Cultural appropriation is an interesting issue.
It has gone on a long time and it will continue. It's a good thing. It has enriched all of the cultures of the world, but it is also problematic.
The current controversy in Canada, as I understand it, focuses on cultural appropriation as an instrument of the continued marginalization and
exclusion of indigenous people from having a legitimate place and voice in the Canadian cultural context.
There's the rub.
Jumping out of the Canadian context for a moment, one can say that Afro-American musicians have been the victims of massive cultural appropriation by
the mainstream, mostly "white", musical "community".
Elvis Presley and some other early pioneers of "rock and roll" music led the charge in appropriating what was a hugely appealing aspect of
Afro-American musical culture, the transportation of African musical styles to America and the Americanization of them by African slaves.
The Americanization of African musical styles led to a counter appropriation
of "white" European musical styles by Afro-American musicians,
which was an integral element in the development of the blues and ultimately in the development of the crown jewel of musical culture on this
continent, Jazz, the American "classical music", as it has been called.
People familiar with modern rock and roll, modern blues and modern jazz will be familiar with some of the cultural twists and turns involved in the
process of appropriation and how this process wound its way back to the originators of these musical styles in the marginalized Afro-American
community, which was their ultimate source.
Many musicians from the marginalized Afro-American community came into mainstream prominence through the efforts of their "appropriators". The
relationship between the Rolling Stones (and also very importantly, Johnny Winter) and Muddy Waters is probably the most well known example of this
There were numerous other examples, though, on a smaller scale, on the coffee house circuit and in college auditoriums where well known white "blues"
artists drew attention to and were sometimes partnered with the Afro-American musicians they idolized.
It seems clear that Canadian authors should consider creating a cultural discovery or recognition prize, rather than an appropriation prize in
connection with marginalized artists.
Maybe, as in the case of rock and roll, appropriation precedes recognition and acknowledgement.
This begs the question, "Are well meaning representatives of marginalized cultures and their defenders in the mainstream, actually blocking
recognition and acceptance of their cultural efforts by attempting to block their cultural appropriation by mainstream artists?"
It's something to consider.
This is a very big topic and it stretches from the Acropolis in Athens to the Giza plateau and all across the North American continent and really all
around the world. There are cultural battles going on everywhere.
Just to take one extreme example, the Egyptian government has for quite a long time, been restricting access to the pharaonic monuments in the
country, much to the frustration of numerous non-Egyptian archaeologists and scientists, who would like the freedom to thoroughly explore and
elucidate the mysteries of those ancient remnants.
They are routinely condemned for doing so, by the avid followers of archaeological discoveries around the world, but one could make the case, on the
basis of condemning "cultural appropriation" that the Egyptian government has every right to lock up those sites so that they might be completely
explored by Egyptian archeologists, in due time, who will then tell what is essentially and rightfully the Egyptian story revealed by them.
The world might have a long wait for that story to be told. The world might have to wait for the maturation of an archaeological tradition in Egypt
that could take generations. It might have to wait for political turbulence in Egypt to settle. It might have to wait for the Egyptian economy to
generate large amounts of discretionary income to be spent on archaeology or for the right Egyptian philanthropist to appear.
Abjuring cultural appropriation would have a price.
Of course, "mainstream" culture is appropriated with alacrity by indigenous people around the world. Some people fear that too. It could mean, it has
meant the destruction of numerous autochthonous cultures.
Are there any truly autochthonous cultures? People have been butting heads and wandering around for a very long time. They have been changing and
adapting for a long time too.
This is a very big topic. One could go on and on about it. I would suggest that the opponents of cultural appropriation consider focusing on
indigenous cultural voices that excite them and start to promote them in "cultural recognition" rather than worrying so much about an appropriation
process that might actually have a significant upside anyway.
edit on 15-5-2017 by ipsedixit because: (no reason given)