Cultural Appropriation: Whose culture is it anyway, and what about hybridity?

Insisting that certain types of clothing, activities, food, etc, can only be worn, mastered or enjoyed by certain peoples can only serve to divide and alienate. Condemnation of dreadlocks on non-blacks, yoga [practiced] or taught by non-Indians, Chinese food chefs who aren’t Chinese, can never reduce or end racism, because the reason for racism isn’t appreciation, adoption and interest towards other cultures, but ignorance, [ostracization] and othering of them. Telling me that only I can openly and without challenge celebrate Chinese New Year or wear qipao or teach Chinese cookery …can only serve to promote the idea of me as an exotic other, or Chinese stereotype, as things deemed to be culturally ‘mine’ become off-limits to anyone not Chinese, or at least East Asian. 

… But even if I grew up all my life in China, or amongst the Chinese community, celebrating every festival and going to Chinese cram school, the very fact of this should only, ideally, give me knowledge that I can enjoy and share, rather than withhold. …How can one not be ignorant if one isn’t allowed to appreciate, experiment and learn without fear of attack?

…I can totally understand the desire to want to reclaim what was mocked and ban anyone else from enjoying it just because it became cool ‘when white people did it’ — but that won’t help. …Only greater mixing of cultures, experimentation and fusion can, as it [normalizes] what’s seen as other and makes it seem less weird or threatening or icky.

…The media so often serves up the products of other cultures through white vessels in the belief that it makes them more palatable or desirable, but we should challenge that through calling for more diverse representation.

…Another big problem with the arguments against cultural appropriation is that it suggests that there is some kind of inborn cultural essence, possessed by everyone from any given race; a concept that is not only critically flawed, but also all but erases the existence of hybridity.

…If I had a child who looks more European than Asian, can they safely wear traditional Chinese clothes? Can their children? Should we not be rather alarmed at the idea that people are now judging and deeming others not black or Asian or whatever enough to access certain cultural practices…?

…In Japan currently there is a great push towards selling clothes made using traditional Japanese techniques, but with new and [modernized] (and [hybridized]) designs to appeal to modern Japanese and global consumers, in order to prevent these skills from dying out. Protests against cultural appropriation such as the one at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ kimono event last year do not consider that, by complaining that  trying on kimonos should be off-limits to non-Japanese visitors, they are depriving skilled craftsmen and women in Japan of a potential market to keep their techniques alive (the [protesters] were largely not Japanese themselves, incidentally).

…I find it interesting, incidentally, that so many of these discussions seem to have come from, or are based on, an assumption of race and cultural dynamics as they currently are in America. …the dynamics are often very different. People aren’t discriminated against along the same lines, and the cultural stereotypes that have caused problems and divisions are different.

Cultural Appropriation: Whose culture is it anyway, and what about hybridity?



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