Thursday, July 6, 2017

Cultural appropriation theory criticized by people of color

Because identitarians believe the thoughts of people with "lived experience" matter most when discussing issues of social identity, here are some thinkers on race and culture who have unquestionable "lived experience":

Arun Gupta - I was sent this list below of "White-Owned Appropriative Restaurants in Portland.":
They want to fix all cultures as fossils in a museum, not allowing for adaptation, changing tastes, social roles, or fashion. It reminds me of how the National Front fetishizes a notion of the pure French nation.
In Defense of Cultural Appropriation - The New York Times by Kenan Malik:
Appropriation suggests theft, and a process analogous to the seizure of land or artifacts. In the case of culture, however, what is called appropriation is not theft but messy interaction. Writers and artists necessarily engage with the experiences of others. Nobody owns a culture, but everyone inhabits one, and in inhabiting a culture, one finds the tools for reaching out to other cultures.

... There are few figures more important to the development of rock ’n’ roll than Chuck Berry (who died in March). In the 1950s, white radio stations refused to play his songs, categorizing them as “race music.” Then came Elvis Presley. A white boy playing the same tunes was cool. Elvis was feted, Mr. Berry and other black pioneers largely ignored. Racism defined who became the cultural icon.

But imagine that Elvis had been prevented from appropriating so-called black music. Would that have challenged racism, or eradicated Jim Crow laws?
On ‘Maybellene’ and General Tso’s Chicken by Jonathan Zimmerman:
Berry never claimed to be the sole originator of anything. "Chuck Berry’s style … is only back to the future of what came in the past," he wrote in his 1987 autobiography. "And you know, and I believe it must be true, ‘there is nothing new under the sun.’ So don’t blame me for being first, just let it last."
Let White People Appropriate Mexican Food—Mexicans Do It to Ourselves All the Time by Gustavo Arellano:
The Mexican restaurant world is a delicious defense of cultural appropriation—that's what the culinary manifestation of mestizaje is, ain't it? The Spaniards didn't know how to make corn tortillas in the North, so they decided to make them from flour. Mexicans didn't care much for Spanish dessert breads, so we ripped off most pan dulces from the French (not to mention waltzes and mariachi). We didn't care much for wine, so embraced the beers that German, Czech and Polish immigrants brought to Mexico. And what is al pastor if not Mexicans taking shawerma from Lebanese, adding pork, and making it something as quintessentially Mexicans as a corrupt PRI?
 Of kimono and cultural appropriation | The Japan Times by Shaun O'Dwyer:
Manami Okazaki, whose book “Kimono Now” analyses modern kimono fashions, told me that her main worry was “that this (protest) will affect museums/ event organizers wanting to do kimono shows in the future, which is the last thing the industry needs.”

...That message, recently iterated to me by an employee at the Nishijin Textiles Center in Kyoto, is this: Anyone can appropriate and creatively modify kimono styles whenever and however they like.

...Kaori Nakano, a professor of fashion history at Meiji University put it to me this way: “Cultural appropriation is the beginning of new creativity. Even if it includes some misunderstanding, it creates something new.”
Japanese-American in Boston: Monet's La Japonaise Kimono Wednesdays at the MFA: "Kimono try on is an established part of Japanese cultural sharing. One of my friends reminded me that in Kyoto it's a big tourist thing to do something called "maiko for a day" (maiko are apprentice geisha) and it's popular with both Japanese people and international tourists. Another friend reminded me that it's common for non-Japanese to also wear kimono, yukata, and happi coats as obon festivals and other matsuris in places like Hawaii and California."

Japanese-American in Boston: Myths and facts about Kimono Wednesdays and the protests:
The MFA controversy clearly falls into the category of #firstworldproblems. I've continued to write about it because the protesters have continued to minimize and dismiss dissenting Japanese and Japanese American viewpoints which is not something I can accept.
Underneath the 'Orientalist' kimono | The Japan Times:
“The real reason why traditional kimono culture is about to (become) extinct,” wrote avant-garde fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto, “is because of its tendency to aspire to ‘perfection’ as a style that does not allow any other foreign item to be added to it. My advice for anyone wearing kimono is to challenge this rigidity; let’s forget about attending kimono lessons.”


From Jenner to Dolezal: One Trans Good, the Other Not So Much | By Adolph Reed Jr.:
When all is said and done, the racial outrage is about protection of the boundaries of racial authenticity as the exclusive property of the guild of Racial Spokespersonship. ... Beneath all the puerile cultural studies prattle about "cultural appropriation" ... lies yet another iteration in what literature scholar Kenneth Warren has identified in his masterful 2012 study, What Was African American Literature?, as a more than century-old class program among elements of the black professional-managerial stratum to establish “managerial authority over the nation’s Negro problem.”
Bonus thoughts by people from groups that some say are not white:

If you think Greeks are not white or are "imperfectly white":  "Why the Theory of Cultural Appropriation is Pro-Capitalist"—a guest post by Jonas Kyratzes:
...people from those countries are rarely threatened by “outsiders” taking on elements of their culture; in fact, they celebrate it. In Greece, when some element of Greek culture becomes popular worldwide, it tends to make the news. As a good thing. As in hey, we’re poor and miserable and everything is shit, but at least we’re still relevant in the world. People like our stuff! If you all start loving the bouzouki, we’re not suddenly going to run out of music over here.
If you think Jews are not white: The Myth of ‘Cultural Appropriation’ - The Chronicle of Higher Education by Walter Benn Michaels: of the particular responsibilities of the humanities and social-science faculty is to help make sure that the students who take our courses come out not just richer than everyone else but also more virtuous. (It’s like adding insult to injury, but the opposite.)
Identity crimes — both the phantasmatic ones, like cultural theft, and the real ones, like racism and sexism — are perfect for this purpose, since, unlike the downward redistribution of wealth, opposing them leaves the class structure intact. Thus, for example, one can completely support (as I do) the actions of Middlebury College students in demonstrating their opposition to what they called Charles Murray’s "white nationalism" while at the same time noting that it’s not white nationalism that’s making poor people poorer; it’s capitalism. And when it comes to fighting capitalism, the Middlebury student body (median family income $244,300; about a quarter of Middlebury students come from the top 1 percent; three-quarters come from the top 20 percent) is not exactly in the revolution’s vanguard.
Update: Added several new bits about kimonos.