Cultural Appropriation is a topic that gets a lot of people into debates and arguments. However, in this globalized society, it is important to know when cultural ‘exchange’ becomes inappropriate and offensive to minorities.

I first understood the essence of the term ‘cultural appropriation’ when I saw Selena Gomez’s MTV Awards performance of her 2013 hit single, “Come and Get it”. She had worn a flowy red dress and a red Bindi on her forehead. Members of certain Hindu groups argued that the Bindi holds religious significance and is an auspicious symbol, sometimes referred to as the third eye and cannot be thrown around to suit the convenience of white people.

Cultural appropriation refers to the act of taking elements from a culture which doesn’t belong to them; it refers to the act when a culturally dominant group takes elements of a culture which has been systematically oppressed over the years. However, it cannot be mistaken for cultural exchange. There exists a very blurry line between the two. One needs to know when the cultural engagement turns into cultural appropriation and becomes offensive. So, when does this happen?

If the culturally dominant group ‘borrows’ products which have deep symbolic meaning attached to them, and uses them in a way which dishonours and mocks them then that becomes disrespectful and is cultural appropriation. It trivializes the oppression and the violence which the people faced. The trauma resulting from it lasts for generations and using their products as fashion accessories is deeply offensive. One can also observe the difference between the way in which the products of a certain culture are received and how people belonging to them are received by the dominant group. They show love for their culture but are highly intolerant of the people belonging to them. It is a matter of concern as the dominant group is able to make money off of it and reap profits and the original creators of the product never get any sort of credit. Cultural appropriation plays a key role in propagating racist stereotypes of a certain culture and spreads false information about them.

It is important to know how one can appreciate a culture without degrading it. It is necessary to take permission whether a certain product can be taken/ used or not. One can also learn about their histories. One should always consider the context of borrowing before using things from another culture. We need to call out appropriation whenever we see any cruel stereotypes and make others aware of it too. As long as such toxic cultural ‘borrowing’ is kept in check, one can be assured that such cultural ‘borrowing’ never crosses the line and becomes appropriation.


Disha Saxena

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Feature Image credit– Lucy Nicholson for Reuters



Delhi University, being one of the premier universities of our country has left no stone unturned to ensure that students get the right kind of exposure to education trends all over the world. Keeping this in mind, it has a number of international exchange Programs with renowned universities from various parts of the globe. It has long been in consortium with several universities through various projects, and provides undergraduate and post graduate students, as well as faculty members with several opportunities for exchange programmes, fellowships and scholarships. The main aim of these programmes is to give the students a chance to learn in a new, more global environment and facilitate inter- cultural interaction and understanding.

For undergraduate courses, the Erasmus Mundus External Cooperation Lot 15 for India provides funds to promote student and teaching staff mobility between 12 European universities and 8 Indian universities. It is available to all Delhi University students. Through EMECW15, successful applicants (undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and post-doctorate students as well as academic staff) are also awarded a scholarship which covers costs of travel, insurance, possible tuition, living expenses and housing. The coordinating institution for the EMECW15 scheme is the University of Lund (Sweden). The yearly deadline for submission of applications is 15th February. For more information refer to www.erasmuswindow15.org .

Delhi University has also collaborated with the University of Heidelberg and the University of California and these ties having been strengthened further during the last five years. There is a successful student exchange programme between the University of Delhi and these Universities especially in the fields of Social Sciences and Humanities.

Apart from these, many exchange programmes in Delhi University are college specific.

LSR has collaborated with many international universities and at present has exchange programmes going on with Kinnaird College, La Trobe University and Smith College.

Brown College too has collaborated with LSR and St. Stephens, while NUS is in partnership with LSR and Hindu College.

Last year, a team of 12 students and four faculty members from the Hogeschool Utrecht University of Applied sciences visited the University of Delhi for an inter-cultural interaction, the focus being provision of multi-cultural interaction on the academic platform. About 30 students from Miranda and SRCC participated in this programme.

The Centre of International Education at Ramjas College has also been greatly enhancing the prospects of students. At present, they are conducting jointly conducting a programme with Denmark’s International Study Program, Copenhagen. It also has to its credit an exchange program with the Department of Applied Economics, Antwerp, Belgium and Lahore University of Management Sciences.

In addition to this, efforts are on at present to build relationships with institutions in Sweden, New Zealand, Brazil and Chile, and discussions and other preparatory work for the same are in progress.

Information regarding exchange programmes for a specific course, if any, being offered in other colleges can be obtained from the concerned department of that college.

International exchange programmes have helped to establish a more global front and given a more holistic base to the undergraduate studies of Delhi University. However, the absence of a semester system and difference in the marking structure still limits the choice of Delhi University students to programmes in partner universities only, which is sometimes restricted only to specific courses. A student of Miranda House says, “I had been to the US this summer for a short term course. The Universities are keen to introduce more exchange programs but according to them, the technicalities of both the systems hugely differ”. Hopefully the possible introduction of the Semester System next year will improve prospects of collaboration with premier institutes and increase the choices in course and subject.

(This article has been equally contributed by Kritika Kushwaha and Geetika Sachdev)