Cultural appropriation

Themed balls
Trinity Hall is a Cambridge College. Students there organised a Japan-themed ball, for which they were severely criticised. Students at Pembroke College cancelled a party themed on Around the World in Eighty Days, for which they had also been taken to task for “cultural appropriation”. These criticisms are riddled with irony. The idea that when we imitate something we are seeking to appropriate it, rather than appreciate it, is absurd. (Letter to the Time, author unknown)

Cricket was originally a white Anglo-Saxon sport but it is now far more popular in Asian countries, so are they guilty of “cultural appropriation”? Adopting and developing a great passion for cricket is a tribute to its founders, and today it is a wonderful sport that is shared between countries, cultures and ethnicities. It has been globally elevated, not appropriated by anyone. The notion of “cultural appropriation” is an example of a more sinister politically correct mentality that is beginning to seep into our whole society. It must be refuted by intelligent people who truly value assimilation and integration as the way toward a more peaceful and harmonious society. (Mike Kemp, Truro, Cornwall 19 March 2016 The Week)

Jesus College, Cambridge
A large brass cockerel was taken by “vengeful Brits” in 1897, during a punitive expedition against the oba (king) of Benin, during which they pillaged a fortune in magnificent bronze sculptures, including the cockerel. The said cockerel was bequeathed in 1930 to the college (whose coat of arms features three cocks), and was proudly displayed in the dining hall – until last week, when Jesus’s students, inflamed by recent campaigns to right colonial-era wrongs, voted to return it to Nigeria. Even though the college obtained the bronze “entirely legitimately”, the authorities have now removed it from the hall, and are looking into the question of repatriation. I don’t blame the students – “idealism, like drunkenness, is an inevitable consequence of studenthood” – but, really, the dons should know better. (Tony Allen-Mills in The Sunday Times)

Editor’s note: such shenanigans never occur at Oxford, a large, respectable and august university, where the students are diligent, where they have better things to do with their time, such as “appropriating” thoughts and ideas from all over the world, thinking about them and critiquing them. This is what they are at university to do.

I personally have “culturally appropriated” the thought of Epicurus, or tried to. It would be nice if more people did the same. Epicurus wouldn’t complain.


  1. The whole concept of cultural appropriation is nonsense. People have borrowed from each other’s cultures since the beginning of time. Without this exchange of practises, life would be exceedingly dull. Yet I notice that the cultural appropriation police only complain when the West appropriates something. The popularisation of cricket in South Asia on the other hand, is absolutely fine. Its this sort of double standard that has disillusioned many people with liberalism. Now I’d argue that those who really care about cultural appropriation are only a small minority, and not representative of liberalism as a whole. But for such a small minority, they seem to be very outspoken, provoking a backlash amongst the rest of society.

Comments are closed.