Sunday, January 18, 2009

livejournal discussion on Cultural Appropriation

There's quite an active discussion on cultural appropriation taking place across livejournal communities (networks? --- I'm not familiar with livejournal).

Take a look at a Cultural Appropriation Bingo Game developed by an individual who's user name is Elusis. Click here to get to the page with the graphic. Elusis says it can be reposted with attribution, so here it is... And thanks, Elusis. (Update: Feb 22, 2013 --- The Bingo card at the link is no longer viewable. Don't know why. And, I made a larger image available today on my site. The one I had up before was too small to read.)

And click here to get to some of the discussion.

UPDATE, 7:15 pm... I continue to read through livejournal's discussion, following links here and there. This one is.... what word to use... I don't know. THIS PERSON GETS IT. She got it after she spent some time on my blog. If I understand correctly, the writer created an online game that used the Pueblo Revolt. People tried to tell her not to do it. She did it anyway, but has now decided to stop. Do take time to read what 'kynn' says about writing, DARKNESS UNDER THE WATER, the Pueblo Revolt...


Anonymous said...

Oh how I love the bingos. This one, and all the other political ones I've seen.

Anonymous said...

Hi! Just a quick correction -- BWBR is actually not a computer game but a pen-and-paper (or in this case, beads-and-cords) tabletop roleplaying game. Like Dungeons and Dragons, but it's not about killing things and taking treasure -- BWBR is in the subcategory of "story games"/indie games, which have grown away from the combat oriented fantasy tropes of earlier RPGs and instead explore more complex topics (usually).

The physical artifact of BWBR is a book with the game rules in it, that describe how to play. You also need some leather cords, and a supply of beads; these are markers that represent character qualities and the state of the game.

To play BWBR, you and several other players would sit around a table or in a living room or wherever, and describe the actions of the role you choose to play. You don't "play-act" -- you are more like a writer than a thespian. Together you and your friends would tell a story, with the roles of the "rest of the world" in the fiction taken by the game master (called "Spider Grandmother" in BWBR, and "the dungeon master" in D&D). The cords and beads track the progress through the story as well as introducing complications.

Roleplaying games can be pretty opaque to people who aren't familiar with them, but they also have a lot of potential for only a fun pastime, but also exploring serious issues and forming understanding about the world we live in.

The big questions, of course, are whose lessons are being taught and what are they teaching about the topic?

It would be worthwhile to consider the topic of American Indian representation(s) in current and historical roleplaying games (which date only about as far back as the 1970s, so there is not that much "history"!); perhaps I will post on this soon. Even better, of course, would be Native roleplayers' points of view, and I would link to those.

The roleplaying game culture is a very oddly racist one; white people are normative in about every fictional setting in which the games take place (similar to science fiction and fantasy), but you also have the added factor of the biases, racial identities, and preconceptions about race that one's fellow players around the table may hold. These serve to modify, reinforce, or subvert the racial assumptions that appear in the rulebooks.

It's pretty interesting, really, and smarter people than I have written about it extensively, although I am not sure how many from an American Indian's point of view. Much has been written about black representations and participation (generally: black people don't exist in most games), Asians (widespread and blatant appropriation), Asian Indians (appropriation), etc. Most American Indian representations have been simplistic, racist, non-existent, AND appropriative.

Gotta get to work -- I can exchange email with you if you're interested in talking about this more!