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Where there is capital accumulation, there is appropriation!

Delice, Serkan (2023) Where there is capital accumulation, there is appropriation! In: Fashion in 3D: Decolonizing Deconstructing Decentering, 20 October 2023, University of Bologna, Italy.

Type of Research: Conference, Symposium or Workshop Item
Creators: Delice, Serkan

Paper presented at the panel ‘Where’s political economy in fashion’s decolonisation?’ as part of Fashion in 3D: ZoneModa International Conference.

The ever-persistent debate on fashion and so-called cultural appropriation should be taken seriously, above all, because of its emotional intensity, that is, the extent of righteous indignation conveyed by those who expose and oppose what they perceive as acts of appropriation. Such indignation, in most cases, is a manifestation of a wider disquiet in the face not only of the material and psychological legacies of colonialism, but of the myriad forms of dispossession and labour exploitation wrought by the forces of grossly unfair contemporary transnational capital accumulation. Yet the symptomatic value of that indignation is increasingly eclipsed, especially in the volatile, reactive space of social media, by a nationalist and communitarian sense of ownership of one’s “culture”, “cultural traditions” and “cultural heritage” as if culture is a static entity that can be owned, and needs to be defended, by a specific nation or community, as if tradition and heritage are not matters of invention and reinvention. Such reclamation of culture through social media advocacy rarely addresses the fundamental questions of a) whose living labour produces and reproduces culture, and b) how that living labour, rather than culture by itself, is being systemically appropriated by capital to regenerate more capital, “a live monster”, in Karl Marx’s words, “that is fruitful and multiplies”.

This paper will first introduce three seemingly disparate cases of denunciations of appropriation that involve individuals, communities and institutions from China, France, South Korea, and the United States. I will then connect these cases to each other by demonstrating how they are symptomatic of a deeper and wider malaise in the face of contemporary transnational capitalism: the fact that the latter is less about increasing the productivity of labour, more about endless, destructive capital accumulation and concentration through dispossession, including appropriation, commodification, privatisation, and financialisation of culture; the consequent devaluing of the labour that produces and reproduces culture, that is to say, the unequal distribution, and general depreciation, of the right to thrive by making and changing the world through culture; and a real sense of being materially and emotionally unsettled, threatened, diluted and diminished by the nauseating speed of capital accumulation.

Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed: Cultural appropriation, capital accumulation, political economy, displacement, reparative justice, reparations
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > London College of Fashion
Date: 20 October 2023
Event Location: University of Bologna, Italy
Date Deposited: 20 May 2024 15:44
Last Modified: 20 May 2024 15:44
Item ID: 21731
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/21731

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