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A brief history of cultural diffusion

Did cultures appropriate from each other in history, or are all acts of appropriation just examples of diffusion?
A medieval etching of Alexander the Great entering Babylon by Sébastien Leclerc the First
© Creative Commons
A common argument against cultural appropriation is the concept of cultural diffusion: a normal process by which communities exchange and assimilate other cultures.

Often, arguments against cultural appropriation will equate appropriation with diffusion.

Cultural diffusion has many faces, and appropriation is just one of them.

Cultural diffusion need not involve appropriation and can be counter-productive to the dissemination and absorption of an authentic cultural aspect.

In this activity, we’ll look at some examples of cultural diffusion throughout the ages. You may consider some of these examples of benign diffusion.

You may consider others to be examples of appropriation, appreciation or even something else entirely – those are your decisions to make.

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Cultural Appropriation vs Cultural Appreciation

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