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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 42, Issue 2, April 2016

Dominating Speech

Erich Hatala Matthes
Pages 343-366

Cultural Appropriation Without Cultural Essentialism?

Is there something morally wrong with cultural appropriation in the arts? I argue that the little philosophical work on this topic has been overly dismissive of moral objections to cultural appropriation. Nevertheless, I argue that philosophers working on epistemic injustice have developed powerful conceptual tools that can aid in our understanding of objections that have been levied by other scholars and artists. I then consider the relationship between these objections and the harms of cultural essentialism. I argue that focusing on the systematic nature of appropriative harms may allow us to sidestep the problem of essentialism, but not without cost.