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< Back to question What is cultural appropriation? Show more Show less

Cultural appropriation, the adoption of aspects of another culture by members of a dominant culture, is not a new phenomenon. Today, wearing an insensitive Halloween costume or sporting a certain hairstyle can draw accusations of cultural appropriation. But what is cultural appropriation? A form of neo-colonialism? Racism? Cultural theft? Political correctness gone too far? Or is cultural appropriation actually cultural appreciation?

Cultural theft Show more Show less

Cultural appropriation is the theft or exploitation of a culture to which you do not belong.
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Cultural appropriation is the theft of elements of another culture for personal gain.

Borrowing elements from another culture is not cultural appropriation. But leveraging them or exploiting them for financial gain is cultural appropriation.
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Borrowing from another culture is a gesture of appreciation and is not cultural appreciation. Stealing or exploiting another culture for financial gain is cultural appropriation.

The Argument

There is a difference between borrowing and stealing. Cultural appropriation is when someone steals from another culture for their own financial gain. For example, if someone who is not Native American, begins making jewellery in a Native American style and selling it for profit, they are stealing from Native American culture.

Counter arguments

Ideas don't work like physical objects - you can't "steal" them; if I use your idea of an aspect of your culture, you still can have it at the same time. Cultural expressions belong to the realm of ideas, which propagate and multiply when shared. Sharing culture makes it richer, and cultures that are not shared become abandonded and die.


[P1] Cultural appropriation is not borrowing elements from another culture. [P2] Cultural appropriation is using elements of another culture for personal financial gain. [P3] Therefore, if no financial gain has been made from the instance of cultural borrowing, it is not cultural appropriation.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] Cultural appropriation does not require personal financial gain.


    This page was last edited on Tuesday, 1 Sep 2020 at 13:38 UTC