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Cultural Appropriation and the Arts


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Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 What Is Cultural Appropriation? 1

Art, Culture, and Appropriation 1

Types of Cultural Appropriation 5

What is a Culture? 9

Objections to Cultural Appropriation 18

In Praise of Cultural Appropriation 27

2 The Aesthetics of Cultural Appropriation 32

The Aesthetic Handicap Thesis 32

The Cultural Experience Argument 34

Aesthetic Properties and Cultural Context 41

Authenticity and Appropriation 44

Authentic Appropriation 46

Cultural Experience and Subject Appropriation 55

Appropriation and the Authentic Expression of a Culture 60

3 Cultural Appropriation as Theft 63

Harm by Theft 63

Possible Owners of Artworks 64

Cultures and Inheritance 68

Lost and Abandoned Property 70

Cultural Property and Traditional Law 74

Collective Knowledge and Collective Property 78

Ownership of Land and Ownership of Art 85

Property and Value to a Culture 88

Cultures and Intellectual Property 93

Some Conclusions About Ownership and Appropriation 97

The Rescue Argument 102

4 Cultural Appropriation as Assault 106

Other Forms of Harm 106

Cultural Appropriation and Harmful Misrepresentation 107

Harm and Accurate Representation 113

Cultural Appropriation and Economic Opportunity 114

Cultural Appropriation and Assimilation 118

Art, Insignia, and Cultural Identity 120

Cultural Appropriation and Privacy 125

5 Profound Offence and Cultural Appropriation 129

Harm, Offence, and Profound Offence 129

Examples of Offensive Cultural Appropriation 131

The Problem and the Key to its Solution 134

Social Value and Offensive Art 136

Freedom of Expression 137

The Sacred and the Offensive 141

Time and Place Restrictions 143

Toleration of Offensive Art 145

Reasonable and Unreasonable Offence 147

Conclusion: Responding to Cultural Appropriation 152

Summing Up 152

Supporting Minority Artists 154

Envoy 157

Bibliography of Works Cited and Consulted 159

Index 166

About the Author

James O. Young is Professor and Head of the Department of Philosophy, University of Victoria. He has published extensively on philosophy of language and philosophy of art. His previous books include Global Anti-realism (1995) and Art and Knowledge (2001), and he is editor (with Conrad Brunk) of The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009).


“Cultural Appropriation and the Arts, by James O. Young, provides an analytical, comprehensive overview of ethical and aesthetic issues concerning cultural appropriation.”  (Journal of Cult Economy, 25 March 2011)  

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