Japanese Novel and Light Novel Book Club discussion

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General Discussion > Cultural Appropriation: What do you think?

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message 1: by Selena (new)

Selena (sailorstar165) | 1534 comments Mod
So lately in the news I've been hearing the phrase "Cultural Appropriation" thrown around. Being that our group is for Japanese novels, light novels, and novels about or relating to Japan and Japanese cultures, I thought I'd ask you guys what you thought about the whole issue.

What do you think cultural appropriation is? Where's the line between appropriation and tribute? When is someone allowed to use another culture in their book, movie, music, etc?

Since this is the type of discussion that could become heated, please keep the discussion civil.


message 2: by Fanta (last edited Jun 30, 2016 06:41AM) (new)

Fanta Miste | 473 comments I don't hear Cultural Appropriation in Japan. What news did you hear it at for example? (Though I think Japanese people appropriate many things in other countries, for example Christmas, Halloween, loan words, ramen, bed, etc.)


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

After looking up the definition, I've heard of the concept but I'm not sure if I've heard the term before myself. Perhaps in some sociology class, but I've clearly forgotten it.

What I do know for sure is that most cultures seem to be happy to have their ideas, customs, literature, etc. adopted by other cultures. There's only a problem when this is done in a way that seems insulting or as if the others are mocking what the original culture had.


message 4: by Mallory (new)

Mallory This phrase became very integrated into daily life in the US (and probably other places, but I'm not too sure), while I was living in Japan. I felt like it popped up all of a sudden EVERYWHERE on social media, etc. My idea of what cultural appropriate is when people outside of a certain ethnic group uses others' culture for their own benefit or mocks a culture. For example, dressing up as a Native American or wearing a kimono for Halloween.


message 5: by Selena (new)

Selena (sailorstar165) | 1534 comments Mod
The stories that brought this question up are mentioned in this article: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/natio... (from start to the Lena Dunham story).

Cultural appropriation is a bit hard to explain. It seems to mostly apply to white people, but other groups are sometimes subjected to it. :-\ My making thai food the other day, for example, could be called "appropriation", but because I just made it for me and my friends, it wouldn't be. If I was a chef at some restaurant, however, it probably would be.


message 6: by Parker (last edited Jun 30, 2016 02:57PM) (new)

Parker (insectie) | 117 comments Originally meant as "practicing a part of another culture in an insulting way", it can be taken to be "anyone not of a culture engaging in anything related to a culture, sincere or otherwise." For example, in a discussion, my liberal friend told me "Indian women's clothing I think looks really nice, but I'm not Indian so wearing it would be cultural appropriation." Even if sincerely interested, and even if Indians would be happy to have others wear their clothing, it can still be called cultural appropriation.

Part of a series on political correctness.

My opinion:
"When is someone allowed to use another culture in their book, movie, music, etc?"
Allowed to? Whenever they feel like it. Otherwise, that's called censorship.


message 7: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 30, 2016 06:52PM) (new)

Selena wrote: "My making thai food the other day, for example, could be called "appropriation", but because I just made it for me and my friends, it wouldn't be. If I was a chef at some restaurant, however, it probably would be."

But why would making Thai food for a restaurant be cultural appropriation (assuming this means using culture in an offensive or mocking way)? Hypothetically, if you were really good at making Romanian food and opened up a restaurant selling it, I can assure you that most Romanians wouldn't mind. In fact, they'd probably go eat there themselves.

Another example with Japanese food: When I was traveling through Quebec, I came across a lot of sushi shops, some of them having sushi chefs who were just regular white Canadians (so, not even Asians, let alone Japanese). Their sushi was pretty good and seemed like what you get at any typical sushi place where Japanese immigrants were making it. I don't think any of the Japanese were bothered by that.

Parker wrote: "Originally meant as "practicing a part of another culture in an insulting way", it can be taken to be "anyone not of a culture engaging in anything related to a culture, sincere or otherwise." For example, in a discussion, my liberal friend told me "Indian women's clothing I think looks really nice, but I'm not Indian so wearing it would be cultural appropriation." Even if sincerely interested, and even if Indians would be happy to have others wear their clothing, it can still be called cultural appropriation. "

Doesn't that mean that the term "cultural appropriation" just means borrowing from another culture, at this point? You basically just neutralized its meaning, so it doesn't have any negative aspect to it. It's like the way people in many parts of the world are making (European) Classical music or wearing Western-style business suits - by this definition that's cultural appropriation too, isn't it?


message 8: by Mallory (new)

Mallory Parker wrote: "Originally meant as "practicing a part of another culture in an insulting way", it can be taken to be "anyone not of a culture engaging in anything related to a culture, sincere or otherwise." For ..."

I'm unsure of where the line between cultural appropriation and not, since the countries are becoming more and more culturally mixed and influenced. There are some things where it's obvious that is cultural appropriation, where you can see the racism and mockery behind what people are doing, but other things I'm not too sure. When I lived in Japan and my co-workers dressed me in a yukata for obon, is that cultural appropriation? After reading about what Parker's friends said about Indian dress, I'm thinking yes?


message 9: by Selena (new)

Selena (sailorstar165) | 1534 comments Mod
Mallory wrote: "When I lived in Japan and my co-workers dressed me in a yukata for obon, is that cultural appropriation? After reading about what Parker's friends said about Indian dress, I'm thinking yes?"

I don't think it is. If it is, then I've been appropriating cultures since 4th grade with a Chinese shirt I wore for a couple years.

Then there's the reverse. Would it be cultural appropriation if a Japanese person or an Indian person wears American (Western) clothing? Should they be wearing nothing but their traditional clothing?


message 10: by Fanta (last edited Jul 01, 2016 07:30PM) (new)

Fanta Miste | 473 comments Though this is not cultural appropriation, I'm reminded of the word "intolerant" that I recently hear often in Japan. News reported some people who claimed it's rude to British Royal Family that staffs in a zoo gave a monkey's baby the name Charlotte (those claimers are Japanese), and who claimed it's inconsiderate to put photos of being smiling and enjoying on SNS when a big earthquake hit Kumamoto (a prefecture in Japan).


message 11: by Parker (new)

Parker (insectie) | 117 comments I heard an Asian friend of mine wishing people happy 4th of July. I felt insulted. It's cultural appropriation of my American culture!

What follows is a cynical view and not my opinion on the matter, but my opinion of what cultural appropriation is to the people that invented the concept:

When I said that cultural appropriation is anybody borrowing from another culture, I should have clarified. It is anyone of a European culture borrowing from a non-European culture. It is insulting and negative no matter what, your intent has nothing to do with it. To a social justice warrior, wearing a Chinese shirt is cultural appropriation.
Not to bring up an even more controversial issue, but much in the way that a person of color cannot be racist (in the progressive view), someone of a non-European culture can never be guilty of cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation is used by progressives in American society that imagine themselves righting wrongs by protecting other's feelings. It is really all about making social justice warriors feel like they're doing good, not about actually protecting anyone's feelings.

End cynicism.

My actual opinion:
Someone will always be insulted by something. If you want to do anything from another culture, go ahead and do it.


message 12: by Selena (last edited Jul 06, 2016 04:20AM) (new)

Selena (sailorstar165) | 1534 comments Mod
What about Beyonce borrowing from Indian culture? She got a lot of flack for the whole paint thing. Granted, I think part of it was because anyone who borrows from Indian culture does the paint thing (it's like if Japan only ever featured the US in movies and music videos on Christmas).


message 13: by Aaron (new)

Aaron Nagy | 76 comments Cultural appropriation is awesome. It's taking things you find cool/good in another culture or part of the world and adapting it for your own use. I havn't gotten offended once at a Asian country using generic western fantasy terms or butchering our religions over and over again in their stories, heck a lot of the time I find it cool.


message 14: by Alex (new)

Alex (asato) | 248 comments a quite well-written article. i just skimmed it, so i'm not too sure where i stand with her on her deconstruction of Ghost in the Shell (in light of the white-washing controversy) and anime. nevertheless, thought-provoking.

http://www.theverge.com/2016/5/9/1161...

(OP: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...)


message 15: by Parker (new)

Parker (insectie) | 117 comments Saw this and thought of this discussion:
http://thetab.com/uk/2016/07/29/i-ate...


message 16: by Selena (new)

Selena (sailorstar165) | 1534 comments Mod
Parker wrote: "Saw this and thought of this discussion:
http://thetab.com/uk/2016/07/29/i-ate..."


^ I would die if I tried to eat without "culturally appropriation." There aren't any truly "American" foods except maybe corn on the cob and pop corn. Maybe bison roasted on a spit. Or turkey.

Even the phrase, "As American as apple pie" is a lie, since pies are definitely a European innovation.

Besides, I like Chinese and Japanese food too much. Love me my sushi.


message 17: by Carlos (new)

E. Carlos What defines the act as Cultural Appropriation is effort to camouflage it's origin, to make it seems born from other place

Mixture of culture is normal and it's nor exatacly the same as appropriation. Because the global economy and communication the cultural barriers are much more thin and we get more than historical influence

If I take some typical symbol of other culture, with the same meaning and use, apply to my niche and say that it's mine it is appropriation.

There's two main problems when dealing with this word: There's historical influence, like the word Pan in Japan came from Portuguese Pão (bread). And the new type of culture that is create by internet, the one that takes elements of many places and gather them in some niche.


message 18: by Parker (new)

Parker (insectie) | 117 comments ^Wow. I've always been wondering why the Japanese word for bread was identical to the Spanish word (Portuguese and Spanish are very closely related, so that makes sense). Thanks for solving that mystery.


message 19: by Selena (new)

Selena (sailorstar165) | 1534 comments Mod
Parker wrote: "^Wow. I've always been wondering why the Japanese word for bread was identical to the Spanish word (Portuguese and Spanish are very closely related, so that makes sense). Thanks for solving that my..."

You could've asked me :p Lots of Japanese words are borrowed


message 20: by Teeny (new)

Teeny I actually got accused of cultural appropriation at my job for daring to read manga...

Worker: that's for Japanese people. You're not remotely Asian...

Me: I'm pretty sue it's okay if I read their literature...

Worker: YOU ARE NOT ASIAN!


message 21: by Selena (new)

Selena (sailorstar165) | 1534 comments Mod
Teeny wrote: "I actually got accused of cultural appropriation at my job for daring to read manga...

Worker: that's for Japanese people. You're not remotely Asian...

Me: I'm pretty sue it's okay if I read thei..."


lol If books are cultural appropriation, aren't we all appropriating from whoever invented the written language? :p


message 22: by Terrence (new)

Terrence (grnkrby) | 347 comments I don't know about cultural appropriation, but I do feel like I go out of my way to consume Japanese media over English a lot of the time. It took my brother sitting down to watch Netflix with me to start up Stranger Things. Unless it's something estsablished that I like (Twin Peaks), it's tough for me to start it up if it's American or live action. Part of it is an aversion to the stories and presentation of your typical Hollywood film (so many crime shows). I mean, I avoid 100+ episode Shounen anime / manga too because of thinking they will follow some cheesy patterns (and because they'll string me along). Back in the day, I used to prefer the shorter British seasons too because they were open and shut book seasons of 8-12 episodes.

I think I don't particularly appreciate Water Cooler culture either, these people that talk about the popular American show of the week in circles, usually Walking Dead. Tell them you read the comics, and they'll be shocked it was an adaptation; if you told them the comics were better, would they check them out? Probably not. Can't say I blame them when I won't watch Stranger Things without being forced to either. I don't know about you, but I don't know anyone irl that consumes anime / Japanese media and would want to discuss it water cooler fashion. It also makes it feel like you're putting people out when you bring stuff up they don't watch (bringing up anime or video games can be a conversation killer I think). But back to the topic, I feel like I purposely try to go against the grain at times, hipster like, consuming media because it's different. That might be seen as cultural appropriation because at the end of the day I feel more comfortable being immersed in the atypical Japanese media than American, and I'll go out of my way to avoid the latter.

There was a book deal on Audible, and in addition to looking at the book titles, I was looking at the author names. Not to recognize an author, but to recognize a name as Japanese (no luck, all Western authors I believe).


message 23: by Selena (new)

Selena (sailorstar165) | 1534 comments Mod
I have "water cooler" conversations with friends about anime all the time, though usually it's because we're all watching it together anyway.

Anyway, I don't think consuming movies, TV series, books, etc. from other cultures is appropriation. I suppose creating series in the vein of other cultures' creations could be appropriation, but I normally don't consider that to be the case. Even when stupid Americans cast white-guys as originally Japanese characters (I'm looking at YOU, white-washed Ghost in the Shell).


message 24: by Alex (new)

Alex (asato) | 248 comments What Selena said.

Have any positions open at your place of employment? Anime/manga topics are a conversation-killer at my water cooler.


message 25: by Terrence (last edited Nov 05, 2016 10:13AM) (new)

Terrence (grnkrby) | 347 comments Selena wrote: "I have "water cooler" conversations with friends about anime all the time, though usually it's because we're all watching it together anyway.

Anyway, I don't think consuming movies, TV series, boo..."


The way I wrote that sentence was weird. I didn't mean to say I don't want to have water cooler conversations with anime friends. I don't have any irl anime friends that I know of, and even if there are closet anime fans in my small circles that I haven't discovered, I never hear the topic broached in conversations. If I bring up anime or games with the people who consume popular media, they'll say "that's neat" and humor it, but you can tell they honestly aren't investing in the conversation. Again, it's not a terrible reflection on them as I'm similar when it comes to dismissing some American cinema / TV as bad, like The Walking Dead. For me, anything popular that isn't sports related probably kills my interest dead in a conversation. What do you do if half the friends you know like anime and half don't and you're at the "water cooler"? Do the non anime fans engage or even feign engagement in the topic; do they slowly pull away from the conversation; do you wait until its only anime friends in the circle to discuss anime stuff? Because the people that consume Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead certainly don't wait to discuss stuff and alienate others who don't watch it / want to avoid spoilers (my Facebook wall is filled with memes about a character death in The Walking Dead; If I had any interest in catching up with the later seasons, it's now... dead).

The thing is, I just know people who like The Walking Dead would enjoy Attack on Titan if it were an American show on one of the major cable networks. The themes, I think, would interest them. But I can't even get the people in my own household to acknowledge anime / manga as anything but beneath them / weird / difficult to watch etc ("I don't watch cartoons" is a refrain I got from a family member), so its tough for me to imagine getting other acquaintances to willingly try Japanese media. Again, it's like pulling teeth to get me to sit down to watch a popular American show too, so this isn't a reflection solely on others. It just makes the social gap that much larger for me.

Selena wrote: "Even when stupid Americans cast white-guys as originally Japanese characters (I'm looking at YOU, white-washed Ghost in the Shell)."

I think I heard they were making a live action Mulan with a white male protagonist stealing spotlight in the script. Had some feathers ruffled (can't say I don't blame them, though I never saw Mulan / know the story well, so I don't know how out of place that would be).


message 26: by Selena (new)

Selena (sailorstar165) | 1534 comments Mod
@ Terrence: A white male protagonist taking over would be very wrong for Mulan, the story of a young Chinese woman who beat back the Huns. :p

Usually we find some kind of common nerd culture ground to discuss. It's not like the people I eat lunch with are exclusively anime fans, so we talk gaming news, books, and Doctor Who and stuff too. We talk whatever. One day might be anime, another will be something else.

@ Alex: No openings at the moment.


message 27: by Aaron (last edited Nov 21, 2016 01:59PM) (new)

Aaron Nagy | 76 comments I struggle enough with trying to pull people into reading books, anime is just too far. Basically anything with a trip into boobs and grope is right out, so there goes 1/2 of all anime. Then follow that up with no slice of life or harem and your down to about 1/5 of the shows in the season if that. Then you have the works that are just TOO anime, think Jojo's, or is some sort of art house edgy deconstruction think Madoka, and you basically got almost nothing left.


message 28: by James (new)

James Penn (jkpenn) | 19 comments My question would be, what is the ultimatum of this? No one is allowed to express anything about another culture, ever? Sounds like segregation to me.


message 29: by James (last edited Nov 28, 2016 05:25PM) (new)

James Penn (jkpenn) | 19 comments Aaron wrote: "I struggle enough with trying to pull people into reading books, anime is just too far. Basically anything with a trip into boobs and grope is right out, so there goes 1/2 of all anime. Then follow..."

XD Right!? "What, was the slice of life too slooow? Was the ecchi too fast?" I hear ya man. Sometimes there's just no pleasing people, they're more fickle than cats.


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