get out of here CAPITALISM you’re not wanted

I thought it was really interesting that both chapters we read from Introduction to Cultural Appropriation refer to culture as a products, a possession of one group of people that can be stolen in some way by another. It embeds the discussion of cultural appropriation into a capitalist context that certainly works for some cases (ie the jazz musician situation) but I think unduly complicates others.

Of course, this kind of ownership-centric rhetoric successfully explains the detriment of cultural appropriation to an audience who is perhaps myopically embedded in economic and legal concerns over monetary value and who owns what. However, culture aside, copy write and Fair Use laws that only focus on one’s legal ability to demarcate “creative capital” and defend it against unauthorized use are still pretty shaky. According to the Fair Use Act, you are legally permitted to copy copyrighted material for a “transformative” purposes (to comment on, criticize, or parody) without permission from the copyright owner. However, the enforcement of this law is willy-nilly at best and often favors those who can muster the most experienced and expensive legal team.

This is all to say that in many of the cases of cultural appropriation we read about, the issue centers on the defacement of something culturally sacred—not loss of monetary value. Some party might be making money from cultural appropriation but the main issue is that something sacred was defaced in the process. Cultural appropriation/defamation/hybridity in these texts seems to me like an issue more embedded in empathy, being able to respect and learn about a difference that you may not totally understand, than an economic issue. In some cases, there may be an economic element that adds insult to injury, but I’m still not sold about referring to culture as a product with capitalistic ownership.

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