Tuesday, December 8, 2020

"Rubbing off on one another"

Via an article in Dissent, Ralph Ellison (1914-1994), "in a review of a book about music and race in America," on "cultural appropriation":
It is here, on the level of culture...that elements of the many available tastes, traditions, ways of life, and values that make up the total culture have been ceaselessly appropriated and made their own—consciously, unselfconsciously, or imperialistically—by groups and individuals to whose own backgrounds and traditions they are historically alien. Indeed, it was through this process of cultural appropriation (and misappropriation) that Englishmen, Europeans, Africans, and Asians became Americans.

The Pilgrims began by appropriating the agricultural, military and meteorological lore of the Indians, including much of their terminology. The Africans, thrown together from numerous ravaged tribes, took up the English language and the biblical legends of the ancient Hebrews and were “Americanizing” themselves long before the American Revolution...

Everyone played the appropriation game...Americans seem to have sensed intuitively that the possibility of enriching the individual self by such pragmatic and opportunistic appropriations has constituted one of the most precious of their many freedoms.... [I]n this country things are always all shook up, so that people are constantly moving around and rubbing off on one another culturally.
All Shook Up: The Politics of Cultural Appropriation

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. I will gladly approve any comment that responds directly and politely to what has been posted.