Strung up in a net of theft

Randa Jarrar wrote:
Google the term “belly dance” and the first images the search engine offers are of white women in flowing, diaphanous skirts, playing at brownness. How did this become acceptable?
The term “belly dance” itself is a Western one. In Arabic, this kind of dance is called Raqs Sharqi, or Eastern dance. Belly dance, as it is known and practiced in the West, has its roots in, and a long history of, white appropriation of Eastern dance. 
[…]
Growing up in the Middle East, I saw women in my community do Raqs Sharqi at weddings and parties. Women often danced with other women, in private spaces, so that this dance was for each other. When they danced at house parties with men in attendance, the dynamic shifted. When women danced for women alone, there was a different kind of eroticism, perhaps more powerful, definitely more playful, or maybe that’s how it felt to me, as a child and teenager, wary of men’s intentions. At weddings the dancing was celebratory and flirty and beautiful, something a professional dancer would come in to do, and something that everyone else would continue engaging in. If there was a drummer present, all the better. At my wedding, I was my own dancer. I hired a band that specialized in Arabic music and danced with my family and friends, not all of whom were Arab.
One of the most awkward occurrences for me when I go out to an Arabic restaurant is the portion of the evening when the white belly dancer comes out. This usually happens on weekends, and I’ve learned to avoid those spaces then, but sometimes I forget. The last time I forgot, a white woman came out in Arab drag — because that’s what that is, when a person who’s not Arab wears genie pants and a bra and heavy eye makeup and Arabic jewelry, or jewelry that is meant to read as “Arabic” because it’s metallic and shiny and has squiggles of some kind — and began to belly-dance. She was not a terrible belly dancer. But she was incredibly thin and didn’t remind me, in any way, of Tahia Karioca or Hind Rostom or my absolute favorite Raqs Sharqi dancer, Fifi Abdo. Abdo used to dance in the expected bra and skirt but later danced mostly in robes that were somewhat shapeless and more traditional — a kind of relaxed housewear- streetwear dress that folks in Egypt rock daily. There are videos of her in these robes dancing at weddings and smoking sheesha while she dances. When I am having a particularly lousy day, I watch this video of her and dance along.
[…]
The one interesting thing about these stories is that they reported that Western, or white women, were beginning to take over gigs in Egypt. These women moved there out of an obsession with belly dance and are now appropriating it from local dancers.
“It’s Arab face,” my friend Nadine once said, pointing at an invitation from a white acquaintance of hers. The invitation was printed on card stock and featured the woman and a dozen of her white friends dressed in Orientalist garb with eye makeup caked on for full kohl effect and glittery accessories. We wanted to call these women up and say, “How is this OK? Would you wear a dashiki and rock waspafarian dreads and take up African dance publicly? Wait,” we’d probably say, “don’t answer that.”
[…]
Women I have confronted about this have said, “But I have been dancing for 15 years! This is something I have built a huge community on.” These women are more interested in their investment in belly dancing than in questioning and examining how their appropriation of the art causes others harm. To them, I can only say, I’m sure there are people who have been unwittingly racist for 15 years. It’s not too late. Find another form of self-expression. Make sure you’re not appropriating someone else’s.
When I have argued, online and in person, with white women belly dancers, they have assured me that they learned to dance from Arab women and brown women. This is supposed to make the transaction OK. Instead, I point out that all this means is that it is perfectly all right with these teachers that their financial well-being is based on self-exploitation. 
[…]
But, here’s the thing. Arab women are not vessels for white women to pour themselves and lose themselves in; we are not bangles or eyeliner or tiny bells on hips. We are human beings. This dance form is originally ours ... (Why I can't stand white belly dancers," Salon.com)
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Patrick McEvoy-Halston I grant you that anyone that clenches a possession to be totally theirs, IS a human being. But I guarantee you as well that there are better. 
Hopefully you don't extend yourself too far into someone else's culture, because we sense that anything you snatch to yourself is going to be about impossible to retrieve for other's play and extension / expansion. 
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Patrick McEvoy-Halston The truth is that every culture that white culture has abused had better be as stout and good as presented, because liberals have boxed themselves out of an reply if they turn out as capable of power machinations as any. 
The truth is that if you're colored and walk into a feminist discussion group, and start accusing the whites there of assuming you, of appropriating you, they'll fight back for awhile but will eventually pull a full retreat -- or if they've got the creds for it, ascension, to some place without public interaction, any kind of comment section.
Twitter was afire about this recently, as we all noted: http://www.thenation.com/article/178140/feminisms-toxic-twitter-wars
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Patrick McEvoy-Halston The only thing we do by filling this up with 400+ comments is to add further weight to the idea that our nation is a bulbous mass of terrifying racists. This is the point of the piece, its social function. It's itself misappropriation of a kind, but liberals in general are okay with it because they like the idea that every brave step by a "Lebanese" girl to air her voice, is still to be greeted by a dangerous, intolerant crowd. Proof of how far yet we have to go, it helps cleanse them of the reality that if the minorities in their movements start having problems with the whites who previously overall lead/guided them, they have been discovered out to possess no effective reply -- it helps dispatch something worrying that has occurred to them about this. 
The hope is, effectively, that once right-wingers have been dispatched as a dangerous social force, once the Republican party looks legitimately like it might disappear once the "greys" are gone, that, satiated, liberals -- regardless of color -- will lose their desire for any kind of fight, and will just go about better building the nation, absent the war talk.
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I'm actually very offended by this article-- by the way she uses drag as her best dirty insult.  It's not hers to use so far as I'm aware, especially in an article written by an internationally wealthy woman, apparently, trying to uphold Arab culture.  Last I checked, gay culture invented drag, and it is an art form, honey, not a cheap insult.

Arab culture is literally murdering my people (gays) as we speak.  It's a codified death penalty for us.  So why is this the culture that gets to do the talking and the preaching about respect?  Talk about offensive cultural misappropriation!

Identity politics starts with the girl in the mirror, girl.

She looks pretty darn white to me as well, and she's in Austin, which is a white bubble if there ever was one.

I'm really over this sort of out-of-touch academic assholery about sticking to your own cultural roots, this one with a Texas and Arab spin.

Poor people deserve to have fun.  If you observe the inner city poor, sharing is the name of the game.  They and we don't need out-of-touch academics making a mint off our back telling us our behavior is 'problematic' and that we need to stop it.

Patrick McEvoy-Halston@Jason Loeffler  @Jason Loeffler
Arab culture is literally murdering my people (gays) as we speak.  It's a codified death penalty for us.  So why is this the culture that gets to do the talking and the preaching about respect?  Talk about offensive cultural misappropriation!
Liberal Richard Dawkins would give you a high-five, but he's not of the liberal crowd that's in ascension. 
The liberal group that is, will show you to be interested in stigmatizing/subjecting peoples first, then finding reason for it -- the classic racist colonialist move. If you had said that "poisonous elements in otherwise honorable Arab culture -- " you'd of had them only as friends, of course. As is, you'll be respected for your gay identify to the skies, but slated nevertheless for re-education: "Arab culture hates gays" -- some kind of nasties have got their hold on you!
Times we're in, no functioning progressive can go without contortions.  

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Patrick McEvoy-Halston The comments to this article were only due to be interpreted one way, but it'd be nice if we at least made it hard on them -- some counter voice in the comment section, that'd stir authorities as not sufficiently "quellable": it carried too much yet of it's own independent truth -- postcolonial style. 
If this was something that could swatted away as easily as we're presuming, it wouldn't have been posted. It's newish at Salon but elsewhere it's been going on endlessly, and is quite tested. 
She'll argue that others borrowing and learning from her, is about suppressing her -- like an evil stepsister liking what Cinderella had done and stealing all for herself. So the moment we say we all benefit, it's a lie. The moment we say common culture, it's a lie. The moment we say it's a sign of respect, it'll be, well, a bit about that -- but by someone villainous who'll make it so that no one knows to look to the original source anymore, and who'll despise "you" for proving yourself in some way obviously better. 
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Patrick McEvoy-Halston I wonder if the author just needs some more powerful experiences of people seeing some of the neat, unique things she does, and out of evident admiration, mimicking it -- trying to work their way into her, and so be capable of the same display she is, in a wholly understandable, even encourageable, way.
That is, reading it you get an unmistakable sense that for her someone else's borrowing is almost necessarily about being stolen from and suppressed -- as if she was the child of a narcissistic mother, who always wanted the attention primarily kept on her.  Her insistence on the autonomy of her own body, certainly seems redolent of this. Natalie Portman's character in "Black Swan," standing up to her mother, who had poured herself into her willy nilly of "Portman's" own wishes. 
And if it's maternal abuse against daughters that is her primarily complaint, Arab culture has been the subject of considerable attacks on this. That is, unlike her display here of the fascinating eroticism between women, many commenters have described the horrors of Arab women surrounding their girls, chanting songs, while torturing them of their labias. If cultural forms end up being entwined with some not-so-nice aspects of everybody's culture, do we go about terminating them entirely? Or keep working on them, so that they're entirely redolent of something commendable, pleasurable -- even if it's someone else who accomplishes it, an outsider?
If what is at sake here is our not feeling paralyzed from being playful -- the planting of authorities that have us fretting picking up any old thing for experimentation and self-growth -- we should not respond kindly. "It was wrong that you were abused but you're not going to be allowed to get in the way of the more genuinely open and playful people out there who's instinct -- better than your own -- may be fundamentally about opening themselves and the world up. If they get their chance to use whatever at hand to enable themselves to grow, they'll become more the kind of people who'll make sure more people are being helped than hurt by what they do. They'd give you a respectful listen, remaining open to being changed, even as much as they wouldn't necessarily accept your argument at all." 
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Ms. Jarrar, I have worked for many years creating exhibits about contemporary Native American life, their is an important balance between celebrating another groups cultural heritage and outright appropriating it for your own use. I doubt you believe women of other cultures shouldn't dance raqs sharqi, but rather if we do, that it should be done in western garb. No doubt you embrace sharing your culture with others. What is more troubling however is the use of white dancers in traditional settings, no? I would suggest looking more closely at what is driving that, somehow I doubt it is the prevelence of white belly dancers, but the growing conservative culture in Egypt that suggests women should be completely covered at all times; making it more acceptable to ogle an outsider than an Egyptian woman. This is what made "belly dancing" so popular in the Protestant USA in the early 20th century.

Patrick McEvoy-Halston@curator74  You don't have to celebrate another group's cultural heritage; what you have to do is celebrate the person before you. I'm Irish/German, but if someone thought they were being respectful to me by being familiar with my traditions and ascribing my primary possession over them, I wouldn't be much impressed. Don't be too quick to defer, I'd ask them. Don't go too hands off:  maybe these traditions -- like magic over science -- are something that if they've got a hold on me simply for the fact that the giant blob of clan had gestated me forth, are something I need to be rescued from. I may hate them all and have set out of town, and meeting "you" has put me right back at the family table again, being slopped the same awful potato stew I'd been instructed to be proud of. 
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I think most people are missing the point of this article. It fights against the idea of mimicry and "we represent you better than you represent yourself." Many of Facebook commenting on the article have made the remark, "well those costumes looks better on slender, white." This is the idea the author is fighting against. Anything from the east that is represented by western artists is "better than" whereas anything western that is represented in the eastern culture is "less than" and mere "mimicry." And trust me I have heard many liberals commenting on TV how the Indian democracy and secularism is a mimicry of the western ideas. I can give two specific example on why this hurts a culture and why people like me get hurt by it. 
1). One of my annoyingly anglophile classmate posted a meme on her Facebook that said, "I like my men, like I like my tea, British and Hot." As someone coming from India, it pissed me off. So, I gave her the history of tea. And her response was that "British people perfected it." Not to mention her idea of "British boys" is skinny One Direction emos, and British = white.
2). I came across a blonde sorority girl the other day at the Starbucks, she was carrying an Indian(Eastern) purse and wearing colorful bangles. When I complemented her, she merely ignored me. So, when I said that it was an Indian bag, she proceeded to laugh at me and said it can't be.
3). I once had to argue with my fraternity brother who told me that Yoga was an ancient Viking tradition which was taken to India by the British(Yes, the stereotypes about fraternities are true!). 
So, yes, I understand the frustration of the author. I have felt the same frustration. Indian food good, Indian jewelry good, Indian culture good. Indian men bad, Indian women bad, Indian people "smelly, dirty and misogynists." So, yeah I understand her frustration, because "eastern culture" gets represented and then misrepresented until the perpetrators claim that it wasn't eastern, ever!

Patrick McEvoy-Halston@sandiproy  Watch the movies -- there's nothing more cool than Indian culture right now. Intelligent, educated, attractive, urban -- the works. 
Blonde sorority girl, however, is a recipe to be dispatched -- and to appear to have deserved it, like you sorta did. 
We should be open to the idea that someone could appropriate a practice, and improve on it. It's a problem if this doesn't amount to fair objective judgment but to dumb stereotypes -- what we do is always better! USA! USA! But if they improve, they improve.
If they did it -- genuine innovation; qualitative betterment -- while also suppressing another culture, this is a significant problem; but I wouldn't be too quick to assume that the culture that kept the innovation in its unimproved-upon form was necessarily of morally superior fibre. Cultures that are resistant to growth -- anthropologists be damned -- are cultures that stifle their young; cultures that grow, are ones that see their kids taking their culture in ways they never foresaw or even intended, and can educate themselves to be okay with it.  



@PatrickMcEvoy-Halston @sandiproy  Of-course I agree with you that every culture should grow. The problem with the world, as I see it, is the fact that many in my generation are looking back to some sort of "original" and thus engaging in dangerous traditionalism. This is true both the east and the west(not that I believe in such east vs west nonsense.)  But then again, you can't improve upon a culture. I mean culture doesn't really follow a scientific method of "progress." Sure you can make a certain foreign cuisine more American, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But it is definitely wrong to call it a "perfected" whatever-cuisine-it-used-to-be. I have a professor, who happens to be White, who is proficient in Sanskrit, and understand Hindu scriptures more than any ignorant Hindu nationalist in India can ever hope to understand. This is admirable and indeed should be encouraged. But what I am talking about is basically plagiarism. That is taking something from a culture and then calling it your own without giving it credit








@sandiproy @Patrick McEvoy-HalstonThe ignorant cannot be cured because it is the choice they have made. I live in a strange culture within a culture - Louisiana -and have lost the will to fight, instead I ignore and enjoy the world I have




@Serai1 @sandiproy @Patrick McEvoy-Halston  Did I say that about Belly Dancing? Maybe you should go back and read my comment. I advise you to read some of the old colonial historian who claimed that Sanskrit was a language stolen from the Europeans. Actually you don't have to go back to colonial era. Read "Freedom at Midnight" and you'll see what I am talking about. And I gave you 4 anecdotal examples anyway. Maybe your experience has been different concerning this issue but then again your tone is combative which kind of proves my point :-) Have a nice day



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@sandiproy @Patrick McEvoy-Halston  But what I am talking about is basically plagiarism. That is taking something from a culture and then calling it your own without giving it credit
Sigourney Weaver from "Working Girl" kind of stuff, I get it. Nasty stuff. I'd speak out and rage if it happened to me.
But then again, you can't improve upon a culture. I mean culture doesn't really follow a scientific method of "progress." Sure you can make a certain foreign cuisine more American, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But it is definitely wrong to call it a "perfected" whatever-cuisine-it-used-to-be. 
I think most of us would say that in the film "Amadeus" Mozart improved upon Salieri's tribute ditty, because we know such things are possible and that it just happened. Before the birth of Christ, child sacrifice was a common practice -- one to the gods, and then you get to keep the rest. With Christ, God was imagined as mollified not by killing babies but by masochistic surrender of yourself through life. Not good, but you got to live, and this was qualitative progress. And so on, as parents moved on to authoritative modes of rearing -- I'll love you if you do exactly as I tell you -- to, eventually, what we're seeing more and more of right now -- permissive childrearing; I'll love you regardless, however much I'm hoping you'll have faith in what you want for yourself.  Some of them have perfected childrearing, and it's not wrong to call it that. 
Does this apply to pizzas, dance? If their form at a time was representative of an immature culture, like medieval music -- yeah, quite possibly. 
I'm sorry to hear your friends are keen to traditional, original -- "pure" -- conservative cultures. When people do that they're usually trying to show themselves as unassuming and unspoiled -- pure, not sin-ridden themselves -- as well as folk members of a great, beneficent community. Germany in the 30s was that, and it's not good. 







@ibfamous @sandiproy @Serai1 @Patrick McEvoy-Halston True, but I just wanted to point out the dangers of misrepresentation and the ignorance it breeds. But as for the article, I don't think that there is anything wrong anyone engaging in "educated" cultural exchange, regardless of their skin color. Intermingling between cultures after all is not a new phenomena 



@Serai1 @sandiproy @Patrick McEvoy-Halston  If a white person does a better belly dance, I hope she's frank about her accomplishment -- "I've set the new standard." This author would dislike her for not having abandoned the art form, even as there's no way she'd be able to note any legitimate improvement at all. But it'd be up to us to decide what we'd have on our hands here. 
Do we decide it was true German technological innovation but over Jewish bodies, kind of thing?  Or rather that its quantity of substance was such that it became template for origins, the original -- the starting point, like Shakespeare out of whatever mass of written/oral history from whatever peoples he borrowed/appropriated from. 

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You should be happy that your culture is bringing people joy.  I know many people whose lives are saved by taking up a new form of dance or art, and it's so important for us to teach, encourage and welcome rather than to judge and complain when times start to change.  I would think that a "feminist of color" would understand that we each have the right, as human beings, to do what makes us happy without criticism from others.  You are not a feminist if you are not lovingly supporting all women, and you are not unprejudiced if you are not lovingly supporting all races.




@RNoelle  You should be happy that your culture is bringing people joy.
Not if it comes at the expense of demeaning / erasing her culture, which she argues it does. In her mind, not speaking out would be denying "your" reaching a higher joy, which comes from learning to be disgusted by being able to take pleasure in practices that cause harm to other people. 
You are not a feminist if you are not lovingly supporting all women, and you are not unprejudiced if you are not lovingly supporting all races.
She believes she is supporting women. She's not simply arguing for what she believes is right, but what is best for those who currently take so much pleasure from an artform they've ostensibly appropriated. Pushed to leave the profession/ hobby aside, she believes they'd find something else to involve themselves in, that they'd know wouldn't come at the expense of anyone else, and so would lend at the end to more profound satisfaction. 
She believes her scope to be much, much larger than your own. Ostensibly she'd read this comment section ready to be challenged, but would sigh at so many not showing they were even quite able to see what was straightly put before them, and so leave sadly further confirmed that the world still needs to dumbly Disneyize the multifarious and interesting but different. 
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What's hard about understanding where she's coming from? Euros colonised the world; brutalised cultures out of several nations; proceeded to set a standard of human consideration and economic welfare based on how well those they colonised took to their imposed cultures; and then turned around and mocked the cultures of those they colonised, all the while benefiting from it in terms of money, recognition and social status. As long as it's part of the colonisers' culture, they consider it a culture. That's why there's culture appropriation and it's rejected and disdained by a many. And no, it's not in the past. It's still happening. You want to share a culture? How about learning about its history and seeing as to why some people refuse you to partake in it. 









@shuleyapili I'd like to see a world in which we can all learn about other people's cultures and engage in them respectfully, rather than telling someone what they can or cannot do because of the color of their skin. The past is important to remember, but we live in the now and shape the future. 









@Gryffy111 that would be splendid. And it will be the case in an era where the effects of colonisation are no longer a factor; or being felt around the globe. When I don't have to speak English to be deemed intelligible; when professionalism doesn't have to come in a standard Euro-cut suit; when my culture doesn't become valid when a British Saxon engages it. When that happens, then culture sharing won't be a problem. For now, those effects are very real.









@shuleyapili  Excellent points. However, I suspect culture sharing is part of the process of freeing ourselves from the dominant culture model of human relations.  Culture sampling and sharing, while awkward and ugly at times, is not the same as appropriation and exploitation.




@shuleyapili   Your pretense that our era is the only one in which a lingua franca has been considered necessary is ridiculous.  The term itself belies what you're saying, since it was coined to indicate the FRENCH that was once considered the best language in the world.  Before that, Latin was the language of the scholarly.  There was a time when Arabic was spoken throughout the Middle East because it was the language of cultured people.  (Funny, that still holds.  Colonialism, anyone?)  So please stop asserting that the problems of colonialism and subjugation are all with "white" people, instead of humanity in general.  When America's star has fallen and some other people take over the world, then THEIR language and customs will be deemed "better", and everyone else will have to conform to THEM - as has been true for the past five thousands years, at least.




@Serai1 Seriously, are you even reading what I've written or just selectively picking words and assuming they make the argument? In the times you're speaking of, that was in Europe. Did it last? I don't hear Italy having Latin, Arabic, or French as its native language with which it conducts business and social functions. Those in Africa who cared to learn it, learned it courtesy of our learning centres; same goes for Arabia with Amaric and Arabic; same goes for Europe; which by the way, used the learning of multiple languages for their class structure.  Learning, is different from having it imposed on you just so that you can live an average life. Learning because it's the only option for you to do anything and be considered intelligent due to colonisation; is a problem.




@Janina I agree; sharing is not appropriation. I hope to see the generation in which the former will be the case, and not the latter. Unfortunately, my generation is not it. I'm hoping the next learns differently.





@shuleyapili @Serai1  What?  What do you mean "did it last"  Do you really have such an unbelievably narrow view of history?  "Latin" wasnt "Europe".  That was Rome which was about as far west as "civilization" extended.  And you can *bet your ass* it was imposed on people.  And it lasted for *hundreds* of years.

We're already on the road to the "white empire" (English speaking) that you despise heading for extinction, so be happy!

Soon you *will* need to learn Chinese because *that* will be the "lingua Franca".  OR, you can refuse to and be marginalized.

This is part of the human condition.  Cultures rise and fall, become dominant and are subjugated.  The only difference is these days, folks like you, are *only* able to recognize the Euro implementation of this and (racistly, I might add), ignore the hundreds and hundreds of times it happened (and continues to happen) in Africa, Asia and the Americas before "white people" ever really existed.

"White people" are just the *latest* dominant culture.  They won't be the last.  And attitudes like yours almost *guarantee* that we can never move past it because you insist on speaking purely in terms of victim and victimizer.




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@shuleyapili   The extraordinary blinkeredness involved in pretending that Europeans are the only people to have indulged in colonization, or to have wiped out previous cultures, is truly amazing.  You need to do some research and learn about the history of other people.

The Aztecs nearly wiped out the Maya.  The Sioux displaced the Central Plains tribes.  The Han Chinese brutalized and marginalized the Yi people.  The Japanese damn near obliterated the Ainu.  And we'll not even get into the nearly continual warfare and bloodshed between the different African tribes, who've spent millenia cheerfully butchering each other, or the morass that has been the Middle East for the last four thousand years.  Remember those fun party boys, the Goths, Visigoths, and Huns?  Yeah, they weren't models of peace and friendliness either.  This kind of behavior has been endemic to humanity for thousands of years, so let's not pretend that EVERY nation on earth (including the Arabs, by the way) haven't indulged in it.







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@Serai1 Actually, I responded to someone with the example of Japanese imperialism's effect on South Korea and China and directed them to look if South Korea or China are in any particular love with Japan or if Japanese people tend to engage in cultures of either nation. I also pointed out that Arabia's colonisation of Europe led to the disdain Europeans have for Arabia; 500 years on. The Native Americans, any reports of them mocking the Mayan culture? Is their standard practised worldwide today? The effects of the Han are what? I'm not reading anywhere that says the Han take up the Yi cultures to make fun of them and profit off of them by having Yi museum artifacts and feeling exotic when they own items native to the Yi. As for Africa, don't talk about it if you're going to determine they were tribes and not nations. And as for warfare, you should know there wasn't as much warfare as it is presently. But you're right, there were wars; and those nations did not uptake cultures of their enemies. You think the Cameroonians are busy exchanging dance styles with the nations that used to war with them when the former practise breast ironing because the latter targeted their women so much that disfiguring them was seemingly the only way to save themselves from being stolen? This isn't simply about who brutalised who; but what that brutalisation was about and in this case, it was about imposing an imperial nation's standard for culture while erasing the cultures of those they colonised. The effects of colonisation are still being felt to this day.







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@shuleyapili @Serai1  There are "reservations" in China where the last few Yi have to exhibit their arts in order to survive, exactly the way Native Americans have to do so here in America.  And your idea that "tribes" are not "nations" is absurd, since the concept of "nations" is a EUROPEAN one.  Drawing lines on maps is not something the Africans did in the first place, so bringing "nations" into it is completely irrelevant.  The tribes in Africa WERE "nations", just as the tribes in America were, until the Europeans came along and introduced their bizarre notion of dividing the earth like a freaking jigsaw puzzle.

And yes, the effects of colonialism are being felt today - but those colonized by "white" people AREN'T THE ONLY ONES FEELING THEM.  Go ask the few remaining Maya what they think of the Aztecs who destroyed their empire.  Go ask the Ainu - if you can find any - whether they like the Japanese.  You want this to be about the narrow little definition you want to give it, and nothing more.  Well, it isn't, and your bitterness towards "white" people does not make them the problem.  As I said, this is a problem with HUMANS, and unless you admit that, you're just pounding your personal drum to the exclusion of all else.  Fine, if that's your idea of a good time, but don't expect to be taken seriously here.





@Serai1  Well said and accurate.  Couldnt agree more with you and you said it better than I tried to a few posts up.  Good luck getting through though. It's *especially funny* to use HAN CHINESE, of all people, as the example of "gentle appropriation". 

Thats just *staggering* ignorance given that the Han Chinese have been near the TOP OF THE LIST of aggressively ethnocentric cultures for... oh... 5000 years or so (in other words before "Euro white people" had any recognizable civilization)





@shuleyapili @Serai1  And as for warfare, you should know there wasn't as much warfare as it is presently. But you're right, there were wars; and those nations did not uptake cultures of their enemies. You think the Cameroonians are busy exchanging dance styles with the nations that used to war with them when the former practise breast ironing because the latter targeted their women so much that disfiguring them was seemingly the only way to save themselves from being stolen?
Steven Pinker has just written a book arguing warfare has actually decreased over time, so your argument -- favourable to those who for some reason feel the need to compliment disgust at colonization with making folk heroes of the oppressed -- is currently in some disagreement. 
I'm actually surprised it hasn't been more controversial, his book, because his argument is that tribal people slaughtered more people per capita than nations do. Transferred to colonialism, it would mean the Europeans who eradicated / subjugated tribes were eradicating / subjugating peoples who were killing more people per capita than they were. 
If this is the truth of it, where are we? It doesn't mean we don't reconsider rejecting traditions we've borrowed from in the wrong spirit -- in the spirit of appropriation, of theft, that is. If Europeans were projecting their own unwanted demons/attributes onto other people and eradicating them for their possession of it -- which is what all war is about, by the by -- maybe some of this pathology does somehow carry along with the artifact / tradition appropriation that went along with it? 
Saying humans all do this, shouldn't really satisfy, because if what human are mostly depends on warmth in childrearing, this may be on the considerable upswing, as spanking becomes illegal in countries, and footbinding (old reference, sorry), genital mutilation, authoritative parenting, "hard love" is more and more being considered beholden only to the more regressives in our cultures, not the mainstream.
I still say that at the end of the day I think we be very cautious about halting any practice people are currently making good human play in. Depression culture is already a halt to a lot of people's good times, and this may not only partake of but be an effective manifestation of its deadening defining spirit. This writer may think she's about making people grow, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, but unbeknownst, she might just be salvo for an effective avenue that's developing to further ensure no activity takes place spared an aspect of scrutiny. "We acted as if we were all under watch" -- a subsequent time and generation might reject us for. 






So let me convert this to something relating to African American culture so I, as an African American can better understand.
Let's use krumping.  Like belly dancing it carries a strong history and deep roots that are a part of the culture of a specific race of people.  It has grown over the years and has maintained it's association with black culture.
So let's say there is hip hop/krump dance battle somewhere on campus and there are "white girls" on one of these teams. This situation can go down one of two ways.
Option 1:  It's white girl A's turn to face her opponent and she starts krumping, and she starts krumping WELL. She is wearing baggy clothes because that is how you dress when you krump.
white girl A is serious.  She knows how difficult it is to krump and look good, she understands that aggression is apart of krumping and uses it to release her own in a positive way. She approaches krumping like others approach ballet.  She wears the baggy pants instead of a tutu and practices and learn from those who know better than she does.  She matches her expression to that of a serious krumper like a ballerina smiles on stage and plays her part of dancer. She treats it just like she would treat ballet if that's what she wanted to learn.
But ballet didn't speak to her, krumping did.
The black people in the crowd go nuts chants of "white girl can KRUMP??!!!. DAMMNNN. GO WHITE GIRL!" and i am among them.
Option 2: White girl B goes up to face her opponent.  She wears baggy clothes as well but also a fake gold tooth and cornrows and a shirt that says "black people have more fun"  
She only wanted to learn how to krump because she wanted to show people white people dance just as good as black people. The shirt is unessacary and offensive.  Cornrows have no direct relationship to krumping and neither do gold teeth.  She added them in an attempt to look more authentic but ends up making a mockery of the dance and the people it came from.
she starts krumping, and she is also good. She ends her dance by twerking then adopting a BBoy stance.  
The black people in the audience clap but look at each other with confusion and anger and I am among them.
"why did she feel like she needed cornrows?" I don't have a gold tooth do you have a gold tooth?" "what's with that shirt?"
How i interpreted the story you are upset with both girls but in reality one has learned as much as she can and respects the dance as an art and recognizes where it comes from while the other is inexcusably appropriating.
We shouldn't stop people from learning our cultures, the more they know the less likely they are to appropriate. i would never stop a friend who wanted to krump for genuine reasons just as i would hope they would never stop me from leaning to irish jig.
sorry if there are typos but good gracious i had to get that out.








Exactly. I've been part of an Educational Cultural Dance Troupe.  We've represented dances from all over the world. Our members come from all backgrounds and cultures. We take the time to understand the history, meaning of the dances and movements, and the costuming/clothing. 
We teach our audiences that Dance is a Universal Language-one to be respected, treasured, and ENJOYED with all. 




@Dai Jackson  She wears the baggy pants instead of a tutu and practices and learn from those who know better than she does.

The shirt is unessacary and offensive.  Cornrows have no direct relationship to krumping and neither do gold teeth.  She added them in an attempt to look more authentic but ends up making a mockery of the dance and the people it came from.
she starts krumping, and she is also good. She ends her dance by twerking then adopting a BBoy stance.  
I'm pretty sure that a young African American might innovate in a way that bears little resemblance to tradition and have it IDed as having made a mockery of the dance and've having been rude to ancestors. We're becoming a very conservative culture if respect is given so much automatic due, and the brash, slighted so quickly as obscene.  









Eric Clapton was engaging in minstrelsy? Pete Seeger was stealing the intellectual property of Zulu artists? UB40 failed to register with the Jamaican cultural board? Or did they get away with it because they were good? When Blondie rapped we winced. Bad. When Johnny Winter accompanied Muddy Waters we melted in our seats. Both wrong? One wrong? Is it flattery? Mimicry? Appropriation? Not that there's anything wrong with the ivory tower of cultural discourse. Some of my best friends are academics.



o
@Jon Greenbaum  Pete Seeger was stealing the intellectual property of Zulu artists?
Yes he was -- Western culture over colonized: the mathematics delivered in this article as to determining when borrowing is theft and suppression. I understand you don't believe this but you'll feel better once you've exculpated Seeger out of your system. Next time you're in the mood for it, you'll listen directly to descendants of Zulus, and however much I'm sure it's beyond great -- especially when you've schooled yourself to be properly receptive to it, entwined as it is more in relevant context and history -- spared contagion of criminality, trust me, it'll end up sounding soother to your soul. 



Did Arabs invent contemporary multiculturalist sensitivities and orthodoxies? Or did this writer misappropriate the inventions of another culture and use them to her advantage?


@Victor Erimita  If she took it from us, it's not appropriated. Big bully stealing from small = appropriation. Small sweet innocents in harmonious perfected relationships with one another, taking from big bully = to their gigantic credit: does no damage, and sometimes even big jerks have things going for them. 

Well, thank you for clearing that up. Just make up the rules as you go along, do you?

@Patrick McEvoy-Halston This is more of the same kind of poppycock this article is brimming with.  None of us would have heard Zulu music or any music from anywhere had not people like Pete Seeger brought it to us.  Let's demonize him now that he's dead.  Sounds good.  If we are always going to be accusing one another of "stealing" because we dabble and cross pollinate in the sounds and colors and textures of the world around us (as others dabble in those of my culture) there is absolutely no hope for any kind of world peace.  Just constant bickering about who did what first and who gets the credit for it and so on.  Meanwhile the planet is in dire straits and we're bitching about white belly dancers and non Zulu people playing Zulu music.  No wonder we never get anywhere...



@blue @Emporium  You could just stick to your own culture's creations, OR those you don't stand in a bullying relationship with. Borrow French or Japanese -- no problem!

Peter Seeger was a magnificent artist, and it's regrettable that once we've matured in judgment we'll realize we have to exculpate him from our culture.

But when we use the memory we've cleared up to introduce ourselves more to music we've birthed, or music borrowed from cultures we stood more as equal "bros" to, we'll realize at some point we've supplanted heaven for a compromised mid-way purgatory, that had made us more sour than we had realized. 



@Patrick McEvoy-Halston you don't know, however, what my "culture" is, let alone my race.  You sound like a cultural snob of the worst sort.  The Arabs have their own history of colonization and "appropriation".  As do the French, the Japanese, the Chinese, the English, the Germans, and so on.  After a certain point it becomes ridiculous to keep going on this trajectory where we're judged on our cultural purity.  There has been so much interbreeding among the cultures that I don't know that you can find one at this point that is absolutely devoid of outside influences.  And a kid who goes to school with other kids from everywhere as is often the case in the public school system in the USA, is that kid supposed to know where he's supposed to fit on the purity chart?  Just as I fight against the borders that keep people out of countries, I fight against this kind of border guarding too.  You can't have one without the other.
@blue @Patrick McEvoy-Halston  Good thing postcolonialists have given us something to focus on then. We know there were Europeans colonizing, and we know they raped and ravaged the diaspora. With this we can do a wrap up. Just extricate from ourselves everything we gained from that wrong. 
If people cruelly start complicating this good deed by revealing the diaspora as some complicated mix of stealing and pillaging as well, which'll lend to justifying holding our stolen items tight and undoing our moral evolution, we'll have to will ourselves to see the diaspora as an ecology -- something that may not of been entirely nice but that had sorted itself out before we bullied our way in.  
@Serai1 @Patrick McEvoy-Halston  Alright, I'll start. I've already had my chance to say goodbye to Seeger so I'll just pass him by entire … I vow to never listen to his music again, and let what I have listened to seep from my brain. This is a big step for me as I love the guy, but I'm convinced it's necessary … and also manageable. 
What strikes me as manageable as well, is stopping our appropriation of belly dancing. It's resonance for us is magical, enticing, and it's hard to imagine its absence, but we know it's something at least do-able. 
And here then we're all on along -- through baby steps -- towards a goal that each step along the way will actually seem plausible: extricating the entirety of everything we've ever borrowed from cultures we cruelly colonized out of our culture; assign it back to them, the people we battered and suppressed while grabbing away their golden cultures for our own use, and back away enough to let it grow naturally. 
@Patrick McEvoy-Halston @Serai1  Hey, if you want to deprive yourself of beautiful music for reasons of some nebulous intellectual breast-beating, knock yourself out.  Me, I'll enjoy whatever music I like, thank you.  I hope nobody takes up your attitude, because then we'd get trapped in our own little aesthetic ghettoes, cowering in fear lest we hear a few bars of some "inappropriate" music and have the Thought Police come after us.
@Serai1 @Emporium  Me, I'll enjoy whatever music I like, thank you.
Is this her crime, then? She put a small crink in your endeavouring to enjoy whatever the hell you like, and this set you off like Marie Antoinette being asked to forgo some cake so the people might eat?
Maybe you too could learn to forgo a bit of "cake" so that subjected peoples get a bit of their own back. 
@Serai1  I'm teasing, Serai, and I'll stop. But the fact that she actually argues Westerners stop belly-dancing was, in a way, admirably bold. We all applaud the ending of black-face, but here she presented us with how it might have felt to the people who first absented itself it, something they were used to, took pleasure from: could we do the same to our contemporary equivalent?, is an interesting question. 
Should we? I think most of us agree it depends on the case -- blackface, passed it in full measure. She's saying if we're committed to the principle behind that there's a lot more erasing yet to be done. I think she's right -- it would be consistent to do more erasing, and that honestly if we're going to stop her cold we'd probably have to somehow argue that blackface wasn't something that needed to be stopped, if it wasn't just mockery, but people pouring themselves into vessels they found fascinating. Anyone want to try that?
As far as my actual opinion of her argument, I put that forward in full about 500 comments ago. 







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