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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."

I don't think you notice your own culture when you're living in it, and you're not forced to consider others.

Think about what it would be like if you were living in Xichuan or Yokohama or Seoul or Harare or similar, and consider that many of the things which would make you feel so alien to the place are what make your culture. Now consider that there was a local fashion to ‘be American’, which involves Gangsta rap, waving fake guns around, baseball hats, confederate flags; Pulp Fiction and 50cent and the Dukes of Hazzard all mixed in together, claiming to be ‘American Culture’, and you know that whatever your culture is, it's not that, they're getting it fundamentally wrong, and some of them even have the gall to turn around and correct you on your own culture when you try to call them on it.

I think if you were to think about Cultural Appropriation, this is the point of view that you should take, rather than from a position of comfort and familiarity, where you don't mind if people copy you because it doesn't really affect you.

Re: Gedankenexperiment

seawasp

2009-05-23 12:46 am (UTC)

I don't understand what you're saying. I'd correct THEM, if I felt so inclined, or mock them, or ignore them, as the mood took me.

Where I live has no influence on ME. I am who I am. Living in Seoul or any other place won't change it. They're not really much more alien in their culture than some areas in this country (much of this country, even of this culture, is utterly alien to me anyway). DIFFERENT but no more alien, and if I was living in any of those places, I'm still ME, and what I do, think, and say is not going to change (modulo, of course, places where Local Dictator will have me shot for saying certain things; if I HAD to be in such a place, I'd keep my mouth shut. By preference, I will never travel to any place that I have to actually worry about what I say getting me killed.

Re: Gedankenexperiment

catsidhe

2009-05-23 01:03 am (UTC)

You say that, but I don't think most people would be able to keep it up for long. Part of the experiment is to put yourself in the place, not of the Great US of A, but of a ‘lesser’ nationality. You don't have the luxury of confidence that you know who you are, so you can ignore them. They are redefining who you are. Their ignorant apprehensions do affect you, in how you are treated in the street, in what treatment you get from authorities, police, shopkeepers, when they know you are American, then they stop treating you as you, and start treating you as this caricature of you. And you know that you can't ignore it, and you can't fix it, and even your best friend will have these weird ideas about what you do at home, and, and, and.

Some people can just ignore it, sure. The Jews have had to do so for millennia. But still, sometimes those misapprehensions go beyond wrong into vicious: the Blood Libel, for instance. And it doesn't matter what you say, because it is common knowledge.

Or think of Native Americans. They know who they are, they know what Lakota/Navajo/Cherokee/etc do, because it's what they do. And still, they have people greeting them with “How”, and asking after the reservation, and telling them about their own culture based on a movie they saw, have government authorities and media commentators judge them as sufficiently “indian” or not. There's not much most of them can do but stoically bear it, but don't you think the grinding monotony of ignorance would piss you off? And then some idiot starts up “Native Circles”, of disaffected middle class white kids wearing feathers, and garb from a dozen different tribes, and stilted cowboy-and-indian talk, and religious rituals from all over the continent, and then claim to be “initiated shamen” and to understand the Indian experience, and give interviews to the local paper on your behalf, wouldn't that piss you off?


It's not that it would change you, it's the disconnect between what you are, and what others think you are, and what others think you think you are...

And your culture will out when you're no longer submersed in it. When you are confronted by a different culture every day, that's when you start to figure out what your own culture actually is. When everyone has the same accent, no-one has an accent.

Re: Gedankenexperiment

seawasp

2009-05-23 01:35 am (UTC)

*Shrug* That doesn't seem at all related to the subject. Here you're saying "How would you feel if you were isolated and totally on your own in an alien world, and in the bargain you had no ability to act except based on whatever their perceptions of you are.". I was talking about how I would feel about people -- not related to me -- taking whatever you think my culture is.

While the first ENCOMPASSES the second, they are not at all the same thing.

Re: Gedankenexperiment

catsidhe

2009-05-23 01:50 am (UTC)

Not no ability to act, but whatever actions you take (or don't take) are constrained by others' (more or less correct) beliefs about who you are.

I meant the second point in the context of the first, which is after all, the position of those who get most upset about Cultural Appropriation. If I didn't get that point across better, then that's my fault.

Re: Gedankenexperiment

seawasp

2009-05-23 02:03 am (UTC)

From my PoV, my annoyance at the cultural appropriation in that case would be somewhere between minimal and nonexistent. It'd be the powerlessness, etc., of which the fact that they couldn't tell Doc Smith from Doc Holliday would be hardly registering. I'd only have the luxury for that kind of complaining if I was a *lot* more comfortable, I think... and once I was a lot more comfortable, I wouldn't be particularly bothered by it.