Appropriation as defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary is:

appropriation (n.)

late 14c., “the taking of (something) as private property,” from Late Latin appropriationem (nominative appropriatio) “a making one’s own,” noun of action from past-participle stem of appropriare “to make one’s own,” from Latin ad “to” (see ad-) + propriare “take as one’s own,” from proprius “one’s own” (see proper). Meaning “act of setting aside for some purpose” (especially of money) is attested by 1727.

 

It’s a word that has come to actually signify stealing.  In the past it was about stealing money or land.

However, the way it is used in our current times is that one is taking something from another culture with the lack of understanding for that culture.

SO, there have been people who have misused and abused other cultures – no denying that.

Challenging this concept

There are also people who take from other  cultures what they find relevant to their life and their way of being and they use those things- with reverence- to enhance their life and the lives of those around them.

If we were all meant to never interact or know other cultures we would not have been created here on earth. Earth is the place to learn and know other ways of living, thinking and being. And to embrace that which works and resonates with us. That is the most beautiful part of being alive. That we can constantly learn new ways of being.

Is Cooking a meal Appropriation?

So now if I cooked a dish from another culture, am I appropriating?

What if I adopt spiritual practices from another culture ?

The only time I can call it appropriation is if I am not giving credit to the culture, or I am not honoring the lineage, or I am using that culture for self-serving purposes, exploitation, or abuse of some sort or another. Spreading lies, twisting the lineage, making up stuff and calling it that culture.

What about Yoga Practice?

If I am a yoga instructor teaching yoga , I am not pretending to be of Indian origin.  By practicing I am actually sending out the message that this is something that I value, that enhances my life and well-being. I love it so much that I want to share it with the world!!

The same applies to saying I am a Toltec Nagual or that I follow the Toltec path. I am valuing the path.  It works for me. I understand it on a deep level. I have embodied and understood the teachings. Not in the sense that I am trying to harm anyone or that I am pretending to be Native American.

We have to start understanding that what we observe in the world is never just black and white.  Not everyone has similar intentions.

Historical Facts

I understand that cultural appropriation has had a WILD history. Mostly, in America it has come to signify: stealing a culture.

What kind of a concept is this? How can one even steal a culture when culture is meant to be shared! If culture is shared, that means it is not owned by anyone, but that also depends on how we see the world we inhabit. Some of us just want to claim ownership to everything, when really, we own NOTHING!

Culture belongs to groups of people not just one person.   So how does ownership even make sense here?

Abuse of Culture

I agree that there are ways it can be misused. Let’s name a few :

  • Misrepresentation
  • Abuse
  • Stereotyping
  • Objectifying
  • Discriminating

 

I should know as my whole culture and heritage has been stereotyped as  ‘terrorist’

But I am also all too familiar in the yoga world where there is a huge problem with practitioners mis- representing yoga by reinventing ‘names’ and postures that were not part of the ancient origins of yoga and trademarking that as their own copy right! What???

Artists are the biggest Appropriators ( is there such a word?)

I mean plagiarism has existed in every arena of life, even the fashion industry.  It’s the survival of the fittest. Dominant groups take ideas from minorities. The ever evolving parasitic nature of humanity.

Appropriation in art  has existed forever. From Picasso, Duchamp, Dali to Warhol. They have all been guilty of it. Maybe even I have ? I mean I strive not to copy from other artists but I have to copy from nature! Guess I am appropriating nature…

All art copies something… the great French philosopher Roland Barthes, whom I wish I had the chance to meet, once said, “every exploration is an appropriation.”

Which brings us to the question of what is originality? And Authorship?

What does it mean to even be an artist? Who can claim original authorship of anything???

Don’t be so negative

Cultural appropriation is really a negative when someone takes elements from a culture not their own and reduces it and remakes it into a pop-cultural item that is used for monetary gain, such as Halloween head dress, and tribal face paint. And yes a multi- million yoga platform that is a brand name all your own.

 

As long as we take the time to learn the intricacies of a culture, and interact with that culture to gain a native understanding of it without modifying it or making it something it is not, it is not appropriation.

Let’s Unite

We were put on this earth to learn from each other. To participate in one another’s culture and to understand the history of our collective by understanding what unites us.

Those things that bring us together as humans are far deeper and richer than skin color, gender identity, creed, or religious affiliation.

 

 


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