Cultural Appropriation

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Cultural appropriation occurs when people from a dominant culture use things from an oppressed culture without acknowledgement, permission and/or payment. A difference in power is a critical component in cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation is most stark when it affects a community that has suffered from colonisation, disenfranchisement or the impacts of poverty. The more you’ve lost, the more oppressive it can be when your remaining resources, such as your cultural assets, are taken. Cultural appropriation can be compared to colonial power, such as the power to assume ownership of land. 

A linked concept to cultural appropriation is ‘whitewashing’ in performance arts – the practice of casting white people to play characters from a different culture, typically when the character will be imbued with dignity, nuance or relatability. Whitewashing erases the presence of people of colour, and transfers their history, culture and experience into white custody.



Photo by Roman Odintsov

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