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We’re Not Asking You To Give Up Yoga Pants: Identifying Religious Symbolism In Daily Life

1311 words - 6 pages

Before answering this question, I believe it essential to establish what cultural appropriation means. Cultural Appropriation as Susan Scafidi defines it is the “taking— from a culture that is not one’s own—of intellectual property, cultural expressions or artifacts, history, and ways of knowledge.” Cultural appropriation involves the taking by a majority group from minority groups, the treasured aspects of their heritage for their own consumer fulfillment, while simultaneously silencing these individuals within the respective societies. While this definition might seem simple, the reality is, “culture” is difficult to define. Especially, in the modern world, where the commodification of culture is a common occurrence, it is hard to see when cultural appropriation is occurring. The challenge partly emerges because, proving authorship and authenticity of cultural products is difficult due to the hybridization and the constant borrowing and sharing that occurs between cultures. So it is difficult to draw the line between cultural appreciation, cultural exchange, and cultural appropriation. Before claiming something is culturally inappropriate, one has to belong to a cultural group and determine what is appropriate and inappropriate. Since even defining, what a cultural group is difficult, as cultures often inter-lap and cultural practices “develop from an amalgam of influences, it becomes difficult to assign these to one group over another.” What is problematic with trying to show appropriation with products and goods is the fact that in most cases the “authorship can not be traced.” Almost any thing can fall under the array of appropriation, since everyone blends, merges, and synthesis aspects of different cultures. Hence making it difficult to determine when something is appropriated and when it is not. In most creative realms for instance people adopt music from other cultures, learn dances from other places (mold and reformulate into something new). Here claiming appropriation might be problematic.
Trying to prove cultural appropriation is more difficult in some instances, especially, when applied to religion. The natures of most world religions suggest “universality” although not everyone in the world practices the particular tenants of that religion. What this means is no particular individual or groups can actually claim ownership over religious material as religion is global, it trespasses, regionalism, and cultural limitation, and practices differ based on its amalgamation with other aspects of people’s identity. Lets take the veiling by Muslim women for instance; there are so many variation from how a veil is worn, to types of veils, to its origins for each culture. The veil is also not an entirely Muslim product as both Jews and Christians, at least historically wore it. Such heterogeneity in religious practices thus makes it even harder to prove claim of ownership over religious products that are openly circulating in the market....

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