What is Cultural Appropriation?

Meaning of Cultural Appropriation

Cultural appropriation is the use of typical elements of a given culture by people who belong to a different cultural group.

This is a concept of anthropology and is the subject of many debates, mainly because it is considered an acculturation – fusion of external cultural elements – by a dominant culture over a minority.


Based on this interpretation, cultural appropriation is seen as a negative practice, since it consists of using elements of a specific culture without understanding the symbolic and historical meanings about them.

Anthropological studies on cultural appropriation (also called ” cultural borrowing “) arose with the intensification of contact between different cultures around the world.

Among the elements that are usually culturally appropriate are cultural expressions that range from music, dance, typical costumes, linguistic expressions, art, cuisine, accessories, etc.

Cultural appropriation is not considered a crime, but there are people who consider it a great disrespect from an ethical point of view, since the appropriated elements were only accepted by society once they were assimilated by the dominant culture.

For some critics, cultural appropriation becomes a problem when the meanings of these elements are distorted from their historical and cultural contexts of origin, assuming distorted interpretations that do not reveal the essence of the ethnic group to which they originally belong.

Appropriation and Exchange

Cultural appropriation should not be confused with cultural exchange , since the latter allows the exchange of cultural experiences that are shared equally between groups, without the permanence of a dominant.

Appropriation, on the other hand, according to critics, is marked by the submission of a historically oppressed culture to a dominant one.

An example of cultural appropriation is the use of religious elements from certain cultures as fashion adornments by others, which means that all the symbolic and historical weight of these elements is reduced to mere decorative objects.

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