Cultural Appropriation: A Question of Ownership – Daniel Wang Blog Post #11

In an earlier blog post, Reid talked about the root of appropriation. Oftentimes, when we focus on the root of cultural appropriation, we always subconsciously (or consciously) take the side of the minority. In a recent book published by J.K. Rowling, the Native American community was outraged at the apparently elements of cultural appropriation, such as the use of “skinwalkers” (1). Given the history of Native Americans, I believe they had reason to be sensitive and careful about who uses elements of their culture and how they use it. Nonetheless, when the movie Thor came out in 2011, the Norse god Heimdall was played by Idris Elba, who was of African descent. Heimdall, according to the racist half of the faith, is depicted as white in mythology. However, when protests erupted from the racist group over the misrepresentation of Heimdall, they were dismissed as being racist (1).

Heimdall_thor

A picture of Heimdall from Thor  (2011) (2).

Besides bringing our attention to the subjective nature of cultural appropriation, there is the question of ownership. The cultural groups I previously mentioned all claimed ownership to their culture/myth, giving them “a right to control” how their “sacred stories and symbols are used by outsiders” (1). If this question of ownership were valid, then Muslims would prevent anyone from portraying Muhammad while Scandinavians would only allow Nordic actors and actresses to play Norse gods. Is this really what we want? Cultural appropriation is oftentimes tied to a sense of ownership. Thus, this begs the question of who owns culture? Is culture owned? As members of a culture, do we collectively or individually own our culture? I believe these are important questions that need to be answered in order to overcome the perpetual accusations of cultural appropriation.

 

Bibliography

  1. Lind, Michael. “Who Owns Myths and Legends?” The Smart Set. The Smart Set, 31 Mar. 2016. Web. 07 Apr. 2016. <http://thesmartset.com/who-owns-myths-and-legends/&gt;.
  1. Wikia. “Heimdall.” Marvel Movies. Wikia, n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2016. <http://marvel-movies.wikia.com/wiki/Heimdall&gt;.
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