Culturele toe-eigening, Kirsten van Santen

When is culture yours?

Sharing or stealing?

Is it acceptable to take over things over from a culture that’s not your own? And who gets to decide? In the last few years there’s been much debate about issues like these, particularly on social media. This debate focuses on cultural appropriation: the co-option of elements from another culture for one’s own purposes or profit. Things like symbols, clothing, hairstyles, dance, music or language, for example.

Obviously culture is always in flux and serves as a rich source of inspiration for new creations. But if that’s done without any acknowledgement or respect, people can be offended. That’s particularly true within the context of unequal power relations; when the appropriating group is in the majority and therefore more powerful than the group whose cultural expressions are being used. Things That Matter offers dozens of examples that sparked controversy.

Beeld: Kirsten van Santen / Tropenmuseum