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PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2019 9:31 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2019 11:12 pm 
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narya wrote:
Which got me to thinking about how mainstream American culture has absorbed everything it fancies from other cultures and is an unabashed mishmash. What, exactly, is "American culture"? Is part of being an American the bull headed tendancy to appropriate other cultures?


Hooom. A complicated & difficult subject to be sure. I'm not sure 'anything it fancies' is quite so simple. Those cultural foods, practices, religion, music, art, etc.. come from within us as a people. None of us are blank slates. Culture is all about absorbing what is around you and making it your own. Culture is not fused into our DNA. Heritage is a little different.

Culture and Heritage are related but different things. What is the difference between culture and heritage

'Culture' is fluid and ever-changing. Heritage is more concrete, it is about history and inheritance (perhaps where ties to the land would fit?) Culture can be adapted/adopted, Heritage cannot. The culture of Germans living in Germany today is not the same as those who lived in Germany 200 years ago. I live in a community that has a very strong German heritage but I've mentioned some of the 'German' customs that have been handed down generation to generation here but they mean nothing to Germans currently living in Germany. The culture didn't evolve in the same way. People who migrate hang on to memories and customs from their past from the point in time when they left and incorporate them into their future. I think this is what makes the culture of Native peoples worldwide, whose cultures were interrupted, somewhat exceptional. They seek to go back to a specific period in time to reclaim what was lost to a culture they either chose or were forced to adopt.

I claim heritage from English (who migrated to the US in 1634), German, Irish, Scots, and Ruthenian ancestors (at the least. I may have a Polynesian ancestor as well). What does that mean for me culturally? Do I adopt the Puritan faith? Byzantine Catholic? Should I celebrate St. Patrick's day if I am no longer Catholic but have Irish blood? Do I speak Old English? German? Rusyn? Gaelic? Gaeilge? What exactly do I 'go back to'? I know people who have partners who are Asian and they have adopted customs and celebrations from their partners' culture. It is not their heritage but they have adopted some of the culture.


Mishmash? Yeah, it is part of who we are, our culture. It is part of an acceptance of a people. You fall in love with the food or celebrations, other things follow. The Irish were reviled but the evolution of St. Patty's day makes everyone 'Irish' (interestingly, St. Patty's day is not such a big thing in Ireland). A generation or two ago many people in this community spoke German, but WWII changed that. History interviened, not missionaries or European settlers.

It is a complicated and difficult subject.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2019 1:03 am 
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Rosemarie wrote:
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I know people who have partners who are Asian and they have adopted customs and celebrations from their partners' culture. It is not their heritage but they have adopted some of the culture.


Indeed, I grew up with Latinx friends and family. I don't have the DNA, yet I am comfortable in the culture. I try not to be appropriative, though.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2019 1:45 am 
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My point was that it's not just Americans and it's not just happening today. A Chinese Buddhist may marry a Polish Jew and form a family. The Polish person is not of the same heritage as the Chinese spouse but they raise a family and incorporate parts of both cultures into their family traditions.. the culture and celebrations of one parent is not exclusive to just the one parent & children, both spouses and perhaps other extended family members may also take part. It then becomes part of the new family heritage. I've seen some really creative 'holidays' in such families!

I've mentioned that we have had several Japanese exchange students. They have given us gifts of yukata (informal kimono) and other items. These were intended as a means to extend their culture to us and invite us in.. to become an honorary member of their tribe (so to speak). This does not make me Japanese. This does not mean I am trying to claim their heritage. The acceptance and wearing of the gift would mean I appreciate the kind hospitality and inclusion. Appropriation implies an inappropriate theft of something. That is too simple. It is often less straightforward than that. Middle-Eastern/Asian (etc..) cultures have adopted what is considered 'Western-style' dress. Would that be appropriation or practicality in a changing world? I don't know the answer. Is the preparation and enjoyment of food from a culture I was not born into appropriation? I wouldn't think so, but someone else might think so.

Certainly, there are groups of people who wish to remain 'pure' and exclusive. I sometimes suspect the secondary purpose of many religious communities is to ensure that a member of the community marries one of its own so as not to bring in 'strange ideas & traditions'. Amish and Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints come to mind, but that practice is not exclusive to them alone.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2019 2:30 am 
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As a follow-up, I think I have finally found how to explain my feelings on my own culture in that what I feel I am lacking seems to be the sense of culture you can only have if you are not part of the dominant culture. A sense of who I am that isn't who everyone else is also, but also not just who I am on my own - rather, who I am as part of some definable group. A place of belonging that is greater or deeper, yet still with a sense of intimacy.

And maybe this sense of wanting to feel a sense of belonging to something is one reason so many Americans engage in Appropriation. They see something from somewhere else that gives them that sense of belonging or a sense of something deeper that they're after and they think there is some secret some other group has to feeling fulfilled that way. Maybe part of it is there are all these holes that have been left empty and they're stuffing things in them.

Of course, there are other reasons that might be as simple (and as thoughtless) as "Ooh, pretty. Mine!" Or perhaps a sense of entitlement to others' cultures precisely because we have exported ours to them (whether they wanted it or not).

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2019 2:47 am 
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elengil, I think that is well said. Because so many of us have absorbed a greater 'melting pot' culture, we are lacking/have lost our smaller, more intimate cultures and sense of belonging.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2019 4:41 am 
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Quote:
And maybe this sense of wanting to feel a sense of belonging to something is one reason so many Americans engage in Appropriation. They see something from somewhere else that gives them that sense of belonging or a sense of something deeper that they're after and they think there is some secret some other group has to feeling fulfilled that way.

I read this and couldn't help but be reminded of the Dead Kennedys' (pretty ruthless) take on this phenomenon...



Lyrics for those who can't/don't want to watch:

Spoiler: show
So you've been to school for a year or two
And you know you've seen it all
In daddy's car thinkin' you'll go far
Back east your type don't crawl
Play ethnicky jazz to parade your snazz
On your five grand stereo
Braggin' that you know how the n*****s feel cold
And the slums got so much soul

...

Now you can go where people are one
Now you can go where they get things done
...

I know this is something a lot of people feel so I don't want to be too glib, but I think it often leads to (at best) unrealistically rose-tinted views of other cultures and (at worst) outright fetishistic ones. And this discomfort with privilege and idealization of the oppressed doesn't necessarily mean that the people doing the idealizing are actually inclined to give up their privilege or want to have anything to do with members of oppressed groups except in the context of cultural borrowing (not talking about anyone in this thread), which is where the ideas of appropriation and treating cultures as costumes become especially relevant. I think this mindset also sometimes goes hand-in-hand with a disregard for or blindness to the culture one grew up in. I don't think the fact that American culture is comprised of a hodgepodge of influences from all over the world makes it any less of its own culture, nor has it stopped Americans from building on what was brought here.

Granted, this starts to get into the more abstract notion of what being American means. I know my opinion on this isn't universally shared, but the idea I grew up with is that anyone can become an American by coming to this country and wanting to build a better life for themselves. That's really what being a "nation of immigrants" means to me. Obviously, the political reality is far messier than the picture painted for me when I was five, and in every generation of immigrants a depressing percentage of people subsequently vote to slam the door shut behind them and try to stop future immigration. But, to my way of thinking, the point of Americanness, such as it is, is that we're not different from everyone else--because we're made up of everyone else, and what make America interesting and sometimes unique is the specific ways in which these people and influences from all over the world have come together in various different ways all across the country.

Idealistic, yes, and not entirely reflective of political reality. But if that doesn't work out, there are still a few cultural concepts no one can take away. ;)

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2019 5:09 am 
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Good points too, Eldy. I suppose it depends upon what one thinks 'cultural appropriation' encompasses. I might be thinking of behavior completely different (less extreme) than someone else. Very few of us are culturally isolated to the point where we have not borrowed a great many things from another culture.

I would think that just about anyone (even someone legitimately from or brought up in any given culture) would want to learn/remember/showcase/pass on/emulate the very best their culture has or had to offer. No one wants to bring back starvation, hunger, abuse, etc... They look to foods, arts & crafts, language, activities, clothing, jewelry, hairstyles, etc...

I'm not so sure a gender reveal for a dog is exclusively a White or American thing, that's just kinda 'extra'. :)
I've done plenty of camping. I've never seen anyone camp like that. Looks like someone's idea of a white person costume. ;)

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2019 5:44 am 
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We have hundreds or thousands of years less history than some nations; it seems logical to me that a country with thousands of years of history will have a richer culture than a country that's just a few hundred years old.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2019 1:16 pm 
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Eldy wrote:
I know this is something a lot of people feel so I don't want to be too glib, but I think it often leads to (at best) unrealistically rose-tinted views of other cultures and (at worst) outright fetishistic ones. And this discomfort with privilege and idealization of the oppressed doesn't necessarily mean that the people doing the idealizing are actually inclined to give up their privilege or want to have anything to do with members of oppressed groups except in the context of cultural borrowing


That's very true.

In the vein I was thinking, however, it wasn't about "wanting to be an oppressed minority" but more just recognizing that being a minority culture will necessarily be different than being in a majority culture. When people feel threatened they can often narrow the scope of exactly what it means to be part of their group - and in a sense being a minority culture is about distilling down what it means to be you and not everyone else, so it can take on a somewhat more concentrated form - sure, we know their dances, but these are our dances. We know their beliefs, but these are our beliefs. We know their food but this is our food.

When you're the majority, there is more of an 'okayness' with change, adopting something new, letting something old go. When you are a minority, and especially an oppressed one, you cling tight as long as you are able.

It's sort of like what Rose was talking about where German culture has moved on in 200 years, but German emigrants may have held tight to some aspect in their minority communities that Germans in Germany were just fine with letting go of. Germans in Germany are okay the ones actively or passively accepting the change in what it means to be German because they are just defining themselves.

But take a German population in the US who have clung to some old tradition because it was what made them German instead of Italian or Irish or Swedish or Spanish - it was how they defined themselves in smaller terms. It's how they were them instead of everyone else.

Being a minority necessarily is about how you define yourself (or are defined by others, yes I realize this is usually the case) in a way that makes you different from everyone else. And especially if you are being defined by others, it makes you more intent on holding on to what makes you really you. But that also isn't necessarily static. Native Americans aren't just going back to old ways, they have new songs, new dances, new ideas, new ways as well. They aren't just going backwards, they are reclaiming some of what was lost but doing so in new ways sometimes. Sometimes just because of natural changes but sometimes directly in response to the outside.

And in a way I think this was actually far more defined for white Americans in the 50's than it is today. White Americans in the 50's seem to have had a far more homogeneous culture than we do today - if sadly for no other reason than we rejected a lot of others to make it so. So when people long for those days they are absolutely ignoring the horrific aspects of our history, but I think what they're seeing is that sense of community that grandparents and great-grandparents seemed to have.

I think I read some 20 years ago or so that part of the appeal of gangs to young people is that sense of culture that they provide - there are all sorts of very specific ins that make them them - territory (as someone pointed out!), clothing, music, sometimes language, often times rites of passage (something our modern cultures are sadly losing more and more) - and all these things fill the holes that exist in human psyche from a lack of a sense of belonging.

But there must be a reason why so many Americans are gaga over DNA results showing where we came from. We have lost a sense of roots somewhere along the way.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2019 1:49 pm 
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Just a quick aside. St Patricks Day is a national holiday in Ireland and we celebrate it with parades etc, just not to the crazy extent it is celebrated in America.

Also, it's Paddy's Day or St Patricks Day. NEVER St Pattys. EVER. :)

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2019 3:53 pm 
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One last thought I had on the way to work: this may actually be the root of much of the tension in this country. Republican vs Democrat, coastal/cities vs rural country, "educated elite" vs blue-collar.

We tend to approach these issues as ones of culture. They aren't like us, they don't respect our values, they're trying to [force change/refuse to change] to the detriment of everyone, they aren't Real Americans(tm).

:(

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2019 4:27 pm 
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Alatar wrote:
Just a quick aside. St Patricks Day is a national holiday in Ireland and we celebrate it with parades etc, just not to the crazy extent it is celebrated in America.

Also, it's Paddy's Day or St Patricks Day. NEVER St Pattys. EVER. :)

I knew St. Patrick's day was celebrated in Ireland, (I didn't know about the 'St.Patty's' prohibition, in Ireland ;) ) but I believe the holiday has taken on a different connotation in the US. One of my great-grandmothers was from County Leitrim, but she, like many Irish, immigrated before St. Patrick's day was a national holiday, so that is not a cultural tradition they brought with them. I think one of the reasons St. Patrick's day may be such a big 'crazy' thing here is that the general popularity of the celebration implies the acceptance of the Irish population that was so reviled when they came in the late 1800s/early 1900s. The sharing of their culture by the wider (predominant) culture of their adopted home gave them a sense of acceptance and belonging.

elengil wrote:
And in a way I think this was actually far more defined for white Americans in the 50's than it is today. White Americans in the 50's seem to have had a far more homogeneous culture than we do today - if sadly for no other reason than we rejected a lot of others to make it so.* So when people long for those days they are absolutely ignoring the horrific aspects of our history, but I think what they're seeing is that sense of community that grandparents and great-grandparents seemed to have.
*bolding mine.
Well said. I had a similar thought but couldn't put it into words. Same with your last post. The 'otherism' and divisiveness. It's rarely a good thing.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2019 6:39 pm 
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elengil wrote:
When people feel threatened they can often narrow the scope of exactly what it means to be part of their group -


Some Native American tribes have used DNA tests to kick people out of their tribes. They have had standards for a long time as to what percentage of parentage determines eligibility for membership, but now they have the means to enforce those standards.

Here's a question for you all. We've been making various kinds of judo themed items to sell at our dojo. One of my ideas is to make a leather hat patch with the word "JUDO" written in an Old West style font.
Here's the first prototype. It's kind of crappy, but you can get the idea.

Attachment:
20190317_111819 (002).jpg
20190317_111819 (002).jpg [ 101.21 KiB | Viewed 4618 times ]


Is this cultural appropriation? Usually judo schools are so careful to emphasize the Japanese origin of the sport. My husband uses the Japanese kanji for judo on everything and has a Japanese flag in the dojo alongside the American one. And here I am yanking on the concept and trying to show it in an obviously Old West font. I might as well put a tumbleweed on the patch, too.

What do you think? Appropriation? or Assimilation? Or just tacky?

My husband thought I should design one with a cherry blossom on it, since that's supposed to be very symbolic to Judo for some murky reason. I did... and he thought it was too flowery :roll: So I did this. I thought it might play well to mid-westerners. Play well? Find favor with? Something like that!

Edit: when I make one I actually like, I'm going to sew it on the front of a baseball cap.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2019 11:22 pm 
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Maria, I have absolutely no idea how to answer your question.

But I did find this article today (appropriately) so perhaps there may be some guidance hidden in it?
What I Learned About Racism as the Only Chinese Person at a 'Chinese' Festival

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2019 11:40 pm 
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Well. That was a bit extreme. And obvious. What about yoga. And judo. And Sakura (cherry blossoms?)

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 30, 2019 12:15 am 
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Honestly, I don't know.

I have begun to study and practice meditation techniques. I have done and do enjoy doing yoga. But I am not interested in becoming a practitioner of the religions that we largely associate with these two activities.

I find meditation to have tangible mental benefits, and yoga to have tangible physical benefits. I am not attempting to make them into some kind of spiritual experiences nor do I believe that those cultures found some key to humanity that everyone else missed.

So I don't know. I am trying to do things that help me without being a dick about it. Sometimes that may be the best you can do.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 30, 2019 1:14 am 
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Karate had tigers everywhere, Maria. I think certain arts just have certain motifs that go with them. If judo's taken cherry blossoms for a sigil best to just get to work with your tools and not ask questions. ;)

In my household, we incorporate bits of Serbian culture. I think most households that feature at least one immigrant end up with a cultural mash-up in terms of the way holidays are celebrated, the children are raised, and so on. I'm not sure how you don't honestly. It seems like it would be grossly unfair not to seek such compromises. Also, it really makes things smoother with the in-laws if you show respect for their customs. This is why we dye the eggs with onion skins on Good Friday (which Good Friday is an open question when the Eastern and Western holidays don't coincide...we typically pick the one most likely to have pleasant weather on Easter Sunday) and leave them for the Easter Bunny. Serbs technically don't do the Easter Bunny but my husband is down for anything that involves chocolate so there's a basket for him too.

Which reminds me, I need to start saving onion skins.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 30, 2019 1:32 am 
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On the "does America really have a culture?" - I've only ever spent time in one other country (my homeland the Dominican Republic), but I suspect that if an American were to spend a good amount of time in literally any other country - even English speaking ones - they would find that there are tons of differences in the cultures. :)

And of course, you could also consider all the various subcultures within America itself.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 30, 2019 1:32 am 
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elengil wrote:
Honestly, I don't know.

I have begun to study and practice meditation techniques. I have done and do enjoy doing yoga. But I am not interested in becoming a practitioner of the religions that we largely associate with these two activities.

I find meditation to have tangible mental benefits, and yoga to have tangible physical benefits. I am not attempting to make them into some kind of spiritual experiences nor do I believe that those cultures found some key to humanity that everyone else missed.

So I don't know. I am trying to do things that help me without being a dick about it. Sometimes that may be the best you can do.
When I have enough time I'm going to start a separate thread in Tol Eressëa to respond to this.

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