Tag Archives: native appropriations

More Evidence Fashion Has Run Out of Ideas

While the U.S. holiday widely known as Thanksgiving (November 25, this year) is not celebrated in France, the timing of this editorial of and by American designer Tom Ford in the current issue of French Vogue is ironic, to say the least. (Readers might recall that French Vogue handed over the December/January issue to Ford.)

We’ve written several posts as well as linked to many more at Native Appropriations, a l’allure garconniere, and Bitch magazine about the cultural and historical violence such acts of casual racism enact. Here’s one more link to Philip J. Deloria’s book Playing Indian. In it, he explains that the cooptation of Native objects and practices are at once “the bedrock for creative American identities, but . . . also one of the foundations (slavery and gender relations being two others) for imagining and performing domination and power in America.” Deloria’s book should be required reading for every American but also everyone in the fashion industry. (This means you too, TopShop.)

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Get It: HEAD DRESS

The cover of the zine HEAD DRESS, which consists of a list of words associated with the "native" headdress.

Thanks to Julia from a l’allure garconniere, I have downloaded my very own copy of Kate Burch’s zine HEAD DRESS, “composed entirely of found images from blogs, juxtaposed with critical quotes from theorists and bloggers examining the effects of cultural appropriation.” (An excerpt from the Coco Fusco citation I posted a while back is included! For more, some of our posts on the headdress can be found under the tag “native appropriations.”) Because it’s a free download from the awesome Zine Library, Julia suggests,

print out a bunch of your own copies and drop them off where you think they might be most thought-provoking. a few ideas:

  • thrift stores where you regularly see “hipsters”
  • coffee shops in urban areas
  • music venues/festivals where you have seen aforementioned cultural appropriating hipsters
  • offending stores that sell clothes labelled “tribal” or “native” or “cherokee” (urban outfitters, forever21, bluefly, etc)

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THEORY FLASHBACK: Richard Fung, “Working Through Cultural Appropriation” (1993)

Those who advocate against cultural appropriation often assume the definition of this term to be self-evident; those who disparage the formulation make it into something ridiculous. The critique of cultural appropriation has suffered precisely due to a lack of clarity which leaves it open to misapplication. Initially propounded as a concept to explicate and justify cultural self-determination, the term has itself been appropriated by opposition to discredit any attempt at redefining the status quo through anti-racist activism. Thus, in discussing cultural appropriation, it becomes necessary to unpack the various meanings, emotions, and agendas with which the term is invested, and to sift through and foreground the different contexts within which positions have been drawn up.

The primary dictionary meaning of the verb appropriate is “to take and use as one’s own.” Despite the rhetoric of various nationalisms, there are no unique, pure cultures today; people have steadily learned the ways of others and taken them as their own. By this definition, most of what we think of as culture involves some degree of appropriation. Foods, religions, languages and clothes all betray contacts with a larger world, which includes our closest neighbours, as well as distant imperial centres. There are no clear boundaries where one culture ends and another begins. But while some of this fusion may be celebrated as exchange, a larger proportion is the result of domination. The task of establishing cultural hegemony in the colonial context, for instance, entails the supplanting or harnessing of the social, economic and cultural systems of the subjugated, by those of the dominant power. For Native people in Canada, this has meant an often violent process of assimilation, coupled with the marketing of superficial difference either for profit (the tourism industry), or political gain (official multiculturalism). Those who raise the issue of cultural appropriation see it as a process that is not only wrong, but also incomplete—thus as one which is necessary and possible to organize against. The critique of cultural appropriation is therefore first and foremost a strategy to redress historically established inequities by raising questions about who controls and benefits from cultural resources.

In working through the question of appropriation, it is crucial to remember that all oppression does not express itself through the same means. Even within the category of racism, there are significant differences in the ways that the various racial others of the West have figured, both within representation, and in the economics of cultural production. Colonialism operated differently in Africa, Asia, and the Americas, and varied also according to the colonizing power concerned. To enslave and uproot the population, it was convenient that Africa be represented as a place without a culture or a history of its own—requiring, of course, the excision of Egypt from that continent. On the other hand, the aesthetic contributions of India, China, and Japan had long been valorized in Europe, and it is the products of their culture and agriculture that motivated and justified colonialism in those parts. Diasporic Africans and Asians in the Americas have different histories from each other and, in turn, from those of Native peoples: slavery is not indentureship is not internment is not head tax is not residential schools. The ways that we various “others” are integrated into and excluded from contemporary commercial culture may be related, but they are also marked by crucial differences.

As a person of Chinese West Indian heritage, I feel the need to preserve what I know, and to make that knowledge and history an acknowledged component of Canadian identity and Canadian culture; this is, in part, what motivates my work to eradicate the underlying Eurocentrism of our systems of cultural funding. It also forms my interest in developing art that is relevant to the Canadian context. Having a sense that my “source” cultures follow their own paths, that the cultural forms of China and Trinidad can and will accommodate, appropriate, repel and resist the pressures of western cultural imperialism in their own ways, means that for me (here in the Diaspora) it makes no sense to freeze Chinese or West Indian cultural expression according to some nostalgic idea of what it was “truly” like. For one thing, these forms were always changing even as I experienced them in my childhood, and further, this effort to fix and fossilize “other” cultures, in opposition to the continuously developing modern and now postmodern culture of the West is, after all, the central and most insidious trope of multiculturalism.

There is, however, a special urgency to the preservation and autonomy of aboriginal cultural resources, which I think makes the issue qualitatively different from those of diasporic people of colour. As Tuscarora artist Jolene Rickard said recently at a conference I attended, “this is all there is; if this goes, that’s the end!” Aboriginal cultures are cultures deprived of a state; by definition they exist as “minority” cultures within a dominant national context—Thai culture in Thailand is not considered aboriginal, whereas the Dai (Thai speaking) culture of neighbouring China is. Given the systematic attempts by the Canadian state to destroy First Nations cultures, economies and social systems, the desire to preserve and reconstruct them cannot nonchalantly be dismissed according to mechanical and simplistic readings of the critiques of essentialism or authenticity. That is not to say that these ideas are invalid or unimportant. It must however be recognized that the anthropological gaze and the discourse of authenticity is not the only mode of othering Third World, indigenous and non-white peoples. This is accompanied by a total disregard for accuracy in the public images about these people. Further, the critique of cultural appropriation doesn’t necessarily require an essentialist understanding of identity.

–Richard Fung, Summer 1993, “Working Through Cultural Appropriation,” FUSE Magazine V. XVI n 5+6, 16-24, excerpted here to situate what is significant and specific to the indigenous “condition” of being historically subject to forcible alienability.

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Cruel (Tribal) Summer

This image from the most recent New York-based Pixie Market email features a thin, presumably white model with a hipster headdress and a "tribal" bathing suit called "The Eagle Has Landed," in a print dubbed "Tigerlily," I'm going to guess named after the British author J.M. Barrie's "Indian princess" from Peter Pan. The graphic patterns that surround her appear to reference ikat dyed or African wax print fabrics, which have their own transnational circuits of circulation and consumption under the shadow of colonialism.

This image from the most recent New York-based Pixie Market email features a thin, presumably white model with a hipster headdress and a "tribal" bathing suit called "The Eagle Has Landed," in a print dubbed "Tigerlily." The graphic patterns that surround her appear to reference ikat dyed or African wax print fabrics, which trace another transnational circuit of production and consumption under the shadow of colonialism. (Having originated in Indonesia, the material was exported to England and the Netherlands, then exported again to West Africa, in the shortest version of the story.)

Calling Native Appropriations and My Culture Is Not a Trend! It’s 2:30 a.m. and as I’m sleepily-anxiously editing a section of one of my chapters, I received this in my inbox. I’m going to come back to this later when I’m more coherent (I probably shouldn’t be editing my manuscript in this condition), but for now, let us again consider how the term “tribal” is both referentially empty (there is no “there,” no truth to be found in this collage and its lumping together of distinct peoples under the “tribal”) and at the same time overflowing with multiple forms of alienation that often forcibly estrange a people from themselves, from history, from life. To be made “tribal” via these forms of alienation is far too often to be “out of time,”* uncivilized, antimodern, backwards, dead or might-as-well-be-dead.

What does it mean to take note of these “minor” events –a presumably white girl in a most certainly kitschy headdress, for instance– that normalize these histories of estrangement, these forms of alienation? It is not simply to refuse contact or cultural and monetary exchange (though sometimes it is important to do so), but instead, to recall that these histories and forms, as well as their effects, are still alive, and still devastating.

* Having looked at the Pixie Market site this morning, only to discover that the description for the bathing suit names the print “Tigerlily,” the notion that “Indians” are understood as “out of time” is particularly resonant. Peter Pan‘s British author J.M. Barrie located his “Indian princess,” Tiger Lily, in Never Never Land, a no-zone of both temporal distance and arguably infantile stasis. (Though I’m working with my vague memory of the Disney animated film here!) As a commenter pointed out, this combination of “tribal” elements would appear unique to “America,” but it is also a “transnational America,” implicating interconnected webs of unequal exchange.

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More Native Appropriations, Heritage Capitalism, and Fashion on Antiques Roadshow

This post is inspired by Sarah Scaturro‘s comments to one of my previous posts about the Black Fashion Museum Collection. In her comments, she mentions the Save Our African-American Treasures program, which she describes as “an Antiques Roadshow (minus the price appraisal) type of event” that travels to different cities to discover, preserve, and celebrate the material cultural histories of African Americans.

One of the reasons I was so intrigued by this program is precisely because it doesn’t operate through the heritage capitalist logics of the Antiques Roadshow on PBS. From what I can tell, the Save Our African-American Treasures program is primarily a conservation effort and not a public display of one’s vested interest in the heritage of Americana. It’s the Forest Gump-like display and valorization of what I can only describe as “heritage capitalism” by the predominantly white appraisers and guests that irks me about the Antiques Roadshow. (Why is there so little scholarship on the Antiques Roadshow‘s circuits of commodities, capitalism, and racial citizenship?)

I began watching the Antiques Roadshow on and off just a couple of months ago. What I found amusing about the show is the guests’ reactions to the appraisals of their family heirlooms – you can tell when someone is genuinely surprised or disappointed with the estimate and when they’re feigning surprise. Also funny (to me, at least) are the various stories guests tell about how they or their families acquired these objects. Most are pretty quotidian stories about unexpected discoveries at yard sales, thrift stores, and estate sales but some are really grand narratives about their genetic linkages to American founding fathers, European royalty, and a motley crew of adventure-seeking, risk-taking, fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants, off-the-beaten-path family relatives who acquired Persian rugs, Chinese Ming vases (always Ming era), French antique jewelry, and Native American dolls in their world adventures. I have to admit that I get a little giddy when the appraisers myth-bust these stories. There was an episode devoted to family myth-busting, if I remember correctly.  Actually, Marie Antoinette never owned this hair comb set you inherited from your great-aunt. It’s likely a reproduction made in the 1940s in Watertown, New York.

Other than the human interest aspects of the show, I never found it that interesting. (It’s probably because I wouldn’t know a Biedermeier from an Oscar Meyer, as Martin Crane put it in the Frasier episode featuring the Antiques Roadshow called “A Tsar is Born”.) But my casual disinterest turned into a serious criticism of the show when I caught this recent appraisal of a Tlingit (indigenous people of Alaska) bowl and ladle.

The guest narrates a valiant story about Colonel Charles Erskine Scott Wood (the great-great-grandfather of the guest),who was on a “scientific expedition” to the Sitka area of Alaska in the spring of 1877 when he somehow came upon this bowl and ladle. The guest is unclear on the details: “And I don’t know specifically if he was given these or if he may have bartered something.” (That these objects might have been stolen is not a possibility imagined by the guest but one that I immediately considered.)

Note the partial image of Colonel Charles Erskine Scott Wood decked out in classic imperialist garb.

After her story, the appraiser fills in the details about the history of the bowl and ladle telling her and viewers, “These would have been considered family heirlooms of the Tlingit people.” “These objects are alive in the Native consciousness.” “It’s as rare as can be. It’s a Native American masterpiece.” The guest nods and utters a few “wow”s while she listens. (Meanwhile, I’m screaming, Give them back! Give them back!)

The excitement builds, reaching the climactic event: the actual appraisal. “The mountain sheep horn ladle at auction would sell in the range of about $75,000 . . . at auction this bowl would realize easily in the $175,000 to $225,000 range.”  Overcome with emotion about her cultural-capital inheritance of the spoils of history, she responds thusly:

The guest’s facial gesture projects a self-satisfied smugness that exemplifies the privileges of heritage capitalism. Hardly concerned about verifying how someone elses rare “family heirlooms” and “masterpieces” came into her family’s possession, she’s simply thrilled to have them.

More important than the monetary value of these objects, is the wealth they materially signify: the wealth that comes from centuries’ long and continuous accumulation of property and assets, the emotional and physical security and entitlements such property and assets enable, and the ability to pass down to future generations the socioeconomic status that inheres to such property and assets. This wealth secures and reproduces, as George Lipsitz explains in his book with the same name, “the possessive investment in whiteness.”

Whiteness is more than a racial identification; it’s a racial inheritance of a history of privilege, property, and opportunity secured by and through heritage capitalism. More still, “the advantages of whiteness,” as Lipsitz asserts, “[are] carved out of other people’s disadvantages.” In situating the bowl and ladle within her family history in the context of a public television show, these objects become public objects of a particular heritage of whiteness. Their public display publicly recognizes and reaffirms this racial narrative of American heritage – one that depends on the historical and ongoing disadvantaging of Tlingit people and their descendants. The significance of the bowl and ladle to the Tlingit are contained and limited to the ways their exotica adds to the wealth of the guest’s inheritance, to the way they help to accumulate further the possessive investment in whiteness. Through the  Antiques Roadshow, “the structural and cultural forces that racialize rights, opportunities, and life chances in [the U.S.]” are sentimentalized as heritage and secured as natural (Lipsitz).

Such appropriations are not external to fashion. Mimi’s compilation of blog posts addressing “native appropriations” in so-called hipster fashions as well as the numerous comments we received about this issue bear this out well. The bowl and the ladle at the Antiques Roadshow, like the feather headdress at Urban Outfitters, are put into the service of  “materializing,” in Philip Deloria’s words, “a romantic past” forged by a long and persistent tradition in America of “playing Indian.” This tradition, Deloria reminds, “clings tightly to the contours of power” to create a national subjectivity of whiteness constituted through racially gendered and classed “contrasts.”

The recent addition of clothes as a category of antiques explored on the Antiques Roadshow makes alternative programs like the Save Our African-American Treasures program all the more important for materializing non-dominant histories and for articulating a radical politics of vintage. (Mimi’s already begun this project in her series of posts organized under the category “Vintage Politics!)

If you’re interested in watching the fashion appraisals on Antique Roadshow, look for episodes in which appraiser of antique clothing, lace, and textiles Karen Augusta appears.

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THEORY FLASH! Coco Fusco, “Who’s Doin’ the Twist?” in English Is Broken Here (1995)

Photo found at mycultureisnotatrend.tumblr.com.

Like Minh-Ha, I’m dedicating my time this week to my manuscript (and also all the end-of-the-academic-year functions, like graduations and awards ceremonies for “the kids”). But the most recent iteration of the phenomena of “native appropriations” sent me to my bookshelves for some choice commentary, stirred by vague memories of the same damn debate in days of yore. (And I think we actually have quite a number of posts here that speak to some of the general structural and ideological issues at hand, if not to the specifics.)

Interdisciplinary scholar and artist Coco Fusco, in an essay called “Who’s Doin’ The Twist? Notes on Cultural Appropriation” (published in her collection with the genius title English is Broken Here: Notes on Cultural Fusion in the Americas), offers some useful analytics for unpacking the premises of some of the defensive and hostile responses to Jessica Yee’s Bitch post, for instance, that claim a diffuse “right” or freedom to wear whatever one might want.

In this essay, Fusco addresses those moves by an aesthetic avant-garde to appropriate the signs and symbols of racial otherness in order to enhance their own identities as transgressive personalities, akin to bell hooks’ concept of “eating the Other,” and we can easily see how her criticisms of the avant-garde myth of originality (to cite Rosalind Krauss) might apply to the hipster or hippie in the headdress:

Writing and talking about cultural appropriation, I reposition myself in a somewhat precarious way within a society that seeks to deny how segregated it is; I go from being a “minority” critic dutifully explaining otherness to one who addresses whites as agent in an ongoing dynamic of racialization. This shift in terms disrupts the commonly held assumption that desire for the Other is in itself a way of eliminating racial equality. Furthermore, to speak of whiteness as a way of being in the world still disturbs many of those for whom a racialized discourse is in itself a minority discourse, a mode of marginalization. Dominant cultural and white avant-garde defenses are cast in terms of aesthetic freedom (But why can’t I use what I want as an artist?) and transgression of bourgeois banality (But I cross boundaries and therefore I rebel too). What is more fundamentally at stake than freedom, I would argue, is power — the power to choose, the power to determine value, and the right of the more powerful to consume without guilt. That sense of entitlement to choose, change, and redefine one’s identity is fundamental to understanding the history of how white America has formed ideas about itself, and how those ideas are linked first to a colonial enterprise, and in the postwar period, to the operations of industrialized mass culture. (68)

Coco Fusco in full effect!

Fusco also tackles the divide that assigns creativity to acts of appropriation of “exotic” or “other” cultural forms performed by privileged persons, and simultaneously decries as derivative those acts of parody, recycling, creolization, and adaptation of imposed cultural forms performed by non-privileged persons. In this troubling formulation, she argues, the privileged person is granted a sense of self-making or creative agency, while the non-privileged person is either a mimic or tragically “unnatural” and “inauthentic.” (See the entire history of the 20th century American and European avant-garde, perhaps most egregiously the movement dubbed “primitivism.”) We witness this dynamic play out in those comments that both proclaim a “right” to wear feathers as a matter of personal freedom absent of historical “baggage,” and at the same time suggest that indigenous peoples themselves “sold out” their cultures, by manufacturing commodities for tourist consumption. (An alternate reading might interpret this as the creative recycling of an always already problematic concept of “Indianness,” as artist James Luna does in his installation work.)

Finally, Fusco ends with this very much relevant note to distinguish between such acts not through some hazy notions of moralism or intention, but via historical knowledge of the relations of power and cultural exchange:

What is at stake in the defensive reactions to appropriation is the call to cease fetishizing the gesture of crossing as inherently transgressive, so that we can develop a language that accounts for who is crossing, and that can analyze the significance of each act. Unless we have an interpretative vocabulary that can distinguish among the expropriative gestures of the subaltern, the coercive strategies that colonizers levy against the colonized, and dominant cultural appropriative acts of commodification of marginalized cultures, we run the perpetual risk of treating appropriation as if the act itself had some existence prior to its manifestations in a world that remains, despite globalism, the information highway, and civil rights movements, pitifully undemocratic in the distribution of cultural goods and wealth. (77)

Coming up next in THEORY FLASH!, “Native Appropriations” Edition, is Rosemary Coombe’s brilliant The Cultural Life of Intellectual Properties.

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Feather in Your “Native” Cap, Redux (in the time of SB1070)

A blog post from the O’odham Newswire, an indigenous youth collective, has been making the rounds on the Internet so you may have already read it. Still, I wanted to re-post it anyway since it speaks directly to a couple of Mimi’s previous posts on hipster appropriations of Native fashion and the institutionalization of racial-sartorial profiling in Arizona.

Reading this post on the indigenous perspective about Arizona’s legislation of state terror reminded me of a couple of points that have been discussed recently on Threadbared. In The Feather in Your “Native” Cap, Mimi referenced Thea Lim’s Racialicious post in which she offers some helpful rebuttal arguments against the appropriation of Native fashions in particular. To the response that it’s time to “get over” racism and colonialism, Lim counters:

The “get over it” defense is not hard to take down as soon as you realise that by “it” the commenter is referring to colonisation and genocide, the legacy of which continues to beset Native communities in the form of poverty, environmental racism, and health disparities (to recap some of the things Jessica mentioned in the original post).

The whole “but that happened 100 years ago!” defense is similarly dense: a brief look at who is poor and who is marginalised in the richest countries in the world should quiet that one down…though it often doesn’t.

The O’odham Solidarity post about the impact of SB1070 on non-immigrant groups – here, specifically indigenous peoples – reiterates and expands Lim’s point in important ways. For me, this post is a compelling reminder that anti-immigrant laws and logics produce effects that go beyond immigrant communities – and we should remember that Mexicans and Chicanos are not the only immigrant groups in Arizona or the Southwest; Central Americans as well as Southeast Asian Americans have substantial communities in these regions as well. Secondly, the post reminds us that state terror targeting indigenous peoples is both deeply historical and on-going. Here’s an excerpt but it’s really worthwhile to read the entire post.

The current push for immigration reform by politicians and by reformist activists includes the push to secure ‘their’ borders which would be the forced removal and relocations of all indigenous tribes that live in the border region (Yaqui, Lipan Apache, Mohawk to name a few). This dismissal not just shows the colonial attitude that both reformist activists and politicians have, but also the settler privilege that they evoke when constructing border policies.

Fun fact on the topic of immigrants and the Southwest: did you know that today is the 35th anniversary of the fall of SaiGon or what Vietnamese immigrants who live all over the U.S. but have large numbers in the Southwest including Mesa, Arizona call “Black April”? It was also 35 years ago today that Mimi and I may have crossed paths for the first time in a San Diego refugee camp called Camp Pendleton!

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LINKAGE: The Feather In Your “Native” Cap

Hipster headress from Urban Outfitters

In the last few weeks, several writers have tackled the concatenation of concerns surrounding “native appropriations” in so-called hipster fashions.  (Feathered headdresses, for example, are among the latest accessories for sale by retailers such as usual suspects Urban Outfitters. For not-equivalent-but-possibly-relevant commentary, see my “History and the Harem Pant,” or Minh-Ha’s “Blackface, and the Violence of Revulsion.”) Neither of us are able to comment at length right now because we’re both on our separate ways out of town (having said that, one of the first things I would do is explore the difference between an analytic of appropriation as a property relation and an analytic of alienation as a social-historical one, in response to the many comments to these posts that protest that indigenous peoples do not have a “monopoly” on feathers), but I thought I would bookmark these writers for our readers’ perusal.

Sociological Images borrows from several posts by Adrienne at Native Appropriations (a truly amazing archive) to compile a partial archive of “native style.” Lisa Wade writes,

“All of these cases romanticize Indianness, blur separate traditions (as well as the real and the fake), and some disregard Indian spirituality.  They all happily forget that, before white America decided that American Indians were cool, some whites did their absolute best to kill and sequester them.  And the U.S. government is still involved in oppressing these groups today.

Julia at a l’allure garconneire penned an epic essay, called “the critical fashion lover’s (basic) guide to cultural appropriation,” in partial response to the Jezebel syndication of the above Sociological Images post. (Many Jezebel commenters expressed hostility and indifference to the post, hurling accusations of “PC policing” or suggesting that “it’s just fashion, who cares?” Julia capably responds to some of the more representative comments.)

“my favourite aspect of cultural appropriation is that it can help us begin to deconstruct our sartorial choices and acknowledges the power of clothing as a means of shaping (racial, national, sexual, gender) identity. the exact same piece of clothing can mean very different things to different people (take any politically charged piece of clothing: the hijab, high-heel shoes, doc martens, the keffiyeh, etc) and acknowledging this fact is a very important first step. the very basis of cultural appropriation gets people thinking about questions like, can one piece of clothing “belong” to one culture? what do certain pieces of clothing signify? it moves us away from basic discussions of colour palettes and cuts and styles and trends and moves us towards a more complex theorizing of fashion.”

Molly Ann Blakowski at the University of Michigan’s Arts, Ink. suggests in “The Hipster Headress: A Fashion Faux Pas” that while the trend in feathered headresses is neither ironic nor chic, it is hardly the worst injury in a long history of violence.

Not to say some people aren’t offended – it’s definitely apparent in the posts’ feedback – but I’ve got a hunch that the hundreds of years of broken promises, stolen homelands, trails of tears, and more or less genocide at assimilative boarding schools are probably a bit more offensive than lame hipsters wearing headdresses. No, it’s cool, it’s not like your ancestors killed them all or anything-” (or your university possesses their grandparents in cardboard boxes). Choosing to wear these items out to a party leaves you looking foolish, no matter your intentions. Regardless of whether or not you’re offending someone of Native origin, you’re offending yourself.

For Bitch Magazine, indigenous feminist activist Jessica Yee tackles hipsters and hippies head on:

“Whether it’s headbands, feathers, bone necklaces, mukluks, or moccasins – at least put some damn thought into WHAT you are wearing and WHERE it’s from. I know our people sell these things en masse in gift shops and trading posts, and it seems like it’s an open invitation to buy it and flaunt it, but you could at least check the label to see A. If it’s made by actual Indigenous people/communities B. What does this really mean if YOU wear it?”

Finally, the heated comments in Yee’s post (both on the Bitch blog and on the Bitch Facebook) inspired someone to post the always-handy internet meme, the “Fill in the Blank” Bingo Card — in this case, the “Cultural Appropriation” Bingo Card (created by Elusis):

"Cultural Appropriation Bingo Card"


EDITED AGAIN TO ADD:
Please do send additional linkages if you find them! Like this one, My Culture Is Not A Trend, which is an entire Tumblr dedicated to the apparently accelerating “feathers and fashion” phenomenon. She writes in a recent post, “When you enter into these arguments, ask yourself ‘Is my right to wear something pretty greater than someone’s right to cultural autonomy and dignity?’”

Or this one, in which K. of Side Ponytail (best blog name by the way) points to another, poignant dimension of unequal access in “on headdresses“:

April: There is a HUGE difference between being gifted authentic regalia and wearing shit because you think it’s cute. Also, a headdress is not something you wear FOR KICKS, you know?
K: I don’t know, don’t you ever have those days where you roll out of bed and say to yourself, “I deserve a headdress today!”
April: “Because in my life, every day is a pow wow! That’s how SPECIAL and UNIQUE I am!” EXTRA TRAGEDY: So many native folks, especially kids! can’t afford to create or have real regalia created. But it’s super cool that [white girls] can have [their] knockoffs.
—-
The other day April and I were talking about the recent glut of Native American “inspired” fashion trends, including (but by no means limited to) headdresses and moccasins. (This conversation was partly inspired by April’s work with an Indian community organization and my tendency to be annoyed by basically everything I see on the internet.) I thought this snippet of the conversation was worth sharing, mainly for April’s point that many native folks (especially kids, that kids part kills me) CAN’T AFFORD to have regalia of their own.

Thea Lim at Racialicious decontructs “some basic racist ideas and some rebuttals” in response to the increasingly heinous comments at Bitch for Jessica Yee’s essay.

Incidentally Bitch is also a pop culture site, so it kinda makes sense that Jessica talk about hipsters there. Bitch readers come to Bitch to talk about feminism and pop culture, but they don’t want to talk about racism and pop culture?

The “get over it” defense is not hard to take down as soon as you realise that by “it” the commenter is referring to colonisation and genocide, the legacy of which continues to beset Native communities in the form of poverty, environmental racism, and health disparities (to recap some of the things Jessica mentioned in the original post).

The whole “but that happened 100 years ago!” defense is similarly dense: a brief look at who is poor and who is marginalised in the richest countries in the world should quiet that one down…though it often doesn’t.  There’s no accounting for pigheadedness.

And beyond this? Racism manifests itself in a million different ways, from massive structural inequalities, to the accessories of that fashionable person on the subway next to you.  And sometimes it is easier for folks to understand and tackle the small things; for me, it was a long journey to the admission that racism exists and impacts my daily life.  Talking about pop culture was a baby step that I could take; it was also something that was familiar and accessible when I didn’t really understand the academic language of postcolonial theory, or couldn’t imagine that words like “double marginalization” “diaspora” or even “immigrant” could apply to me.

EDITED ONCE AGAIN: Confused about the meaningful differences between distinct histories of exchange? They are not all the same. Read also these excerpts from Coco Fusco’s 1995 essay “Who’s Doing the Twist?” Also, new at Native Appropriations are some of the answers to the apparently compelling question, “But why can’t I wear a hipster headress?”

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