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Author Topic: Steampunk Vs Cultural Appropriation  (Read 7663 times)
J. Wilhelm
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« Reply #25 on: November 17, 2014, 12:05:27 am »

There is a very fine line between appropriation and proper homage.  However, sometimes the intention of the symbol bearer makes it plainly clear that he or she is paying proper homage to the culture.

I must apologise for this video is in Spanish, however, I trust the intention of the video is very clear.  

Music teacher 7-Deer, who identifies himself as a Mexica (Aztec), explains in the video that the Aztec music has been completely lost as there are no remnants of written music anywhere.  What they do have, however, is fossils and written accounts of music instruments, and descriptions of the dancers and apparel involved in ritual and secular life among the Aztec.  7-Deer goes on to explain  there are people who reconstruct the instruments based on archeological evidence and then they mist improvise as best they can to reproduce the style of dance of the Aztec.  He then shows several instruments, including the Huehuetl (drum - I actually played one of these in the school band  Cheesy)  as well as other hand-held drum, the Teponachtli (I actually owned one of these - I wonder what happened to it?  All those things were lost when we moved to the States...)

Musica Prehispanica

Surely a Mexican Steampunk could find a way to incorporate these instruments, or similar, into his Steampunk presentation without being disrespectful.  But it is a tricky proposition; my response at The Longhouse thread (see link above in my last post)  touches on the relationship of Non-Aztec (and specifically the European-white and Mestizo) children and sociology in Modern Mexico (my own experience at school).

You have to image imagine a bunch of rich, mostly white Mexican kids playing the Huehuetl and Teponachtli in their school band, because I actually did just that when I was at elementary school.  This is not any different than Ms. Hurricane Annie's last picture featuring the white kid's dressed in Maori-style attire.

I don't think I can tack any of these children, modern day Kiwis and Mexican white kids as being disrespectful.  Quite the contrary, it is paying homage to the culture.  You also have to be open to non-Natives to partake of your culture.


There is another aspect to think about, just being of a society does necessarily mean that an individual is in tune with their society. Coming from a family of artists I was to an extent brought up to be a least slightly separate from English society. Now to me personally As a boy I found myself watching cowboy films and would much more readily identify with the south American characters than the traditional all American John Wayne type. thus my role models would be Manolito in the High Chaparral, or actors like Cesar Ramero, and Gilbert Roland (who had to have an Anglicised name so that he could play Mexicans). Now I know where that all comes from is the worst sort of cultural appropriation, but the meaning it has come to have for me personally in a third society has I think taken on new meanings quite different from the Hollywood originals. I know that is just about me and I am a bit daft to, but. . . .
Hitler hated what he called none settled peoples, and one of the groups he spat his venom at were the American plains Indians. In Germany it became impossible to criticise directly the Nazi party. However there was a strong underground movement in Germany which grew in the thirties and lasted well into the sixties of groups of people dressing as Indians and having meetings where they camped and lived as they thought plains Indians might. On one hand we could say they had no right to do that, but I think it was a very clever comment on the situation they found themselves in and after the war an affirmation of where they wanted to be.

PS, I am sorry that I have invoked Godwin's rule that should a conversation go on long enough somebody sooner or later will mention Hitler.
I apologise.


I imagine feeling a disconnect between yourself and your culture is a universal event across all cultures.  The question is at what point are you "faking it." To be honest there are a lot of white Americans, as Chicar has pointed out, who would rather be Hindu or Buddhist because they do don conform to the Protestant Christian background.

Who is justified and who isn't?  Very difficult to tell.  What is the motivation?

In Mexico, there are many people who reject their Spanish background and choose to recognize only their Native background. Often times there is a strong influence from politics.  You see, among the socialist-friendly crowd, a common battle cry is the denunciation of all the evils of Spanish society and the Conquest.  Often times non-pure-Native people will choose to name their children Cuauhtemoc instead of Juan (e.g. Mexico City mayor Cuahtemoc Cárdenas), or Xochitl instead of Maria.  This happens in the context of their  vilifying of all things Spanish, and equating the Spanish with the "Evil Americans and Europeans."

The use of Native symbols and identity for political gain makes me respect them less than the casual dancer who dresses up in shells and feathers and starts dancing to drums in Mexico City's "Zocalo." Just because your name is Xochitl, doesn't mean that you're honouring your ancestors.

So there are political and social reasons for turning your back on part of your background, but none seem acceptable to me.  As I wrote before you have to honour all of your ancestors, unless you feel you are genuinely "divorced" from part of yourself.

I just mention this as one of the many complex subtexts you will find in hybrid societies.

http://cachonavarro.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/impresionante-reunion-de-miles-de-danzantes-aztecas-para-ir-a-visitar-a-su-diosa/#jp-carousel-2139

Aztec dancer

Where does ancestral homage end cultural appropriation begin?

I think it depends on how sensitive I am and if I have a sense of humour about it...

A local beauty pageant...

Aztec Barbie?  Grin

On the other hand it is easy to offend, and someone will be offended.  In this video below, 7-Deer gives a scathing opinion on the misuse of the proper attire by dance groups in Mexico, and more importantly the mis-use of names given to dancers and misuse of feathers in the Mexica (Aztec) Penacho or Copilli head dress.

He explains how feather are given to the Mexica, starting from childhood with an earring (small feather).  How the name you present yourself with is assigned by the Mexica elders with a very particular meaning, and that name can only change if the elders recognize that change in you. In the Mexica headdress, one must earn each one of the feathers displayed.  The number of feathers indicating your level of wisdom as a mark of recognition from society and limited to a number around 400 as the maximum allowed.

He then goes on to explain how much of the Aztec dress looked down upon by the Spanish was in fact "in tune" with the body and soul of the Aztec people, with practical and magical properties assigned to the clothing and it's colours.  He scolds modern dancers for choosing bright colours that do not correspond to their believed meaning according to Aztec religion.

Even if you can't speak Spanish you can hear the frustration in his tone of voice (he also rants about other practical and supernatural properties of Aztec dress, which were looked down upon by the Spanish.

Atuendos Azteca


Naturally this is all a matter of education.  It's pointless to get angry at people for misusing symbols if they are not doing it out of a lack of respect. In that sense the correct thing to do is to TEACH.  The role of the scholar is to elevate the mental level of those around him.

An explanation of the different elements of Aztec dance apparel as it was reconstrcted from archaeological and historical evidence since the 1940s

Evolucion Del Atuendo Azteca

Here's a website dedicated to Aztec dance where these videos came from.  A good resource for this type of information:
http://www.danzasmexicanas.com/danzas/azteca/
« Last Edit: November 17, 2014, 03:30:16 am by J. Wilhelm » Logged

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« Reply #26 on: November 17, 2014, 01:58:00 am »

But ALL societies are Hybrid.

How can I identify with my ancestors, I look back over British history and I naturally identify more often than not with the loosing side, but as sure as eggs is eggs I know I must have had ancestors in the other camp. As an Englishman it is all-most ingrained into me to poke fun at Americans, but it seems one of my relatives was in the American Militia in the war of 1812, (which could be why Canada won.) Now as such to make any choice I would have to turn my back on one part of my background or other.

I like my children to be informed of where they come from, but I would hate the thought that they would have to therefore be restricted to it, For me the family home is something to grow from.
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« Reply #27 on: November 17, 2014, 02:38:23 am »

But ALL societies are Hybrid.

How can I identify with my ancestors, I look back over British history and I naturally identify more often than not with the loosing side, but as sure as eggs is eggs I know I must have had ancestors in the other camp. As an Englishman it is all-most ingrained into me to poke fun at Americans, but it seems one of my relatives was in the American Militia in the war of 1812, (which could be why Canada won.) Now as such to make any choice I would have to turn my back on one part of my background or other.

I like my children to be informed of where they come from, but I would hate the thought that they would have to therefore be restricted to it, For me the family home is something to grow from.

It's all a matter of perception.  Of course all societies are hybrid because there is only one human genome with all the variations being the result of local isolation within the last 100K years or so...  But hybrid in the sense that the isolation between groups (Native American, Eurasian) happened for a sufficiently extended period of time (since people crossed through the Bering Strait through to the Conquest), in such a way there was a strong culture clash when both groups came into contact...  That is what is meant a a hybrid society.  I think that is what Mr. Chicar refers to as well.
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« Reply #28 on: November 17, 2014, 04:50:31 am »

I'm not sure, in fact there is another way of interpreting the evidence.
I remember reading Bernal Diaz Del Castillo, The conquest of new Spain. Now I know it is a highly biased Story, but it is clear that for many of the indigenous people the Aztec's were seen as a colonial power in their own right. Secondly it was in the latter Spanish colonists own interests to underplay the help Cortez received from the indigenous people. So to see that situation purely in terms of natives v Europeans is to an extent play to the agenda of the ruling class structure. Yes to see the clash in terms of indigenous people v Europeans is sensible, but there are more parts to the story than that and it is a mistake in my mind to overlook those details. Is it right to conglomerate all the indigenous cultures of the new world into one group, could that just cloud the picture more?
There is a second part to culture clashes which is about people who are very much alike which can be some of the most bitter conflicts, northern Ireland and Yugoslavia come to my mind.
Similarly I am a Londoner to be more exact an East Londoner and in this city there is a strange divide east and west. London has had many immigrant communities pass through it over the years but the odd thing is the division of how these communities settle in. The east has for a long time been a melting pot, the west on the other hand does not have the same mixing of people and they traditionally stay within their original groups, it has changed some in the last twenty or so years but it is still evident. I know there are still in west London communities of the descendants of Huguenots who came to London in the 16th century and have never fully mixed in where as those that settled in the east have entirely dispersed into the general population, to be honest I do not know why there is this difference but it manifests across so many groups there must be a cause rather than it just being a coincidence.
We know we are looking at something which is very hazy, and although I think you are generally right I cannot in any of it find any hard and fast definite points to anchor too.
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« Reply #29 on: November 17, 2014, 08:17:41 am »

I'm not sure, in fact there is another way of interpreting the evidence.
I remember reading Bernal Diaz Del Castillo, The conquest of new Spain. Now I know it is a highly biased Story, but it is clear that for many of the indigenous people the Aztec's were seen as a colonial power in their own right. Secondly it was in the latter Spanish colonists own interests to underplay the help Cortez received from the indigenous people. So to see that situation purely in terms of natives v Europeans is to an extent play to the agenda of the ruling class structure. Yes to see the clash in terms of indigenous people v Europeans is sensible, but there are more parts to the story than that and it is a mistake in my mind to overlook those details. Is it right to conglomerate all the indigenous cultures of the new world into one group, could that just cloud the picture more?
There is a second part to culture clashes which is about people who are very much alike which can be some of the most bitter conflicts, northern Ireland and Yugoslavia come to my mind.
Similarly I am a Londoner to be more exact an East Londoner and in this city there is a strange divide east and west. London has had many immigrant communities pass through it over the years but the odd thing is the division of how these communities settle in. The east has for a long time been a melting pot, the west on the other hand does not have the same mixing of people and they traditionally stay within their original groups, it has changed some in the last twenty or so years but it is still evident. I know there are still in west London communities of the descendants of Huguenots who came to London in the 16th century and have never fully mixed in where as those that settled in the east have entirely dispersed into the general population, to be honest I do not know why there is this difference but it manifests across so many groups there must be a cause rather than it just being a coincidence.
We know we are looking at something which is very hazy, and although I think you are generally right I cannot in any of it find any hard and fast definite points to anchor too.

I'd recommend that together with B. D. del Castillo's book, you read the anthology compilated by Miguel León-Portilla, Visión de los vencidos (a.k.a. The Broken Spears), in 1959.  This is an anthology of texts written in Nahuatl using the Spanish alphabet, or translated into Spanish by Native Mexicans in the first few years after the fall of Tenuchtitlan.  It is basically the perspective from the other side.  But no one is negating the rivalry of the Aztec and surrounding groups.  By all account the Aztec were conquerors in the Roman sense of the word.  They conquered vast swathes of territory, exacted tribute and enslaved at will, just like the Romans did.  So it isn't surprising that Cortes could take advantage of that.  Similar and much more recent examples of alliances and division between tribes is found in North America specifically regarding alliances with the British against the Americans and of course the Natives relationship to the French in what is now Canada.
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« Reply #30 on: November 17, 2014, 01:00:02 pm »

I did not know about that book and I will be reading it, as you can tell these things very much interest me, so thank you for the information. To be honest i often find myself at odds not with the evidence, but the narratives that have been created from the evidence and sometimes despite it.
For instance we have a lot of history and archaeology programmes made in Britain and when looking at Celtic remains often it will be mentioned about how the bones have cut marks on then and that this was for religious ritual, but when finding bones in the same state from the Roman period presenters will often explain the same marks as evidence of this person being a criminal who was punished by the Roman legal system. The narrative that the Celts were primitive with tribal beliefs, as opposed to the Romans who were advanced and more like us modern people drives how evidence is interpreted.
Now given that I find myself very much questioning about the stories of the European expansion, i am not saying it did not happen, but hows and whys seem very clouded questions.
This is a steampunk forum an we like to play with history so if you will can I put up an alternative narrative around Cortez.
B.D. portrays Cortez not a visionary leader but as a chancer who is just out for himself, is that the sort of man that would conquer empires he might risk it but would his men follow him if they saw him that way? Dominating the area we have the Aztecs who are brutally using the surrounding populations. So the people who would be most motivated to fight against the Aztecs would actually be this surrounding population. So a question comes to mind did Cortez use these people, or rather was it that these people actually used the appearance of Cortez as a figure head for their revolution. Were the stories of divinity not Aztec or Spanish in origin but made up by these people for their agenda?
I read B.D.s book twenty five years or more ago but if I remember it right there were lots of passages in it about how they wanted to go home. If that reading is right might that fit with a narrative that Cortez far from being a leader was in fact a dupe who given the role of figurehead was used by the anti Aztecs and forced to go with them? Two hundred odd Spaniards are going to find it hard to turn round to twenty five thousand armed men and say we are off now, thanks for the biscuits but we don't want to fight in your war.
If I remember right from B.D., the actual conquest of Mexico City was not from the horses or guns but from units of indigenous people.
So then we get to the part of the story where they have won. From what B.D. says it is clear that Cortez is telling his men one thing and often quite another thing is actually going on. This could of course be Cortez's double dealing, but might it not be that, but that the Anti Aztecs are actually in control and just using Cortez as a minor officer in their army to do a bit of dirty work hear and there.
If we stopped the story here we could presume that once the Aztecs had been removed the indigenous people would set up a new power structure thanked the Spanish and sent them on their way. The Spanish simply would not have the means to control this vast area without indigenous support.
So how is it the Spanish domination came about, I would say it was nothing to do with the Spanish in themselves but was because of the illnesses they brought with them. The pestilence that then swept though Mexico stopped any hope of the indigenous people organising themselves and while they died or were ill only the healthy Spanish could put things together and because only they were healthy enough to create a new power structure it was all done for their personal interests alone.
Is my story so far from the facts? I know that the major problem with it is not the evidence but who would tell this story. The Spanish would not like it as it would undermine the Spanish right to rule changing them from active players who conquered to dupes in somebody else's game where their only right to power was through dumb luck not from anything they did. Which could be why the Spanish Aristocracy have consistently underplayed the part of indigenous people being on Cortez's side. For indigenous people it would not be a good story, if you are trying to overthrow Spanish dominance to start where indigenous people are on all different sides is not going to be an appealing scenario when you are trying to create an atmosphere of its them verses us. Even western liberals would have problems with this narrative.
For me there is a difference between historical fact and the narratives that are created around it. I create this story not to say it is true, but to highlight the way narratives colour what we see and our reactions to evidence.  
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« Reply #31 on: November 17, 2014, 08:53:37 pm »

Well it gives you an idea of how hard it is to pull facts from just 500 years ago.  We do know Cortez was an opportunist and that the vassal Natove nations were eager to turn the tables, but the real history will be more complex.  While I do believe the Natives would have pushed Cortez forward, I'm not sure he was a dupe.  Often times great battles are decided by serendipity, and it seems to me that a Perfect Storm had been brewing for some time, with the most important factor being disease.

Many scholars are of the opinion that Native people were eager to accept Christianity, not because of the brutality of human sacrifice and the unity of politics and religion, but rather because the relative immunity to the smallpox on the Spanish convinced the Natives of the superiority of the Christian God.  Seems insulting to me, I know, but imagine 80% of your people drop dead within a few years - it had to be a major physical and mental debilitating factor, and a lucky break for the Spanish.

What I'm greatful for is that the survivors still outnumbered the Spanish 1-to-5, so today we still have the Native peoples alive, if no longer culturally intact.
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« Reply #32 on: November 19, 2014, 03:59:04 am »

I'm considering moving this topic to Metaphysical as it falls somewhat outside the scope of the Anatomical section.

Any views or opinions as to why it should remain here?  (If no replies, then I will take that as agreement and complete the move)

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J. Wilhelm
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« Reply #33 on: November 20, 2014, 02:43:54 am »

Subservient to Chicar's opinion, it does seem cultural appropriation is a metaphysical subject... I don't know if Mt Chicar would object, but it wouldn't hurt the discussion
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« Reply #34 on: November 20, 2014, 10:40:08 am »

I think the op was related to anatomical more, but certainly the way the discussion has gone (and a great discussion it is! Just wish I had more to add!) is certainly more in the metaphysical vein.
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« Reply #35 on: November 23, 2014, 10:43:07 pm »

When my mother who is scandinavian visited Ireland, she felt rather miffed by their viking museum and they sort of appropiated that history. Though admittedly vikings did found Dublin.
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« Reply #36 on: November 27, 2014, 08:50:23 pm »

When my mother who is scandinavian visited Ireland, she felt rather miffed by their viking museum and they sort of appropiated that history. Though admittedly vikings did found Dublin.


I think I've seen some recent documentaries on the BBC about the surge in claims and identification with Scandinavian origins:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scandinavian_migration_to_the_United_Kingdom

But not without controversy:

http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2013/feb/25/viking-ancestors-astrology

Note the writer of the last article, Dr. Mark Thomas, makes a fatal mistake:  in estimating that around 3-5000 ago, almost any human being was the ancestor (or not all) of anyone in present day, he ignores that geographic isolation (e.g. Australia, Americas), can easily invalidate such a statement, by a huge margin of error.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2014, 02:50:57 am by J. Wilhelm » Logged
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« Reply #37 on: November 28, 2014, 07:51:46 pm »

Sorry this is another little hobby horse of mine.
Only one bit of evidence has to be wrong and the whole edifice collapses, I have a number of problems with the conventional story of European settlement in Europe and it seems some of the presumed conventions are now in question.
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« Reply #38 on: November 30, 2014, 12:34:13 pm »

When my mother who is scandinavian visited Ireland, she felt rather miffed by their viking museum and they sort of appropiated that history. Though admittedly vikings did found Dublin.


I think I've seen some recent documentaries on the BBC about the surge in claims and identification with Scandinavian origins:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scandinavian_migration_to_the_United_Kingdom

But not without controversy:

http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2013/feb/25/viking-ancestors-astrology

Please excuse me if I am wrong, but isn't this another expression of this very English form of racism, the one where the supposed origin is the one that determines your character?
I do not know if it is just me or my culture, but I have always had issue with such themes, very common in Brittish litterature from the XIXth and first half of XXth centuries. "Irish are drunks", "Mediterraneans are fiery", "French are suave and food-lovers", etc. A sort of racist stereotyping deeply ingrained in common "knowledge", so much that it often shows up still in modern fiction.
It may be because here in Spain we have so many mixed peoples and cultures and at the same time a "clear" regional mosaic, but no one cares if you have Fenician, Arabic, German, or whatever blood. You are a Basque if you were born and raised in the Basque Country, Galician in Galicia, etc., even if your family names are French. At least, it is my impression.
So, why would we care if 900 years ago a Viking seduced a local peasant girl and the resultant kid is among my ancestors? It may be fun to find out, but it is in no way relevant to who I am...
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« Reply #39 on: November 30, 2014, 05:50:33 pm »

I wonder if to an extent you have rosy spectacles, Having spent time in the Basque region which crosses the Spanish French Boarder, I do not think that the way immigrants from even Middle Spain that settled there a hundred or more years ago are referred to by many Basques, can be seen as anything less than is in the Anglo Saxon world. You might even want to say to a gypsy of Andalusia that nobody cares about ethnic origin in Spain any more. People is people and although one set might seem to be worse or better at any one time, it is silly to imagine that we are good and they are bad, all populations have mad ideas about other groups of people.
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« Reply #40 on: November 30, 2014, 07:49:33 pm »

I wonder if to an extent you have rosy spectacles, Having spent time in the Basque region which crosses the Spanish French Boarder, I do not think that the way immigrants from even Middle Spain that settled there a hundred or more years ago are referred to by many Basques, can be seen as anything less than is in the Anglo Saxon world. You might even want to say to a gypsy of Andalusia that nobody cares about ethnic origin in Spain any more. People is people and although one set might seem to be worse or better at any one time, it is silly to imagine that we are good and they are bad, all populations have mad ideas about other groups of people.
No doubt I have "rosy spectacles", although you are mistaken about the Basque nationalism. We often make fun of the fact that most of the more radical nationalists have Castilian surnames.
However, you are correct in that gipsies are still often stigmatized. This is a complex issue, because it is related to socioeconomic factors. What it is not, however, is a genetic thing. They are a distinct cultural people, and cultural racism is, sadly, universal. I was talking about supposed genetics.
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« Reply #41 on: November 30, 2014, 08:40:17 pm »

It is hard to separate the two, as most cultures claim a common ethnic beginning. and most ethnic groups claim a common culture. I know I was in Basque Country in the early eighties, and I know when you meet a few people from a place you presume their commonalities to be indicative of the general population, but I can tell you what was expressed to me took me quite aback. I should have made it clearer I was talking from personal experience, but it was very real.
Current thinking is native British are most closely genetically related to Basque people and vice versa. Finns may speak a similar Language to Basque but they do not have our large noses. However having said that I personally take it all with a pinch of salt.
Mind you the worst thing I ever heard, was when I was holidaying in Split at the start of the Yugoslav war, when the Yugo tours man said to me over a drink, 'There will be no war, I'm Slav and my wife is Croatian we are too mixed to fight each other'. Then latter in the conversation said 'my oldest son is like me Slav, but my younger boy he is like his mother Croat.' and shook his head, it was not a joke. He actually divided his own family into them and us. What that war was like did not surprise me after hearing that.   
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« Reply #42 on: December 01, 2014, 03:44:49 am »

There can be very different levels of cultural assimilation that can be found even within the same region.

I live in Australia and I see for example 3rd generation emigrants who do most of there socializing within there own culture and there mannerisms and dress are easily recognized as being different to mainstream Australia, and second generation Australians who grew up socializing with typical Australians and speak, dress and act in that manner. The assimilated individuals face far less racism. (they will still face some unless they are white)

Regrettably there is a lot of racism in Australia and the current round of politicians are playing the terror threat for all its worth.
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« Reply #43 on: December 01, 2014, 05:42:23 am »

Speaking of Cultural Appropriation. I have seen some Native American tribes "borrowing" modes of dress and other cultural items form other tribes because the other tribe's items were more showy than the borrower's own cultural items.
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« Reply #44 on: December 01, 2014, 07:35:57 am »

Speaking of Cultural Appropriation. I have seen some Native American tribes "borrowing" modes of dress and other cultural items form other tribes because the other tribe's items were more showy than the borrower's own cultural items.


That's part of the point touched by 7-Deer above, regarding Mexica dancers.  I don't see any particular group behaving any better than another

ALTHOUGH some flexibility or dispensation must be given to those whose culture has been largely obliterated by way of assimilation, conquest or genocide.  That was part of the discussion in my post on top of this page.  And that was part of my point in the previous page (http://brassgoggles.org/forum/index.php/topic,44146.msg920360.html#msg920360), namely that it is very hard to be "pure" or "True Blue Native" after so much damage has occurred over the centuries.

Being a "true Mexica" in Central Mexico is nearly impossible today as a great deal of the culture was destroyed or assimilated.  However that is not the end of the culture - it just takes a lot of work to get it back. What remains of the native cultures in Mexico is often hidden from view as it is part of the present day culture, and thus in is no recognised as being native.  It is inevitable that some "culture transfer" will occur between native cultures.  In fact even without the Conquest or Christopher Columbus there already was a great deal of inter-cultural assimilation.  The Mexica (Aztec) were conquerors just like the Romans.  Almost all of their culture and religion was assimilated from the people they conquered, the same way the Romans absorbed Greek culture and religion into their own.

The passage of time sees the original cultures mix or dissipate into unrecognisable bits.  Seeing through this "cultural masking" enables scholars to reconstruct the hidden original native culture;

For a very dramatic example of cultural re-construction, for centuries it was presumed that the Maya writing system was largely ceremonial and undeveloped - not a practical system and not to mention undecipherable.  It turned out that the 400+ year old assumptions made by Europeans and Mexican scholars were completely wrong.  The late Linda Schele, from the U. of Texas at Austin, recognised in the late 70's that Mayan elements of writing could be discovered by analysing present day Mayan spoken dialects.  Scholars retorted that the modern Maya were very different from the Classic Maya, and that they were either hybrids of other Mesoamerican cultures (e.g. Maya in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula) or they simply had lost all traces of their original religion and culture (e.g. Maya in Mexico's State of Chiapas or the countries of Guatemala and Belize).

Schele did not budge in her opinion and went into frequent expeditions to Central America and Mexico to try to correlate the modern Maya dialects to the ancient writing.  In about a decade after that initial discovery was made, about 80% of the Mayan writing system was decoded, yielding a very modern alphabet that looks a lot like the Japanese writing system in its use of syllabary (e.g. katakana, hiragana, ) combined with logographs (e.g. kanji) .  The use of the alphabet was complete in the sense that it could be used ceremonially for religion, but also for historical records, political propaganda, geographical identification, naming buildings, and even to write the names of pottery artists and the contents of the pots.  In other words, it simply turned out to be a completely developed system of writing.  Previous racist ideology among the Spanish, other European explorers, American scholars and even Mexican scholars presumed that natives in the Americas could not accomplish that, notwithstanding other findings, such as mathematical accomplishments with the base 20 number system, arithmetic and extremely precise astronomical calculations and calendars (plural as there were several "down there") which indicate a much higher intellectual level.

It is in such a way that cultural traits are often "hidden" right in front of our noses, and often masked by societal prejudices.  Unfortunately Natives often have to "pull the prejudice cart" as well, themselves being brainwashed over the centuries about their own capabilities. or lack thereof, let alone identity. This is true all over North and South America.

In that sense I do like that racial hybridisation in Latin America has at least afforded the opportunity to the descendants of the native peoples to "move forward,"  to stop contemplating their own unlucky past, and start looking into the future.  Even if they took a heavy cultural hit.  I can be very "cultural," until I'm "blue in the face," but if I' die, none of that matters, right?  Better alive and with an abridged culture than "true blue" and buried under the ground.

[angry rant] If I may rant a little, this cultural masking also applies to international relations, especially in US-Mexico relations where due to plain ignorance in the US the blanket term "Spanish" has been used since the 19th. C. (or "Hispanic" since the late 1960s), to refer to anyone living South of the Border.  Thereby ignoring the cultural and physical presence of Native, European and even Asian peoples in Latin America.  If US public schools spent a little more time, say more than 10 minutes, teaching about who the people in Latin America really are, this cultural/ethnic confusion would not arise.[/ angry rant]
« Last Edit: December 01, 2014, 08:25:10 am by J. Wilhelm » Logged
delCano
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« Reply #45 on: December 01, 2014, 01:00:50 pm »

It is hard to separate the two, as most cultures claim a common ethnic beginning. and most ethnic groups claim a common culture. I know I was in Basque Country in the early eighties, and I know when you meet a few people from a place you presume their commonalities to be indicative of the general population, but I can tell you what was expressed to me took me quite aback. I should have made it clearer I was talking from personal experience, but it was very real. 
Oh, OK. If you were in rural Gipuzkoa in the early eighties, I can totally see why you got that impression. Basque nationalism is a subject I could write lengthly about, but I do not think this is the place. Suffice to say, Gipuzkoans are the most radical of the seven provinces, and rural ones are worse; and early eighties were the time where a huge part of people still supported ETA. Sabinism, our local brand of nazism (from the late XIXth century), was rampant (it is still the ideology of most nationalists, including PNV, but in an extremely watered down form).
I can also say that in my city, Bilbao, a huge part of the population is second or third generation immigrants from other parts of Spain, and they often are the most vocal nationalists I meet.
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« Reply #46 on: December 01, 2014, 01:52:45 pm »

I can also say that in my city, Bilbao, a huge part of the population is second or third generation immigrants from other parts of Spain, and they often are the most vocal nationalists I meet.

i don't have first hand experience of the region but might it be significant that your talking about immigrants from other parts of the same country while in this example

Quote
Please excuse me if I am wrong, but isn't this another expression of this very English form of racism, the one where the supposed origin is the one that determines your character?
I do not know if it is just me or my culture, but I have always had issue with such themes, very common in Brittish litterature from the XIXth and first half of XXth centuries. "Irish are drunks", "Mediterraneans are fiery", "French are suave and food-lovers", etc. A sort of racist stereotyping deeply ingrained in common "knowledge", so much that it often shows up still in modern fiction.

Your talking predominantly about immigrants from far more distant places. (Ireland being a complicated exception).

There is also some justification for this kind of cultural stereotyping. Regional cultures are different, typically expected modes of address and interaction differ. so it would be expected that when you view a different culture you will note common social attributes that are rare within your own culture.

now when your french for example living among another culture, and wish to maintain your own French culture you are deliberately going to maintain those attributes that set your culture apart, an ascent and manner of address perceived by the British as suave, and eating french food perceived by British as fine food a Food lover would eat. you will consume media from France out of interest but in so doing you reinforce behavior patterns perceived as french, because they are.

on the other hand the child of 2 french people raised in England without strong exposure to French culture (eg English child care, media, friends, education) may as an adult not be identified by most people as french, more so in the next generation.

i am actually an example of this. my father was Jewish immigrated to Australia at the age of 7. but people assume i am a christian, or atheist because i am white living in Australia and behaving as a typical Australian, or sometimes Muslim because i have a large beard (that doesn't even make sense). my father himself also was generally seen as a default Australian as he wasn't religious and chose his associations for reasons of common interest not common culture of origin and did not retain his original ascent into adulthood.


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« Reply #47 on: December 01, 2014, 02:59:33 pm »

There is so much in the last set of posts I am tempted to write a passage so long, but I will struggle to keep it to just a few points, so forgive me if i rant a bit too much. I think every society has people within it that fear anything new or new people, or minorities.
When Australia is mentioned as being racist I also know that a good number of Australians talk out against racist things I wonder if that open debate is a lot more healthy than what has been happening in London where a lot of issues over immigration are being swept under the carpet. Consequently I wonder if in the long term that willingness to say things even if the other guy does not want to hear it, will produce a healthier society than the way Britain is going.
Mr Wilhelm, when you talk about how the media in the USA depicts South America, look at the Dr Who thread and see all the Brits bitching about how American TV shows do not understand the British.
The problem is I think is not just an American problem but is true of all countries media which tend to be controlled by a small usually privileged section of society, and as such commissions plays which tend to reflect their attitudes which is why not just minorities in society are not fully represented but women also are portrayed in very superficial ways.
Having mentioned it look at Dr Who with the BBC. The New doctor starts out as a working class figure set in inner city London (Christopher Eccleston) which is popular, moves to David Tenant middle income Estuarine English, then on to Mat Smith upper Class with a rural English backdrop, which went too far for much of the British audience so it is dropped back down the British class system to a Scots doctor, who's social status is less clear and back to the city and having British black people in it again. The commissioners of the programmes at the BBC like to reflect their own class so tend to push a hero up the class structure, thus the very first Dr in the 60's was set in a run down back yard in a presumably poor area, and over time the Dr becomes a time LORD.
@DelCano, I am not having a go at the Basques or even the rural Basques which you rightly guessed I was living among. The point I was making is that I think all societies have elements within them that fear what they would call outsiders. And whether it be DNA or some other story (true or False) that holds the society together that is not the cause of the racism.
 
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delCano
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« Reply #48 on: December 01, 2014, 04:56:31 pm »

I am sorry. Re-reading my last writings, I have noticed I seem to have lost my point somewhere along my first post. So I will stop babbling stupidly now. I do not know what I meant to say.
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jonb
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« Reply #49 on: December 01, 2014, 05:02:49 pm »

I am sorry. Re-reading my last writings, I have noticed I seem to have lost my point somewhere along my first post. So I will stop babbling stupidly now. I do not know what I meant to say.
Great minds think alike, I do that all the time as well.
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