July 06, 2011

Cultural appropriation on Al Jazeera

Blogger Adrienne Keene talks about hipster headdresses and other examples of cultural (mis)appropriation on Al Jazeera. This posting notes the controversy and includes several pics of hipsters in headdresses. The first quote below is from Keene:

Don't Trend on My Culture

Is the use of Native American designs in mainstream fashion a sign of progress or cultural insensitivity?Native writers, scholars, artists and activists are using a new venue to confront issues affecting our daily lives. Through blogs on appropriation, art, fashion, and education, these critics use their blogs to push the Native voice to the forefront and take institutions to task. By investigating the interstices between Native cultures, stereotypes, mass media, and academia, these authors make their research and observations accessible to a broader audience.The posting also quotes the My Culture Is Not a Trend blog:Hi, I'm a Native American, and I'm fed up with the appropriation of my culture by those desperate to be trendy, hip, ironic etc.

Being a Native comes with a history of decidedly un-trendy events, such as the cultural genocide of an entire continent, residential schools, racism, stolen generations, and the eradication of entire tribes of people and their cultural traditions.

This blog is devoted to calling out those who might think that it is fun to dress like a native for a photo-shoot, or what have you. Just because it's popular, doesn't make it right, and to me, it is just as offensive as blackface.

Although we are a mostly invisible culture, that does not grant anyone the right to appropriate what little pieces of our past we have, robbing them of their dignity.

Part of being seen as "trendy" also makes an entire culture not only a commodity, but also something that people will (and can) tire of; therefore being disposable. And to me, that is unacceptable.
Comment:  The cartoon below, which Al Jazeera also posted, sums up the problem.

For more on the subject, see Irish "Indian Chief Head Dress" and Whooping "Indians" at 2011 Stanford Powwow.

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