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The Stuart Hall Library Saturday Reading Group

Saturday Reading Group: Cultural Appropriation and Contested Identities Nikesh Shukla and Coco Fusco

19 May 2018

The fifth Saturday Reading Group will explore experiences of cultural appropriation through the writings of British journalist and author Nikesh Shukla and Cuban-American writer, artist and curator Coco Fusco.

  • Venue

    Stuart Hall Library

  • 15.00 - 17.00.
    Free, booking essential.

Join us for a reading group focusing on Nikesh Shukla’s essay ‘Namaste’ from The Good Immigrant and ‘Who’s Doin’ the Twist? Notes Toward a Politics of Appropriation’ from Coco Fusco’s book English is Broken Here. All texts are read together in the group, you don’t need to read them in advance.

Both writers discuss the power dynamics at play in relation to contested cultural property and identities.

In ‘Namaste’ Shukla discusses his experiences of white misappropriation as a British Indian:

Namaste means hello. Namaste means I’m bowing to you. It’s a customary greeting. It’s a respectful salutation. It has become a bastardised metaphor for spiritualism. It’s white people doing yoga, throwing up prayer hands chanting ‘AUM’ and saying ‘namaste’ like their third eyes are being opened and they can peer directly into the nucleus of spirituality.

Coco Fusco writes about cultural appropriation in art and film as well as North American and European societies in general. In ‘Who’s Doin’ the Twist?’ she critiques the writings of Kobena Mercer, bell hooks and others, whilst exploring the changing dynamics of constructed ‘ethnicity’ in relation to ‘whiteness’:

I heard all too many horror stories about Muslim treatment of women that often began with comments about chadors and led to assertions that “traditional” men didn’t allow their women to be feminists. At the same time, I also learned that the latest craze for middle-class German women trying to “get in touch with their bodies” was belly-dancing classes, which were even more popular than the salsa workshops that had sprung up like weeds all over northern Europe. No one spoke of the simultaneous embrace of culture and rejection of the people who originate it as a contradictory behaviour with a colonial history.

Nikesh Shukla is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Meatspace, Coconut Unlimited and the award-winning novella The Time Machine. He wrote the short film Two Dosas and the Channel 4 sitcom Kabadasses. Shukla writes a column for the Guardian, and recently edited and published the anthology The Good Immigrant, in which ‘Namaste’ features as the first essay.

Coco Fusco is a Cuban-American interdisciplinary artist, writer, and curator whose work has been exhibited and published internationally. Fusco’s work explores gender, identity, race and power through performance, video, interactive installations and critical writing. Fusco has worked with Iniva in the past, and co-published her book The Bodies that Were Not Ours with us in 2001.

This reading group is free and open to all.

Saturday Reading Group: Cultural Appropriation and Contested Identities