do you have any guidelines on how a white (not english or american) person can appreciate other (especially the indian) culture(s)? or can't we? where does the border between appreciating and appropriating lie exactly? - Anonymous

To be honest, I’m not the go-to source for questions of appropriation, an agony column for you to feel better about things. But since you asked so verynicely :)

Not everything white people do is appropriation by default, it’s how they do it. Now, I don’t know how your interaction with [desi] culture is going to pan out specifically, & nor shall my word absolve you if you do cross the line.

1) Is it marketed to you as an object/custom from a marginalised culture without any context? If yes/unsure, don’t do it.

2) What are your reasons? Are you appreciating it because you feel bored, or because it’s cool, or you think it’s aesthetically pleasing (“exotic”)? If the answer to any of these is yes/unsure, then don’t do it.

3) What is the history/meaning of objects/languages/rituals in the culture? Are you aware of the meanings/history of these things? Will you be using them in a way that misrepresents them, or diminishes their power? If yes/unsure, don’t do it.

4) Are you comfortable with the understanding that as someone benefiting from imperialism, even if your local history does not have any, you may be contributing to the suppression of others’ cultural symbols, & that by your actions there is a strong possibility of further oppression? Are you willing to work through the nuances of privilege that occur when the question of cultural appropriation is brought up? If your answer to the second is no, and to the first is yes, then don’t do it.

5) If someone from calls you out on appropriation/racism, are you going defend your perceived right to appreciate their heritage, & how they shouldn’t be offended? If the answer is yes/unsure, you definitely shouldn’t do it.

As for your question on desi cultures specifically, what is your view? Does India exist to impart wisdom & for you to ~discover yourself~? Is every dusty person Serene, Vegetarian, & Contemplating Their Place In The Universe? (Hint: they’re not).  If you can see that, then ok, cool.

Cheers,

Thursday.

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