The Nonsense of Cultural Ownership


The media and internet are lambasted with attempts to attribute ownership of a culture to a group of people. From some Native Hawaiian’s objections to the personification of Moana, to something as outrageous as claiming that dressing in certain hairstyles is cultural misappropriation.

This issue cuts in two directions, first, the cultures which are acceptable to ‘misappropriate’ is one laden with not just a political agenda, but also some logical problems. As an example, Western European cultural motifs and belief systems are acceptable to distort and destroy but Polynesian ones are not. The rationale is to enter a dynamic of ‘dominant culture’ and ‘subjugated culture’ on which we view the entire paradigm. Which I will question the methods these are devised and bring to question its validity. Secondly, even if we accept the definition of a ‘dominant culture’ (and all its laden, self-contradictions) then we must work further to attribute ownership of culture; this is a key point many people refuse to define. But it is essential because the claim is always that there exists some authority which can determine for the planet what is or isn’t misappropriation and that generally tends to be the groups of people who supposedly ‘own’ the culture in question.

It is all of course, nonsense. As we go through these two topics I think you’ll find that those who proclaim the most compassion and sympathy for a certain group of people are merely perpetuating the very racism they claim to be defeating. I will also offer an alternative guise to view this issue going forward. (more…)