This House believes that compensation should be paid for those who have had their culture appropriated

Recently, many celebrities and companies have been accused of 'cultural appropriation'. Famous examples of this include: Miley Cyrus' use of 'twerking', a dance move rooted in African traditions; Urban Outfitters use of the Native American tribe 'Navajo' on products; and lingerie franchise Victoria's Secret’s use of a Native American war bonnet on the runway. The result of these 'scandals' have often resulted in an apology or retraction of products, but some people are calling for reparations which may be better for all concerned.

The term 'cultural appropriation' first emerged in the last twenty years of the 20th century. According to Oxford reference, the term ‘cultural appropriation’ describes the overtaking of ‘creative or artistic forms, practices or themes by one cultural group from another’. Generally, the term is used to describe ‘Western appropriations of non-western or non-white forms, and carries connotations with exploitation or dominance’ [1]. Fordham University Law professor and author of 'Who Owns Culture?: Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law' Susan Scafidi, explains cultural appropriation as ‘’Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions or artefacts from someone else’s culture without permission’’. In more detail, this can include ‘’unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. It’s most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects’’ [2].

As shown above, there is no unanimous definition of the term 'cultural appropriation'. Likewise, the term 'culture' can be defined in different ways. It is a complex term which has collected many definitions over time but for the purpose of this debate, we will use two definitions. According to Parson and Shils, culture is comprised of a set of norms, values and symbols that guide the behavior of an individual [3]. This definition assumes that culture influences individual people more than a collection of individuals forming and shaping culture. In 1955, Herskovits argued that "there is a general agreement that culture is learned; that it allows man to adopt himself to his natural and social setting; that it is greatly variable; that it is manifested in institutions, thought patterns, and material objects" [4]. In addition to this, culture can be seen as a problem-solving tool. Moran and Stripp define culture as "a group problem-solving tools that enables individuals to survive in a particular environment" [5]. This shows culture to be a thing that comes with human nature, evolution. Just as humans evolve, so does culture as it is used as a coping mechanism and tool for survival.

Why compensation?

Compensation is a form of reparations which is understood to 'Include any quantifiable damage resulting from the crime'. This typically consists of but is not limited to 'physical or mental harm, including pain. Suffering and emotional distress; lost opportunities, including education; material damages and loss of earnings, including loss of potential; harm to reputation or dignity'.[6]

In a time of globalization and the threat this poses to native cultures it is important to discuss how those cultures can be protected and preserved. Discussion of compensation for the use of culturally appropriated ideas is a part of this.   

[1] ‘Cultural appropriation’, The Concise Oxford Companion to English Literature,  http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095652789

[2] Baker, Katie J.M., ‘A Much-Needed Primer on Culture Appropriation’, Jezebel, 13th November 2012, https://jezebel.com/5959698/a-much-needed-primer-on-cultural-appropriation

[3] Parsons, T., Shils, E. (1951). Toward a general theory of action. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

[4] Herskovits, M. J. (1955). Cultural Anthropology. New York, NY: Alfred a Knopf.

[5] Moran, R. T., & Stripp, W. G. (1991). Dynamics of successful international business negotiations. Gulf Professional Publishing

[6] ‘What is reparation?’, REDRESS, http://www.redress.org/what-is-reparation/what-is-reparation  

Title 
Compensation rights a wrong
Point 

Compensation is a basic principle of justice in any legal system. By definition it can be given to those who have had harm to reputation or dignity, emotional distress and loss of opportunities, including potential earnings. It is important to give compensation as it provides something for those who have suffered from disadvantages as a result of someone else’s actions, and it therefore helps to level out the playing field. Cultural appropriation causes clear harms – lost business, less awareness of that culture, and a feeling of inferiority. Theoretically, compensation is also beneficial as Rawls believes that it achieves 'some of the intent' of the principle of redress. This is in line with an egalitarian point of view [1]. While individual cases of cultural appropriation may not intend to harm they have an externality of harm by damaging the culture and identity as a while. This is in much the same way that those polluting often don’t intend harm, just to make a profit.

[1] Gaus, Gerald F., ‘Does Compensation Restore Equality’, Compensatory Justice, Vol.33, 1991, pp.45-81,  https://www.jstor.org/stable/24219299?seq=3#page_scan_tab_contents

Counterpoint 

Compensation may be fundamental, but only when it is possible to quantify the harm, and decide who the harm was done to. With cultural appropriation both are often muddy. Taking a part of culture may not have a monetary benefit for the one taking that cultural item or a proportional loss for the original culture. If this is the case how is a figure put on compensation? Then who does the compensation go to; split between everyone in that culture? But who and how is it defined who is a part of that group?

Title 
Cultural appropriation is parallel to stolen intellectual property and should be treated in the same way.
Point 

There are high standards of global intellectual property laws such as copyright and patenting for things such as medicines, and creative designs. However, these laws only apply to a few areas so this proposal would effectively widen its remit by taking intellectual property as a template for what might be considered ‘cultural property’. Many minority communities, including the Native American Navajo tribe have had their names, designs, and culture stolen or misused and have not received compensation. This highlights the embedded systematic inequalities where justice may not be brought to those of minority cultures.  Reparations, monetary or otherwise, should be paid in these cases as other case studies [1].

The closest this has actually come to happening is with the Native American Navajo community. They had their name printed and used on products such as underwear, dresses and hipflasks at the popular retail store Urban Outfitters [2]. There was outrage in the community and a 'cease and desist' notice was filed in court for the products to be recalled. In addition to this the Navajo tribe called for monetary reparations to compensate for the damage done in the name of their community however, this was not granted. As the Navajo name was copyrighted this case was made much simpler before the law – as we propose cultural property theft should be.

It is important to point out that many other communities which have been exploited previously have not copyrighted their name and so do not have this same opportunity [3].  This is important as with many cases, the outcome may have not resulted in anything further.

The practise of reparations should be used universally as it is disrespectful to misuse the names, symbols and property of other cultures without consent.

In a democracy where everybody is equal before the law, communities and individuals should be able to sue those for not giving recognition, or misusing cultural practises that have historic meaning and importance. Culture is embedded in communities with long standing traditions, theories and practises. This is evident as we do not (yet) have a single global culture, even though one might argue there is one slowly emerging.

[1] Schutte, Shane, ‘6 famous copyright cases’, realbusiness, 11th August 2014, http://realbusiness.co.uk/law/2014/08/11/6-famous-copyright-cases/ 

[2] Siek, Stephanie, ‘Navajo Nation sues Urban Outfitters for alleged trademark infringement’, CNN, 2nd March 2012, http://inamerica.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/02/navajo-nation-sues-urban-outfitters-for-alleged-trademark-infringement/comment-page-1/ 

[3] Johnson, Maisha J., ‘What is wrong with cultural appropriation; These 9 Answers Reveal Its Harm’, everydayfeminism, 14th June 2015, http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/cultural-appropriation-wrong/

Counterpoint 

If it is something like a name that can already be considered intellectual property then this broadening is unnecessary, compensation will be made through the courts anyway.

Culture as a whole is something that evolves overtime, it is not something that can be comparable to intellectual property. Culture is not as clear cut and rigid as the cases of intellectual property as it consists of things such as shared values and common knowledge which often has overlaps between different cultures and no true owner. Therefore, cultural appropriation cannot be parallel to stolen intellectual property and they should be handled in different ways.

Reparations for something as arbitrary and subjective as culture is a system very open to exploitation. It may encourage exploitative behaviour with minorities encourages to pursue cases through the courts to gain reparations even when the case is slim. In some instances, designs or ideas may really have been made independently but be pursued due to similarity with a cultural idea.

Title 
Compensation is important to give the communities credit they deserve.
Point 

Compensation can be used to level out the playing field of inequality to those who have been oppressed. They help to give communities the recognition they deserve and help to reverse intuitionally reinforced negative stereotypes. The reparations can be used to benefit the community; for example, within the community and externally in order to educate people appropriately about the struggles of a repressed community. It would help fund efforts based on the model of the US Governments of Education and State Boards of Education to develop a 'robust curriculum' involving greater accuracy in black history as well as the involvement of African American figures in history on local, national and global scales [1].

This inequality is why the reform has to be state led; it is up to the state to protect minorities. Professor Matthew Rimmer from the Queensland University of Technology believes that ''At an international level, more should be done to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in respect of Indigenous intellectual property''. This was said after Chanel made a A$2,000 boomerang [2] which would seem to be in opposition to the declaration which Australia has endorsed.

[1] Humphries, Arielle, and Stahly-Butts, Marbre, ‘A Vision for Black Lives’, Centre for Popular Democracy, July 2016, https://policy.m4bl.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Cultural-Reparations-Policy-Briefs.pdf

[2] ‘Chanel’s $2,000 boomerang sparks complaints and confusion from Indigenous Australians’, ABC News, 17th May 2017, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-16/chanels-$2000-boomerang-sparks-aboriginal-appropriation-claim/8531496

Counterpoint 

Firstly, communities can be given credit for designs and things of other cultural significance without the use of reparations which are arbitrary and pointless.

Secondly, reparations are also ineffective, it throws a one-off lump sum to the formerly oppressed. They do not benefit the most deprived in society (economically). They are not effective in combatting racism.

Title 
Compensation has the potential to reverse damaged caused by Cultural Appropriation.
Point 

Compensation is necessary in the case of cultural appropriation as it helps to provide victims with the resources they need or deserve as compensation for exploitative behaviour. Often it can be easily quantified as would be the case with the Navajo Urban Outfitters case. With stronger legislation and rulings on the provision for compensation for cultural appropriation, minority communities would be significantly better off. This would be a major step towards reversing the damage of said appropriation as it would allow the community to develop and gain recognition for traditional designs and ideas.

Compensation can bring back some justice to small, minority communities as they can gain the appropriate recognition they deserve as well as the benefits that come along with it. It was estimated in 2005 that nearly half of the US $1billion market from native American Arts and Crafts come from the sale of counterfeit goods [1]. Compensation would help protect sales from native American businesses as well as their culture.   

[1] Padilla, Helen B., ‘Padilla: Combating fake Indian Arts and Crafts: a proposal for action’, Indian Country Today, 14 October 2008, https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/news/padilla-combating-fake-indian-arts-and-crafts-a-proposal-for-action/

Counterpoint 

The notion of compensation in the case of cultural appropriation is limited. Firstly, culture is subjective and essentially defined to individual interpretation and perception, there are limited definitive lines. As a result of this, compensation would be extremely difficult to both claim and give out every time a cultural appropriation is claimed by an individual or group. 

Title 
globalisation and multiculturalism.
Point 

Cultural appropriation prevents assimilation between members of society and creates further divisions based on arbitrary features of one’s ancestry or appearance. If reparations (through the use of compensation) were to occur in addition to this, it would create a more polarised and divided society as an 'us and them' culture is created.

A consequence of globalisation is the movement of people and the diffusion of knowledge [1]. This happens on a mass scale where it is possible for a person from India to travel across the globe to the United Kingdom (UK) and get there within 24 hours of booking their flight. With this, the spread of technology and knowledge it is inevitable that culture and identity does not remain fixed either. It also means that an increasing amount of people have more than one culture. A direct consequence of increased migration is that migrants are likely to bring with them their cultural customs. An example of this can be seen in the UK. As the UK faced more migrants from the Sub-continent of India, the popularity of different curries increased, and not just among those of Indian decent. In such circumstances cultures begin to merge as the traditional 'Chicken Tikka' recipe was adapted into a localised version called 'Chicken Tikka Masala' and was, in 2001, declared the UK's national dish.

Without globalisation, Britain's £3.6bn Indian restaurant industry would not exist and it would fail to employ approximately 100,000 people [2]. Any reparations would be paltry compared to the jobs that this industry has created over decades.  

This is a positive thing; it brings cultures together, encourages understanding, innovation and cooperation. Forcing people to compensate for the appropriation of a culture may mean that there is less social harmony as divisions are forced between cultures. For the following generations of migrants will be forced to choose a culture as cultural appropriation encourages division between the two.

[1] Stief, Colin, ‘Globalization’, ThoughtCo., 3rd March 2017, https://www.thoughtco.com/globalization-positive-and-negative-1434946

[2] Wintor, Patrick, ‘Chicken tikka Britain is new Cook recipe’, The Guardian, 19 April 2001,  https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2001/apr/19/race.election2001

Counterpoint 

Whilst globalisation is occurring and creating multibillion dollar industries all over the world, cultures are not fully immersed in each other. Nor should we want them to be as we don’t want a global monoculture.
Far from sparking divisions compensation can create harmony as it forces cultures to understand and tolerate each other by learning what is acceptable and what is not. Preventing stealing of culture will encourage greater attribution of where ideas come from preventing smaller cultures from becoming marginalised in a globalised world.

Title 
Reparations and the use of the term 'cultural appropriation' is a mask for more deep-rooted issues of racism in society.
Point 

The use of compensation as a means of redress for cultural appropriation doesn’t tackle the root problems that are expressed. The problems given as examples of cultural appropriation, like a Caucasian person wearing their hair in dreadlocks- a style that has meaning and historic prejudice to the afro-Caribbean community is redirecting attention and division. The individuals wearing their hair in this fashion however are not the problem. Demanding compensation from them 'does not challenge racism in any meaningful way' [1]. Instead targeting and punishing those who actively discriminate against those with the dreadlock style of hair is more effective and encourages equality.

[1] Malik, Kenan, ‘The Bane of Cultural Appropriation’, AlJazeera, 14th April 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/04/bane-cultural-appropriation-160414080237198.html

Counterpoint 

The use of compensation is effective in combating more 'deep-rooted' issues of racism in society. This is because compensation gives the minority communities the recognition, credit and any financial benefit that comes with this, of which they deserve. Highlighting other cultures and their achievements by preventing cultural appropriation will change attitudes so encouraging equality of treatment. 

Title 
No feasible system of which grounds of compensation can occur because of the fluidity of culture and cultural identity
Point 

How a person identifies themselves aligns with the culture they are a part of. Szewczak and Snodgrass argue this is as the values of an individual “are influenced and modified by membership of other professional, organisational, ethnic, religious, and various other social groups, each of which has its own specialized culture and value set. Thus, individuals vary greatly in the degree in which they espouse, if at all, values by a single cultural group, such as their national culture” [1]. As a result, people can identify with several different cultures often at one time. This creates difficulties in allowing one person to seek compensation from another purely on the basis of identity politics – individuals at least partially define their own culture and it may only be one among multiple cultures they identify with.

Culture itself has a complex nature; it adapts, borrows and evolves. It also influences lives in different ways and to different extents. No culture is fully homogenous. Because of this, any model for the extent of compensation would almost be impossible. Somebody with a long distant relative of which they haven't met, could potentially gain compensation for something that doesn’t directly affect them. They may even identify with the majority culture that is doing the compensating. Conversely some who identify with the culture being compensated may not be eligible for compensation even if they are directly affected.

[1] Snodgrass, Coral R., & Szweczak, Edward J. "The Substitutability of Strategic Control Choices: An Empirical Study". The Journal of Management Studies. Vol. 25. 1990. http://doi/10.1111/j.1467-6486.1990.tb00260.x

Counterpoint 

Who gets compensated would have to be clearly defined and yes there would be losers and some perverse outcomes. But what matters is that the system as a whole would be beneficial. While culture is complex any case would only be looking at one isolated aspect of culture; one custom. Defining this one aspect and who it belongs to would not be difficult. Compensation would not usually go to all individuals of a community but to help that community; to their community centres, NGOs etc., or to those individuals who have directly lost income as it would be with intellectual property.  

Bibliography 

‘Chanel’s $2,000 boomerang sparks complaints and confusion from Indigenous Australians’, ABC News, 17th May 2017, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-16/chanels-$2000-boomerang-sparks-aboriginal-appropriation-claim/8531496

Baker, Katie J.M. ‘’A Much-Needed Primer on Cultural Appropriation’’ Jezebel. 11/13/12. https://jezebel.com/5959698/a-much-needed-primer-on-cultural-appropriation

Gaus, Gerald F., ‘Does Compensation Restore Equality’, Compensatory Justice, Vol.33, 1991, pp.45-81,  https://www.jstor.org/stable/24219299?seq=3#page_scan_tab_contents

Herskovits, M. J. (1955). Cultural Anthropology. New York, NY: Alfred a Knopf.

Humphries, Arielle, and Stahly-Butts, Marbre, ‘A Vision for Black Lives’, Centre for Popular Democracy, July 2016, https://policy.m4bl.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Cultural-Reparations-Policy-Briefs.pdf

Johnson, Maisha J., ‘What is wrong with cultural appropriation; These 9 Answers Reveal Its Harm’, everydayfeminism, 14th June 2015, http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/cultural-appropriation-wrong/

Malik, Kenan, ‘The Bane of Cultural Appropriation’, AlJazeera, 14th April 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/04/bane-cultural-appropriation-160414080237198.html

Moran, R. T., & Stripp, W. G. (1991). Dynamics of successful international business negotiations. Gulf Professional Publishing

Oxford University Press. ‘’Cultural appropriation’’. Oxford Reference. 01/01/2007.

http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095652789.

Padilla, Helen B., ‘Padilla: Combating fake Indian Arts and Crafts: a proposal for action’, Indian Country Today, 14 October 2008, https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/news/padilla-combating-fake-indian-arts-and-crafts-a-proposal-for-action/

Parsons, T., Shils, E. (1951). Toward a general theory of action. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

'What is reparation' Redress.org 2004.  http://www.redress.org/what-is-reparation/what-is-reparation#thirteen

Schutte, Shane, ‘6 famous copyright cases’, realbusiness, 11th August 2014, http://realbusiness.co.uk/law/2014/08/11/6-famous-copyright-cases/ 

Siek, Stephanie, ‘Navajo Nation sues Urban Outfitters for alleged trademark infringement’, CNN, 2nd March 2012, http://inamerica.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/02/navajo-nation-sues-urban-outfitters-for-alleged-trademark-infringement/comment-page-1/ 

Snodgrass, Coral R., & Szweczak, Edward J. "The Substitutability of Strategic Control Choices: An Empirical Study". The Journal of Management Studies. Vol. 25. 1990. http://doi/10.1111/j.1467-6486.1990.tb00260.x

Stief, Colin, ‘Globalization’, ThoughtCo., 3rd March 2017, https://www.thoughtco.com/globalization-positive-and-negative-1434946

Wintor, Patrick, ‘Chicken tikka Britain is new Cook recipe’, The Guardian, 19 April 2001,  https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2001/apr/19/race.election2001

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