Cultural Appropriation vs Appreciation

Stefanie BerganiniIndigenous Connections

Cultural appropriation has been a particularly contentious topic in recent years, and a debate that tends to be very polarizing. Some see it as a much needed call to higher standards of representation and transparency, others as needless identity politics. As I talked about in my last blog post, culture is dynamic, and constantly evolving, changing, and mixing. Particular foods, or styles of clothing, or visual motifs (among many many other things) make their way around the world, resulting in new or hybrid cultural expressions. So where is the line between appreciating and appropriating? I won’t claim to have a 100% foolproof way to judge whether or not something is cultural appropriation. The Cambridge Dictionary defines the term as “the … Read More

Cultural Loss and Revitalization

Stefanie BerganiniIndigenous Connections

ATA’s mission statement is focused on helping the people of the Andes preserve and revitalize their textile traditions. What does that mean? Why do these traditions need preservation or revitalization? All cultures change over time. The fact that culture is not a fixed monolith is one of the most fundamental concepts in cultural anthropology. Instead, a group or society’s culture constantly evolves as group members experience and respond to the world around them. When cultures shift as a result of two different groups coming into contact, that sharing or blending is what anthropologists call “acculturation,” and it’s a process that’s been happening for about as long as there have been humans on this planet. In many cases, the process of … Read More

Indigenous People Face Higher Risks With COVID-19

Stefanie BerganiniIndigenous Connections

Around the world, indigenous people are bearing a heavy burden from COVID-19. For many native peoples, coronavirus is a double-whammy: it exacerbates existing inequalities at the same time that it introduces new challenges. Indigenous groups often experience what social scientists call structural vulnerability: a situation in which systemic issues like racism, sexism, or poverty (among others) combine to predispose people to a higher risk of harm. When it comes to medical issues, structural vulnerability manifests in health disparities, or instances in which one group of people carries a higher burden of illness, injury, or death than other groups. On a global scale, for example, indigenous people have life expectancies up to twenty years lower than average, and suffer from disproportionately … Read More

How Climate Change Impacts Textile Heritage

Stefanie BerganiniIndigenous Connections

Last month I spent a week in Madrid at COP25, the twenty-fifth conference of the parties who signed on to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The convention’s founding agreement, written in 1992, pledges to limit human-generated greenhouse gas emissions to a level below that which would interfere with the global climate system. Two major follow-up documents (1997’s Kyoto Protocol and 2016’s Paris Agreement) and the annual COP meetings attempt to lay out a plan for participating countries to meet that global emissions goal. As anyone who follows the news will know, we are far from meeting emissions targets, and, at least in the United States, the subject of whether or not to even participate in this … Read More