thegrandnarrative + cultural-appropriation   8

When respect for diversity is taken to crazy extremes - Open Ideas
EVERY year the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art hosts a gala. A single ticket costs $30,000. New York’s A-listers and wannabes deck themselves in overwrought garments designed for the party’s theme. Three years ago “China: Through the Looking Glass” inspired dresses with dragons (pictured), hair held in place with chopsticks and, from a few sartorially confused celebrities, kimonos.

The attire prompted an outcry over “cultural appropriation”—an elastic, ill-defined gripe. No such furore arose over the outfits at this year’s gala, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination”, even though they included a stilettoed and sequinned pope, Jesus Christ in a gold tiara, and a spectacularly winged angel. Why not?

It is not as though the concept of cultural appropriation has fallen out of use. Gonzaga University issued a firmly worded statement warning “non-Mexican individuals” against celebrating Cinco de Mayo; the campus multicultural centre published a minatory infographic ordering, “Don’t you dare try on that ‘sombrero’.” About a week earlier an 18-year-old white student in Utah received hundreds of hostile comments after she wore a Chinese-inspired dress to her school prom.

The accusation is great at stirring up Twitter outrage. But what is cultural appropriation?

There is no agreed definition. Generally speaking, it’s the idea that a “dominant culture” wearing or using things from a “minority culture”—say, white American college kids in Brazilian bombachas or baggy trousers—is inherently disrespectful because the objects are taken out of their native context.

It’s not a completely new idea. More than two centuries ago it was popular for upper-class British and French to have their portraits painted dressed as Turkish sultans, which the historian Edward Said called “orientalism”. More recently some black Americans griped when Elvis Presley filched classic rhythm-and-blues riffs and sold them back to white, mainstream society.

Yet today the idea has expanded to new extremes—and obstructs free expression. In American colleges and universities, a vocal minority of students are pushing for official policies banning the practice—by, for example, disciplining students who wear Halloween costumes deemed inappropriate.

The threat here is quite overt. Offence is inherently subjective; university bureaucrats should not punish one student simply because her clothes hurt the feelings of another. Beyond the threat of punishment lies the threat of social stigma—that students, fearful of being accused, will censor themselves or feel themselves censored.

Had the Met gala opted for an Islamic theme (say, “Arabian Nights: Magic and Islam”), accusations of appropriation would have surely followed. This year Jared Leto, an actor, dressed as Jesus; had he dressed as Muhammad, even if in a plain and historically accurate thobe and turban, he would provoke all manner of disgust and denunciation. One can conjure any number of nightmare scenarios for galas themed around Judaism, blackness or, say, Aztecs—none of whom remain alive to be offended—no matter how sartorially sensitive the dresses.

That is because cultural appropriation is less about cultural disrespect or intolerance—for which much clearer terminology already exists—than about reinforcing the oppressor-oppressed binary through which social-justice advocates see the world. Because Christians and whites are groups deemed to have power, all manner of borrowing or parody is intolerable. And the inverse gets a free pass: nobody is upset when Asians wear European clothes, for instance.

The remedy for the selective application of the cultural appropriation label is not its expansion—as this would sweep in all manner of innocuous social interactions—but its retirement. The phrase stigmatises the beneficial cultural exchanges that happen in art, music, dance, cooking and language. The very idea is self-defeating. To declare black culture off-limits to non-blacks, for example, is to segregate it.

The term also fundamentally misunderstands the process by which all cultures form and progress: through creolisation and intermixing. To appropriate the words of John Donne, no culture is an island entirely of itself.
cultural-appropriation  SJWs 
january 2019 by thegrandnarrative
Every Culture Appropriates - The Atlantic
It’s important to have these details in order to understand what is so deeply sinister about the claims now being made about the prom dress.

Like the idea that audiences should refrain from talking while music is performed, the idea that women should be able to move about as freely and easily as men is a cultural product—popularized by the North Atlantic world in the period after the First World War. If it’s wrong for one culture to borrow from another, then it was wrong to invent the cheongsam in the first place—because not only did the garment’s shape originate outside China, but so, too, did the garment’s purposes. It was precisely because they appreciated that they were importing Western ideas about women that the inventors of the cheongsam adapted a Western shape. They took something foreign and made it something domestic, in a pattern that has repeated itself in endless variations since the Neolithic period.

The policemen of cultural appropriation do not think that way. They have a morality tale to tell, one of Western victimization of non-Western peoples—a victimization so extreme that it is triggered by a Western girl’s purchase of a Chinese dress designed precisely so that Chinese girls could live more like Western girls.

In order to tell that story, the policemen of cultural appropriation must crush and deform much of the truth of cultural history—and in the process demean and infantilize the people they supposedly champion.

...The Western culture of personal autonomy and equal dignity is a precious thing precisely because it is not universal. Those who participate in that culture and enjoy its benefits may hope—do hope—that it may someday become universal. They may hope that their culture will shape the shared future of all humanity. But it is not a universal inheritance, and it is not the universal contemporary practice. If anything, that culture is at present in retreat, challenged and assailed both at home and abroad. It needs defending, and to be defended effectively it is vital to understand precisely how non-universal it is.

To the extent that the cultural-appropriation police are urging their targets to respect others who are different, they are saying something that everyone needs to hear. But beyond that, they can plunge into doomed tangles. American popular culture is a mishmash of influences: British Isles, Eastern European, West African, and who knows what else. Cole Porter committed no wrong by borrowing from Jewish music; Elvis Presley enriched the world when he fused country-and-western with rhythm-and-blues.

How to draw the line between that and America’s ugly tradition of minstrelsy, in which subordinated peoples are both mimicked and mocked—as Al Jolson mimicked and mocked black music in his notorious blackface career? There is no clear rule, but there is an open way: the values of respect and tolerance that draw precisely on the rationalist Enlightenment traditions both rejected and relied upon by the cultural-appropriation police. Those traditions are the spiritual core of American culture at its highest. And those values we should all hope to see appropriated by all this planet’s peoples and cultures.
cultural-appropriation  SJWs 
may 2018 by thegrandnarrative
When it comes to Korean food, there is no such thing as cultural appropriation
When it comes to grub, I’m not worried about appropriation—only appreciation. As a Korean-American, I am proud to see my once-obscure culinary culture become part of the mainstream. After all, my heritage is not so fragile that it will be damaged by someone photographing their bibimbap with the wrong cutlery. Koreans have overcome dictatorships and poverty, so I’m sure we can survive Instagram pictures. I believe people should be able to eat or serve whatever pleases us, without worrying about whether we are the correct ethnicity. Purity can only exist in a vacuum of cultural interaction, and we all benefit when cultures meld.
cultural-appropriation  Korean-food 
may 2017 by thegrandnarrative
What Does 'Cultural Appropriation' Actually Mean?
The artist who painted Open Casket was trying to bridge the gulf between “us” and “them.” She began with the attitude that bygone travesties against a group to which she doesn't belong was properly of concern to her. In the particular, she achieved a measure of empathy. “I don’t know what it is like to be black in America, but I do know what it is like to be a mother," she said, explaining her desire to engage with the loss of Emmett Till's mother. "In her sorrow and rage," she wrote, "she wanted her son’s death not just to be her pain but America’s pain.” I have no opinion about the quality of her painting. But I want more Americans to undertake the sorts of efforts that she did.

A Korean food truck owner who puts beef bulgogi in a burrito is appropriating Mexican culinary culture. A Malaysian housewife who rents a kimono while on holiday in Kyoto is appropriating traditional Japanese dress. A Canadian who writes a novel inspired by Cervantes is appropriating Spanish literary culture. An Irish American who sings opera for a living benefits from the world's appropriation of an Italian art.

But a white college student who dons blackface is … not engaging at all with African American culture. He or she is just caricaturing the physical features of another race. The act is offensive partly because it is reducing people to the color of their skin.
cultural-appropriation 
april 2017 by thegrandnarrative

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