A Response to the “Cultural Appropriation” Zealots




Attached in the above Word document is the full text of a speech by author Lionel Shriver, “Fiction and Identity Politics,” which Ms. Shriver delivered at the Brisbane Writers Festival on September 8, 2016.

As noted in The New York Times, “Ms. Shriver criticized as runaway political correctness efforts to prevent artists from drawing on ethnic sources for their work.” She “was especially critical of efforts to stop novelists from cultural appropriation.”

The buzzword used by those who want to institute such bans is Cultural Appropriation.

Ms. Shriver’s speech is a devastating attack on the anti-cultural appropriation faction of the PC crowd. It demolishes their presuppositions, though, of course, they will never admit it; Ms. Shriver has already been subjected to virulent counterattacks.

The piece is extremely well written; well thought out; tightly knit; focused; effectively backed up with and illustrated by cogent argument, counterpoints, and supporting examples. Miss Shriver doesn’t miss a beat.

Her speech speaks for and stands by itself. I cannot imagine, had I been asked or had occasion to write such a speech, ever saying it better.

I would merely like to add the names of a few works of fiction (and one work by a composer) that come to mind, works that would probably be banned if the “cultural appropriation” zealots had their way:

Moby-Dick (Queequeg)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Hadji Murad (Leo Tolstoy)

Huckleberry Finn

James Joyce’s Ulysses (Leopold Bloom)

Porgy and Bess


— Roger W. Smith

   September 16, 2016



Also noteworthy, and right on the money, are the comments of Janice Gewirtz in a letter to the editor published in the The New York Times of September 16, 2016:

Perhaps the most absurd tenet of the spreading political-correctness takeover is the objection to “cultural appropriation.” I hadn’t realized that it had jumped, scarily, from the college campus to the critics of writers. Hats off to the novelist Lionel Shriver for speaking out against it at a writers’ conference in Australia.

One writer actually walked out of Ms. Shriver’s talk because it was a “celebration of the unfettered exploitation of the experiences of others, under the guise of fiction.” Isn’t that almost the definition of what fiction is? Will someone soon claim that men should not write about women?

Writers of fiction need to be unfettered to explore the limits of their imaginations, period.

— Janice Gewirtz



See also:

“Lionel Shriver’s Address on Cultural Appropriation Roils a Writers Festival,” The New York Times, September 12, 2016



“In Defense of Cultural Appropriation,” op ed by Kenan Malik, The New York Times, June 14, 2017

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