Cultural Appropriation

Underneath (Cultural Appropriation). Image by Alanna GianninoCC BY-NC 2.0.


Cultural appropriation is defined as the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture in a disrespectful manner.

Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University whose definition of cultural appropriation is probably the most-widely quoted calls it, “Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artefacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. It’s most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group  that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.”

 Source: ThoughtCo.


Why it represents a social problem:

Appropriation is not a “cultural exchange”, (although the limits might look blurry at times).

Classism, racism, and xenophobia are involved.

It’s trivial and reliant on stereotypes.

Indeed, Social Media has brought more attention to the topic lately.

Also, commercial capitalism profits on this practice unfairly.

For more clarity about what is and what is not appropriation, check this resource:

Cultural Appropriation Bingo

Cultural Appropriation Bingo. Image by elusisCC BY-ND 2.0


Some ideas on how to be fair.

  • Before borrowing something from another culture, ask yourself some questions.
  • Have consideration towards others.
  • When done right, everyone benefits from the cultural exchange practices.
  • And last but not least, keep up the humour and remember to take everything with a pinch of salt.

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