We need to talk about Lionel

Lionel Shriver’s Address on Cultural Appropriation Roils a Writers Festival

The author Lionel Shriver caused a stir at the Brisbane Writers Festival. Credit Gary Doak/Writer Pictures, via Associated Press

BRISBANE, Australia — Officials in charge of an Australian writers festival were so upset with the address by their keynote speaker, the American novelist Lionel Shriver, that they censored her on the festival website and publicly disavowed her remarks.

The event, the Brisbane Writers Festival, which ended Sunday, also hurriedly organized counterprogramming, billed as a “right of reply” for critics of Ms. Shriver, whose speech had belittled the movement against cultural appropriation. They scheduled the rebuttal opposite a session Saturday afternoon in which Ms. Shriver was promoting her new novel, “The Mandibles.”

Ms. Shriver had been billed as speaking on “community and belonging” but focused on her views about cultural appropriation, a term that refers to the objections by members of minority groups to the use of their customs or culture (or even characters of their ethnicity) by artists or others who do not belong to those groups.

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4 thoughts on “We need to talk about Lionel

  1. Hmmmmm it’s an interesting topic this isn’t it? ….’cultural appropriation’ ….I must say …I personally like to read fiction with a base of authenticity ….for example if ‘The Kite Runner’ had been written by someone called Reginald Cooper Jones …I don’t think I’d have even picked it up
    But then you look at the ‘melting pot’ phenomenon …and where does ‘cultural appropriation’ fit then?

    • What does cultural appropriation mean? There are merits to both sides of the argument but the only problem is who’s the arbiter and how do they decide? That’s where it gets ridiculous. There was a furore over the Harry Potter author’s cultural appropriation of Native American culture when she wrote about Old American Magic on her Potter website. One of the magical things she talked about was Skinwalkers, an attribute of the Navajo nation that has strong religious and cultural identity things going on for them. They turned on her. Now there’s a thing called ‘shapeshifting’ that has strong associations with Irish mythology. There are records of lycanthropy (werewolves) too. Now there’s a dance duo called Shapeshifters and a weight management company called Shapeshifters. Have you read of any Irish people complaining about cultural appropriation?

    • I might add, too, the word ‘Berserk’ derives from two old Scandinavian words that refer to an ancient Norwegian group who dressed as bears and by mythical account, became bears, too in honour of Odin, the God they worshipped who was savage and ferocious in battle, berserk, in other words.

  2. Hmmmm ….WELL Dermott …if we last another couple of generations I reckon we might have moved on from the whole notion of ‘cultural identity’ …..yes it’s worth remembering ‘history’ from different perspectives ….including the various ‘belief’ systems …my personal view is ….whether it be on a personal or cultural/ societal level ….examine your history …acknowledge it …learn from it …throw out the crap and keep the good parts to build on …which parts stand up to scrutiny …we can’t change the past but we should be able to learn from it …thing is …it’s about ‘power’
    It’s shocking and deeply dispiriting the likes of Donald Trump being able to tout HIS divisive bigotry with such blatant zeal AND have such seemingly wide support
    It’s make no wonder ‘minorities’ feel they have to retreat to their specific ‘cultural identities’ and maintain ( and hopefully gain) some strength in the ‘collective’

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