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388 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 temporality and perception fractured from sequentiality are the frighten.ing facts that we confront with every essay that we mark. His thoughts compel attention. Yet, as we keep preach.ing to our students, style is thought. The stylistic features of that thought's presentation, t}::le almost wilfully exclusionary rhetoric (contrast the wise simplicity of Frye's The Educated Imagination, which Solway frequently cites), will only allow a hostile reader to dismiss its often cogent message. Too bad. (DENNIS DUFFY) Bruce Ziff and Pratima V. Rao, editors. Borrowed Power: Essays 011 Cultural Appropriation Rutgers University Press. x, 338. us$2o.oo According to its editors, this book endeavours to 'provide a forum for, and orchestrate a conversation about, the nature of a very complex subject.' It does this and more in admirable fashion. When a white writer publishes stories learned from a West Coast native band, that is an act of cultural appropriation; when an anthropologist allows field recordings of South Indian tribal songs to be copied and sold commercially, that too is an act of cultural appropriation; and when a pharmaceutical company patents a medicine derived from an Amazonian arrow poison, that is an act of cultural appropriation as well. Instances of appropriation can be found in a number of cultural 'domains,' and have been variously addressed by scholars in the fields ofanthropology, history, sociology, ethnomusicology, postmodern literary theory, political science, and cultural studies. Borrowed Power: Essays on Cultural Appropriation is the first book to bring together these different disciplines in a collection of forceful and insightful essays on a complicated and controversial phenomenon. In the introductory chapter,'A Framework for Analysis,' the editors do a good job of identifying and explaining the central issues and problems in the current debate on the subject. They first offer a working definition of cultural appropriation as 'the taking- from a culture that is not one's own -of intellectual property, cultural expressions or artifacts, history and ways of knowing,' and then go on to point out the limitations of such a definition. What, for example, is a 'culture'? And how are cultural insiders to be dist.inguished from outsiders? They ask, 'What do we mean by "taking" [from a culture]? What values and concerns are implicated in the process of appropriation? And how, i£ at all, should we respond?' These questions, and their provisional answers, are at the heart of the sixteen essays that have been grouped tmder six domain headings: 'The Appropriation of Music and Musical Forms,' 'Appropriation in Art and Narrative,' 'Appropriation in Colonial and PostcolonialDiscourse,''Appropriation inPopular Culture,' 1 The Appropriation of Scientific Knowledge,' and'Appropriation and Tangible Cultural Property.' The result is an impressive sampling of HUMANITIES 389 discourses and styles, providing a range of situated responses to a multidimensional subject. Not surprisingly, the most personal and passionate views on cultural appropriation originate from within a given controversy. Invariably, such controversies have a political dimension. This is no accident. All of the selections in this book have been chosen for their political resonance, and their ability to stimulate discussion on the political issues swirling about cultural appropriation. Of particular interest to the editors are the ways in which historically disempowered and colonized indigenous peoples are seeking to claim and protect the rights to their cultural heritage. By way of example, several essays in this book are drawn from the recent debate in Canada over 'appropriation of the Native voice.' 'Stop Stealing Our Stories' by Ojibway storyteller Lenore Keeshig-Tobias, and 'In the Red' by Blood artist Joane Cardinal-Schubert, are among the more memorable. Finally, four important themes arise from these essays and deserve mention: a concern for 'cultural degradation,' when appropriators are said to steal the cultural soul ofa people, 'misrepresent them, silence their voices and purport to speak for them'; a concern for the dilution, alteration, and commodification of cultural treasures, as well as the trivialization and profaning of sacred practices; a concern for material deprivation when appropriators profit from the intellectual property of others without due compensation; and a concern for claims of sovereignty. and control over cultural goods, which are often ignored. Cultural appropriation may well be 'a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 388-389
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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