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Cultural exploitation occurs often and widely around the globe. Simply placed, this phenomenon involves the use of objects from one social culture by a member of a particular cultural community. One case that has sparked a lot of discussion and speculation is Pope singer Selena Gomez, who wore a Hindu Bindi to a Music Awards ceremony (Sanchez). Members of the Hindu community were concerned about the inappropriate use of a Hindu item, particularly because the Bindi is only worn for divine purposes. Senior members of the Hindu religious community presented strong views in opposition to Ms. Gomez’s use of the Bindi, particularly as it is believed she donned it for seductive purposes (Sanchez).
The example explored above is an instance of an individual embracing a different culture from her own. Although various reasons have been presented explaining the need for people to exercise caution when embracing artifacts from other cultures, there is also need for us ti demystify myths that claim appropriation of cultural artifacts is indeed an issue. Cultural interaction and integration brought about the New York Pizza as well as the Japanese Denim, both of which are cultural elements from other communities. Also, we cannot forget to mention that civilized societies such as those in the west enjoy discourses such as self-rule and subjects such as mathematics, all of which are phenomena that arose from cultural interactions.
Presently, we cannot do away with the idea of appropriating elements that belong to other communities the same way we are not able to live without the notion of globalization. Creating boundaries has brought about cultural isolation. There is a need for communities to minimize how far they are willing to maintain cultural isolation in the name of protecting it for future generation and maintaining identity. Cultural exchange is a form of globalization and allows for an interchange of philosophies, styles or traditions that constitute the basis for a multicultural community.
In my Native American culture, Sweat Lodge ceremonies are valued as they are sacred and are aimed at purifying an individual. However, there are those who are not natives but make use of these traditions to offer modern experiences that help clients have better clarity and vision. This practice is an example of the positive side of cultural appropriation that is used to benefit those who are not from my culture. Sweat Lodge ceremonies and practices are spiritual cleansing rituals done inside small lodges. Water is powered onto hot rocks and the steam created is used to cleanse individuals. I do not think appropriation of this practice would offend me in any way. I believe it is a way of sharing culture with those who are interested in it. However, it is important that those who choose to delve into the experiences of other cultures take the time to understand an item or a cultural practice and why that particular culture values it.
Cases have been reported of individuals who injured themselves as a result of appropriating cultural practices and or elements from another community. Such accidents have been attributed to a lack of thorough understanding of the practices or use of artifacts. The quintessence of a connected society is diversity and variety as well as acceptance of those who show a genuine interest in other cultures and the rebuff of cultural bigotry.
Sanchez, Elicia. Top 10 Instances Of Open And Unapologetic Celebrity Cultural Appropriation In 2013!. Autostraddle, 2017, https://www.autostraddle.com/top-ten-instances-of-open-and-unapologetic-celebrity-cultural-appropriation-in-2013-210371/.
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