layla: grass at sunset (Default)
Layla ([personal profile] layla) wrote2012-04-05 09:32 pm

Cultural Appropriation

The last in my series of backstory posts for Raven's Children is going to be more of a definition post. I'm going to be talking about cultural appropriation quite a bit as I go through the series, so I thought it would be a good idea to start out with some basic information and definitions.

Here is a good, basic definition of cultural appropriation. This post is a little long, but well worth reading, because it discusses syncretism (cultures changing as they come into contact with other culturs and adopt new foods, music, clothing, etc) and how cultural appropriation exists as a subset of that. And the author defines cultural appropriation thusly:

[Cultural appropriation] arises when a dominant culture raids a subordinate culture for cultural items that it then pulls out of context. The dominant culture -- in our case, white Americans -- doesn't properly acknowledge the borrowing -- or else the dominant culture makes a complete hash of the borrowing and then tries to pass it off as authentic.

I do recommend reading the whole article, as it's quite comprehensive and talks a lot about the crux of the issue: all cultures borrow, it's what cultures do. But not all borrowing is equal.

Another good source to look at is this discussion in which participants contribute their own definitions. Lots of interesting viewpoints and examples.

The thing about all of this is that it's very squishy and subjective. People within a minority group don't all agree on what constitutes appropriation of their culture (of course not! they're people!), let alone outsiders. Ask ten people, get ten different opinions. I think most people nowadays agree that a lot of old books and movies are racist or at least creepily objectifying, but then you get into the less clear-cut examples and things get fuzzy. I thought RC was just fine when I wrote it, of course. I wouldn't have written it otherwise! And now I'm uncomfortable with some of the decisions I made. Heaven knows what I'm going to think ten years from now about the things I'm writing now; I'm sure that I'll notice lots of things that I'm completely unaware of at the present time.

Also, disagreement and discussion is ABSOLUTELY welcome. As I go along, if you think my conclusions are wrong, or if you have a different take on matters, feel free to tell me. I'll be moderating comments for civil discussion -- no personal insults, flaming, etc.; my house, my rules -- but beyond that, discussion and dissent is perfectly fine.

And that's it for the introduction posts! Posting of actual pages starts tomorrow.