On Tuesday, the Art & Ethics summer school on The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation began at the University Southampton. The summer school consists of three three-hour sessions aimed at lower-division undergraduates from various excellent international universities.
This course starts from the fact that many instances of ‘cultural appropriation’ have been morally criticized. Roughly, the claim is that members of some cultures shouldn’t take property, styles, or ideas from other cultures under certain conditions. These conditions often have to do with a claimed lack of permission given by the culture from which something has been taken, power imbalances or knowledge asymmetries between cultures, or harms that will result from appropriation.
The summer school course looks at two broad questions: what exactly is cultural appropriation? And when is it wrong culturally appropriate, if ever? We are considering theories of cultural appropriation, focussing on concrete examples to help us critically assess those theories and come up with answers to our questions. In the process we are investigating what it is to be a culture, whether cultures can own anything in the first place, and whether they can give or deny permission, among other issues.
The course is co-taught by Nils Stear and Fionn O’Donovan.