Philosophical Studies

, Volume 176, Issue 4, pp 981–1002 | Cite as

Cultural appropriation and the intimacy of groups

  • C. Thi NguyenEmail author
  • Matthew Strohl


What could ground normative restrictions concerning cultural appropriation in cases where they are not grounded by independent considerations such as property rights or harm? We propose that such restrictions can be grounded by considerations of intimacy. Consider the familiar phenomenon of interpersonal intimacy. Certain aspects of personal life and interpersonal relationships are afforded various protections in virtue of being intimate. We argue that an analogous phenomenon exists at the level of large groups. In many cases, members of a group engage in shared practices that contribute to a sense of common identity, such as wearing certain hair or clothing styles or performing a certain style of music. Participation in such practices can generate relations of group intimacy, which can ground certain prerogatives in much the same way that interpersonal intimacy can. One such prerogative is making what we call an appropriation claim. An appropriation claim is a request from a group member that non-members refrain from appropriating a given element of the group’s culture. Ignoring appropriation claims can constitute a breach of intimacy. But, we argue, just as for the prerogatives of interpersonal intimacy, in many cases there is no prior fact of the matter about whether the appropriation of a given cultural practice would consitute a breach of intimacy. It depends on what the group decides together.


Cultural appropriation Art Cultural ethics Intimacy Group agency Culture Appropriation 



A great many people have helped this paper along the way. We’d like to thank Dave Baker, Kara Barnette, Julie Birch, Franklin Bruno, Anthony Cross, Tilda Cvrkel, Daniel Edelstein, Melinda Fagan, Jeremy David Fix, Mollie Gerver, Theodore Gracyk, Sterling HolyWhiteMountain, Bryce Huebner, Melissa Hughs, Andrew Huddleston, Shen-yi Liao, Dominic McIver Lopes, Samantha Matherne, Erich Hatala Matthes, Nadia Mehdi, Aaron Meskin, Joseph Rachiele, Nick Riggle, Guy Rohrbaugh, James Shelley, Angela Shope, Nils-Hennes Stear, Katherine Thomson-Jones, Miles Unterreisher, Jonathan Weinberg, Mary Beth Willard, Aaron Zimmerman, and the audiences of the Utah Aesthetic Normativity Conference, the Auburn Aesthetics Forum, the Leeds Cultural Appropriation Workshop, and the Pacific APA—and many more.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.OremUSA
  2. 2.University of MontanaMissoulaUSA

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