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Will campaigns against cultural appropriation destroy the arts?

6:30pm, Friday 10 November 2017, Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA

What are the implications of campaigns against cultural appropriation for the arts? Do they threaten their survival or hold artists to account?

Is the campaign against cultural appropriation destroying the arts? Increasingly artists and writers find their creative impulses curtailed by fears that they will offend one minority group or another by ‘stealing’ their culture.  Charges of cultural appropriation seem to threaten the very roots of cultural openness, exchange, fluidity and creativity - the imaginative possibilities of entering and engaging with other cultures.

But do attacks on cultural appropriation have a point? Do the public need to be made aware of the cultural theft that has been perpetrated against minority cultures? Should respect for the cultural history of particular groups take precedence over artistic inspiration?  Should artists and writers be held to account for the way they use sources outside their own culture to inspire and create their own work? Are they profiteering from cultures that may not have access to resources for their own cultural expression?


Kenan Malik is a writer, lecturer and broadcaster. His main areas of interest are the history of ideas; history and philosophy of science; history and philosophy of religion; political philosophy; ethics; and the history and sociology of race and immigration.  His books include the acclaimed The Quest for the Moral Compass: A Global History of Ethics (Atlantic 2014) and From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and its Legacy (2009).

Ivan Hewett is a writer on music for the Daily Telegraph, broadcaster on BBC Radio 3 and 4, and professor at the Royal College of Music. He is author of Music: Healing the Rift (Continuum, 2003) and presenter of the series All in a Chord on BBC Radio 4.

Elizabeth Lynch is an arts producer working with artists and communities, combining artistic ambition with strategic vision, fostering collaboration and experiment. She creates and supports work that is engaging, challenging and gets people talking, thinking and feeling.

Avaes Mohammad is a writer and poet. His work is influenced by the Sufi Saints of South Asia as much as the Dub-Poets of Jamaica, and his essays have explored themes of integration and culture and many of his plays depict the fallout of a post-9/11 world.

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