to their own bad taste.
|Date:||March 29th, 2009 01:02 am (UTC)|| |
Completely agreed. People pick up on each others' cultures, especially with our current ability to communicate with many parts of the world instantly. This is a *good* thing. Yes, everyone's culture is changing, including our own. How many of us have the pure culture of our ancestors? Absolutely none of us. Likewise, other cultures are subject to diffusion across their borders. Nobody is in isolation, and the observer influences the observed. This is not bad. This will assist us to *understand* other cultures better and be less likely to accept the practice of violating other lands for profit.
Personally, I'm all for blurring the lines between 'traditional' cultural lines. Anything that helps shrink the differences between cultures is a goodness in my book.
I still reference the movie Bulworth; "Everybody just needs to keep &&&Ding everyone else till we're all the same color."