If you hear the term “cultural appropriation”, you may well be forgiven for thinking about the sheer number of non-Irish people who are preparing to celebrate St Patrick’s Day tomorrow, the vast demographics who attend the annual Notting Hill Carnival, or that time Charlotte Casiraghi competed in show-jumping dressed as a Native-American. There are, however, many more subtle, pervasive forms of cultural appropriation, and the ramifications of these are often overlooked.
Take Cornwall, and the Cornish pasty. Cornwall is the lesser-known part of the U.K. which has hotly debated whether or not to hold a vote for independence. Nationalism and Cornish identity is strong, with Cornish flags lining the streets of many tourist towns year round (especially in the south west of the county), and not a Union Jack to be seen. Last year in the referendum, Cornwall was adamant that it wanted to leave the E.U., perhaps a surprise to some given that they have received a fair amount of funding over the years for farming and agriculture. Their message was clear: they want to minimise external control and influence, and they no longer want to feel ignored.
Whilst many people believe that Cornwall is quite inward looking, their attitude becomes somewhat more understandable when you think of the stereotypes which exist. From Gilbert & Sullivan to exaggerated mimicked accents, it is rare to find a Cornishman portrayed in a positive light, and without reference to pirates, mead, and pasties. Other parts of the “West Country” capitalise on this, perhaps making Cornwall, and the Cornish, feel even more isolated than otherwise.
HSPS and Philosophy students might like to think about what constitutes identity, and those interested in Social Psychology may be interested to look at social constructs. Students interested in PPE may also be interested in the ramifications of a divisive society, especially given the current political climate in the U.K. There is increasing tension between different groups and factions of society, and the causes of the friction are becoming increasingly polarised in terms of philosophy, religion, and culture. The solutions to these issues may lie more in an academic, rather than pragmatic, sphere, with the only way to start to mediate being to intellectualise the sources of conflict.