Talking about Cultural Appropriation of Indigenous Fashion in the Classroom

Friday, January 6, 2017: 11:30 AM
Room 401 (Colorado Convention Center)
Amanda Sikarskie, University of Michigan–Dearborn
Starting a conversation about cultural appropriation at all can feel daunting. Students will have strong viewpoints on both sides of the issue, and undoubtedly some will bring quite colonial pre-conceptions to class. Challenging as it can be, taking classroom time to talk about cultural appropriation can yield great benefits. Students begin to think of cultural productions not just as a set of end products, but also as intricately related to a set of cultural perspectives and practices. Many students have never thought before about what it means to wear a “tribal” print or piece of jewelry. Some students have a false perception that Native cultures are no longer living cultures and many will never have considered the idea of contemporary indigenous fashion designers.

My discussion will offer some advice on talking about cultural appropriation of indigenous fashion in the classroom based on my own experience teaching this material in both large public university and small art college settings. I will offer strategies for helping students understand cultural appropriation and how it functions within contemporary high fashion, understand how cultural appropriation can be hurtful to indigenous people, including designers, and form an educated opinion about cultural appropriation that will guide students’ future practices—both as consumers and as practicing professionals.

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