Friday, June 16, 2017

Kenan Malik: In Defense Of Cultural Appropriation

Right on.
I'd add:
Malik is discussing two important, but conceptually distinct, problems:
          [1] Cultural appropriation is bullshit
          [2] Disagreeing with the crazy left can get you fired.
[1] is just another issue--another crazy aspect of the crazy weltanschauung of the crazy left. [2] is a meta-problem, arching over the other problems: the crazy, PC left and its progressive "allies"/enablers wield great cultural power, and they can destroy those who fail to slavishly follow their crazy orthodoxies.
Too much? Am I sounding crazy/dogmatic?
Eh, it's hard to be objective when you're TOTALLY RIGHT ABOUT SOMETHING.
   Malik cites cases in Canada...but Canada has no First Amendment analog...(er...does it?)...but it seems to be just a bit farther down the same trajectory we are on. (Not that we shouldn't worry about Canada per se, because we should, we should.) And we could cite cases here.
   IMO [2] is a force multiplier.
   Nope...scratch that. [2] is the main problem. Kinda sorta the heart of the matter. Without [2], the theory of "cultural appropriation" could be considered and rejected. Or, hell, accepted...because maybe CA is a real thing. State your case. I'll listen. That's the difference between you and me. (You PCs...not you you, dear reader...) [2] is soft totalitarianism. And hard misologism. Undermine [2] and everything else takes care of itself. Human reason deals with such things like running water deals with rocks.
   So sayeth me, anyway, already having my first Knob Creek rye of the weekend down my hatch...

[Link via Leiter's digs]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

One nice thing about these cultural appropriation arguments is that the self-dealing on the part of the 'activists' is so close to the surface. Scafildi, the law professor quoted, is quite clear in other venues that she wants to create, through legislation or litigation, a vaguely defined and collectively owned property right in cultural practices. She flat out wants to be able to sue people for infringement. No one who looked at our current disaster of an IP system would want to extend it to every cross cultural act of creation, except a lawyer.

For lawyers, such a system is a fortune of endless litigation. For the lucky few chosen or self-appointed to assert these collective property rights, there are billions of dollars in payoffs to be extracted and used for the benefit of the "community", minus overhead. For everyone else, including rank and file members of the communities supposedly being protected, there is paperwork, cost, and the omnipresent fear that you can be smacked for annoying the wrong people. You know, social justice.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Pete Mack said...

It's a pretty crazy idea, though I can understand where it comes from. In a more perfect world, Elvis would've been a second tier singer, and the musicians he borrowed his music from would be truly famous (and not just famous within the music world.) Most amusingly, Hound Dog was originally a pure blues number written for a female vocalist.

I'd say, the main issue here is: give credit where it's due. It's tricky to footnote popular culture. But figure out a way.

Finally, if you're writing a movie adaptation, and the original character is black, don't cast him as white. (Notoriously: Ged in Le Guin's Earthsea Trilogy.)

10:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re Malik's article, the destruction of art like that of Dana Shutz and Sam Durant is possibly even more violent and indicative of totalitarianism than the censorship of think pieces.

But if cultural appropriation is to be taken seriously, at least as seriously as it was treated in the firing of the Canadian editors, it's not all that clear to me why something like white(/Western?) culture, odd as it sounds, remains more or less unprotected by the sort of legislation and social media shitstorms that aid in the fight against supposedly "genuine" cultural appropriation, i.e. of non-white/Western cultures. In other words, this is a question worth asking: can ANYONE suffer the appropriation of their culture, or is it the case that the only form of cultural appropriation that counts under the law is that of oppressed peoples?

To put it in terms of Pete's last remark about movie adaptations: when making such adaptations, is it really never acceptable to cast someone who is not of the same race/cultural heritage/etc. as the original character? If not, why not?

11:31 AM  
Blogger Pete Mack said...

It certainly is wrong if it goes explicitly against the wishes of the author. Le Guin wanted Ged cast as black, in much the same way Othello is black.

8:53 PM  

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