1. Hublocker

    Hublocker Member

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    Cultural appropriation in Canada

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Hublocker, Jan 6, 2020.

    Are there any other Canadian writers here nervous about including first Nations characters and situations in their fiction?

    I grew up with, went to school with, am friends with, worked and played with First Nations people and I include them in my stories.

    Considering the current political climate though, as a non First Nations person I'm cautious about even submitting my work to publishers for fear of being accused of cultural appropriation.
     
  2. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    Hmm... wouldn't this really be a topic for the Debate Room?
     
  3. Cephus

    Cephus Senior Member

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    Here's my go-to suggestion for anyone who has problems like this: stop giving a damn. Write what you want to write and screw anyone who doesn't like it.

    You'll be a lot happier if you do.
     
  4. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    Anyone who would be upset by that are the type of people who are just looking for something to be upset by. Cultural appropriation is a made up thing, all cultures have merged and melted together with those around them, that's just sociology. People who say that some aspect of someone's culture shouldn't be used by anyone else is just a racist idiot, and their opinions should mean less than nothing to you.
     
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  5. Rockatansky

    Rockatansky Banned

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    I can only give you guys one like, so

    :superagree::superagree::superagree::superagree::superagree::superagree::superagree::superagree:

    Absolutely agree, the both of you!

    Cultural appropriation is garbage and nonsense

    Blending of cultures is a perfectly natural thing to do, and as mentioned anyone who believes in the nonsense is the real racist
     
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  6. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    It would be if we were going to have the tired and entirely predicable argument/monkey crap fight that usually attends the discussion of sensitive topics like this... however lets not do that...

    This topic pertains to how to create characters without stepping over the bounds of cultural appropriation... there should be no reason not to discuss that in the mature and sensible manner required for discussion in the writing sections of the board
     
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  7. Rockatansky

    Rockatansky Banned

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    My advice would be, just remember you're writing an individual.

    They may be Canadian, American, Etc., and granted they will be Canadian, but not all Canadians are the same as not all Americans are the same, get what I'm saying?

    I'm sure even myself as an American have adopted aspects of other cultures, without even thinking about it, so much so, I couldn't even tell you what they are, LOL

    Funny enough, some of my stories borrow from ancient China due to my love for the Three Kingdoms.

    Edit: I guess what I'm trying to say is, don't worry about your character stepping on toes or stepping out of bounds of his culture. We all do that in a small or large way
     
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  8. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    Cultural appropriation isn't writing a character from a culture you're not part of.

    Cultural appropriation is taking an aspect of another culture and using it out of place, and without sensitivity. So, for example, if your characters built a cult around First Nations religions, that might be considered cultural appropriation, depending how you did it.

    Or a fashion designer using native dress/symbols on a catwalk.

    If you portray your characters accurately and sensitively, there is no reason why you should have any problems.
     
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  9. Rockatansky

    Rockatansky Banned

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    It's a ridiculous term that only exist in the minds of people who are perpetually offended by everything. It also strips people of their individuality.

    OP needs to write his character as naturally as possible in whatever way makes a character an individual.

    Sensitivity should always be disregarded
     
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  10. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    Well, that's a matter of opinion that I won't get into.

    BUT if you're writing commercially, it should be considered. Some publishers will steer clear of anything controversial.
     
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  11. Steve Rivers

    Steve Rivers Senior Member

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    Anyone who screams "Cultural Appropriation!" needs a simple retort thrown back at them ...
    "Then undress immediately, you're wearing European clothes."
     
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  12. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    And that, officer, is why we were naked.
     
  13. Rockatansky

    Rockatansky Banned

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    Well, if there was ever a justification for nudists! :supergrin:
     
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  14. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @Hublocker - You have an asset that many of us don't have. You have friends and acquaintances who are First Nations people.

    Can you get a couple of them to look over your work, once you've finished a first draft? They will know you are truly interested in de-stereotyping First Nations people, because they are your friends and they know you. So let them give you some feedback on how you've done, and maybe a few suggestions that might improve your depiction of their culture.

    I think they will readily forgive mistakes if you're willing to correct them. They won't forgive bad intentions—but yours are not. So let them help you. I'm sure they'll be more than happy to do so.

    What if somebody wrote a book about something specific to you? Maybe they wrote about your home town, or your ethnic background, or a particular area of interest or expertise you have ...then asked you if you would take a look at what they wrote and let them know what you think about how they handled the subject. I'm sure you'd be quite eager to take a look and offer advice. I know I would.
     
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  15. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Slipping away across the universe Contributor

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    I'm going to take a different approach and say as long as you are not claiming traditions or origins of First Nations as your own, or renaming common traditions, then I'd be inclined to say you wont be offending anyone.
    As long as you aren't writing caricatures of cultures and groups or using stereotypes then it would be alright. Another thing you can do is ask your First Nations friends to read your work and get opinions from them.

    Recently, I read an article about a Chinese American romance writer who took issue with the way a non-Chinese romance writer wrote a Chinese character she claimed was "culturally accurate." According to the Chinese-American writer, it was not "culturally accurate" and was reiterating common stereotypes of Chinese women that were offensive over the years and claimed these as "accurate."

    On another, closer aligned tangent to your post, the singer and writer Tanya Tagaq, a Canadian Inuit, called out a white band for naming their band "Eskimeaux" (Eskimo) saying "Canadians should show them how much they appreciate hipster bands using slurs to sell music." and "The prevailing stereotype for Inuit is a very simple, happy-go-lucky, savage and godless heathen. Everyone loves the little Eskimos." Its basically rebranding a slur/stereotype as "cool" and "trendy" and even when its not so for the group its about (like the Washington Redskins, for example)

    This may not be exactly what you're asking, but personally, when it comes to writing other cultures "in real life" (as opposed to fantasy/science fiction), I'd stay away from stereotypes and claiming ownership of traditions.
    After all, there are quite a few non-Native American writers in the U.S. that write about Native Americans, culture, and traditions. In their acknowledgements they list their sources and give credit to the tribes.
     
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  16. Cephus

    Cephus Senior Member

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    Indeed it is. It is natural and normal for people to grab the best parts of other cultures and ideas and incorporate them into their own. It's how humanity has worked for thousands of years. There's something about people who fail to learn from history being doomed.
     
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  17. Hublocker

    Hublocker Member

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    Thank you all for your thoughtful contributions.
     
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  18. NobodySpecial

    NobodySpecial Contributor Contributor

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    It has even spawned a whole new literary trade- enter the ‘sensitivity editor.’ They now hire people to go through and red flag anything that might offend.
     
  19. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    It's commercially important. I can guarantee you that if Harry Potter supported Taiwanese independence, the entire franchise would be instantly banned in China.
     
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  20. SoulFire

    SoulFire Member

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    As long as you are writing people and culture and not a made-up strawman of stereotypes, you're likely fine. But also consider running your work by any First Nation people you know and asking them if what you write is appropriate.
     
  21. Kallisto

    Kallisto Ruler of the world... somewhere... Contributor

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    The rule that you can't include anyone outside your culture was based on a social theory of "it takes one to know one." If you are not part of this group (be it a certain race, sexuality, gender, ect) then you don't have the perspective to write them accurately.

    This is only true to a point.

    It runs on the serious flaw that the only valid perspective is the insider perspective and that it automatically won't be tainted or skewed. This is false. You can have a very skewed opinion about yourself and your experiences. We all know people who have a very high opinion of themselves, but the reality is that they are losers. They don't even realize it. But everyone else knows it! Why don't they? Because the inside perspective isn't always any more valid then the outside perspective!

    In fact, often we are very poor analyzers of our own experience.

    To have the most accurate take on a character is you need both the outsider's and insider's perspective. You need the perspective of those who are part of that group, and those who are not.
     
  22. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin We may just go where no-one's been.... Contributor

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    Seems silly to me. Controversy sells.
     

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