Cultural appropriation is one of the most controversial topics in the arts today. It’s also one of the most misunderstood, largely because of how the topic has been framed in popular media. In our most heated moments, we argue over who has the right to practice and adapt other cultural traditions. At other times, we lose the plot by focusing on issues of freedom of speech. Meanwhile, acts of cultural appropriation continue to emerge and proliferate while muting the voices of Aboriginal peoples, racialized communities, and other marginalized members of our society.
The purpose of this workshop is to disrupt the current conversation by foregrounding the historical contexts of colonialism, orientalism, and minstrelsy, and ultimately by tapping into the power dynamics that inform these histories. We’ll do this by looking at recent controversies from a wide range of the arts, including literature, fashion, and visual art in North America. While this workshop takes a critical stance against cultural appropriation, its main thrust is about audiences, rather than artists, and the importance of using critical analysis when consuming art, regardless of your background.
By the end of this workshop, participants will be able to identify the common tropes and fallacies used within current cultural appropriation debates. They will also be able to re-frame cases of cultural appropriation using a broader historical framework, one that explicitly draws attention to the dynamics of power. Lastly, the participants in this workshop will have the analytical tools that will enable them to start critically engaging and disrupting future acts of cultural appropriation.