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Coombe, Rosemary J., , . The Properties of Culture and the Politics of Possessing Identity: Native Claims in the Cultural Appropriation Controversy.
1993, Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 6(2): 249-285.
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Added by: Erich Hatala Matthes, Contributed by:

Abstract: The West has created categories of property, including intellectual property, which divides peoples and things according to the same colonizing discourses of possessive individualism that historically disentitled and disenfranchised Native peoples in North America. These categories are often presented as one or both of neutral and natural, and often racialized. The commodification and removal of land from people’s social relations which inform Western valuations of cultural value and human beings living in communities represents only one particular, partial way of categorizing the world. Legal and cultural manifestations of authorship, culture, and property are contingent upon Enlightenment and Romantic notions built upon a colonial foundation. I will argue that the law rips apart what First Nations peoples view as integrally and relationally joined, but traditional Western understandings of culture, identity, and property are provoked, challenged, and undermined by the concept of Aboriginal Title in a fashion that is both necessary and long overdue.

Comment: In this wide-ranging essay, Coombe situates debates about cultural appropriation in the context of colonial power dynamics. She discusses both appropriation of styles and stories as well as alienation of material cultural property. In particular, she criticizes the appeal to Western conceptions of property in these debates, and questions whether Native identity and autonomy can be appropriately protected by subsuming Native intangible cultural property claims under Western frameworks for intellectual property. This is a long and challenging essay, best used for more advanced courses. Alternative texts that capture some of the ideas here include Loretta Todd's "Notes on Appropriation" (on which Coombe draws), or, for a text that situates some of these ideas in the literature on epistemic injustice, see Erich Hatala Matthes, "Cultural Appropriation without Cultural Essentialism?".

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Irvin, Sherri, , . Appropriation and authorship in contemporary art
2005, British Journal of Aesthetics 45 (2):123-137.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: Appropriation art has often been thought to support the view that authorship in art is an outmoded or misguided notion. Through a thought experiment comparing appropriation art to a unique case of artistic forgery, I examine and reject a number of candidates for the distinction that makes artists the authors of their work while forgers are not. The crucial difference is seen to lie in the fact that artists bear ultimate responsibility for whatever objectives they choose to pursue through their work, whereas the forger’s central objectives are determined by the nature of the activity of forgery. Appropriation artists, by revealing that no aspect of the objectives an artist pursues are in fact built in to the concept of art, demonstrate artists’ responsibility for all aspects of their objectives and, hence, of their products. This responsibility is constitutive of authorship and accounts for the interpretability of artworks. Far from undermining the concept of authorship in art, then, the appropriation artists in fact reaffirm and strengthen it.

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Irvin, Sherri, , . The artist’s sanction in contemporary art
2005, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 63 (4):315-326.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Introduction: Contemporary artworks raise a variety of ontological, epistemological, and interpretative questions that have not yet been adequately dealt with in aesthetics. Whereas traditional visual artworks have typically had a set of privi leged and (ideally) unchanging properties fixed at a particular moment early in their histories, a contemporary installation artwork may be installed differently each time it is taken out of storage, or even constituted out of different objects at each exhibition site. The resulting variation in its configuration and visual properties may simply be a function of the changing features of galleries or available materials, or it may be essential to the work’s meaning. Or both: many contemporary works are site specific, essentially responsive to their environments in such a way that context is incorporated into the work’s meaning

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Silvers, Anita, , . Has her(oine’s) time now come?
1990, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 48 (4):365-379.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: Following suggestions drawn from both analytic and postmodernist sources, I shall advise revisionist artwriters to follow Fou- cault’s caution against conceiving of the artists whose stories are related in arts scholarship as historical persons who originated (that is, were the origins of) their art, and who, consequently, are prior to and separate from it. From this perspective, it is problematic how references to properties external to works of art-properties like gender-function in the kind of artwriting crucial to canonical reform.

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