On “Cultural Appropriation”

Posted by Astha Punj
August 24, 2017

NOTE: This post has been self-published by the author. Anyone can write on Youth Ki Awaaz.

In its simplest meaning, cultural appropriation can be defined as the imitation of a culture by those having very little understanding of the values and history associated with it. I, being a frequent social media user, came across a lot of posts and articles about imitation of culture being frowned upon. While I’m in agreement with those  who lash imitators for stereotyping and ridiculing cultures, I’m also in awe of those who try to understand and appreciate different cultures (sometimes by imitation). We’ve somehow stepped into an era where we feed our ego by bringing others down irrespective of right or wrong; we look for the negatives in a positive. We tend to twist concepts just so we can humiliate others or create opportunities to look more smart and sensitive. I’d say the best example possible is how a bunch of people tag themselves as “feminists” just in order to bring down men instead of empowering women. Similarly, a bunch of people, more than often, mistake cultural appreciation for cultural appropriation. In this 21st century, I think it is safe to say that the world is a global village and people from different continents are coming closer with passing years and improving technology. In such a scenario, if someone tries to understand a culture apart from his/her own, he/he should be appreciated and not called out on the internet. Of course, any imitation must be done with proper knowledge of the culture and immense respect for the people who are a part of it.

Very recently, I came across an article on a mother who threw her daughter a Japanese theme party. She not only bought a kimono but also painted her daughter’s face to match the traditional Japanese Geisha. However, her efforts to get the culture right were far from being noticed, forget appreciated. Most people on the internet called her out for “cultural appropriation” without acknowledging the efforts she must’ve put in to understand all the elements. They failed to see everything that was right with the party- it not only showed admiration towards the Japanese culture but also taught her little daughter more about it. I feel this is what we really need: to understand and appreciate other cultures, to encourage those who are trying. Hell does not need to break loose the moment we see a white person wearing a kimono or trying a bindi as long as they do it with full understanding of the culture and know the significance of the element.

We need to come together as one world which understands and accommodates diversity instead of creating separate worlds isolated from each other.



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