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Really stupid question
james_nicoll
Your IQ may drop by reading it so here's a guard:



Is it possible to commit cultural appropriation against one's own ancestors?

The chain of thought that led to this:

Someone expressed a desire online for white people to stick to their own gods. I immediately thought "hard to do in practice, because most of the indigenous religions in Europe got utterly crushed by an import from the Middle East, which has been then adapted by the locals to suit their needs". Then I thought about attempts to revive some of those dead religions, attempts that have not always been as thoroughly researched as they could have been and whose products perhaps would appear not entirely authentic to people from the cultures that originally came practiced those religions. That looks to me like this bit from wikipedia:

Cultural appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group. It denotes acculturation or assimilation, but often connotes a negative view towards acculturation from a minority culture by a dominant culture. It can include the introduction of forms of dress or personal adornment, music and art, religion, language, or social behavior. These elements, once removed from their indigenous cultural contexts, may take on meanings that are significantly divergent from, or merely less nuanced than, those they originally held.

Particularly that last sentence. I mean, imagine the Druids of old meeting some bunnies'n'light modern pagans who call themselves Druids. I think at the very minimum harsh words would be exchanged. On the other hand, it's completely impossible for them to meet and that probably makes the difference. I don't think "extinct" falls within the set of "minority". Therefore I'd lean towards "no, not in a meaningful sense of the term."

Obviously, the answer to the question must be 'yes'! >.>

I believe Americans of Irish ancestry are sometimes quite annoying in various ways relating to the ancestry to current citizens of Ireland. That might be more like some kind of cultural appropriation -- though in fact both are descended directly from a common ancestral culture.

But current citizens of Ireland are around to be annoyed. What I am thinking about is entirely abstract.

Not only possible, but probably unavoidable.

"Arrrgh! Those kids never get it right! They're missing the whole point!"

You forgot the "*Shakes Cane*" they always seem have a cane about to shake.

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Well, anyone over here who starts calling themselves a Druid is doing just that. Druids were pretty thin on the ground in the pre-Columbian New World.


Whenever I hear such terms tossed around, I wonder how much poorer we'd all be if singers like buddy Holly and Elvis Presley had stuck to singing "white music". It's almost like trying to enforce "separate but equal" cultural standards.

On the other hand, we likewise wouldn't have Pat Boone's stylings of the same music....

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Does Discordianism count? I am almost certainly not descended from classical Greeks, even if it were possible to find out, nor do I live in Greece.

More to the point, am I allowed to feel Culturally Appropriated as a Discordian when Xena Warrior Princess and the like (the Disney Hercules comes to mind) depicts my Goddess as a ditzy psychopath?

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You got a lot of nerve calling yourself a Canadian when you're not a fur-trapper working for the hudson's bay company.

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Exactly what is "cultural appropriation" anyway?

Is it what English does to other languages? (What is it when they copy words from English?)

Is it what Christianity did to Judaism?

Is it whining on the Internet by anybody who isn't of my culture?

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Ask an Orthodox Jew how he feels about the Reform and Revisionist movements.

Usually they think about the Reformists is: “Judaism: you're doing it wrong”. And yet they accept that Reform Jews are Jews (unless they converted to Reform Judaism, in which case they qualify neither by religion nor blood).

A better analogy might be asking an Orthodox Jew how he feels about Madonna calling herself a Qabbalist...

The appropriation issue might arise if one discovered an isolated settlement that was still practicing that archaic/historic culture. These days, that's really unlikely.

I briefly hung out on an LJ that trafficked in matters of "cultural appropriation". I was told (by someone who was NOT South Asian) that it was not OK for me to wear my own home-sewn salwar kameez because I'm not South Asian. It's cultural appropriation, you see.

However, when I went into the India Market (where I buy spices and rent DVDs) wearing my home-sewn salwar kameez, Mrs. Khan admired my outfit and asked me if I'd sew some new salwars for her :)


I regularly wear a lungi, both here (chennai) and in the us, but rarely out of the house. it gets about as much attention in either place though -- the former because, "hey that man is wearing a skirt (!)" and the latter because "hey that velaikaren (white man) is wearing a lungi (!)"

Agree that the use of Welsh, Scottish and Irish culture by some people outside the British Isles can be considered as such. (Remembers the freak-out one well-known LJ anti-racist got into a couple of years back when British people tried to tell her that, yes, the Welsh should be considered a potentially-oppressed culture in the UK despite being white).

I've known some pagan[1] friends who have felt deeply insulted by the depictions of greek (for one of them) and celtic (for the other) paganism as depicted on TV shows like Xena. So, yes, absolutely, it's possible to appropriate from one's own culture's past incarnations.

[1] Pagan in the sense of feeling the need to deeply research the defunct traditions in order to properly resurrect the religion for one's own personal use. Not pagan in the sense of new age claptrap or Wicca.

A possibly related question is how much cultural distance has to exist between oneself and one's ancestors before their culture is no longer your own, and therefore could conceivably be a target of appropriation.

For instance, my last name is Dutch because I have some Dutch ancestors a few centuries back. This means that I "am" Dutch to roughly the same extent as a brick that is not Dutch even a little bit. If I suddenly went around building dikes to hold back the sea, or whatever, to celebrate my heritage then I could reasonably be slapped upside the head for appropriating what I assume is a proud culture that is not mine to appropriate.

On the other hand, if there exists a definable culture for "generic American mongrel, West Coast variety" then I can claim that with a clear conscience; and if I happen to practice the traditional ways -- whatever those might be, because I'm kind of drawing a blank here -- poorly because I just looked them up on Wikipedia the other day, well, I'm entitled because it's my own cultural ox that I'm goring.

A possibly related question is how much cultural distance has to exist between oneself and one's ancestors before their culture is no longer your own, and therefore could conceivably be a target of appropriation.

It varies. Grandmother was a Cree, I am not.

rgl -- granny goodwitch, as jerry called her

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“Why, yes, we use our sickles in sacrifices. Would you like me to show you?”

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Amongst the first main surge of converts was in the Hellenified Jewish diaspora of the Mediterranian; the Corinthians, Galatians, &c.

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sure. the past _is_ a different country and contains multitudes of cultures. sometimes it's impossible to maintain 'meanings' from one decade to the next, even among the same cohort who established the 'meanings' in the first place. I personally did not have much experience of the 1960's in the US, but the 1970's sure have changed each and every time they've come around.

I don't think that a culture need be contemporaneous to be the subject of appropriation. or even based on an actual historical culture, e.g. the invention of the scots highland mythos in the aftermath of 1745, which is still quite merrily being propagated all over the world today.

How extinct do you want them to be? As I understand it there are still some honest-to-Thor followers of the Norse pantheon in Iceland, anyway, as opposed to the cultural appropriation of said pantheon by Marvel comics and other rather vaguely educated groups.

The question could be rephrased as something like, "Is it accurate to refer to weakly-researched 'revival' of ancestral practices as cultural appropriation?"

I'm inclined to say no, but it's kind of a definitional thing. Without the dominant/dominated culture element, the offense is only against historical accuracy.

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Thinking about the Roman reaction to the Druids, got me thinking about how Romans were huge into cultural appropriation.

Opps I guess that is off topic.

Even considering that possibility means that you're at least halfway down the rabbit hole to "nobody can write about anything but their own lives" -- i.e., the modern American MFA attitude.

It used to be possible to contain that with fire, but, these days, I believe nuclear weaponry is required. Too bad for Kitchener, I guess.

The easiest way to contain it is to ignore it. I will culturally appropriate anything that amuses me, mangle it in whatever horrific pop-culture way also amuses me, and serve it up on a plate with OTHER cultural appropriations. MUAAAHAHAHAHA!

Science fiction was mainly developed by French, English, American and Jewish authors so does that mean any non-Caucasian and non-Semitic people writing SF are guilty of "cultural appropriation?"

Certainly if they're using any of the standard SF tropes!

Now let's collide THAT meme with the Racefail meme and stand back. Stand back a LONG way.

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Following spoken in jest...

> ... imagine the Druids of old meeting some bunnies'n'light modern pagans who call themselves Druids. I think at the very minimum harsh words would be exchanged.

Who needs to involve the Druids?

If we could have modern Baptists, Luterians, Catholics, Methodists, Episcopalans, etc meet with the leaders of the first century followers of christianity...

We could sell that fight on pay-per-view, with the winner going on to face the Eastern Orthodox and Nontrinary churches in a three way cage match.

- krin

Re: Following spoken in jest...

But where would the Unitarians fit in?

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