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An Ode (of sorts) to Cultural Appropriation

no picture Nandini
Member since June 26, 2017
  • 2 Posts

Dear everybody,

Cultural appropriation is not something to be ignored. In no way should acceptable to don the clothing, style, or words of an ethnic group or a people without being aware of its ramifications and the history behind the item.

It may seem trivial, and I'll admit that for the longest time I wasn't able to understand exactly why appropriating cultures was hurtful and should not be condoned. That is, until I was able to observe it firsthand. And after that, I saw it all around me. In this post, I want to show you why it's unfair to a culture to appropriate the symbols it upholds.

I was walking back from school one day when I saw a group of tourists walking by, dressed from top to bottom in India ethnic wear. They wore kurta tops and ghagra cholis and went to the very last detail of donning bindis and hennna.

Initially, I was thrilled that styles that were formerly considered odd were entering the mainstream fashion industry. That is, until I realized that quite often, a style, or artifact would be adopted but in the process, the significance and the struggle behind it would be abandoned or in the very least marginalized.

In the example I had mentioned before, the travelers, while I'm sure their intentions were benign, discarded the struggle that Indian women faced in previous years as they were labeled and objectified by society based on whether they were married or with child.

By doing so, by appropriating a culture's symbol, one subdues and ignores the sturggles a society or group of people experienced and removes power and urgency in the appreciation of how far they have come since that time.

Additionally, this process can lead to the modernising of spiritual or sacred symbols such as Buddhist prayer flags which are now available in souvenir stores. This subversion of the reasoning behind rituals could possibly lead to the partial or complete erasure of the practices themselves as they are only observed through the lens of modernity instead what they were originally established for.

However, in a world where globalization has seized culture, it's difficult to draw the line between appropriation and culture shock. Culture shock can be seen as the assimilation of entire lifestyles of ideals of various cultures that could lead to confusion and disorientation by indigenous groups. Appropriation, on the other, is when these ideas or practices of a culture are abused or misused often unintentionlly.

If done correctly, adopting a culture's elements can build awareness to the culture and it's history, but otherwise can have adverse effects. As the youth of this generation we have a responsibility to uphold and preserve the traditions of the past so that they can help mould an aware, diverse future.

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