Cultural Appropriation in Western Society


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As we have seen, now it could be said that it is unmistakable clear how much paradoxical can be the discourse about cultural exchanges, especially if established within a deep-seated Western system. It is also now evident which are those hidden dynamics that still allow the problem to be controversial nowadays. The multifaced characteristics of cultural appropriation are, for their nature, a product of Western colonisation, and for this reason they have always been profoundly influenced by power and political oppression. 

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As Rosemary J. Combe says in Borrowed Power: “The controversy over cultural appropriation is founded upon particular premises about authorship, culture, property and identity that are products of a history of colonial appropriation and define the persistent parameters of a European legal imaginary.” (Combe, R., J., 1997, p.75) Therefore, it is appropriate to take back into consideration Judith Butler’s essay. This because her contribution to analysing the Foucaultian Critique is essential to offer a different perspective on this particular aspect of Western society. It is also important to propose an applicable method to deal with cultural appropriation in the 21st century. 

The strong relationship between culture and power in Western society sets a significant limit over the debate on cultural appropriation, that instead “needs to be encouraged as a sign of freedom”. (Hart, J., 1997, p.140) It seems smooth to be aware of the problem when one is on the right side of the power that sets the rules. Therefore, it may be interesting to force the paradoxical aspect of the whole question by involving Western approaches as Butler’s and Foucault’s ones. 

They are aimed at highlighting the necessity to force Western society to redeem and reassess a more coherent consideration about cultural interactions. As already accounted in the previous chapters, for many reasons the practice of critique could be the best way to avoid a binary consideration among different vicissitudes of cultural debate. The goal is to adapt questions such as those about limits, virtue, resistance, all of them fundamental in Foucault’s and Butler’s investigations, and put them at the core of recent controversial examples of cultural appropriation. 

The definition of Critique as a virtue is particularly interesting when Butler (2001) sustains that “it belongs to an ethics which is not fulfilled by […] objectively formulated rules or laws. […] It is […] a critical relation to those norms”. More than merely propose a possible way of contesting pre-existing rules, Butler (2001) says that by being virtuous it is possible to bare the epistemological limits of human society, and this method can be applied also to specific questions, such as the one the research paper takes into consideration. 

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