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Old 07-02-2013, 03:23 PM
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Law Cultural Appropriation and You

One topic of social justice that I amm struggling to comprehend is cultural appropriation. I first became aware of this in the Nineties, when a friend (who died during the years I lost contact with the world outside my head :( ) told me about how Rock music was taken from Black culture. What bugged him though was that white people adopted the music, but that the people who pioneered it didn't get exposure or profits while the adopters did. I could understand his beef with this, no problem.

The more recent things I've seen on this seem to cast a much wider net. White New Agers co-opting American Indian Religious beliefs? I agree that's bad. Whit kids adopting phrases they got from Anime, a product created and exported by Japanese people who are the majority (not oppressed) in their own country? I can't help but balk at that.

Apologies for any typos, I will edit when I get home.
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Old 07-02-2013, 05:19 PM
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Default Re: Cultural Appropriation and You

My husband in Native American (although he thinks that's a silly PC term that only white people would use) and his feelings range from being outraged at white artists who market their art or clothing as authentic to being amused at hippie kids romanticizing it and coming up with some mishmash of spiritual beliefs that don't actually resemble any true tribal culture. He tends to save most of his anger for things that the government does.

Sometimes life is kind of fun though. It turns out that his mother inherited a tiny and previously worthless piece of land right in the middle of what is now the Bakken project area of North Dakota and they have to pay him $1,000 every time that they drill a test well and if they find any they have to pay him a percentage of the profits.
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Old 07-03-2013, 01:22 AM
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Default Re: Cultural Appropriation and You

I've seen a lot of creepy kind of exoticism with Asian cultures in general among white people. I'm not sure it's entirely appropriation, but more like fetishism or something. And it's never really based on understanding a culture at anything but a superficial level. It's like those guys who order Asian mail order brides expecting them to be submissive and compliant and all. (And then: Surprise! Actual human beings, almost always a lot smarter and tougher than you! Ha ha!) Huge crossover there, too, with rich American Buddhists.

And I almost don't even want to bring this up because I'm scared it's like Candyman or something, but have you heard of transethnicity? It's where (almost always) white people decide that they're actually (almost always) Japanese or Korean or whoever is currently exporting the catchiest pop music at the time. That strikes me as an extreme version of appropriation.

Being in the Southwest, the most common one I see is native appropriation. People driving around with dreamcatchers hanging off their rear view mirrors and Kokopellis who are for some reason never wearing their dicks and stuff like that. I'm never entirely sure where to draw the line. I'd never buy a fake native artwork from a white person or like Urban Outfitters, just because I think it's horribly shitty to try to undercut native artists. So I'll only buy native art from native people.

I am probably pretty bad about religious iconography, though, overall. I have various different religious stuff all over my house, and man, I don't even know what some of it even is. But I'm not appropriating it! I'm just objectifying it, because some of those gods and stuff are really good looking.

So that's OK, right?
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Old 07-03-2013, 02:08 AM
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Default Re: Cultural Appropriation and You

I have heard about transethnic and yeah it's pretty shitty.

Also, I tend to be somewhat less circumspect about religious stuff, being agnostic and all. I sort of struggle with that and wanting to respect things that other people find significant, emotionally.
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Old 07-03-2013, 02:56 AM
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Default Re: Cultural Appropriation and You

Quote:
Originally Posted by lisarea View Post
I am probably pretty bad about religious iconography, though, overall. I have various different religious stuff all over my house, and man, I don't even know what some of it even is. But I'm not appropriating it! I'm just objectifying it, because some of those gods and stuff are really good looking.

So that's OK, right?
I think that there is a big difference between an artist paying tribute to or getting inspiration from other cultures and someone from outside of that culture selling their artwork as if it were authentic or using it as a fake marketing tool. My house is full of what my husband calls "ethnic-y stuff" mostly because I'm into fiber and textile art and traditional Americana isn't all that visually interesting to me even though the techniques are. If that counts as appropriating then I appropriated dozen or so cultures along the line.

The only religious item in my house is a crazy Christina Mirabilis medal that a nun with a great sense of humor made for me. In the picture she's hovering around the ceiling of a church and no one can get her to come down : ).
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Old 07-03-2013, 04:01 AM
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Default Re: Cultural Appropriation and You

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Originally Posted by lisarea View Post
People driving around with dreamcatchers hanging off their rear view mirrors
This. Because nothing says you're in touch with First Nations values like hanging a visual obstruction from the mirror of your Lincoln Abominator and winding it up to 80 on a crowded roadway. I'm pretty sure that Native Americans used to strap those things directly to their faces before running at top speed around dangerous obstacles.
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Old 07-03-2013, 04:05 AM
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Default Re: Cultural Appropriation and You

I have 4 dream catchers hanging over my bed. I've never thought of them in terms of being ethnic doo-hickeys.
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Old 07-03-2013, 04:11 AM
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Default Re: Cultural Appropriation and You

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Lincoln Abominator
It's the country-fried truck endorsed by a clown.
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Old 07-03-2013, 04:19 AM
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Default Re: Cultural Appropriation and You

That's why I only appropriate cultures that have no values, here I come lager and ale.

There is a distinct difference between appreciating and appropriating a culture, it's a slippery line, unless you are an outright asshole.
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Old 07-03-2013, 01:31 PM
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Default Re: Cultural Appropriation and You

I'm not sure I understand. Am I not supposed to hang a Chinese-made dreamcatcher with pink-dyed chicken feathers on my rear-view mirror?
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Old 07-03-2013, 05:11 PM
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Default Re: Cultural Appropriation and You

Two of mine my mother made, one I made, and one my brother made. That's what makes them spiritual to me.
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Old 07-03-2013, 05:49 PM
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Default Re: Cultural Appropriation and You

I used to have a dream catcher over my bed. It was a gift from my best friend because of the night terrors. It got mislaid a couple moves ago.

I have a metric shit-ton of Buddhist stuff, though. Mainly because when I became fascinated with Guan Yin, I decided the best way to practice was to buy every statue or picture of her I could get my hands on. I was being a stupid American thinking I could buy my way to enlightenment. What can I say? I had a spending problem at the time. Most of them are boxed up now and I donated the most valuable one to the art institute.

I like this trans-ethnic idea, though. I have always thought I should be either British or Canadian. Just this weekend I was talking to a Canadian who said, "You really are a Canadian!" That happens quite a bit. Now I have a pompous, pseudo-intellectual term for it. Whee!
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Old 07-03-2013, 06:03 PM
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Default Re: Cultural Appropriation and You

I always have mixed emotions about people wearing dreadlocks, a religious symbol for the rastafarians. It's a bit like wearing skull caps if you're not Jewish.
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Old 07-03-2013, 06:07 PM
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Default Re: Cultural Appropriation and You

Next thing you know, you guys will be telling me it's wrong to wear magic underwear when I don't believe in Elohim on planet Kolob or Zoroastrianism.
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Old 07-03-2013, 06:09 PM
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Default Re: Cultural Appropriation and You

Quote:
Originally Posted by Janet View Post
I like this trans-ethnic idea, though. I have always thought I should be either British or Canadian. Just this weekend I was talking to a Canadian who said, "You really are a Canadian!" That happens quite a bit. Now I have a pompous, pseudo-intellectual term for it. Whee!
I'm not sure Canadian is an ethnicity...

I think that makes you transnational.
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Old 07-03-2013, 08:12 PM
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Default Re: Cultural Appropriation and You

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I used to have a dream catcher over my bed. It was a gift from my best friend because of the night terrors. It got mislaid a couple moves ago.

I have a metric shit-ton of Buddhist stuff, though. Mainly because when I became fascinated with Guan Yin, I decided the best way to practice was to buy every statue or picture of her I could get my hands on. I was being a stupid American thinking I could buy my way to enlightenment. What can I say? I had a spending problem at the time. Most of them are boxed up now and I donated the most valuable one to the art institute.
I also have 4 Buddha statues and a decorative pillow. XD

Four of those were gifts. The one I bought for myself is a tiny pocket statue, one is an incense burner, one was given to me with the explanation that the standing position he is in means "inner strength", but the fourth one is definitely an appropriated novelty item. It's one of those lamps with a big glass globe that shoots electricity around inside of it, and when you put your finger to the glass the electricity is attracted to your fingertips. The pillow is an image of Siddhartha with the quote, "Better than a thousand hollow words is one word that brings peace". Aside from the one I bought for myself when I was 15, I was aware of the irony of "bought enlightenment" since then, but I really do appreciate those gifts, as they were from people who paid attention to my personal interests, which for the most part has been a private endeavor.

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I always have mixed emotions about people wearing dreadlocks, a religious symbol for the rastafarians. It's a bit like wearing skull caps if you're not Jewish.
That's silly. What's worse than appropriation to me is saying a personal preference is a faux pas just because someone ordained it to mean something more than it does. A little hat is still a little hat. It's up to the person wearing it to decide if it means anything to them.
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Old 07-03-2013, 09:37 PM
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I always have mixed emotions about people wearing dreadlocks, a religious symbol for the rastafarians. It's a bit like wearing skull caps if you're not Jewish.
We call them waspafarians and trustafarians around here. I've known hundreds of people with them and still haven't figured out what they think that they have in common with the religion of an oppressed people in Jamaica other than that they like Bob Marley and pot. People sell fake dreadlock hair extensions on Etsy for those that want to play weekend rasta and still go to work on Monday looking normal.
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Old 07-03-2013, 09:52 PM
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The appropriation that bothers me most is the low-rent, caricatured versions of ethnic cultures. They are stereotypes that actually impede cultural understanding.

Costumes are the worst offenders, IMO. I think that campaign was when the issue of cultural appropriation really came into the public consciousness. Next in line are the more institutionalized forms: sports mascots. You end up with a bunch of white kids in war paint, doing tomahawk chops, and whooping like a TV injun of 1950's TV. Some fashion stuff bothers me too. In the 90's there was a trend of wearing silk embroidered Asian inspired clothing. They were seriously called "China girl" shirts or dresses. I couldn't wear one without feeling like a stupid colonialist and none of my friends had any idea of what "my" problem was. In terms of fashion there is historical precedent, with dirty colonialist roots. The Egyptian and "Orientalism" crazes during the Victorian era were big ones. Others were just trade based, like the turning Japanese trend in the 80's or the Silk Road. The line between is not always black and white. I was uncomfortable with those shirts as a teen for reasons I could not express, but I wouldn't judge anyone who wore something like that today. Well, aside from the fact I find it kinda tacky.

At the same time I do think it is important to not live in a cultural lock box. I am having trouble articulating what I mean here, but I will try. I think we have a bit of a problem with it in the US because so many of us are cut off from our ancestry and lack ethnic connections. So we can embrace our "heritage" in hilarious ways, if we even manage to get it right to begin with. (See the number of "Irish" people every St. Pat's who honestly believe this is the flag of Ireland.) Or we can look outside our roots to the cultures around us and appropriate. I would rather see a white kid adopting the style of their multicultural friends than going all Thor's Hammer Neo Nazi, for example. Add to that, white normativity is being chipped away at, and is mostly "boring" aesthetically.

I guess my point is that cultures can't exist in a vacuum. I think that contact zones between cultures are very important. I live in a contact zone between Hispanic and white culture, and I will appropriate with gusto food, music, style and symbols. I am also not going to look sideways at a Tejano eating a burger, listening to Willie Nelson, or wearing a polo shirt. Within contact zones, that blending IS the culture.

The same can be said of a white kid growing up in a black neighborhood using "black" slang and style, or a black kid who grew up in a white neighborhood adopting "white" culture. The first kid is not a "poseur" and the second is not a "race traitor." The real question we are asking is: if we take those kids out of their neighborhoods in this scenario and switch them, does anything change? Why?

Now, unfortunate and hilarious misappropriations will happen. Those will only be ironed out through more exchange, or they will morph and become the norm. I once used a baptismal shell as an ash tray because I had no idea what it was. My friend and I were once at a middle eastern restaurant during Ramadan. She had asked the server to write down a few of the Egyptian pop songs they were playing, and then asked him to write down the name and artist of the "song" which was actually the sunset prayer to call to worship. Two of the owner's lovely daughters came to explain the confusion and were lovely little girls who were so sweet and kind. Two American kids, who had lived their entire lives in a Post 9/11 political climate, and are the best example I can think of in terms of contact zone ambassadors.

The worst I can think of was a Russian woman who had converted to Islam and stomped around in military fatigues and a head scarf, blaring angry fatwas through her car stereo, who lived in the same city. She was fond of kicking dogs with her combat boots and would explain that they are "unclean" in "her" culture to horrified onlookers. Locals who attended the same Mosque winced when she was mentioned, because she was such a bad Ambassador and white people couldn't tell she was a convert.

Culture zones used to be slow and rare things. Borderlands geographically, or through colonialism or personal travel, or through research and study. I have objects that are ethnic "art" which were all made for export to outsiders like me. A stone Buddha is sitting right next to me as I type. I have read and researched Buddhism, but I mostly got it because it is beautiful and I admire it. From what I have read I don't believe a Buddhist would take issue with my having it for those reasons, even if they find it unenlightened.

Now contact zones are becoming broader and broader. I am sure that some of those kids using Asian slang have online friends who are of that culture. I have friends who work in Anime distribution in the US. Some are of Asian decent and some are white. That is their professional life, translating Japanese language and culture to English speaking markets. I don't bat an eye when they appropriate, whether they are Irish-American, Japanese-America, or Vietnamese-American. I don't and they don't when their fans do either. For them it is their business and livelihood, for me it is because these kids are in a contact zone that is giving them an appreciation for a new culture. I think that should be celebrated.

I can compare it to the creative line between plagiarism and allusion. If you flat out steal an idea or aesthetic and try to pass it off as your own, that is plagiarism. If you appropriate ideas and aesthetics you admire and make them your own, that is allusion. Picasso, white Spanish guy, took inspiration from African Masks in creating his earlier Cubist works.

Cultural exchange is impossible to avoid and should be celebrated, IMO. But keep it real, and not a white person's fantasy of what X culture is.
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Old 07-03-2013, 10:00 PM
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Default Re: Cultural Appropriation and You

When I was a kid all I ever wanted to be for Halloween was a gypsy because I loved to wear fluttery layers and dance and spin around. My mom thought it was cute and encouraged me to incorporate all of the worst stereotypes into my costumes and to do cute things like pick people's pockets as a trick. Looking back on it now it seems so strange that it never even occurred to me that I was being insulting and not emulating something that to my naive eyes looked like a wonderful lifestyle. That's probably part of how I ended up on dead tour - it's the closest that a white kid can get to the lifestyle I imagined they had.
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Old 07-03-2013, 10:05 PM
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Default Re: Cultural Appropriation and You

Can anyone recomend the correct Iconography for a Renesance Man, I've been accused of this a few times, and have been thinking I should be displaying some outward sign of my affliction. Perhaps I should use a mechanics tool box as a piano bench.
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Old 07-03-2013, 10:46 PM
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Default Re: Cultural Appropriation and You

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The same can be said of a white kid growing up in a black neighborhood using "black" slang and style, or a black kid who grew up in a white neighborhood adopting "white" culture. The first kid is not a "poseur" and the second is not a "race traitor." The real question we are asking is: if we take those kids out of their neighborhoods in this scenario and switch them, does anything change? Why?
Imma going to go ahead and quote myself because I forgot something and the above is already WoT.

Going back to the rock and roll topic in the OP- Vanilla Ice or Eminem? Both the top selling Rap artists for a long time. VI was from an affluent white neighborhood, E from 8 mile. They made a lot of money from music developed from black culture. You can throw the Beastie Boys in there too. Will Smith is another example of commercial success from the other end of the spectrum, the hypothetical black kid from a black neighborhood who took on "white" culture.

The economic realities are that white artists have fewer obstacles than black artists and broader market appeal. Will Smith has always been an exception to the rule in all things media because he is more relatable to white audiences.

I can't say though that it is wrong for them to appropriate and creatively use culture in their music and marketing. I think it is a good thing actually, because it brought that music/culture to a broader audience. I wouldn't have wanted Buddy Holly to have not made music because Chuck Berry got there first.

I do think it is a sad reality in our culture that the innovators don't get the credit or compensation they deserve, across the board. That is mostly, IMO, about social and economic inequalities which are tragically very real. Cultural appropriation is an element in those cases, but I think inequality is a bigger one.
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Old 07-03-2013, 10:50 PM
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Can anyone recomend the correct Iconography for a Renesance Man, I've been accused of this a few times, and have been thinking I should be displaying some outward sign of my affliction. Perhaps I should use a mechanics tool box as a piano bench.
That's Mr. Renaissance Man to you.

Thank you in advance,
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Old 07-03-2013, 11:44 PM
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Culture zones used to be slow and rare things. Borderlands geographically, or through colonialism or personal travel, or through research and study. I have objects that are ethnic "art" which were all made for export to outsiders like me. A stone Buddha is sitting right next to me as I type. I have read and researched Buddhism, but I mostly got it because it is beautiful and I admire it. From what I have read I don't believe a Buddhist would take issue with my having it for those reasons, even if they find it unenlightened.
If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.

For real, though, American Buddhists tend not to care if you appropriate Buddhist imagery, and Buddha really isn't a guy, anyway, so they don't care. A lot of other Buddhists, though, do. I know there have been some hub bubs in Sri Lanka and Thailand or something about appropriation of Buddhist imagery. It is a huge very diverse religion.

Disclaimer: I grew up with a mandatory kitchen Buddha, and I don't really feel comfortable not having one (specifically a Budai) in my kitchen, so I do. Once, I had two, but I gave one of them to someone else in case they were cancelling each other out.

And in addition to the Buddha, I also have some kind of Catholic luck amulet, a Mexican tree of life, and a probably half life sized bust of what looks like a Sikh guy. Maybe a guru or something? I don't know! It might be something really offensive.

It's a weird subject for me, because I can't fully articulate why I think some things are OK and others aren't. My primary excuse for my kitchen (and the rest of my house) is that almost nobody's going to see it anyway. I know. Pretty airtight, isn't it?

The blending thing, also, is super-extra true. People's race and ethnicity don't always easily reflect their culture.
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Old 07-03-2013, 11:53 PM
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Our living room has a mix of native american pottery and celtic art and everyone assumes that it's because he's Hidatsa and I'm Irish and French. I bought all of the pottery on trips to the desert because I love it and my brother-in-law in Ireland gave him all of the celtic art because they were having their own little cultural exchange program.
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Old 07-04-2013, 12:24 AM
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Interesting, I hadn't heard that there have been some issues with Buddhists objecting to appropriation. I can use the same rationale that I doubt they will ever be in my dining room, but yeah.

It is funny, I have the same mixed feelings and I have trouble expressing how I feel about it. Like, when I went to Europe when I was 14, I couldn't take pictures in Cathedrals and Churches and felt wrong going there on the guided tours. I was an atheist and raised secular with a bit of new age woo, so it wasn't feelings of blasphemy or sacrilege or anything. We had Ramtha on the bookshelf growing up, so it isn't as though cultural appropriation as a social justice issue was even on my radar.

Sacre Coeur was the first stop and there were local people worshiping and tourists taking pictures of them and their church. It just felt ... wrong. Intrusive, disrespectful, gawking. So everywhere we went I just bought post cards and booklets with pictures taken by sanctioned professional photographers and kept my camera in my pocket. I figured that actually helps them make money, the pictures are better than ones I would take, flashes are bad for the artifacts, and bonus I don't have to feel all weird. But I can't put into terms why it felt wrong.

Contra uses religious imagery in his artwork and will go on photo expeditions to find interesting perspectives of things. Cemeteries I don't mind for some reason, but churches are a no go for me. I have no issue with the finished works being in my house, but can't be part of the accumulation process? I also don't know why I have such an extreme aversion to that, but no problem with buying a Buddha for purely aesthetic reasons. :shrug:

I love Mexican Trees of Life. I have a friend who is a gringa, with an extensive Mexican art collection. She has a masters in Spainish Lit, used to teach on the subject, and has traveled extensively. Does that make a difference? Why does it make a difference? I really don't know.

Same friend recently redecorated her guest bedroom and went with an "Asian" theme. She showed me a pic of the bedspread she had ordered and I laughed out loud. I totally thought she was joking, it was so super kitsch*. That her husband is British and has a bunch of nautical Empire era prints and a campaign trunk in the hallway leading to it just made it worse to me. Why am I totally accepting of one and reject the other as absurd? Is it because I feel like her Mexican art is more authentic and her Dillards bedspread is an appropriation? I don't even know.

I like Qingdai's Assholery Hypothesis and think I will go with that.

*And here I am using a Yiddish word. My mom grew up with many Jewish friends and used them. I use them now and my only connection is from her. Appropriation or assimilation? :freakout:
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Last edited by Demimonde; 07-04-2013 at 12:34 AM.
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