OW Australs 2021 Final – That, in countries with a history of ethnic tensions, we would embrace cultural appropriation


Tobi Leung, Nepal Australs 2021 Final, Opposition Whip

Here’s the video: https://youtu.be/rGc6dQwg91w?t=3040

Motion: That, in countries with a history of ethnic tensions, we would embrace cultural appropriation.


The remedy to decades of brutal ethnic violence is not to allow those groups to tear away at hateful caricatures of each other and dismantle the tokens of each other’s spirit. I don’t care if appropriation is acceptable in the abstract or colonial appropriation got us better tomatoes.

I think the fact that their defense at third is to say the problem, “No, it’s not inherent to the context. It’s just racism”. In a context where racism is predominant because you’ve had history of ethnic tension, it’s just the fact that means that their case is down.

I want to do three things in this speech.

  1. Clarify what the burden on the affirmative team is and what exactly it is they must defend.
  2. Ask how appropriation will be done
  3. Why this ignites ethnic tension in the vast majority of cases

Burden clarification

Let’s first ask what the burden on the affirmative team was to defend. Their burden was to defend the widespread and active promotion of a system of cultural appropriation. Importantly to embrace is similar to a motion that is this house would celebrate and that they do not get to pick and choose the instances they choose to embrace and celebrate.

The false dichotomy they attempt to sneak in at 3rd Aff shows just how far they’ve fallen from this burden. Because they assume that culture warring is exclusive from cultural appropriation, when what we explained down the bench is if there are incentives to cultural war, cultural appropriation is the mechanism by which that cultural feuding happens.

It’s the mechanism by which majority cultures attempt to dominate each other. So clearly the comparative wasn’t between a world with culture warring or without culture warring. The incentives remain the same. It’s about the mechanisms and avenues that both sides in the different ethnic groups have to manifest those incentives.

What is the counter factual then? Two things to note here.

First, we’re perfectly happy to defend the counter factual of multiculturalism and cultural separation. They can’t say we don’t have reasons to this and then proceed to explain why it is likely to happen anyways. If your worst case scenario is an instance of cultural siloism, we say that people are likely to attempt to relate to each other on different grounds of their national identity.

They’re able to deprioritize that culture, insofar as they see it as something they only practice within their ethnic group and not something they can take from others. Importantly, they ignore the entirety of Mikko’s speech which defends even our worst case scenario where these cultures are entirely insulated from each other.

But secondly, I want to point out, Udai also appropriates the lazy responses to Veenu’s case in that debate. It’s not just like national lakes and monuments. It’s the de-emphasis of culture and the focus on other shared interests, e.g. the creation of state institutions, which allows people to come together. Which means there’s not an avenue by which this culture warrant can happen and that is where the debate begins.

Question #1 How will this appropriation be done?

And I want to note, all of Aff’s impacts are premised on a very specific envisioning of appropriation that is very neutral, very shallow in the aspects that are taken, and seemingly immune to the context of tension and demonization. So your defense of this is utterly lacking.

First, their positive defense isn’t actually anything structural. They don’t give you any reasons why a poor cultural appropriation is good. They give you a set of examples and assert it becomes the norm assert that the problem is racism.

Yes, the problem is racism. The problem is that you are in a context where that racism is predominant because there are many cultural misconceptions that are still deeply held because these groups often see each other in extremely negative ways, which means they aren’t going to charitably pick and choose the elements they reproduce. They’re going to pick and choose the elements that demonize the other group the most.

Secondly, their defense at 2nd is to say that cultural appropriation is worse when it’s not embraced by the state.

First, it’s absolutely unclear why cultural appropriation still happens in a world where it’s heavily stigmatized. And take note. By their own logic, this social stigma is enough to guide the type of cultural appropriation that happens. If that stigma is heavier in our world, it’s incredibly unlikely that there is any sort of cultural appropriation that is tolerated to begin with.

Secondly, who are the good actors that you want to join the cultural appropriation rat race? If anything, your characterization that these people are the most culturally sensitive, suggests that these people produce the least, because it’s much harder to craft a detailed recreation of what came from that group and take the time to research their norms and beliefs than it is to manufacture the same caricature over and over again, which is why appropriation is so often racist and harmful.

But further, their claim that this is a very disorganized process that happens in bits and pieces means even if you wanted to avoid violence and potentially offensive caricatures, there’s no ability to control what happens when you put that out into the real world and more people express their views on it.

Their final attempt to save this is the Hail Mary assertion at 3rd. That the alternative is culture warring.

First, as we explained, there’s no attempt to gain cultural hegemony over the other, insofar as you don’t see appropriation as a valid mechanism that you want to come into.

Even if you wanted to dominate other cultures, if cultural appropriation is so heavily stigmatized, and as we stay, the state highlights how it creates opportunities to return to a time of ethnic violence that all groups want to avoid. It’s extremely unlikely that groups are going to turn to this without the go signal from the state.

But furthermore, even if you believe that cultural warring is the comparative, the problem is that the markets they create enforce dependence from smaller cultures towards bigger cultures, versus in our world where separation ensures you have a greater amount of power against them. Because even if they wanted to like step over your culture, they require a level of legitimacy from you.

And we run this all the way from David. They need to consult you. They need to have local artists be the one producing it. They need to have you involved in the production process. As compared to where they can unilaterally produce without indigenous voices.

Compare that to the many things that go unresponded through down the bench. And I think we are quite convinced that this appropriation will be terrible.

Question #2 What are the outcomes of this appropriation?

We say it ignites ethnic tensions in the vast majority of cases. They give you two things as an attempt to respond.

Their first claim in response is to suggest that this instead generates unity and cultural understanding. But this falls out immediately.

Firstly because they don’t show a link between simply seeing someone else wearing a token of your culture and you suddenly having a dialogue of understanding. I’m not clear why just because I see a white woman practicing yoga, I suddenly feel like she understands me in the decades of history that are inherent to my culture.

What we demonstrate instead, is that there are many ways this interaction can go wrong. There’s an extremely high likelihood of misinterpretation because you don’t know what the incentives or the intentions of the person wearing your religious symbols is.

The view that this is theft because they are the ones producing it, because they are the ones profiting off the ability to manufacture replicate your cultural systems. The lack of an incentive on the part of the appropriating party to further understand and engage in cultural dialogue when they can claim a tokenistic level of legitimacy already because cultural appropriation is legitimized.

So in their world, someone replicating this culture in offensive and harmful ways can use the same arguments they say. “Well, cultural appropriation isn’t inherently bad. I do have a level of understanding of the culture. It’s not so bad that I want to neglect them and ignore the this actually came from.”

Further we explained that once a culture is able to appropriate you with legitimacy, they no longer need your backing. They no longer need indigenous artists. They no longer need to understand the culture and the roots of the social problems where rap music came from for instance. They no longer need the voices of indigenous people to make decisions about their cultural practices. Because as you say it’s okay to mix and match and they think that is a power they can use over you.

Alternatively they say we at least keep the minority culture alive.

First, do you keep the minority culture alive? If it is in such a state where it is so appropriated and so bastardized, that it’s separate and completely distinct from the original culture it came from without any recognition of its roots. I don’t understand how valuable this would be to a member of that community where it came from. This is moot at best.

But secondly, and importantly, I think Aff skews the debate here. It’s not as if people don’t consume minority culture in our world. It’s just that that minority culture is produced by members of that minority. Remember, the nuance of this debate and of appropriation is who is producing the tokens of that culture. Not necessarily the people who view it. We suggest that that interaction, if you believe it works at creating unity, is far better in our world.

Aff creates a system that flares up ethnic tensions and allows for hatred to flow. We prevent that by cutting off its pathways. Negate.