Is Cultural Appropriation Always Wrong?

A powerful essay on the “co-opting” of minority cultures by Parul Sehgal. This is something I am deeply interested in understanding and observing within “participatory culture,” which often takes part in remixing texts of many kinds. Sehgal’s points are a clear and necessary check on the “fast and loose” nature of those borrowing culture to create culture.

Calling out the co-opting of minority cultures to seem cool has become a public ritual. But where is the line between borrowing and theft?

…Questions about the right to your creation and labor, the right to your identity, emerge out of old wounds in America, and they provoke familiar battle stances. The same arguments are trotted out (It’s just hair! Stop being so sensitive! It’s not always about race!) to be met by the same quotes from Bell Hooks [sic], whose essays from the early ’90s on pop culture, and specifically on Madonna, have been a template for discussions of how white people ‘‘colonize’’ black identity to feel transgressive: ‘‘Ethnicity becomes spice, seasoning that can liven up the dull dish that is mainstream white culture.’’ It’s a seasonal contro­versy that attends awards shows, music festivals, Halloween: In a country whose beginnings are so bound up in theft, conversations about appropriation are like a ceremonial staging of the nation’s original sins.

…In an essay in the magazine Guernica, the Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie called for more, not less, imaginative engagement with her country: ‘‘The moment you say a male American writer can’t write about a female Pakistani, you are saying, Don’t tell those stories. Worse, you’re saying: As an American male you can’t understand a Pakistani woman. She is enigmatic, inscrutable, unknowable. She’s other. Leave her and her nation to its Otherness. Write them out of your history.’’

Source: Is Cultural Appropriation Always Wrong?

The Possibilities and Challenges of Building a Participatory Church

Participation__Prayer_and_Trials_of_Sleep-2

I love the word participation. It’s stem means “taking part” or to “partner.” The Quaker meeting of which I am the ‘released minister,’ Camas Friends, strives to be a participatory church. A partnering church. A church that welcomes the contributions, leadership, insights, resources, personalities and concerns of those who are in the meeting.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we live in a participatory culture. And the church would do well to learn from it. What was once reflective of the one-directional movement of consumer culture, there is much more interplay between producer and consumer today. Continue reading The Possibilities and Challenges of Building a Participatory Church

Participatory Church and the Trials of Falling Asleep (Luke 22:39-46)

Flickr Image by Brandon King

“He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” [Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.] When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” (Luke 22:39–46 NRSV)

Participation as Production

The word participation is an important word for our church. We talk about being a participatory church but what do we mean by that? I want to unpack that a little here.

Participation means to partake, to partner.

We live in a participatory culture. Back 50 or 60 years ago when you listened to a story around a radio, it was one way. TV in its earliest stages was one way. There was someone who wrote a story, produced a show that he or she thought consumers would like. But nowadays things are very different. Reality shows like Survivor, So You Think You Can Dance (my favorite), American Idol and many others build on the content that the audience gives. It could be through voting. It could be through suggestive story lines. Producers are constantly looking for interest of fans and which characters they like most, which ones they connect with, which story lines are most popular. There are shows like Arrested Development, Veronica Mars or Joss Wheadon’s Firefly where when they go off the air the Fans rally and actually get the producers to make more of their favorite show, even in helping raise money for the show to get it back on the air.

Continue reading Participatory Church and the Trials of Falling Asleep (Luke 22:39-46)

Barclay Press: Technology as a Powerful-Practice (Part 1)

Wikipedia I’ve put together a two-part essay on Technology as Power (or what I’m calling, using James McClendon, a powerful-practice) and the second part which I will publish in two weeks on the Quaker notion of “Gospel order” as a counterpoint to what Henry Jenkins calls participatory culture (think democratization of the web, re: youtube, wikis, twitter, discussion forums, blogs, web 2.0, etc). These two articles are an attempt to argue for a particular naming of technology from the church, and a watchful and transformative role in participating within this emerging culture. How the church reflects on such powers will determine and shape how the church’s mission looks in the 21st century. When I publish the second part I will also publish the whole article in .pdf form and make it available both here and at Barclay Press. The church’s interaction with and theological reflections on technology are areas I’ve been  interested in since I began studying with Ryan Bolger, he has guided me in much of this discussion and those of you who know his views will see them sneaking out all over the place.  I am pretty excited to finally get something more substantial out on the subject and I do hope you’ll read and be challenged by them.

Here’s the link to the article: Technology as a Powerful-Practice (Part 1)

And for those of you interested in previous articles looking at technology from a theological point of view you can view these links.

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