Toward a Test of Cultural Misappropriation

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  • Title: Toward a Test of Cultural Misappropriation
  • Author(s): Kevin Nute
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: New Directions in the Humanities
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies
  • Keywords: Cultural Misappropriation, Significance, Recognizability, Relative Power
  • Volume: 17
  • Issue: 2
  • Year: 2019
  • ISSN: 2327-0055 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2327-2376 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Nute, Kevin . 2019. "Toward a Test of Cultural Misappropriation." The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies 17 (2): 67-82. doi:10.18848/2327-0055/CGP/v17i02/67-82.
  • Extent: 16 pages


The use of forms and/or ideas derived from other cultures has recently become a topic of popular debate and no small controversy. As a step towards helping to clarify precisely what does and does not constitute the misappropriation of culture, this study examines two characteristics that seem central to the issue: the “significance” of a form in its original cultural context, and its “recognizability” in its new one. Using examples drawn from a range of fields, the article analyses four permutations of these two characteristics, one of which, culturally significant and immedaitely recognizable, was initially proposed as a test of misappropriation. The study concludes, however, that the two originally proposed criteria on their own are insufficient to accurately predict potential harm, and hence cultural misappropriation, and that the relative power of the cultures involved would also need to be taken into consideration in order to create a reliable test.