At this year’s Freshers’ edition of the Pangaea Festival, many people were disappointed to discover that cultural appropriation was kicked off the bill. After it was revealed that the theme of Pangaea would encourage people to dress up in Native American attire, such as the outfit of Tiger Lily from the well-known tale of Peter Pan, the festival then issued a statement prohibiting such practice.
They claimed that the culturally insensitive nature of such a costume simply made it off-limits. Worse still, this catastrophe was compounded when rumours suggested that, whilst cultural appropriation would not attend, Example would.
I was keen to get some feedback from those students who were going to the festival on the news that borrowing cultures was off limits this year. I took to the streets and the responses were mixed. Some said that this move from the festival’s organisers was not only sensible but necessary, because it halted the act of dominant cultures using strategic anti-essentialism to steal from minority cultures that have been historically subordinated.
Others claimed that the proposed fantasy and boundless exploration, as well as expression of the costume theme in question, undermined the notion that cultural appropriation could even be applied within this hermetic and unique situation. On the other hand, one student simply told me that he was gutted that cultural appropriation was banned because “they were sick at warehouse project” when he last saw them.
It is difficult to know where exactly to stand on this issue really, but with this semester’s ‘Dress Up As Your Favourite Childhood Minority character’ social just around the corner, it seems as though the fun police are sure to be back before long.