I have been doing some research on cultural appropriation, as it is something that upsets are large number of people, but which I don’t really get.
Here are a list of what I would consider informative articles/essays/comics about the topic:
This is a summary of things cultural appropriators do and how to avoid acting like that.
A Much Needed Primer on Cultural Appropriation, by Katie J.M. Baker
Also a summary.
Fashion’s Culture-Appropriation Debate: Pointless, by Min-Ha T. Pham
This is a deconstruction of the cultural appropriation argument.
Eating the Other, by bell hooks
This essay is expansive, and covers much broader ground than that of white appropriation of non-white culture.
Just Eat It: A Comic, by Shing Yin Khor
My favorite. It is a comic about how a Malaysian person feels about the way her white friend treats Malaysian (and others’) culture. It is about her personal experiences, instead of being about other people or cultures as a whole.
None of these were really what I was looking for. The summaries are more like etiquette guides than an explanation of the underlying feelings/experience. The Pham article is promising, but too short, and is more about the failures of arguments for and against cultural appropriation than about why it upsets people so much.
The bell hooks essay wanders too much, and suffers from mission creep. Which is a shame, as I think she is generally an excellent writer.
The comic is about interpresonal feelings, and I think everyone would agree her friend is a jerk. But I understand why the writer feels the way she does. What I don’t understand intuitively is the visceral response people have to, e.g. The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. Or dreamcatcher tattoos. I’m looking for something that really gets to the heart of the matter. Like a Black Skin, White Masks or Autobiography of Malcolm X explanation. The search continues.
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One thing I did notice while doing my reading was the conspicuous absence of male writers writing about the subject (and no, I’m not saying my inability to empathize is because of the lack of male writers). I made a concerted effort to find men writing about cultural appropriation and with the exception of the black women-gay white men arguments, there is precious little. Out of maybe 50 essays I looked at, I found 2.5 written by a man (the .5 essay was co-written by a man and a woman). None of them were as good as the ones I linked above, but I’m including them for the sake of completeness.
Here they are:
From Miley to Macklemore: The Privilege Spectrum, by David Leonard and JLove Calderon
Hindus and Kubrick, by Salil Tripathi