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From a discussion on someone else's LJ on whether or not it is possible to belly dance without cultural appropriation; Appreciation, Appropriation, and Exploitation in Ethnic Dance

I wonder, actually, if the same examination is relevant to the martial arts - most people who study Asian MA these days are several levels of remove from the culture that spawned the art, and that culture is usually echoed in the training.

(Even more tangentially - where does that leave Brazilian Jujitsu; a Brazilian style of a Japanese martial art?)


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 24th, 2010 01:44 am (UTC)
Interesting article - I like that it's not saying no one should participate in dance or other arts from a different culture than their own - just that people need to be conscious and respectful and take the time to learn something about the original cultural context and significance of what their doing.

And I do think those principles apply to martial arts as well, and a lot of other things.
Feb. 24th, 2010 01:49 am (UTC)
That's an interesting article, indeed. There are definitely other areas where the same questions come up, and I'd agree martial arts is one.

Another that I have experience of is folk music. There are lots of people playing "Celtic"[1] music that don't have a drop of (or at best a very diluted amount of) Scots, Irish, or Breton blood in their veins. I play many tunes from those traditions, and some from other traditions including Balkan, klezmer, Bulgarian, bluegrass and old-time (which is an umbrella term itself...), and while I definitely respect the traditions, I don't revere them. I think it's great that there are people who do keep specific traditions going, and I'm more than happy to learn from them, but I also like to play in the intersections of traditions.

[1] loosely defined as tunes from Scots, Cape Breton, Irish, and perhaps Breton music traditions. The umbrella term "Celtic" is offensive to some players schooled in these traditions.
Feb. 24th, 2010 08:30 am (UTC)
I find the article absurd, if not taken in context.

The context is that it is for dancers that are paid to belly dance, often at restaurants, or other locations where people of a particular ethnicity tend to gather.

It speaks as an outsider to that ethnicity, and the need to understand and have respect for the individual traditions that go into what they understand to be belly dancing.

In short, it slams "consumerism" while making a basic capitalist point: Know your customer, and work to meet their expectations.

Any extrapolations need to be made on that basis -- it is not speaking about art. It is speaking about business. If you divorce it from that, and elevate it into a "(belly) dance as art" (rather than "belly dance as business") perspective, it turns into an absurd set of expectations for artists -- expectations which, I would argue, an artist should reject.

Looking at the martial arts, I think that the arguments presented are largely irrelevant. Unless you are teaching a martial art, and your students are from that cultural background (and trying to be in touch with their heritage), I don't think it matters much -- so long as you are being honest about what you are and are not doing.
Feb. 24th, 2010 04:19 pm (UTC)
Interesting article, and very timely given that I'm thinking of starting belly dance classes soon. It does seem to be geared towards belly dancers who perform in public, and I'm sure there are many students who don't intend to follow that path.

Also, and maybe this is me being too much of a pragmatist, I tend to think that if a studio is offering and advertising their classes, then it's OK for me to take them. I mean, logically, if the studio thought it was disrespectful to teach a given dance/martial art, they wouldn't offer classes, would they?
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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