Tagged: Franz Boas

Appropriate this post

“Cultural appropriation” is one of those terms that should be be banished from the lexicon of cultural politics.

1. No “culture” is pure, hermetically sealed off from external influences.
2. All cultures are hybrid, miscegenated, creole. In olden days (i.e., the early twentieth century), Franz Boas described this as the outcome of a process of cultural diffusion.
3. The idea that a culture belongs to a specific group belies a capitalist imaginary, which treats culture as property, whose disposition is conditioned by the model of the legal contract.
4. In the contemporary world, culture circulates much like money; it knows no boundaries whether they be the nation state or the ethnic/racial group.
5. The effort to “reclaim” one’s “culture” is a profoundly conservative political project. It is past oriented, traditionalistic, and, in the worst case, authoritarian.

Why turn culture into a museum piece, to be preserved and curated like the Greek vases (which once functioned as chamber pots) housed in the Staatliche Antikensammlungen? Why not conceive culture as an open book, extol culture’s intertextual constitution and its recombinant qualities?

To submit culture to a premature (political) closure is to destroy culture. Such a move towards closure ultimately instrumentalises culture, which is the modus operandi of the cultural philistine.