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The Mobilization of Appropriation

Comment on the Special Section on Cultural Appropriation

Carsten Schinko

“Appropriation“ is a complex term used in many different realms, and an almost ubiquitous phenomenon. Conceptually linked to questions of mobility, appropriation has both a social and physical dimension. This essay delineates the term's employment in key political and academic discourses, and interrogates its inherent logic with regard to possession, the attribution of purpose and value, and the social reciprocity of the parties involved in the act. Starting off with questions of just distribution in modern nation-states, the argument then traces appropriation in contemporary debates on copyright in a digital age, and provides a sketch of the larger political imaginary informing acts of appropriation.