A sometimes contentions term that’s come to the forefront of discussions about fashion, food, dance and music, “appropriation” has many definitions, but in critical contexts, is generally taken to mean the act of taking something for one’s own use, usually without asking for permission.

“Cultural appropriation”, then, refers to the taking of particular aspects of culture deemed palatable or exotic by the dominant culture, stripping them of context and re-purposing them for alternative functions. In a postcolonial context, these acts of appropriating cultural practice, particularly those now fetishized for their fashionable or health-related benefits, sits at odds with the historic attempt to erase non-Western religious practices, and assimilation attempts on the part of European religious, educational and state forces.

Therefore, the supposed “discovery” of certain cultural styles or practices by those who don’t share those still-continuing extractive histories is problematic and painful for many.

N.B: the concept of “cultural appropriation” does not preclude points of encounter and exchange between cultures and accepts that culture is a fluid entity, whilst wishing to highlight historical structures of erasure and forced assimilation.

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