‘Appropriation of Religion’

Conrad G. Brunk and James O. Young: ‘The Skin Off Our Backs’ Appropriation of Religion

This essay discusses the widespread idea of the appropriation of religious beliefs and practices. There is an interesting opening to the introduction proclaiming that appropriation of religious beliefs and practices are ‘the most contested form of appropriation from Indigenous people’.

The text solely concerns itself with the appropriation that takes place when outsiders from one culture adopt religious beliefs, rituals or ceremonies from an Indigenous culture, over the objections of those concerned. Several arguments are put forward questioning whether people who adopt the religious beliefs and practices of other people participate in some kind of wrong. The three objections discussed are that it threatens cultural identity through misinterpretation and distortion, that it forms a type of theft and that it creates disrespect and offense.

Arguably all questions put forward can be considered as quite true to having an impact on several cultures today creating angst and frustration for those whose religions are being appropriated. Each objection is discussed with a way for these ‘problems’ to be resolved by the appropriators giving examples of what could be done. Essentially the underlying theme is the factor of respect, which needs to be evident in order for there to be a better understanding between those appropriating and those appropriated.


When looking at images of appropriation, I often question whether the culture being appropriated has disrespected or misrepresented. Religion is a sensitive subject and is something that should be respected. When researching I found that some images often showed conflicting ideologies through the representation of more than one culture. Reading ‘The Skin Off Our Backs’ Appropriation of Religion gave me a better understanding of the questions that are often raised when considering appropriation.

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Bindi and Cross Necklace

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