Shamanism, Racism, and Cultural Misappropriation

Lupa at Therioshamanism pens a very solid critique of problems of racism and cultural misappropriation regarding shamanism. Several of the points brought up are often not recognized as racist or otherwise problematic, and Lupa does a good job of explaining why they are.

Just recently I had a rather heated argument with a person who insisted that she had no obligation to respect the wishes of a culture that did not want to share its spiritual traditions with her. Her primary argument was one that Lupa addresses, that as a “citizen of the world” that somehow gave her a right to that information.

I guess such attitudes are why I’m so strongly in support of property rights, including intellectual property.

One issue that struck me in my argument that Lupa didn’t seem to mention is that of imperialism*, which I suppose in many ways in closely tied to racism, but still seems distinctly different to me. Racism implies a believed superiority over another group because of race, but imperialism implies a right of ownership that goes beyond racism. The person I had my hearty debate with was utterly convinced that her pseudo-Christian ideals of sharing religious knowledge with strangers, in the hopes of perfecting it, gave her the right to peruse, sample, and assimilate the religious traditions of other cultures.

And if they refused to let her in? “I’ll stick my nose in and watch when they aren’t looking.” Nothing like imperialistic voyeurism, especially when it’s exhibited by a militant pagan feminist.

*For those who don’t know me or my politics, I am not one who normally talks about “imperialism” with regards to everyday things, or even large scale events that many activists would regard as “imperialistic”. The fact that I use the term here is significant and exact.


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