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How do we define cultural appropriation?

Is there any objective definition of cultural appropriation? How can we have a productive discussion without one? Read ours here.
From a birds-eye view, a kayaker in a blue kayak with white trim moves through a mass of undulating underwater kelp. Pockets of turquoise, tropical blue water peek out from beneath the kelp.
© Photo by Riley on Unsplash
Many people express varying levels of outrage and apathy about cultural appropriation.

It can seem difficult to categorise what counts as appropriation and appreciation. Many people oppose the concept of appropriation, equating it with the natural diffusion of cultures over time.

That is a false equivalence.

Cultures do naturally integrate, trade, borrow, influence each other or, yes, even steal.

Cultural appropriation is just one method of diffusion, but all diffusion is not appropriation.

It can be argued that cultural appropriation does not exist. However, arguing that cultural appropriation does not exist because cultural diffusion does is equivalent to saying heroin doesn’t exist because poppies do.

That false equivalence makes it extremely difficult to have cogent conversations about cultural appropriation – definitions vary wildly.

It’s easier for those arguing against its existence to make it seem like rigid arguments about cultural sensitivity are the same as nuanced ones.

Therefore, before we continue, we must define the terms we will use throughout this course.

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Cultural Appropriation vs Cultural Appreciation

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