Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cultural appropriation

I wish to begin an ongoing dialogue about cultural appropriation and

Can cultural appropriation ever really be exploitative? Are we not
forced to open ourselves to the Otherness of the Other whether we mean
to or not? Can we really judge cultural appropriation at the level of
"the forces at work"?

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On the other hand, does the "flattening" of culture in contemporary
modes really amount to western capitalist logic par excellence. Is the
the presentation of Otherness now merely reduced to form while
effectively being disemboweled of all its Otherness at the level of

(apropos Zizek on multiculturilism (from memory)) -

When we listen to say, a remix of global music, to what extent are we
actually coming into contact with Otherness and does it matter? In
what way can a remix such as this one be said to exist not entirely
within the confines of a localised, Brooklyn based internalisation of

[ ]

And to what extent does it actually try to address Universality
anyway? - is it not mostly directed at undermining those claims
themsleves; that genuine dialogue and openess to the Other is inherent
in "Global Culture"?


  1. Ps I love the song at 23 min

  2. 'One of the main academic frameworks for understanding reverse engineering is the concept of cultural diffusion which is the process by which cultural material is diffused or spread between cultures. Cultural diffusion can be understood in two ways, as the straightforward adoption of cultural material from one culture to another and as ‘stimulus’ diffusion where the originating culture provides a stimulus from which the local culture develops something new and original. The type of cultural diffusion we are interested in is that identified by Kroeber as the process whereby an entire system or pattern is imported into a receiving culture which then proceeds to insert its own content into that system.'
    Perhaps it is useful to makes distinctions between the different ways that culture is appropriated.
    I think there's a bit of both happening or it's a two way street, in that things were certainly hollowed out to a certain extent by post-modernism and capitalism where culture and images have lost some of their meaning-but I think maybe this a positive thing in that when it is re-appropriated as a shell, the new users can insert their own content into these forms or 'remix' and re-contextualize and generate new meanings which in itself I think is meaningful. I don't think we need to worry so much about occupying foreign cultures or effacing them when we appropriate, I think the post-colonial discourse clearly demonstrated that again, it works both ways and that cultural appropriation by the West of the Other is as prevalent as the 'subalterns' mimicry of the master as a form of subversion and resistance. No one complains about Nigerians ripping off 50 Cent. Having said that, are their limits to this, what was Wayne Marshall's beef with Diplo and the Wire's critique of Sublime Frequencies? Maybe, at a certain political/economic level where it becomes material exploitation, a la taking the music of another culture as 'found sound' and selling it on compilation CD's when those artists are actually active and perhaps struggling in their own countries. What do you think the limits of cultural appropriation are?