Hats off to a friend for directing me to a recent blog post by Fredrik deBoer questioning the widespread abuse of the idea of cultural appropriation. His views complement and move beyond my own discussion of degrees of cultural appropriation posted early in 2016. [July 2017: It looks like the post has been taken down from deBoer’s site.]
I confess that I’m a sucker for feisty, against-the-grain assessments of thoughtless pieties of this nature, largely because recognition of the real injustices of certain kinds of inter-cultural theft are undermined by indiscriminate accusations that one group is stealing cultural elements from another..
Living in the Southwest and regularly engaging with Native American nations has sensitized me to the harmful effects of thoughtless imitation, even when well intentioned—a prominent case in point being the history of the Smoki People, a group that imitated Hopi rituals and dress for decades. In short, cultural appropriation is a real problem worthy of informed criticism. But critical distinctions need to be made lest it be reduced to an empty slogan, which I take to be the point of deBoer’s post.
A useful place to start a more informed discussion is an online publication by the IPinCH project in Canada: “Think Before You Appropriate.“