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  1. #1
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    Default Cultural appropriation

    Quote Originally Posted by Shanazel View Post
    The funny thing about it is ATS and associated ofshoots are genuine cultural phenomena that evolved in the USA among like-minded people. That so many felt the need to justify it with pseudo-history and costuming is sad and even sadder is that they aren't taken as a serious cultural movement because a) it is still in its infancy and b) in the beginning was composed largely of middle class Caucassian women. And we all know middle-class Caucassians haven't a clue to "real" tribal culture, right?
    I think the problem with being taken seriously actually has a lot more to do with issues of cultural appropriation and misrepresentation. I'm a huge fan of tribal but sometimes it is uncomfortable to watch someone misrepresent and badly dance fusion elements from India, Eastern Europe, etc.

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    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    I understand your point and agree with it to some small degree, but think we've all gotten a bit too sensitive about what can be shared and what can't.

    The only way cultures evolve is through appropriation of elements of other cultures. Where would Christmas be without the appropriation of the German Christmas tree? And if you don't think travelers picked up bits and pieces of dance, art, and costume from other cultures as they traveled the Silk Road or the Seven Seas, you're wrong. (Pasta, anyone? It isn't originally from Italy.) One of my favorite customs is the lighting of luminarios, a custom from Mexico.

    To willfully misrepresent an individual culture in jest or with derision is one thing. To embrace appealing elements from another culture into one's own life is the way of the world and has been since the girl across the river decided Eve's fig leaves were a good idea.

    I recall seeing a video of square dancing done by a group of aficionados in Japan. Their version was very funny to my western eyes, but at the same time I was so pleased that people a world away loved this dance style so much than they were making it their own, right down to the dozen petticoats and white cowboy boots (which no American square dancing lady would be caught dead in, but what the heck- it's their version).

    Maybe viewing "cultural appropriation" as "cutural sharing" has to do with growing up in the giant cultural experiment called America.
    Last edited by Shanazel; 01-03-2013 at 05:04 AM. Reason: spelling, syntax, all sorts of other grammatical disasters

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    Moderator Darshiva's Avatar
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    And yet you still missed one. The second 'cultural' in your last sentence. Slippery suckers, aren't they? :P
    Bellydance tuition and performances in Nhill and the Wimmera. Online classes via skype. Email raqs.riverine@gmail.com for more information.

  4. #4
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    Damn.

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    Moderator Aziyade's Avatar
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    Shanzel wrote:

    Maybe viewing "cultural appropriation" as "cutural sharing" has to do with growing up in the giant cultural experiment called America.
    I suspect that THIS is exactly the issue with us, and why we feel no insecurity or weirdness over seeing "foreigners" doing what we consider typically American things, like square dancing, singing country music, playing baseball, eating hot dogs, etc.

    Most of us are products of a long family tree of different cultures: German on one of Mom's sides, Scottish and Dutch on the other. Native American on Dad's side, but he married a Lebanese immigrant, and they moved from Colorado to Michigan. I mean almost all of us have that kind of colorful "mongrel" heritage. So what "family culture" can you claim? You pick the one(s) that have the most interesting traditions and the best cooking

    BUT -- just because we are maybe not so sensitive to cultural "borrowing," that doesn't mean that such sensitivity should be ignored in others. I know a girl whose family are 1st generation immigrants from India and she is very critical of people who use mudras or Indian dance steps in their dancing, if the gestures and steps are used incorrectly. She has the attitude of "It's not hard to learn about this stuff; why do anything out of ignorance, when you COULD pick a mudra that would actually fit the song." I can't really criticize that. It IS her culture.



    Quote Originally Posted by kantorlight View Post
    I think the problem with being taken seriously actually has a lot more to do with issues of cultural appropriation and misrepresentation. I'm a huge fan of tribal but sometimes it is uncomfortable to watch someone misrepresent and badly dance fusion elements from India, Eastern Europe, etc.
    I agree with you -- and this isn't really an issue of cultural (mis)appropriation. It's a problem of ignorance. Willful ignorance, almost. I see lots of dancers who don't actually question, "well if this is from Indian dance, what does it mean in that context? Will it mean the same thing here?" (This isn't limited to Tribal -- there are "Egyptian" dancers out there too, that wouldn't know Saidi from Saudi and don't care.)

    Look, I was all about the fake "Gypsy" thing when I started doing belly dance (in ballet the "Gypsy" stereotype is prevalent in a lot of character dances). I dressed like Esmerelda, banged my fist on hips a lot, and wore a babushka. But as I started to research their music and learn more about their dance, I realized how inappropriate (and WRONG) that image is, and how much damage it has caused over the years, so I gave it up.

    Tribal is (as a dance form) where I was then -- practitioners should be WELL aware that all these disparate elements from multiple cultures don't exactly make a "fusion" -- and to do ANY of those cultures any justice (not to mention create an interesting piece of art to watch) they really need to learn how and why various movements and gestures are done, where in the music they take place, and what of all of it is just plain "hokum," to quote Jamila.

    It also sort of astonishes me that there are Tribal dancers who know NOTHING about the Jamila format. I mean that is your direct heritage -- why wouldn't you want to know SOMETHING about it? That would be like an Egyptian style dancer not knowing anything about the dance prior to Dina. To me it's mind-boggling. But I guess I'm weird that way.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shanazel View Post
    I understand your point and agree with it to some small degree, but think we've all gotten a bit too sensitive about what can be shared and what can't.

    The only way cultures evolve is through appropriation of elements of other cultures. Where would Christmas be without the appropriation of the German Christmas tree? And if you don't think travelers picked up bits and pieces of dance, art, and costume from other cultures as they traveled the Silk Road or the Seven Seas, you're wrong. (Pasta, anyone? It isn't originally from Italy.) One of my favorite customs is the lighting of luminarios, a custom from Mexico.
    The issue though, is we (non-members of the culture) don't get to decide what will/won't be shared. More importantly it is offensive to say (as an outsider) that members of these various cultures are being "too sensitive ." All the examples you mention (christmas trees, silk road, etc) were freely shared by the members of the culture, or due to immigration. The situation going on now is more like we're taking things willy-nilly and/or without their consent.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shanazel View Post
    To willfully misrepresent an individual culture in jest or with derision is one thing. To embrace appealing elements from another culture into one's own life is the way of the world and has been since the girl across the river decided Eve's fig leaves were a good idea.
    Even well-intentioned misrepresentation can be harmful. For example, the way belly dancers have portrayed the Rromani or "Gypsy" stereotype reinforces negative stereotypes about their culture, leading to continued discrimination and racism.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    Look, I was all about the fake "Gypsy" thing . . . I realized how inappropriate (and WRONG) that image is, and how much damage it has caused over the years, so I gave it up.
    Quote Originally Posted by Shanazel View Post
    Maybe viewing "cultural appropriation" as "cutural sharing" has to do with growing up in the giant cultural experiment called America.
    And given that the success of this cultural experiment was created through genocide and slavery, a little tact and discretion would be warranted.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    I can't really criticize that. It IS her culture.
    Yes! This is the whole point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    Willful ignorance, almost. I see lots of dancers who don't actually question, "well if this is from Indian dance, what does it mean in that context? Will it mean the same thing here?" (This isn't limited to Tribal -- there are "Egyptian" dancers out there too, that wouldn't know Saidi from Saudi and don't care.)
    Very true! Tribal dancers are not the only ones guilty of it.

    I'm sorry for derailing the thread, but I felt I had to bring up these issues.

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    V.I.P. Jane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kantorlight View Post
    And given that the success of this cultural experiment was created through genocide and slavery, a little tact and discretion would be warranted.
    I can't think of a culture that doesn't have slavery and genocide in their history. America is not unique in that respect. It really boils down to "do no harm" with your dancing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jane View Post
    I can't think of a culture that doesn't have slavery and genocide in their history. America is not unique in that respect. It really boils down to "do no harm" with your dancing.
    America is also not unique in being a cultural melting pot, or in having democracy, or in a lot of things.

    It *is* unique in being the number one world power for most of the past century, and it is this - this invisible privilege and position of authority - that I think leads to the Average American if there is such a thing not being bothered if they see Japanese people eating hotdogs or whatever. It's also fair to note that hot dogs and baseball are entirely secular things, whereas even some everyday things from older more traditional cultures have elements of religion or specific social values attached to them that outsiders might not be able to discern without help. Most "American" things are secular.

    I guess the only thing I can think of to compare is the idea that some people from Country X might dress up as plantation owners surrounded by mammies and Confederate soldiers and the Dukes of Hazzard car, and do dubstep versions of Stephen Foster songs and call their venture The Darky Project.
    And then wonder why some Americans were nonplussed and potentially upset by that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jane View Post
    It really boils down to "do no harm" with your dancing.
    I completely agree, with the addition of mentioning that is possible to do harm without realizing. However, I believe most people are decent, and upon the realization of the effects of possibly problematic behavior, will apologize/rectify the situation accordingly.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zumarrad View Post
    . . . whereas even some everyday things from older more traditional cultures have elements of religion or specific social values attached to them that outsiders might not be able to discern without help . . . Most "American" things are secular.
    Yes!

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    Quote Originally Posted by kantorlight View Post
    I completely agree, with the addition of mentioning that is possible to do harm without realizing. However, I believe most people are decent, and upon the realization of the effects of possibly problematic behavior, will apologize/rectify the situation accordingly.
    That's what decent people do, for certain. I have unfortunately found there are quite a few, however, in the BD world and elsewhere, who will argue till they're blue in the face that they're not in the wrong and anybody else's offence or distress is "their problem".

    Some people are wilfully unteachable I think. And that's a shame, because decent points about a person can get hidden by the outward appearance of hateful scummishness. In the end, I guess it's "their problem".

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