Monday, February 22, 2010

anti-racism excess: Russian "aboriginal" skaters

Russian Ice Skaters 'Aboriginal-Themed' Dance Controversy:
Russia's Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin Aboriginal-themed costumes and dance stirred controversy during the Vancouver Winter Olympics Feb. 21, 2010. Australian media cited aboriginal leaders as complaining that the routine contained inauthentic steps and showy costumes. "It's very offensive," Sol Bellear of the New South Wales state Aboriginal Land Council said. "We see it as stealing Aboriginal culture and it is yet another example of the Aboriginal people of Australia being exploited." Their coach, Natalia Linichuk, responded to the accusations, saying, "Aboriginal, it translates from Latin language, it's from the beginning. We try to represent a picture of this time when Aboriginal people start being in the world. It's no customs, no country, nothing." (Reuters)
Why are people who complain about cultural appropriation so quick to impose their concepts of racism on other cultures?


  1. Wow. Whatever else they are, those costumes are an offense against good are the couple in the musical-comedy cowboy outfits and the guy in overalls. What made these skaters think it was a good idea to hit the Olympic ice in costumes so cheesy they'd have to skate like gods to overcome the tidal wave of WTF?

  2. I don't understand.

    If I apply my standards, that's "imposing my concepts on other cultures". If I attempt to apply their standards, that's "cultural appropriation".

    Are there some (equivalent of) "Creative Commons" standards that you'd agree anybody is allowed to use?

  3. Seth, Emma and I both think that "cultural appropriation" is generally a good thing; it's how societies grow. But it can be tacky and insulting when done with no understanding of the other culture--or it can just look stupid, as is so often the case with skating costumes.