December 6, 2017 (Tuesday)

by Yule Heibel on December 5, 2017

The other day I read this piece, which had been highlighted in Arts & Letters Daily, describing the rather obtuse criticism Lionel Shriver got for her Brisbane talk about “cultural appropriation.” In particular it was about this article a young Somali-Australian woman wrote in The Guardian, which detailed her trauma at having to listen to Shriver. The article was silly. But what really struck me a little while later was this one particular point its author made: that letting white writers “appropriate” the experiences of “others” in fiction would mean that those “others” would be “silenced” by the white publishing industry and never get their voices heard.

This is bullshit.

Let’s take some basic academic marxist analysis to this, viz., insights into the culture industry. In our capitalist system which supports culture industry, there’s a non-stop, incessant need for more material. If a white writer successfully “exploits” the experience of, as per the Somali-Australian writer, the experience(s) of a queer indigenous tribal chief by writing about them, then it’s as certain as night following day that the culture industry will eventually, typically quite soon, look for a queer indigenous tribal chief who wants to write about his/her experience him/herself. Culture industry will, that is, if the white “product” sells.

Elvis, The Rolling Stones, et al., make “black” music based on blues, and within a relatively short period of time the music industry (i.e., culture industry) seeks out more black performers. The search for “authenticity” drives culture industry as much as anything, because authenticity guarantees sales. Or, to put it in “Man in the High Castle” terms, authenticity is “woo,” and can be (re-)purposed as a selling point… (In Adorno’s academic marxist terms, culture industry co-opts everything, …including identity politics itself, which becomes a product to be bought and sold.)

These silly identitarians confuse authenticity and essentialism, and they seem to disregard economics (because, essentialism).

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: