Honors College Theses

Title

Read the Room: Exploring the fine line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation

Date

2021

Major

Fashion Merchandising & Apparel Design (B.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Beth Myers

Abstract

Today’s consumers are increasingly drawn toward multicultural advertising, which encourages many brands to incorporate artifacts/ideas of other cultures into their visual marketing campaigns. However, recent campaigns of fashion brands such as Dior and Dolce & Gabbana have led to backlash for utilizing culturally sensitive cues, because consumers felt offended by their cultural insensitivity and/or misrepresentation. This phenomenon is called cultural appropriation, which is defined as misusing or capitalizing on cultural property, creativity or experiences of a group of (often oppressed) people without honoring or respecting the people themselves. The question arises as to how consumers can differentiate between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation as the line between them has become increasingly blurred. There is little research that has explored consumers’ perceptions of cultural appropriation and appreciation. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to identify consumers’ understanding of these two concepts by using qualitative textual analysis of 136 posts under the hashtag “cultural appropriation” on the social media platforms Twitter and Tumblr. Examples of themes that emerged include commodification, disrespect, and power imbalance. This study’s findings help product managers/marketers to create more effective multicultural marketing content incorporating culturally sensitive cues that resonate positively with their target market.

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