Something powerful - Livre d'Or








Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes. * Blogroll * Strange words * More links * Bookies * Microblog * Recent comments * Humans only * Second degree * By topic * Cool posts * Writing * New post

Tags

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



livredor
Something powerful
Friday, 23 January 2009 at 03:26 pm
Tags:

Previous Entry Next Entry


This essay has been linked all over the place, but I think only about a third of my flist move in circles where you'll have seen it already. It's sort of a Jewish take on Cultural Appropriation, but only sort of. I think emotionally it feels very appealing to me, and it's very beautifully written and all, but after I stopped to think about it for 30 seconds I'm not sure I agree.

I'm kind of agnostic about cultural appropriation at all. I really have no problem with the fact that Americans eat bagels with ham, or sprinkle their conversation with Yiddish words which bear little relationship to the tiny little fragments of Yiddish I picked up from my father's family. And I have no problem with people using bits of Jewish mythology in novels, even if it's garbled. But some of the stuff in nextian's post does bother me. I want to underline that she's not saying that Christianity itself is an appropriation of Judaism, she's saying that assuming that Judaism is nothing but a precursor to Christianity or talking about "Judeo-Christian society" erases the Jews who are alive today and actively engaged with our tradition. And the kind of atheism which says, the Bible is really dumb LOL! without actually having any understanding how the Bible is part of a whole religious framework is pretty rude to Christians as well as Jews, but that's another thing, and I have a pretty good idea why atheists, especially American ones, are defensive about these things.

(I probably shouldn't get into this, but I think the recent Cultural Appropriation stuff was mostly not about Cultural Appropriation at all, it was about actual racism. None of the main players were saying, I hate it when white people write about my non-American culture or about characters with dark skin, which was how it seemed to come across to many white readers. They were saying, I hate it when white writers use lazy and offensive stereotypes of my culture and ethnicity. Or, I hate the fact that I barely have a culture because my country and language were wrecked by colonialism.)

But yeah, reading that post I can see how easy it would be to get into a mindset of being massively offended about how my minority culture is treated by the majority culture, and constructing a certain language framework and taking it as an affront when anyone made any remark outside that framework. I don't know if that's helpful or not (cakmpls has an interesting piece arguing that getting into this sort of mindset is harmful, because it lumps together all the members of an oppressed people instead of treating them as individuals. I'm inclined to her point of view, though I wouldn't go so far as to ban the terms sexist and racist altogether.) This isn't a very accomplished post, just a statement of being in a confused emotional state.

Advertised research jobs:
Applications sent - 3 (Dundee, Oxford, Glasgow). Progress - one guy has asked my boss for references.
Lecturer jobs:
Applications sent - 4 (Birmingham, East London, Teeside, London Met). Progress - none.
Writing jobs:
Applications sent - 1 (PLoS, based in Cambridge). Progress - none. I don't think this one's going to come through, actually.


Whereaboooots: Älvsjö, Stockholm, Sweden
Moooood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Tuuuuune: Neko Case: A widow's toast
Discussion: 35 contributions | Contribute something
Tags:

Previous Entry Next Entry




Contribute something
View all comments chronologically



cakmpls: default
From:cakmpls
Date:January 23rd, 2009 03:51 pm (UTC)
32 minutes after journal entry, 10:51 am (cakmpls's time)
(Link)
I think the recent Cultural Appropriation stuff was mostly not about Cultural Appropriation at all, it was about actual racism.

It certainly seemed that way to me--especially, in fact, the open letter that started it all.
(Reply to this comment) (Thread)
livredor: teapot
From:livredor
Date:January 23rd, 2009 04:04 pm (UTC)
45 minutes after journal entry, 05:04 pm (livredor's time)
(Link)
Oh, I crossed with you, just as you were posting this comment I was editing the post to include a link to your recent post on isms. But yeah, not only were people yelling at eachother, they were yelling about entirely different topics, with the POC participants yelling that racism hurts them, and the white people yelling that they have a perfect right to write whatever suits their artistic vision. Which was very strange to observe, from the outside.
(Reply to this comment) (Up thread) (Parent) (Thread)
simont: default
From:simont
Date:January 23rd, 2009 04:04 pm (UTC)
45 minutes after journal entry
(Link)
What is "the recent Cultural Appropriation stuff" of which you speak? I'm getting the strong feeling that there's been a recent protracted debate which I've managed to completely miss and without which I can make less sense of all this than I might like.
(Reply to this comment) (Thread)
From:ext_72852
Date:January 23rd, 2009 04:09 pm (UTC)
50 minutes after journal entry
(Link)
I liked this one: http://foreverdirt.livejournal.com/363357.html
(Reply to this comment) (Up thread) (Parent) (Thread)
(no subject) - livredor (1/23/09 04:11 pm)
(no subject) - simont (1/23/09 04:21 pm)
(no subject) - pw201 (1/23/09 06:34 pm)
(no subject) - livredor (1/23/09 10:21 pm)
(no subject) - gjm11 (1/25/09 10:43 pm)
lavendersparkle: Rat
From:lavendersparkle
Date:January 23rd, 2009 04:07 pm (UTC)
48 minutes after journal entry, 05:07 pm (lavendersparkle's time)
(Link)
I don't mind Christians having our scripture as a holy scripture, if I did that we'd have to apologise to the Babylonians for the plagiarism in the Torah. However, there is something, I'm not sure of the right word, like being weighted down about living in a culture and in which different interpretations are prominent to the extent that the idea that the texts could be understood differently, doesn't even occur to most people.

It's even sadder when these dominant interpretations and their use to attack your religion actually put you off engaging with your own religious texts. I went to a talk at Limmud about the Jewish understanding of the parts of Isaiah which are interpreted by some Christians to prophesy Jesus. The speaker told us that she found that there's less Jewish scholarship on Isaiah than the other prophets because Jews have been scared off it by its use by Christians.

I also find it very irritating when secular/liberal Christians quote the the Torah to show how crazy the beliefs of conservative Christians are. The message tends to be "Leviticus says a lot of crazy stuff like not eating rabbit or shrimp, so it must be fine to be gay because it's all crap that no-one would ever take seriously or obey". There's an LJ icon to this effect which drives me up the wall.
(Reply to this comment) (Thread)
livredor: words
From:livredor
Date:January 23rd, 2009 04:17 pm (UTC)
58 minutes after journal entry, 05:17 pm (livredor's time)
(Link)
No, I absolutely agree, and I think nextian (whom I don't know, but based on her essay) would agree too. The problem is not that our Tanakh got incorporated into Christian Scripture. The problem is not even that some Christians like having Seder celebrations to commemorate the Last Supper. The problem is that society in general isn't aware that Jews approach the Bible differently from how Christians do. It's definitely true that there are bits of the Bible we don't read because they're too "contaminated" by Christianity; you know how R Magonet made this project to reclaim our texts, doing things like putting the really scary bit of Isaiah, the Suffering Servant passage, into the Reform Machzor?

I hate that "homophobia is crap because Leviticus is crap" argument too. I have seen people arguing that if fundamentalist Christians are going to accept Leviticus they should do something about making sure people get paid for their labour the same day they perform it, which I like rather better. But still.
(Reply to this comment) (Up thread) (Parent) (Thread)
(no subject) - redbird (1/23/09 06:09 pm)
(no subject) - livredor (1/23/09 10:42 pm)
(no subject) - pw201 (1/23/09 06:17 pm)
(no subject) - livredor (1/23/09 10:49 pm)
(no subject) - pw201 (1/24/09 03:06 am)
(no subject) - ex_robhu (1/25/09 08:47 pm)
(no subject) - pw201 (1/26/09 02:09 am)
(no subject) - ex_robhu (1/26/09 07:23 pm)
(no subject) - cakmpls (1/23/09 04:51 pm)
(no subject) - curious_reader (1/25/09 04:53 pm)
(no subject) - cakmpls (1/23/09 04:54 pm)
From:lyssiae
Date:January 23rd, 2009 04:51 pm (UTC)
1 hours after journal entry
(Link)
"[A]ssuming Judaism is [was?] nothing but a precursor to Christianity...erases the Jews who are alive today..."

As a Christian who does indeed believe that pre-New Testament Judaism was entirely (saying "nothing but" suggests to me that the Messiah's coming wasn't really much to write home about) intended to point towards Christ, I would say that it casts a big question mark over Judaism as practised and followed since the birth of Christ. It doesn't erase the people - I mean, I've met you, and that was most definitely after the Incarnation, and you're a Jew - right?

Actually I would hold that Christians and the living of Christian values are in the minority today, especially in the Western world. Modern culture holds a whole load of tenets which go against Scripture and it takes an increasing amount of deep prayer, conviction, sheer guts and adherence to the Eucharist to be able to live that without being at best laughed at and at worst seeing what you call sacred desecrated (sad chap on You Tube, qv). The West has discarded its Christian roots, and the non-West, wanting to be as much like the West as possible, is skipping even developing any, going straight ahead to hedonism and a (twisted?) capitalism.

A side note about Western culture having Christian roots: I don't know why I call it "Christian" rather than "Judaeo-Christian", but I suspect it has to do with the way Christ talks about himself in relation to (albeit) the Law of Moses - that He came not to abolish it but to fulfil it. So I don't see much if anything "substantial" in Christian culture that I couldn't, time, money, intellect and a sufficient library notwithstanding, somehow trace back to a part of (pre-NT) Jewish culture.

All the above doesn't talk much about Judaism practised today. I suppose as a Christian I simply don't see the need to explore it (*suspects a charge of indignant and offended modern-day Jews will soon storm her house or something*).
(Reply to this comment) (Thread)
cakmpls: default
From:cakmpls
Date:January 23rd, 2009 04:58 pm (UTC)
1 hours after journal entry, 11:58 am (cakmpls's time)
(Link)
The West has discarded its Christian roots,

"Christian roots" like the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, for example?
(Reply to this comment) (Up thread) (Parent) (Thread)
(no subject) - lyssiae (1/23/09 08:04 pm)
(no subject) - livredor (1/23/09 11:04 pm)
(no subject) - sonicdrift (2/9/09 07:52 pm)
midnightmelody: default
From:midnightmelody
Date:January 23rd, 2009 06:26 pm (UTC)
3 hours after journal entry, 07:26 pm (midnightmelody's time)
(Link)
My f-list has just played Snap! with posting about Judaism and cultural appropriation - so I shall point you at your counterpart in posting, who you may already know: here.
(Reply to this comment) (Thread)
livredor: teapot
From:livredor
Date:January 23rd, 2009 11:06 pm (UTC)
7 hours after journal entry, January 24th, 2009 12:06 am (livredor's time)
(Link)
Thank you, that's a fascinating link. I don't think I actually do know anotherusedpage, but yes, it's very pertinent to hear some viewpoints from people who are for one reason or another disconnected from their inherited cultures.
(Reply to this comment) (Up thread) (Parent) (Thread)
(no subject) - monanotlisa (1/23/09 09:26 pm)
livredor: teapot
From:livredor
Date:January 23rd, 2009 11:10 pm (UTC)
7 hours after journal entry, January 24th, 2009 12:10 am (livredor's time)
(Link)
I think it's probably wise not to read the linked post. One of the problems with it is that it's assuming "Christian" to mean white, American, Protestant / Evangelical Christian. Now, this is the environment that nextian is immersed in, and she's trying not to blame Christians as such for the situation, but the post isn't very helpful for a reader who is, say, a European Catholic (or, as people pointed out in the comments, a non-conformist Christian or someone from one of the majority Black denominations.)
(Reply to this comment) (Up thread) (Parent) (Thread)
friend_of_tofu: default
From:friend_of_tofu
Date:January 23rd, 2009 10:15 pm (UTC)
6 hours after journal entry
(Link)
Interesting. I may have to think about this more, because my default position is not to believe in "cultural appropriation". Really. I believe in colonialism, oppression, ignorance, etc etc, but CA as a separate thing? Not so much.
(Reply to this comment) (Thread)
livredor: ewe
From:livredor
Date:January 23rd, 2009 11:26 pm (UTC)
8 hours after journal entry, January 24th, 2009 12:26 am (livredor's time)
(Link)
Agreed. I am quite dubious about the idea of Cultural Appropriation, at least as anything but a sub-phenomenon of more general racism and colonialism. I think the major case where it does seem to be a real and separate issue is the treatment of indigenous cultures by colonizing cultures, such as Native Americans in the US, First Nations people in Canada, Maori people in New Zealand, Indigenous Australians, and Sami (Lapp) people in Scandinavia, which I happen to have learnt about recently. I think there does need to be a word for the process where a culture is nearly entirely wiped out by a colonizing power through both killing and forcible assimilation, and then the new hegemonic culture decides that the eliminated culture was all cute and romantic and spiritual and make commercialized, mass-produced versions of "typical" artefacts and tell fairy-stories about the destroyed traditions. It's a particular kind of revisionism, as well as being cruel to the remaining people who have some connection to that heritage. And I think maybe things analogous to that happen with some other colonized cultures, so there's a use for the term.

Notice that I'm not even slightly talking about fantasy novels set in "the mysterious east", or SF series where everybody in the crew comes from a different ethnicity as a cheap substitute for characterization. Those things are quite likely to be problematic, but the problem isn't cultural appropriation, and indeed it's possible to make good art set in a culture not the creator's own.
(Reply to this comment) (Up thread) (Parent) (Thread)
(no subject) - friend_of_tofu (1/24/09 12:28 am)
hatam_soferet: default
From:hatam_soferet
Date:January 25th, 2009 12:05 am (UTC)
1 days after journal entry
(Link)
This is obviously an awfully important sort of conversation to be having, not necessarily right now but certainly at some point, culture and religion and identity and such being as central as they are. So it bothers me a bit that I can't seem to get into it on an intelligent level; beyond "gosh," I'm not taking much in. :(
(Reply to this comment) (Thread)



Contribute something
View all comments chronologically