robertogreco + culturalappropriation   11

The Desi Instagram artist tackling cultural appropriation | Dazed
"Maria Qamar’s satirical art paints a harsh, and hilarious, reality of Asian culture – and it isn’t all bindi-wearing bliss

9 December 2015
Text: Nadia Husen

In a world of fast-growing multiculturalism, the line between appreciation and appropriation of cultures steadily blurs. As far back as 2003, Gwen Stefani donned a bindi in No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” music video, and stars have been following suit ever since. Both Selena Gomez and M.I.A have come under fire in recent times for cultural tourism in their music videos, the latter being forced to scrap hers altogether. In the mainstream, cultural appropriation is perhaps most obvious by the sheer number of bindi-adorned girls at music festivals like Coachella and Lollapalooza. Asian, black, Native American and other marginalised groups are persistently having their cultures appropriated by those who feel entitled to it, thereby perpetuating a harmful power dynamic.

With everyone from actress Zendaya to fashion designer Dries Van Noten weighing in with an opinion, one self-defined ‘Desi artist’ (where Desi means a person of Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin who lives abroad) encompasses all aspects of her culture ­– not just the shiny, pretty sticker for your forehead. Born in Pakistan, Maria Qamar of @hatecopy moved to Canada as a child. A natural artist, she began to depict the realities of growing up in two cultures in pop art and posted the results on her Instagram, rapidly gaining a following as other Desi women – myself included – identify with her bittersweet truths. I spoke to Maria to discuss her witty and provocative art ahead of her second exhibit, Shame Shame, in Toronto.

How did you first start drawing your pieces?

Maria Qamar: I actually had to hide the fact I was doing it. After I drew my first piece, ‘Burnt the Rotis’, I told my mother, ‘Oh, you know those drawings I was making at home, and you were asking what I was doing? OK, well I’m painting them now and the job search is going great too.’ But now my mum is getting very bold and savvy; she wants me to make this a full-time business.

So why did you choose pop art as your artistic style? Have you always drawn in that style?

Maria Qamar: Not really. A lot of it was testing the waters of different styles. It was kind of a long process getting to where I am now. And then more recently it was all about finding the style – ­that took my whole life. I didn’t actually know that this style I already drew was very similar to pop art, so I’m very comfortable drawing it.

It seems to be a very organic process, then?

Maria Qamar: Yeah, I can honestly draw in that way so I’m more comfortable drawing my ideas into the pop-art scenario than I would be (doing it in a) realist or abstract (way). I think of something that’s not Desi-related, an easily imagined scenario. I usually draw the characters first, and then I think about what they could be thinking at the time.

“We’re overshadowed by tradition and obligation and things that we can’t relate to because we’re not in it” – Maria Qamar

There are so many women and girls relating to your art because it’s very real to them as well as humorous. With all the recent focus in the media on cultural appropriation, what made you decide to hit back with your “Is This Gori Wearing a Bindi Again?!” piece? (‘Gori’ is a word used by Indians to describe white girls.)

Maria Qamar: As I said, I draw the images first, and then think about what to write. In this case it had to be something that puts them on the spot. It’s like, ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ I got fucking angry.

Your Instagram seems to be a space of community because it unites people who share similar experiences, such as the understanding that fairer skin is more valued in Asian culture, and the pressure to marry. These are the things you have to live through to really understand.

Maria Qamar: It is really funny, because the whole point of this pop-art Indian thing was so that I could take the most American – the most western thing – I could find, which were American romance comics or novels. I wanted to take the most iconic thing, which is the soap opera, and blend them together. Right now it feels like I’m taking their shit and throwing it back at them, saying, ‘Here it is, you made this. This is all you.’

Is anyone offended by your art?

Maria Qamar: A few people have been offended by me more than the work itself because they know I was born in Pakistan and they have their own opinions of what they think I might be. So they bring in factors that have nothing to do with the work. They look for a divide. ‘Well, OK,’ I say. ‘Look, it’s doing well. I’m making work that I really love. What’s wrong with it really?’ People are always looking for a fight, so my response to those things is that it’s Desi art. I don’t have an agenda. You relate to it, you laugh at it, and people love it.

Some of the topics you discuss in your art are more taboo, particularly in Asian culture. Your piece for marriage equality entitled ‘Uncle Pride’, for example, would certainly be considered forbidden by traditional types. Why do you choose to portray such messages?

Maria Qamar: Because I’m not like that. I’m not like that and I exist and I’m doing OK. It wasn’t ever supposed to be a rebellious thing, which is the concept of the show as well. I’m not trying to be rebellious for the sake of being rebellious and to piss everybody off and step on the toes of my family. It’s just that people exist differently in the west. We just do. We’re raised just like Americans or what-have-you in the west, but we’re overshadowed by tradition and obligation and things that we can’t relate to because we’re not in it. We don’t know. Yeah, we’re going to go out and hold hands with a guy or make out in public because these things are allowed here, and that’s all we know. It’s funny that it’s seen as rebellious, and, yes, I have a feeling that what I’m making might be a little bit offensive, with my parents in my head going, ‘Shame, shame, shame, you shouldn’t be doing this.’ But you know, why not? I just let it simmer, and the people who laugh with me, laugh with me.

So the art is very much as personal as it is public?

Maria Qamar: Yes, you get a taste of like Desi-American or Desi-Canadian culture – any Desis who are not living in India – because it’s just like somebody who’s from a place where if you’re caught kissing your husband, you could go to jail. So for somebody looking at the Instagram from there and seeing me do what I do, that would be like, ‘Oh my God, that’s crazy,’ but that’s the norm here. We’re all just out in the open. We’re all cool about it."
culturalappropriation  nadiahusen  mariaqamar  appropriation  culture  2015  desi  multiculturalism  culturaltourism  mia  zendaya  driesvannoten  selenagomez  gwenstefani  nodoubt  marginalization  power  colonialism 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Opinion | Finding the Beauty in Cultural Appropriation - The New York Times
"“What beautiful cultural appropriation!”

I turned in my seat to look at the fashion editor nodding in approval next to me at Lagos Fashion Week.

By that point, I had seen fashion shows in nearly a dozen countries, and I was used to hearing the term “cultural appropriation” whispered around a runway. In Japan I saw Maasai necklaces paired with cargo shorts; in Namibia I saw models in geisha makeup with chopsticks in their hair; and of course, I’ve seen hundreds of European designers “elevating” African-American street fashion.

But this was the first time I’d heard it used as a compliment.

According to Mary Edoro, the editor of BellaNaija, a fashion publication based in Lagos, Nigeria, we were seeing the appropriation of traditional clothing — Calabar fabrics from southeast Nigeria and red ivie beads from the north — from rural communities once considered out of step in modern Nigeria. But in the past decade, integrating them into high fashion has become a source of pride.

“People did not appreciate these old fabrics and designs,” Ms. Edoro told me. “Cultural appropriation, when done in a good way, makes us appreciate things we might typically ignore.”

I’ve spent the past few years traveling around the world to investigate fashion subcultures. I’ve met Japanese women who dress as 1990s Mexican-Americans from East Los Angeles, white women in cornrows at Jamaican dance halls and African-Americans who call ankara cloth, popular in West Africa, “tribal prints.” Through it all, I’ve come to believe that the impulse to play dress-up in other people’s cultures goes beyond teenagers wearing qipaos to prom, or Coachella girls in feathered headdresses. It’s an impulse that is nearly universal.

In other words, cultural appropriation might cause outrage, but it will not stop. And so the question is why? What do people get out of adopting aesthetics from other cultures? Through my travels, I’ve come to see appropriation as a form of communication: Sometimes what people are trying to say is trivial, hurtful and condescending — a bindi to proclaim that they’re “exotic” for instance, or cornrows to say they’re “cool.” But other times, what is being said is difficult and important.

Last October, I interviewed a Japanese rapper named Mona who’s a self-described “chola,” a member of an urban Mexican-American subculture. Part of it was that she liked the look: bold makeup, hoop earrings.

But Mona’s experimentation coincided with her rebellion against how Japanese society shamed her for her outspokenness. In movies like “Selena” and “Mi Vida Loca,” she saw kindred spirits: women celebrated, not ostracized, for their aggression. Some of what Mona did made me cringe: She used gang symbols without the accompanying realities of gang life; she wore rosaries though she is not religious. And yet cholo culture gave her a way to act, speak and dress — all to communicate that she does not agree with how her own culture insists Japanese women should be.

Or consider the rise of Afropunk style. Among my black American friends and peers, Afropunk — which originated at a Brooklyn music festival celebrating black artists and has expanded around the world — has become a crucial cultural outlet. At its heart is a sense of rebellion against the realities of a racist world. That rebellion manifests in glorious, creative outfits that riff on centuries-old aesthetic legacies from Africa, beloved cultural traditions among African-American communities and a fantastical, futuristic sensibility.

These outfits are also, according to some Africans, inadvertently disrespectful. In Nigeria, I spoke to a stylist who mentioned that Afropunk style — which can mix Kenyan kitenge cloth with Bini coral beads and an Egyptian cobra headband — was one way that the African diaspora has betrayed African people, since it flattens so many individual ethnic communities into one Pan-African look. But, he also told me, he doesn’t begrudge this. He’s connected to a rich variety of African cultures. He recognizes that many black Americans aren’t.

When I asked the Harlem-based costume designer Delta Major about her mix-and-match approach to Afropunk fashion, she told me that she understood her clothing to be appropriation. She knew it wasn’t “authentically African” and so was, in a sense, disrespectful. But “getting it right” wasn’t the point. Her history was stolen from her; she doesn’t know where her family came from, and the purposeful inauthenticity made that very statement.

On some level, it doesn’t feel right to call what Afropunk attendees and Japanese cholas do “cultural appropriation.” The power dynamics at work are complicated; it’s unproductive to argue whether black Americans or Africans — or cholas and ostracized Japanese women — have more or less power, and whether one has contributed to the other’s oppression, the way we do when we talk about white Americans appropriating from marginalized groups. We reach for concepts like cultural appreciation and globalization to take into account that these forms of exchange might be less hurtful, or more thoughtful, even if there’s still harm and ignorance at play.

But of course, it is appropriation. These groups, in different ways, are adorning themselves with symbols from another culture and wearing them for their own purposes.

Now, contrast this appropriation with those notorious headdresses. No one except the most willfully obstinate would defend wearing a war bonnet to Coachella. But I’d argue that’s not only because the object is sacred, and the power dynamic direct and unjust, but also because the intended message — that you’re a free spirit, if only for a weekend — is uninteresting. It contains nothing significant to justify something so obviously hurtful.

Things like power, authenticity, respectfulness and credit are all important considerations to weigh against the damage that’s inherent in cultural appropriation. It’s also crucial to understand the maddening reality for many marginalized American groups whose money, livelihoods and creations are regularly stolen from them. But these litmus tests are not adequate by themselves.

We know because when we’re confronted with more complex messages and muddled power dynamics, we short-circuit. We don’t know what to do, or how to feel. We don’t know who the victims are, or what the crime exactly is — even if feels as if there might be one.

In the end, determining when cultural appropriation is O.K. can feel as if it requires a delicate calculus, more holistic than binary. It’s understandable that as a result, we’ve landed on treating cultural appropriation as a bad habit to be trained out of us; often it feels easier not to engage at all. But this balancing act is worth performing. Because the bad-habit model is not only exhausting; the result is often that people are so afraid of appearing “bad” that they self-censor good-faith impulses to try something new. Ironically, in doing so, they learn less about other cultures.

Reframing fashion-based cultural appropriation not as a bad habit but as a discussion of ideas helps make these calculations easier. We understand how ideas work: Sometimes they’re unnecessarily offensive, and sometimes they’re offensive because they need to be. Sometimes the controversy they generate is silly and piddling; other times, it’s enlightening. As my seatmate in Lagos told me, it can help us see something we would have otherwise missed.

And yes — it can be beautiful too."

[See also:
"In Defense of Cultural Appropriation" by Kenan Malik (2017)
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/14/opinion/in-defense-of-cultural-appropriation.html

"What Distinguishes Cultural Exchange from Cultural Appropriation?" by Rivka Galchen with Anna Holmes (2017)
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/08/books/review/bookends-cultural-appropriation.html ]
conniewang  appropriation  culture  culturalappropriation  2019  powr  authenticity  respect  respectfulness  powerdynamics  fashion  japan  gender  race  ethnicity  afropunk  coachella  kenanmalik  annaholmes  rivkagalchen  culturalexchange 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Let White People Appropriate Mexican Food—Mexicans Do It to Ourselves All the Time | OC Weekly
"My thoughts on cultural appropriation of food changed forever in the research for my 2012 book, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. One of my personal highlights was discovering the restaurant that Glenn Bell of Taco Bell infamy had cited in his autobiography as being the source of "inspiration" for him deciding to get into the taco business. How did he get inspired? He'd eat tacos the restaurant every night, then go across the street to his hot dog stand to try and recreate them.

Bell freely admitted to the story, but never revealed the name of the restaurant. I did: Mitla Cafe in San Bernardino, which is the oldest continuously operating Mexican restaurant in the Inland Empire. I was excited to interview the owner, Irene Montaño, who confirmed Bell's story. I was upset for the Montaños, and when I asked Montaño how she felt that Bell had ripped off her family's recipes to create a multibillion-dollar empire, I expected bitterness, anger, maybe even plans for a lawsuit in an attempt to get at least some of the billions of dollars that Taco Bell has earned over the past 50-plus years.

Instead, Montaño responded with grace: "Good for him!" She pointed out that Mitla had never suffered a drop in business because of Taco Bell, that her restaurant had been in business longer than his, and "our tacos were better."

It's an anecdote I always keep in mind whenever stories of cultural appropriation of food by white people get the Left riled up and rock the food world. The latest skirmish is going on in Portland, where two white girls decided to open up what the estimable Willamette Week called "a concept that fits twee Portland": a breakfast burrito pop-up located within a hipster taco cart. The grand sin the gabachos committed, according to the haters, was the admission that they quizzed women in Baja California about how to make the perfect flour tortilla.

For their enthusiasm, the women have received all sorts of shade and have closed down their pop-up. To which I say: laughable. The gabachas knew exactly what they were doing, so didn't they stand by it? Real gumption there, pendejas.

But also laughable is the idea that white people aren't supposed to—pick your word—rip off or appropriate or get "inspired" by Mexican food, that comida mexicana is a sacrosanct tradition only Mexicans and the white girls we marry can participate in. That cultural appropriation is a one-way street where the evil gabacho steals from the poor, pathetic Mexicans yet again.

As we say in Mexico: no se hagan.

What these culture warriors who proclaim to defend Mexicans don't realize is that we're talking about the food industry, one of the most rapacious businesses ever created. It's the human condition at its most Darwinian, where EVERYONE rips EVERYONE off. The only limit to an entrepreneur's chicanery isn't resources, race, or class status, but how fast can you rip someone off, how smart you can be to spot trends years before anyone else, and how much money you can make before you have to rip off another idea again.

And no one rips off food like Mexicans.

The Mexican restaurant world is a delicious defense of cultural appropriation—that's what the culinary manifestation of mestizaje is, ain't it? The Spaniards didn't know how to make corn tortillas in the North, so they decided to make them from flour. Mexicans didn't care much for Spanish dessert breads, so we ripped off most pan dulces from the French (not to mention waltzes and mariachi). We didn't care much for wine, so embraced the beers that German, Czech and Polish immigrants brought to Mexico. And what is al pastor if not Mexicans taking shawerma from Lebanese, adding pork, and making it something as quintessentially Mexicans as a corrupt PRI?

Don't cry for ripped-off Mexican chefs—they're too busy ripping each other off. Another anecdote I remember from Taco USA: One of El Torito founder Larry Cano's lieutenants telling me Larry would pay them to go work at a restaurant for a month, learn the recipes, then come back to the mothership so they could replicate it. It ain't just chains, though: in the past year, I've seen dozens of restaurants and loncheras across Southern California offer the Zacatecan specialty birria de res, a dish that was almost exclusively limited to quinceañeras and weddings just three years ago. What changed? The popularity of Burritos La Palma, the SanTana lonchera-turned-restaurant. Paisa entrepreneurs quickly learned that Burritos La Palma was getting a chingo of publicity and customers, so decided to make birria de res on their own to try and steal away customers even though nearly none of them are from Zacatecas.

Shameless? Absolutely. And that's what cultural appropriation in the food world boils down to: it's smart business, and that's why Mexicans do it, too. That's the same reason why a lot of high-end Mexican restaurants not owned by sinaloenses serve aguachile now: because Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria made it popular. That's why working-class Mexicans open mariscos palaces even if they're not from the coast—because Sinaloans made Mexican seafood a lucrative scene. That's why nearly every lonchera in SanTana serves picaditas, a Veracruzan specialty, even though most owners are from Cuernavaca. That's why a taqueria will sell hamburgers and French fries—because they know the pocho kids of its core clients want to eat that instead of tacos. And that's why bacon-wrapped hot dogs are so popular in Southern California—because SoCal Mexican street-cart vendors ripped off Mexicans in Tijuana, who ripped off Mexicans in Tucson, who ripped off Mexicans in Sonora.

To suggest—as SJWs always do—that Mexicans and other minority entrepreneurs can't possibly engage in cultural appropriation because they're people of color, and that we're always the victims, is ignorant and patronizing and robs us of agency. We're no one's victims, and who says we can't beat the wasichu at their game? And who says Mexicans are somehow left in the poor house by white people getting rich off Mexican food? Go ask the Montaños of Mitla how they're doing. Last year, they reopened a long-shuttered banquet hall, and the next generation is introducing new meals and craft beers. They cried about Bell's appropriation of their tacos all the way to the history books."
gustavoarellano  appropriation  food  culturalappropriation  tacobell  history  comidamexicana  restaurants  mestizaje  mexico  mexican 
may 2017 by robertogreco
The Storytellers of Empire by Kamila Shamsie - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
"I grew up in Pakistan in the 1980s, aware that thinking about my country’s history and politics meant thinking about America’s history and politics. This is not an unusual position. Many countries of the world from Asia to South America exist, or have existed, as American client states, have seen U.S.-backed coups, faced American missiles or sanctions, seen their government’s policies on various matters dictated in Washington. America may not be an empire in the nineteenth century way which involved direct colonization. But the neo-imperialism of America was evident to me by the time I was an adolescent and able to understand these things.

So in an America where fiction writers are so caught up in the Idea of America in a way that perhaps has no parallel with any other national fiction, where the term Great American Novel weighs heavily on writers, why is it that the fiction writers of my generation are so little concerned with the history of their own nation once that history exits the fifty states. It’s not because of a lack of dramatic potential in those stories of America in the World; that much is clear.

In part, I’m inclined to blame the trouble caused by that pernicious word “appropriation.” I first encountered it within a writing context within weeks, perhaps days, of arriving at Hamilton College in 1991. Right away, I knew there was something deeply damaging in the idea that writers couldn’t take on stories about the Other. As a South Asian who has encountered more than her fair share of awful stereotypes about South Asians in the British empire novels of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, I’m certainly not about to disagree with the charge that writers who are implicated in certain power structures have been guilty of writing fiction which supports, justifies and props up those power structures. I understand the concerns of people who feel that for too long stories have been told about them rather than by them. But it should be clear that the response to this is for writers to write differently, to write better, to critique the power structures rather than propping them up, to move beyond stereotype—which you need to do for purely technical reasons, because the novel doesn’t much like stereotypes. They come across as bad writing.

The moment you say, a male American writer can’t write about a female Pakistani, you are saying, Don’t tell those stories. Worse, you’re saying, as an American male you can’t understand a Pakistani woman. She is enigmatic, inscrutable, unknowable. She’s other. Leave her and her nation to its Otherness. Write them out of your history.

Perhaps it’s telling that the first mainstream American writer to try and enter the perspective of the Other post 9/11 belonged to an older generation, less weighed down, I suspect, by ideas of appropriation: I mean John Updike, with his novel Terrorist. I confess I didn’t get past the first few pages—the figure of the young Muslim seemed such an accumulation of stereotype that it struck me as rather poor writing. And, of course, it was a story about America with the Muslim posited as the Violent and Hate-Filled Other. Far more successful attempts to portray Muslims in America came later, again—there really is a paper to be written about this—from women writers: first, Lorraine Adams’s Harbor, and then the wonderful The Submission by Amy Waldman, a breakthrough novel in the 9/11 genre, published in 2011, in which we have both the secular, ambitious, and very defensive Muslim American architect and a Bangladeshi 9/11 widow who is an illegal alien. So there have been writers who have moved the roadblock of appropriation and written about Muslims in America, and done it well. But there have been far too few of them."



"Fear of appropriation? I think that argument can only take you so far. Surely fiction writers today understand the value of stories about America In the World, and can see through the appropriation argument. It is, after all, a political argument that can easily be trumped by another political argument about the importance of engagement. So why, then—why, when there are astonishing stories out in the world about America, to do with America, going straight to the heart of the question: who are these people and what do they have to do with us?—why are the fiction writers staying away from the stories? The answer, I think, comes from John Hersey. He said of novelists, “A writer is bound to have varying degrees of success, and I think that that is partly an issue of how central the burden of the story is to the author’s psyche.”

And that’s the answer. Even now, you just don’t care very much about us. One eye remains closed. The pen, writing its deliberate sentences, is icy cold."

[via: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/04/magazine/is-cultural-appropriation-always-wrong.html ]
kamilashamsie  2015  appropriation  culturalappropriation  fiction  writing  culture  power  powerstructures  us  2012 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Is Cultural Appropriation Always Wrong? - The New York Times
"It’s a truth only selectively acknowledged that all cultures are mongrel. One of the first Indian words to be brought into English was the Hindi ‘‘loot’’ — ‘‘plunder.’’ Some of the Ku Klux Klan's 19th-century costumes were, of all things, inspired in part by the festival wear of West African slaves; the traditional wax-print designs we associate with West Africa are apparently Indonesian — by way of the Netherlands. Gandhi cribbed nonviolence from the Sermon on the Mount.

We sometimes describe this mingling as ‘‘cross-pollination’’ or ‘‘cross-fertilization’’ — benign, bucolic metaphors that obscure the force of these encounters. When we wish to speak more plainly, we talk of ‘‘appropriation’’ — a word now associated with the white Western world’s co-opting of minority cultures. And this year — these past several months alone — there has been plenty of talk. In film, there was the outcry over the casting of the blonde Emma Stone as the part-Chinese Hawaiian heroine of Cameron Crowe’s ‘‘Aloha.’’ In music, Miley Cyrus wore dreadlock extensions while hosting the V.M.A.s and drew accusations of essentially performing in blackface — and not for the first time. In literature, there was the discovery that Michael Derrick Hudson, a white poet, had been published in this year’s Best American Poetry anthology under a Chinese pseudonym. In fashion, there was the odd attempt to rebrand cornrows as a Caucasian style — a ‘‘favorite resort hair look,’’ according to Elle. And floating above it all has been Rachel Dolezal, the presiding spirit of the phenomenon, the white former N.A.A.C.P. chapter president who remains serenely and implacably convinced of her blackness.

Questions about the right to your creation and labor, the right to your identity, emerge out of old wounds in America, and they provoke familiar battle stances. The same arguments are trotted out (It’s just hair! Stop being so sensitive! It’s not always about race!) to be met by the same quotes from Bell Hooks, whose essays from the early ’90s on pop culture, and specifically on Madonna, have been a template for discussions of how white people ‘‘colonize’’ black identity to feel transgressive: ‘‘Ethnicity becomes spice, seasoning that can liven up the dull dish that is mainstream white culture.’’ It’s a seasonal contro­versy that attends awards shows, music festivals, Halloween: In a country whose beginnings are so bound up in theft, conversations about appropriation are like a ceremonial staging of the nation’s original sins.

It can feel like such a poignantly stalled conversation that we’re occasionally tempted to believe we’ve moved past it. A 2013 NPR story on America’s changing demographics and the evolution of hip-hop made a case that the genre has lost its identification with race, and that young people aren’t burdened by anxieties about authenticity. ‘‘The melding of cultures we’re seeing now may have Generation X and Generation Y shaking in their boots with claims of racial ‘appropriation,’ ’’ the rapper and performance artist Mykki Blanco said in an online discussion about fashion’s debt to ‘‘urban culture.’’ ‘‘To Generation Z, I would clearly think it all seems ‘normal.’ ’’ Hip-hop culture is global culture, according to this wisdom: People of Korean descent have dominated the largest international b-boy championships; twerking is a full-blown obsession in Russia. ‘‘We as black people have to come to grips that hip-hop is a contagious culture,’’ Questlove, the drummer and co-founder of the Roots, said last year in an interview with Time magazine in which he defended Iggy Azalea, the white Australian rapper derided for (among other things) affecting a ‘‘Southern’’ accent. ‘‘If you love something, you gotta set it free.’’

But many of the most dogged critics of cultural appropriation are turning out to be the very people who were supposed to be indifferent to it. Members of supposedly easygoing Generation Z object — in droves — to Lena Dunham’s posting a photograph of herself in a mock hijab. Others argue that the cultural devaluation of black people paves the way for violence against them. ‘‘What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we loved black culture?’’ Amandla Stenberg, the 16-year-old star of ‘‘The Hunger Games,’’ asked, in her video message ‘‘Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows,’’ which criticized pop stars like Katy Perry for borrowing from black style ‘‘as a way of being edgy.’’ In June, young Asian-Americans protested when the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as an accompaniment to a lecture called ‘‘Claude Monet: Flirting With the Exotic,’’ invited visitors to pose next to Monet’s ‘‘La Japonaise’’ while wearing a matching kimono. And South Asian women, objecting to the fad for ‘‘ethnic’’ wear at music festivals like Coachella, continued a social-media campaign to ‘‘reclaim the bindi,’’ sharing photographs of themselves, their mothers and grandmothers wearing bindis, with captions like ‘‘My culture is not a costume.’’’

Is this just the latest flowering of ‘‘outrage culture’’? Not necessarily. ‘‘The line between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange is always going to be blurred,’’ Stenberg acknowledges in her video. But it has never been easier to proceed with good faith and Google, to seek out and respect context. Social media, these critics suggest, allow us too much access to other people’s lives and other people’s opinions to plead ignorance when it comes to causing offense. When Allure magazine offers tips on achieving a ‘‘loose Afro’’ accompanied by a photograph of a white woman, we can’t overlook how actual black women have been penalized for the hairstyle — that two years ago it was widely reported that a 12-year-old black girl in Florida was threatened with expulsion because of her ‘‘distracting’’ natural hair, and that schools in Oklahoma and Ohio have tried to ban Afros outright. We can’t forget that South Asian bindis became trendy in the mid-’90s, not long after South Asians in New Jersey were being targeted by a hate group that called itself Dotbusters, referencing the bindi, which some South Asian women stopped wearing out of fear of being attacked.

Seen in this light, ‘‘appropriation’’ seems less provocative than pitiably uninformed and stale. It seems possible that we might, someday, learn to keep our hands to ourselves where other people’s cultures are concerned. But then that might do another kind of harm. In an essay in the magazine Guernica, the Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie called for more, not less, imaginative engagement with her country: ‘‘The moment you say a male American writer can’t write about a female Pakistani, you are saying, Don’t tell those stories. Worse, you’re saying: As an American male you can’t understand a Pakistani woman. She is enigmatic, inscrutable, unknowable. She’s other. Leave her and her nation to its Otherness. Write them out of your history.’’

Can some kinds of appropriation shatter stereotypes? This has been literature’s implicit promise: that entering into another’s consciousness enlarges our own. Reviewing ‘‘Green on Blue,’’ Elliot Ackerman’s new novel that looks at America’s war in Afghanistan from the perspective of a young Afghan, the writer Tom Bissell said ‘‘there would be fewer wars’’ if more novelists allowed themselves to imagine themselves into other cultures. It’s a seductive if utterly unverifiable claim. But what cannot be disputed is how profoundly we exist in one another’s imaginations. And what conversations about appropriation make clear is that our imaginations are unruly kingdoms governed by fears and fantasies. They are never neutral."
appropriation  culturalappropriation  2015  parulsehgal  colonialism  decolonization  hiphop  music  fashion  generationz  amandlastenberg  popculture  questlove  culture  mileycyrus  casting  film  bindis  kamilashamsie  otherness  othering  nuance  stereotypes  elliotackerman  tombissell  cosmicrace  larazacósmica  mykkiblanco  genx  generationx  geny  generationy  millennials  michaelderrickhudson  hair  clothing  bellhooks  madonna  context  genz 
october 2015 by robertogreco
My Generation Hates Cultural Appropriation – But My Indian Parents Love It — Everyday Feminism
[Also available at: http://www.xojane.com/issues/my-indian-parents-are-fans-of-cultural-appropriation ]

"I have never been a fan of yoga, yet I gave it a fighting chance, partly because I felt it was my cultural duty to do so.

Back in India, yoga is associated less with athleticism and more with spirituality and health. My grandmother was rendered almost entirely disabled due to a serious case of Parkinson’s, yet with the help of daily, soft yoga and regular meditation, she has begun to walk again with polished joints feeling as good as new. My grandfather, through repeated practice, claims to have come to clarity with his place under the gods and in the world, and at 80 years old still possesses the limbs and lungs of a much younger man.

My mother taught me a variety of yoga poses that, with patience, could function in lieu of medicine: stretches to alleviate menstrual pain, postures that helped with digestion, and repetitive chants to build memory and increase focus. Whether they held true or were kid-tested, mother-approved placebos to build will in us both, it was ultimately yoga. It was the collection of asanas and pranayamas that my people had crafted and curated and concocted to promote health, harmony, and spirituality.

So you can see, when this cultural discipline turned into a billion-dollar industry featuring yoga pants and perky butts, a function for absolving the guilt-laden consumption of eating too many slices of pizza, or being an extracurricular duty of the suburban white mother, I was slightly perplexed.

Which is not to say that I have never gorged on ice cream with the promise of later engaging in power stretching in a room hot enough to shame Arizona summers. I have done yoga for tranquility as much as I’ve done it for a tight tummy.

Although when I attend those classes, I find yoga syncing closer with white girls with Starbucks than it does with an ancient Indian practice. It’s the women in those classes who go home and take #cultured selfies with Bindis and want to go to India to “find themselves.” And I, for one, have had it with selective cultural adoption.

I expressed this sentiment to my parents and to my surprise, they saw nothing wrong with people of other races cherry-picking parts of Indian culture. They lauded Jillian Michaels’ yoga series, embraced Selena Gomez’s and Iggy Azalea’s respective interweaving of Indian culture with western music, and admired Kendall Jenner for adorning a bindi at Coachella.

To them, it was a sign of their culture gaining mainstream acceptance. To me, it was thievery and a selfish promotion tactic.

What shift in mindset occurred in the span of one generation that placed me on a starkly different side of the spectrum from my parents?

My parents emigrated from India to America in 1991, and had me two years later. I was born one culture, yet born in another one. From as long as I can remember, I have constantly been reminded of my other-ness. I was bullied so much for my school lunches that I often boycotted eating all together.

Kids reduced me to my country’s worst stereotype – being eternally stinky from eating curry – and mercilessly mocked me for putting coconut oil in my hair, a typical home practice in India to maintain our thick hair.

I remember an Indian girl in my fourth grade class who hung out with the popular girls because she had the luxury of residing right next door to our grade’s queen bee. She quietly parted from her friends and came up to me while I was crying in the library.

With a deceptive cool masking the inkling of solidarity in her tone, she told me: “Don’t worry. My mom puts oil on my hair too. Just make sure you do it during the weekend and wash it off before you come to school.”

Looking back at that now, I realized us first-generation kids spend our most formative years trying to fit into a culture that demands assimilation while simultaneously barring us from it.

Fast forward to my twenties and I can see the slightest hints of cultural shame still lingering within many of my friends. My Indian friends get visibly embarrassed when their music playlist “accidentally” shuffles to Hindi music, music which they all colloquially refer to as a “guilty pleasure.”

They put time and sweat into practicing traditional dance styles like bharatnatyam and raas and garba but when asked to describe their activities to non-Indians, will just call it their “dance team.”

We have all grown to accept and love our brownness, yet the relentless battle for assimilation has left so many bruises that instinctively provoke knee-jerk responses to ensure distance from our Otherness. We spent our whole lives trying to love our parents’ culture and accepting ourselves as the curry-eating, oil-scrubbing, naturally-tanned selves we are, but we never really did. And we thought nobody else really would either – even those who share our background.

For those of us who grew up in a Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, or Nepali household, our struggles to fit in are vastly different in magnitude, but the solidarity exists.

So that’s why we are upset when someone wakes up one day and decides to exploit our turbulent identities as a disposable fashion – and by doing so be rewarded as a paragon of globalization and cultural acceptance.

How dare they regard Indian fashion as effortlessly cool and chic while we make it look “fobby,” or a stubborn adherence to our culture that purports us to be “fresh off the boat?”

How dare they have a crush when we spent our entire lives trying to love?

Our parents, on the other hand, never came to this country for assimilation; they came here for survival. They knew from the onset they weren’t going to be accepted. They grew up embedded in a deep sense of cultural identity – one that everyone around them shared. They always knew where they are from and they owned it, even when they arrived in America.

Our parents grew up in a time where white people were inherently superior, and while it was commonplace for Indians to ditch their traditional clothing for jeans and t-shirts, white people were reluctant to do the same for them.

Years later, our parents’ generation is bursting with pride at the thought of all the customs they accepted being embraced by the mainstream – whether it’s being exoticized or not. Our parents see the western infatuation with select parts of their otherwise deeply rich culture less as self-promotion and more as an acknowledgement; it is a cross-cultural equalization they could have never dreamed of.

My generation of Indian-Americans is not really Indian, and not really American. Our endless journey to fit into the western mainstream while trying to retain our roots left us – and continues to leave us – in an eternal purgatory of identities.

Americans getting to be fully American and a little bit of Indian – whenever they please – isn’t fair.

Yet I know it isn’t right to outright ban non-Indians wearing Indian clothes because the intentions are never malicious – plus I know my parents are happy to see them.

But the beauty of culture lies in every single part of its intricate details, and hand-picking a favorite few while discarding the rest is taking for granted the best parts of that culture. At the end of the day, your bindi selfies will eventually disappear on social media’s news feeds, you’ll take your colorful sari off, and you can go back to being American whenever you want.

But for my generation, we can never go home and remove our heritage, our culture, and our riddled identity struggle.

Our parents definitely had their struggles, but they never compromised their cultural integrity. They proudly donned their saris and kurtas, brought their food in curry-stained tupperware to work without a care of what anyone else will think. They knew they were outsiders and were never trying to fit in in the first place.

To them, selective adoption of Indian customs and fashion is a compliment, a recognition, and not a double standard of acceptance. And that’s why they’ll continue bask in the appreciation we deem appropriation."
immigration  culture  2015  appropriation  culturalappropriation  generations  nikitaredkar 
september 2015 by robertogreco
Slip On These "Whiteness Goggles" and the Violence of Cultural Appropriation Disappears | Bitch Media
"A new series of prints by artist Roger Peet aims to address a tricky topic: cultural appropriation. In his series In//Appropriate, which debuted at the Portland State University Littman Gallery this month, Peet printed images of white people engaging in cultural appropriation on tall banners. Frozen in time, Miley Cyrus joyfully twerks with her tongue in its signature position, a hipster wears a keffiyeh, and Katy Perry smiles in her American Music Awards geisha costume. Behind them, another vision of whiteness—a violent one—is printed in red: Miley stands out against a scene of police in Ferguson, a bohemian white girl in a feathered headdress is juxtaposed with an iconic photo of a mountain of buffalo skulls, and a still from Iggy Azalea's "Bounce" video frames a portrait of colonizing Queen Victoria.

To accompany the images, Peet constructed special glasses made from cardboard and red plastic. These are “whiteness goggles,” a sign explains. When you put them on and look at the images, suddenly the red, violent image disappears.

Viewers are left with just the visions of Miley, Katy, Iggy, and Elvis with none of the violence behind them. White audiences specifically are forced to consider the blinders that race creates: one of the privileges of being white is the ability to ignore racism. All too often, the reality of the white supremacy is rendered invisible to people who don’t want to see it.

“When you put on the Whiteness Goggles, the colonial, military and police violence that underpins casual cultural consumption disappears,” explains Peet, in his artist statement of the project. Peet himself is a white immigrant to the US from Britain—he works as a politically minded printmaker with the Justseeds Collective. To develop this show, he worked with a group of advisors who offered ideas for how to make art exploring cultural appropriation and steered him toward making these prints. In addition to well-known celebrities engaged in cultural appropriation, the In//Appropriate show includes an image of Peet, foregrounded holding an American flag against a backdrop of the wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan. Including himself in the show was important, Peet says, to show that as a white person coming from England, he faced few hurdles in immigrating to the United States. “I was welcomed with open arms,” he says—a contrast to the racial stereotyping many people of color face when they immigrate the US.

Whenever there’s a high-profile act of cultural appropriation, like Katy Perry at the AMAs, there’s often a strong backlash among white people who say, “This isn’t a big deal. It’s just a costume. They’re just having fun.” As many people of color have pointed out, white people often derail conversations about racism by saying, “But I’m not racist!” Writer John Metta summed this up recently in an essay about why he stopped trying to talk to white people about racism, “The entire discussion of race in America centers around the protection of White feelings.” And as Malik Nashad Sharpe at Black Girl Dangerous explained, white people often willfully ignore racism underpinning our culture:
“Stop ignoring our history as if it’s literally dated, past-tense, far removed from our more civilized modern society, as if we haven’t been obviously trapped by the deeply cultivated White supremacy entangled with the very founding of the United States.”

Peet is using his platform as a white artist to make white audiences specifically think about cultural appropriation in the context of the history of violence. Without the backdrop of history, acts of cultural appropriation may not seem hurtful. By slipping on the “whiteness goggles,” white audiences can see how we often conveniently ignore the history and current violence that makes cultural appropriation so damaging. Since it calls out whiteness, some white people will certainly be offended by this show. And that’s a good thing. Some white people will get upset by Peet’s implication that they’re missing a huge part of the picture—and that’s a conversation we need to have.

In//Appropriate is up at the Littman Gallery until the end of the month—the show is presented in association with artists Sara Siestreem (Hanis Coos), Camas Logue (Klamath-Modoc), Sharita Towne, and Gabe Flores, who are programming additional installations in the gallery. You can see more images from the show and listen to voicemails from people calling in to discuss cultural appropration on the project's Tumblr. [http://inappropriateculture.tumblr.com/ ]"
appropriation  2015  culturalappropriation  music  photography  mileycyrus  katyperry  iggyazalea  oger  peet  race  racism  elvis  johnmetta 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Does M.I.A.'s New 'Broader Than A Border' Video Feature Côte d’Ivoire's Best Dancer? Okayafrica.
"In May, M.I.A. made headlines for claiming that she couldn’t put out a forthcoming video of a dancer in Côte d’Ivoire due to issues with cultural appropriation. “I’ve been told I can’t put out a video because it’s shot in Africa,” the 39-year-old artist, born in London of Sri Lankan Tamil heritage, Tweeted at the time. According to M.I.A., the clip was to be a one-take shot of a male dancer who she says she spent two years trying to locate.What do you think?

After posting a few teasers last week, M.I.A.’s new audiovisual project, released today through Apple Music, may very well feature some of this footage. Titled “Matahdatah Scroll 01 Broader Than a Border,” the project includes two songs (“Swords” from the upcoming LP Matahdatah and “Warriors” from the 2013 LP Matangi) plus an accompanying short film, Scroll 01 “Broader Than A Boarder.” Directed by M.I.A., the clip was shot in West India and what we presume is Côte d’Ivoire (see Les Éléphants jersey at 3:55 for additional evidence of this). It’s still not clear if this is the video M.I.A. was previously referring to her in tweets.What do you think?

Watch via Apple Music."

[See also: https://itunes.apple.com/us/post/idsa.e62049a2-297b-11e5-8564-dbb405c2dc2a
http://www.idolator.com/7600286/mia-swords-video-matahdatah-broader-than-a-border

Previously: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAYPacrJnyQ
using footage from Dragon Girls: https://vimeo.com/69101024 ]
mia  2015  culturalappropriation  appropriation  culture  music  video  india  ivorycoast  côted’ivoire 
july 2015 by robertogreco
An Exploration of Orientalism & Asian Cultural Appropriation as Found in American Music (And Why Being a Non-Asian POC Doesn’t Excuse You) | Ube Empress
"May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage month, so it’s time to talk about Orientalism and the appropriation of Asian cultures and Asian bodies, as specifically done by celebrities in music (because really, if I didn’t narrow it down we’d be here for days)."
appropriation  culture  culturalappropriation  asia  poc  2015  orientalism 
june 2015 by robertogreco
…My heart’s in Accra » Cultural appropriation of the kick-ass kind
"Performing haka in north Texas isn’t an act of random cultural appropriation. The offensive and defensive lines of the Trojans are filled with Tongan players, representing 4,000 people of Tongan descent who live in town of 52,900. The size, speed and skill of these players has a lot to do with the emergence of Trinity as a football powerhouse - in a recent NPR piece on the team, one coach of the team remarked that his offensive line currently outweighed that of Washington Redskins...What’s fascinating to me is the way in which the Haka made it into Euless...wasn’t through elders communicating a dance tradition to children. Instead, some of the players watched the New Zealand rugby team perform the haka on YouTube and began learning the moves in a local park. With the permission and blessing of the local Tongan community, they began performing the dance at community events. It later worked its way onto the football field, where it’s become a critical part of Trinity football culture."
society  culture  sports  football  dance  haka  ethanzuckerman  via:migurski  yotube  culturalappropriation 
october 2008 by robertogreco

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