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The Spectrum and Contexts of Cultural Appropriation

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The Spectrum and Contexts of Cultural Appropriation

In this course, we will examine cultural appropriation, why it happens, how it can be harmful, and how to challenge it in our everyday lives. There will be four modules, and each of these four modules will weave together history, current examples, and cultural theory. Most importantly, we will work together to understand our how society encourages cultural appropriation and how we can rethink/reimagine/redream/re-envision our celebrations, representations, and spiritual selves towards the goal of positive change and further education.


MODULE 1: Introduction – Context and Spectrum 

​​A straightforward introduction of cultural appropriation within the United States from the perspectives of people of color. This module will show where appropriation happens within American society, the roots of this problem, and how it’s connected to the oppression of minorities. Personal reflection and stance on this issue will conclude this first module. 

  1. Why does cultural appropriation happen?
  2. How is it connected to white supremacy?
  3. Mapping out your positionality

MODULE 2: Celebrating 

One of the most visual and often overlooked forms of appropriation happens on the days we celebrate the most: Holidays. This module will considerproblems that arise with holidays by examining and discussing visuals representing popular celebrations, such as Halloween and Thanksgiving. Discussion of what these holidays mean to us and how they create false narratives of others will help facilitate a better understanding of how damaging particular forms of appropriation can be.

  1. Halloween, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s, and Columbus Day
  2. How are holidays tied to our identities and oppression?
  3. Rethinking how you celebrate

MODULE 3: Mascots and Representations

The taking of culture and identity is perhaps strongest when it comes to American sports. From professional to high school, Americans have an unwavering loyalty to their team. This loyalty has led to misunderstanding, racism, and bigotry on a national scale when it comes to the appropriation of other cultures and identities. Looking at the recent changes of sports team’s names and the history behind that fight will help educate students about the harm mascots can cause. 

  1. Why do we create caricatures of groups considered “other?”
  2. What is the harm caused by mascots and racist representations?
  3. Reimagining the idea of tradition and legacy tied to mascots, high schools, teams, etc.

MODULE 4: Spiritualities

The spirituality of minority groups in the United States has been massively impacted by capitalism, federal laws, and society taking what it wants to fulfill its own wants. From music festivals to self-proclaimed “gurus,” this module will take a hard look how appropriation dilutes and breaks down the spiritual practices of Native American and Indian cultures.  

  1. What is the impact of capitalism on spiritual practices?
  2. What is the spectrum of cultural appropriation when it comes to spirituality?
  3. Redreaming or re-envisioning your spirituality to be anti-oppression and tied to positive impact and change


In this course students will learn:

  • About cultural appropriation in the context of white supremacy.
  • How to understand their place and privilege in society.
  • How cultural appropriation operates on a spectrum and is contextual.
  • How to identify the context of cultural practices.
  • About different types of cultural appropriation.
  • How to combat cultural appropriation in the different aspects of their lives.



If you are already a member sign in and add the course to your favorites. For support, please reply to your confirmation email or contact hello@embodiedphilosophy.com.


Eric Hemenway is an Anishnaabe/Odawa from Cross Village, Mi. He is the director of a tribal archives and has done extensive work under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Eric has worked on numerous exhibits, signage projects, curriculums, programs, professional developments, presentations and consultations with organizations on working with tribal communities throughout the country. He currently sits on boards for the Michigan Historical Commission, Little Traverse Conservancy and Clarke Library at Central Michigan University. He is a former board member for the National NAGPRA Review Committee and Michigan Historical Society.






Shreena Niketa Gandhi is a cultural historian of religion with expertise in religion, race, the Americas and Hinduism, and currently teaches at Michigan State University, where she starts of the first few weeks of all her classes introducing students to the concept of structural white supremacy and why that is important for a better understanding of religion in the U.S. Her research and public scholarship are on the history of yoga, and she is revising a manuscript on this using the framework of white supremacy and cultural appropriation. She also provides trainings for yoga studio to help their students think about cultural appropriation and making their yoga practice one that is anti-oppression. Through her scholarship, she hopes to make all Americans from all backgrounds better understand how we have all benefited and suffered because of systematic white supremacy and racism, and her scholarship on yoga is one illustration of this system. Professor Gandhi is also a part of the Feminist Critical Hindu Studies Collective, and together with her feminist collective they have published in Religion Compass, Text and Performance Quarterly and the Washington Post.