Monday, January 07, 2008


So, in an off-blog conversation about music tastes something started to vex me. Well, not vex per se. But to prick at my thoughts a bit.

When is it okay to culturally appropriate?

For example, me. I love Russia, Russian culture, Russian movies, Russian music, the sound of the Russian language (if not the genitive plural noun case endings), etc. Is that weird? Am I appropriating a culture that is not mine? (And here's an excuse to make you all listen to this song again.)

I mean, who wouldn't like that? Although it's a ska song, which was a musical style itself appropriated from another culture, so my dilemma is furthered.

I've had this vexation before, but have always come to the conclusion that it's okay.

Another anecdote. I'm not sure how exactly I stumbled upon this, but I think I was half-assedly googling around about modest dressing with the mind of doing a post about it when I came across this website. The bonnets! The boots! The aprons! The capelets! I kind of coveted them. Really. I *almost* ordered something, but decided in the end it would be wrong to adopt someone's religious artifacts because they looked both cool and cozy.

But I have to ask, what makes religious apparel off-limits but not other aspects of a culture (as in, their pop music or food or language) okay to borrow? The other aspect being, of course, why am I, a black woman, so bothered about the thought of potentially "stealing" the culture of other white people when white culture in America has consistently and continuously "stolen" black culture?

As I said, vexing.

Hrm. Maybe I better examine my choices grumble grumble.


Renegade Evolution said...

Meh, appropriate as much as you want. You have permission. Anyone who has an issue with it can send complaints to me.

After all, Russian music DOES kick ass.

Goody said...

I have a pair of beautifully dyed and embroidered dashikis from a million years ago. I would feel extremely awkward wearing them, though I doubt anyone would give me shit if I did. I bought them because I admired the handiwork, but honestly, how much can I admire them packed away?

Italian Vogue, eh?

You also got me thinking about how we appropriate cuisine. North African cooking is pretty popular at the moment and it has even trickled down to my area of rural Nebraska. As a result, you can get all the cous cous and preserved lemons you like which is kind of weird in a place that is otherwise rather hostile to other (Other)cultures.

J.S. Magruder

Vanessa said...

Yeah. I don't know. I think some of my liking of other cultures comes from growing up bi-racial in New Mexico, where's there's only like three Italians and two Afro-Cubans, and not really feeling close to either culture anyway.

Maybe it's a fear of being un-PC, but I don't want to be that guy - you know, Tim Robbins character in High Fidelity.

And hey, Goody, wear your dashikis! I give you permission lol.