“Culture Vultures”: How Ethnic Minorities Attending Universities Respond to Cultural Appropriation

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Meligrana, Sofia

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University of Guelph

Abstract

Canada is often described as a multicultural mosaic, home to an ethnically diverse population where individuals navigate interacting with their own and other’s cultures. While this implies an organic transmission of cultures, it also invites instances of cultural appropriation and necessitates the challenge of confronting what exactly the concept entails. Cultural appropriation is a complex concept that is inconsistently defined in the literature. This research presents data from semi-structured interviews with 11 university students who identify as ethnic minorities to understand how they conceptualize cultural appropriation and navigate its muddy waters. A media analysis was also conducted to provide additional context. The findings were that cultural appropriation holds an overwhelmingly negative connotation. Key concerns included the exploitation, misrepresentation, erasure, and degradation of marginalized cultures. A guidepost reflecting participants’ viewpoints was developed for evaluating cultural appropriation on a case-by-case basis.

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Keywords

erasure, ethnicity, exploitation, racialization, globalization, culture, cultural production, cultural exchange, cultural appropriation, canada, borrowing, boundaries, multicultural, misrepresent

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