On Cultural Appropriation…

May 8, 2009 Ka'ela Ja'el
Tags: ,

One of the panels/discussions I managed to attend at Swancon was on cultural appropriation. The concept of CA is relatively new to me, and up until this point I had only a peripheral awareness of it, so I did find it interesting. And it has prompted a lot of thinking on my part since then.

The subject of clothes was raised, and it was mentioned that some people found it offensive, or at least inappropriate, when people who didn’t appear to have a cultural claim wore clothing specific to a culture.

The question that has raised itself in my mind now, is where does food come into the CA equation? Is sitting in a Chinese Restaurant for dinner cultural appropriation? Was it wrong of me to cook and eat tacos for dinner tonight?

I don’t want to sound like I’m coming off flippant or disrespectful here, but I am trying to balance things in my mind.

Advertisements

Entry Filed under: Uncategorized

11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. monissaw  |  May 9, 2009 at 12:28 am

    Not sure about an actual restaurant, but I doubt the stuff offered at Chinese takeaway bears much resemblance to real Chinese food, ditto on the tacos.
    That aside πŸ™‚ It’s an old concept, that seems to have been, um, appropriated recently for people to jump up and down about. It’s not inherently bad or good.
    Generally, it’s considered bad when a large dominating culture takes elements of a small culture and utilises them in appropriate ways (often because they don’t understand the significance behind the elements).
    And considered good when it leads to cultural enrichment and understanding between difference cultures etc.

    • 2. callistra  |  May 9, 2009 at 12:46 am

      in inappropriate ways perhaps?
      πŸ™‚

      • 3. monissaw  |  May 9, 2009 at 12:51 am

        Testing to see if any one actually read it!
        (Actually, concentrating on getting “appropriate” right)

      • 4. callistra  |  May 9, 2009 at 1:33 am

        I am reading!
        I have been working on a reply too, but you seem to have nailed it.
        πŸ™‚

    • 5. Ka'ela Ja'el  |  May 9, 2009 at 1:28 am

      Not sure about an actual restaurant, but I doubt the stuff offered at Chinese takeaway bears much resemblance to real Chinese food, ditto on the tacos.
      Okay, that’s highly likely…but isn’t that worse? cultural bastardisation or something?
      And what about the instances where it is traditional fare. I know some cases it isn’t but there are times where it is.
      Generally, it’s considered bad when a large dominating culture takes elements of a small culture and utilises them in appropriate ways (often because they don’t understand the significance behind the elements).
      I wouldn’t exactly call the Chinese culture small πŸ˜› but within the context of Chinese/Australians I guess it is. Thanks though,that one sentence sums up my (very) general understanding that I have always had of it. I just got thrown at the panel discussion because it seemed to go beyond that, almost into the realms of this is ours, you can’t touch.

      • 6. monissaw  |  May 9, 2009 at 2:16 am

        Okay, that’s highly likely…but isn’t that worse? cultural bastardisation or something? And what about the instances where it is traditional fare. I know some cases it isn’t but there are times where it is.
        It’s somthing that happens whenever cultures mix. A lot of now everyday things are appropriated, like tea & BBQs. Various words, writing even. Numbers. Silk. Most of Australian culture πŸ™‚
        I think when it becomes a problem is when the borrowing becomes debased in its original culture. If it loses it’s meaning, becomes diluted, corrupted, you know. A “keep your hands off” attitude is understandable and I think it’s quite valid for some part of a culture (esp. religious/spiritual/mythological parts).
        On the other hand, I’m reminded off the African concert we came across in Hobart over summer. The performers on stage were African (various nationalities) but the audience dancing out the front were mostly white Australian. We’ve had a huge influx of African (e.g. Sudanese & Eritrean) refugees in the past 10 years and that’s leading to a lot of cultural appropriation, in music, food, hair styles. That sort of appropriation leads to bridge building (not literally πŸ™‚ and acceptance of outsiders.

  • 7. callistra  |  May 9, 2009 at 1:49 am

    There’s a lot of anger, as with any sort of cultural clash, but in specific instances people are usually fine with anything if you are respectful.
    I’ve done a little bit of looking around (alias_sqbr has done a LOT more) and the general rule in writing is: a)to be respectful and b) expect that your readers might get something different than you intend. No one can ever write the Other perfectly, but we should try and be respectful and aware when we do.
    No one is ever going to get it perfect, and sometimes one person’s personal view might blend into a political view, and so one person could stand around saying “hey, your XYZ character is great!” even while someone else says “hey, you got XYZ black character completely wrong!” and you’re standing around going “But … that’s not quite the whole story…”
    The chinese food we get in a standard chinese resturaunt in australia is an Anglo-cised version of Canton food, which tends towards the heavy sauces and rich batters, and I call it “women’s weekly chinesie” because the WW chinese cookbook has it pretty spot on. Yes, it’s not true to ‘home’ but then if you go to China, Canton is a big place. And there’s always market pressures, so a restaurant needs to produce a product the customers will want…
    One of the documentaries I watched had an Asian man who was glad of the current cultural appropriation because he was happy that he actually existed in American culture suddenly. (He was a Chinese American) whereas previously he and his culture were invisible. And yet there are other people who get furious when they see blatant, and terribly done ripoffs of sacred items for fashion.
    In terms of food… I think cooking in other styles because it tastes great and you want to share is considered respectful, but making fun of or disparaging other styles for being different is not. I don’t know; I think a part of me goes “Food is a great equalizer! We all love food! How can someone not like it if you turn to them and say “hey, I love your cuisine! Can you teach me how to make it please?”” which may just be a part of my cultural blindness, and I might be accidentally offending someone in doing so.
    In the end, I guess it’s a matter of respect.

    • 8. monissaw  |  May 9, 2009 at 2:28 am

      That’s the thought I was trying to get at πŸ™‚
      When I was staying with a friend in the US, we went to an Outback Steakhouse – American interpretations of Australian food. On the menu they had “sanger” which is a sandwich cut into four, except by sandwich they meant a thing in a bun. We had these onions things that were sliced up but still attached to form a sort of flower. Don’t know were that came from. And they took my drink away before I’d finished 😦 (To refill, as it turned out.) A bit weird though.
      I assume the same sort of thing is going on in most (insert country) Restaurants.

      • 9. callistra  |  May 9, 2009 at 2:35 am

        I was recently reading the Outback Jack menus and giggling. The onion flower dish sounded like fun!

      • 10. hkneale  |  May 9, 2009 at 10:22 am

        Dunno why they call the onion an Aussie thing, unless they were making the connection between it and grilled onions (which aren’t that common in the US).
        Until about ten-fifteen years ago, onion rings were king. You could get them everywhere. But then, something started popping up in restaurants involving an onion “flowered and floured” and then either broiled (grilled) or deep fried.
        Some places call it an “Awesome Blossom”, while others call it a “Bloomin’ Onion”.
        Now, were they inspired by Australian grilled onions, or were they born of something else?

      • 11. callistra  |  May 9, 2009 at 10:24 am

        I LOVE onion rings so much. I love them from Hungry Jacks.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to comments via RSS Feed

SweetTweet

I’ve Said It Once…

Past Ingredients

Categories

Meta

 
%d bloggers like this: