Brief glossary

A few expressions related to the concept of cultural appropriation

This is a compendium of several definitions of expressions that are often associated with or indirectly linked to the concept of cultural appropriation. This section will interest people who want to delve deeper into the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and intercultural relationships.

Artistic appropriation

Also known as “art appropriation,” it differs from cultural appropriation in that the artists who practice it deliberately and openly collect, copy and transform works, objects or images in order to create a new work. Appropriation artists do not ask for the original artist’s permission and take full responsibility for the consequences of  their actions. Artists known for doing this include France’s Marcel Duchamp with his “readymades,” Americans Richard Pettibone and Richard Prince and the German David Krippendorff.


BIPOC is an acronym for “Black, Indigenous and People of Colour.” The  equivalent in French, PANDC, stands for “personnes autochtones, noires et de couleur.”

Cancel culture

This is not the same as cultural appropriation. It is a phenomenon covering actions that have always existed in human societies and have lately come to be seen in a more negative light. Nowadays it means the denunciations and allegations demanding the removal of an individual, a company or a work that symbolizes a certain ideology in an attempt to wipe out the injury its presence represents. For example, a person may be shunned for inadmissible or offensive language and/or behavior (racism, sexism, etc.). Social media play a major role in this field.


Censorship is a power delegated to a designated authority to study publications, communications and works before they are distributed (or not) in whole or in part. The expression also refers to the action of condemning and criticizing the content of those items and limiting access to them.

Censorship can lead to self-censorship. Fearing censorship from public opinion or some authority, an individual or an enterprise will exercise control over its own words, writings or actions in order to comply with a certain degree of political correctness. 

Cognitive biases

These are shortcuts the brain uses to help us make decisions rapidly. Rooted in our subconscious and often related to prejudices, they have nothing to do with intelligence. They often lead us to errors of judgement or interpretation that prevent us from properly assessing others and their differences.


The system in which the State takes possession of a foreign territory for economic, social and political domination purposes and that has undeniable consequences for the lifestyles, culture, autonomy and organization of the people who live there. Nowadays the expressions “coloniality” and  “postcolony” are an attempt to update the idea that colonization has outlived the settler policies.  

Culture borrowing and exchange

Borrowing and exchange happen when at least two cultures meet in defiance of power relationships. Such meetings involve a recognition of others, a commonality that is the opposite of appropriation, which refers rather to a one-way relationship where one culture takes something away from the other without giving anything in return. 

Culture heritage

This is a set of items and goods, both tangible and intangible, that members of a group have in common, preserved and transmitted by the older generations. It can include monuments, objects, places, neighbourhoods, natural sites, languages, songs, stories, knowledge, recipes, etc. All of these artistic, intellectual, spiritual and archeological assets play a role in the group’s cultural identity and in the relationships it maintains with other cultural groups.


UNESCO defines culture as a “set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group,” encompassing “in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs” (2011). Nowadays it may be hard to distinguish one culture from another as they evolve and interact. Globalization has blurred the boundaries between cultures.


The word comes from the Greek “ethos” which means “way of life.” Ethics is a reflection of the social standards and moral values that shape the way we interact with the world (both human and non-human.)

The decolonialist approach or thought process

The concepts of modernity and coloniality have created, among other things, a hierarchy of relationships between cultural and geographical areas, a dismissal of native knowledge and a linear notion of the way human societies develop. Decolonial thinking as expressed by South American researchers like Anibal Quijano and Walter Mignolo looks at history and political spaces through a new lens, outside of the subordination systems that still exist between counties and cultures.



A process in critical thinking

This section contains a practical tool that you can use alone or in a group to redefine your approaches and motivations as you take part in an intercultural creative collaboration.

Are the cultural references and elements called upon (objects, music, rituals, knowledge, traditions, etc.) presented or used out of their cultural or historical context? Does the subject touch on political, historical or current issues involving discrimination/violence against a person or a group of people? Could the way of representing this culture and/or those belonging to it (text, scenography, music, costumes, acting) maintain or reinforce certain stereotypes?

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