An “Uneasy Exchange”?

A couple of months ago, I cam across articles online which discussed the appropriation of Native American symbols and patterns into mass-made clothing and accessories. Specific attention was centred on the Navajo Nation’s cease-and-desist letter to Urban Outfitters, who had been using the trademarked ‘Navajo’ whilst marketing clothing and other items.

I don’t agree with The New York Times‘ proclamation that it is “an uneasy exchange“, as I find it to be far more problematic than that.

The question at hand isn’t whether it’s acceptable to use a logo or name without permission, but whether one can claim ownership over sartorial methods of expression. Then, there is also the question of suitability and respect in relation to items like a flask intended for alcohol when the Navajo nation is a dry one. I agree that the use of a trade-marked name is wrong, and to label items in such a way is misleading, but

I had been aware of the discussion, but was reminded of it this month whilst invigilating exams in my university, and noticed all the prints inspired by Native patterns. It’s a complicated situation, as whilst I don’t think that patterns in general can be regulated or censored, I do think that there should be some respect given to items which convey specific cultural or religious meaning, and that intellectual property rights can also be applicable in such scenarios.

Interesting links to which further discuss the objections:

http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2010/04/but-why-cant-i-wear-hipster-headdress.html

http://thevintagetraveler.wordpress.com/2011/08/07/some-thoughts-on-cultural-appropriation/

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/why-the-native-fashion-trend-is-pissing-off-real-native-americans/

http://www.fashionologie.com/Navajo-Southwest-Fashion-Accessories-Trend-Fall-2011-18794256

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About livesinliminalspaces

I am a PhD candidate in the School of English, whose research focuses on the effect the urban environment and the cityscape has on the behaviour of marginalised characters in the novels from the Twentieth Century.
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