PDA

View Full Version : Cultural appropriation? Use of folktales in stories



Morwen Edhelwen
01-11-2012, 02:34 AM
Recently I read a book called Marrying Ameera by Rosanne Hawke, which is about a girl in a forced marriage. In this book, the writer retells and uses several folktales from the Pashtun culture. There are also taboos among groups of indigenous people about the use of folktales from their cultures. I'm wondering whether this counts as cultural appropriation. Does it depend on which culture the folktales come from? Later in my WIP I'm planning to use and retell some Aleut folktales.
Would anyone consider using folktales in stories?

Drachen Jager
01-11-2012, 02:44 AM
Of course it counts as cultural appropriation, but that's not inherently a bad thing. As long as it's treated with respect and not the object of ridicule or gross misinterpretation, cultural appropriation is just fine, it's done all the time, in fact I'd wager over 50% of published novels display some degree.

I'd use folktales if it was called for.

Morwen Edhelwen
01-11-2012, 02:53 AM
The book mentioned above isn't the only book I've read which uses folktales. The Year The Gypsies Came, by Linzi Glass, uses Zulu folktales.

Morwen Edhelwen
01-11-2012, 03:42 AM
I'm also thinking that if you're planning to use folktales, especially from a collection, they should be as close as possible to the way they're told traditionally.

ironmikezero
01-11-2012, 03:51 AM
Folklore and folk tales are the poster children of public domain.

Polenth
01-11-2012, 07:49 AM
Technically any use of another culture's stuff is cultural appropriation, but people usually use that term when they mean a) it's done badly, and b) the target culture is one with a history of marginalisation. This is because these are cases where it can be damaging to the culture concerned, and can promote harmful stereotypes and misconceptions.

As a basic rule of thumb, if it's from a European culture who went around conquering people, you're unlikely to do any harm by getting it wrong. Anyone else, assume it could be damaging if you mess it up. Both Pashtun and Aleut people are places to tread carefully. Make sure you find sources from within the culture, rather than relying on retellings by outsiders. You've got a lot of research ahead of you, and the details aren't something that can be answered on a forum.

benbradley
01-11-2012, 08:48 AM
Years ago I wrote a story of a writer who allegedly sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads in exchange for becoming a famous author. He really freaked out a palmreader who then freaked HIM out by saying "You have no soul! What happened to your soul?"

I should dredge that one up and see if I can fix it up and sell it or something. Maybe it could be the start of a legend...

Folklore and folk tales are the poster children of public domain.
Oh I like that. Is it yours? Are you claiming copyright on it? May I tweet it? :D

kuwisdelu
01-11-2012, 09:02 AM
Both Pashtun and Aleut people are places to tread carefully. Make sure you find sources from within the culture, rather than relying on retellings by outsiders. You've got a lot of research ahead of you, and the details aren't something that can be answered on a forum.

Yes, please.

Native peoples can be very sensitive with re-tellings of our folk tales and mythologies. I don't know any Pashtun or Aleut personally, but when I met I˝upiaq and Tlingit storyteller Ishmael Hope recently, cultural appropriation of his tribes' stories was a very big issue with him. One major issue for him was, for example, the appropriate of native folktales for children's story books, without any acknowledgement of the culture from which these stories originated.

That said, I don't think it's a problem as long as you treat them with respect and try to research and get as close to native sources as you possible can, and be absolutely sure to give credit to the people from whose culture you're borrowing. In other words, don't appropriate stories — borrow them with respect and dignity, and at the end of the day, hand them back with proper thanks and acknowledgement.

Morwen Edhelwen
01-11-2012, 10:28 AM
The thing is I'm thinking that the Hawke book is fairly to traditional sources. She's been to Pakistan (she was an aid worker there for a few years) and I've read her journal of experiences in Pakistan (she was researching for another book). She relied on oral tellings from local storytellers (not all Pashtun/Afghan), from collections by Pakistani collectors, and from at least one by a White academic. She has intimate experience of Pashtun culture (it seems to me but since I'm not Pashtun or Pakistani, I wouldn't know for sure). Kuwisdelu and Polenth, the collection of stories I'm planning to use seems to have been put together by a European linguist who extensively studied the Aleut language, and his Aleut informant. Don't know if that counts as "close to a native source". And the second thing, I wouldn't even think of not acknowledging cultures I was borrowing from, because if someone (say) wanted to use Chinese stories, they need to acknowledge my culture.

Polenth
01-11-2012, 11:39 AM
Kuwisdelu and Polenth, the collection of stories I'm planning to use seems to have been put together by a European linguist who extensively studied the Aleut language, and his Aleut informant.

You've said yourself - he isn't Aleut. By definition, he's a cultural outsider. One who went to primary sources for research, but still an outsider. That doesn't mean the book has no use, but you shouldn't use it as a single source. (Or any other book for that matter... you need as many sources as you can find, and beware sources repeating inaccurate information from other sources).

As well as what happens in the story, you also need to know what it means to the people who tell it. The story may vary between different communities. It may be one that's only told at a certain time of year or not one that's normally discussed outside. You may be better off hinting at aspects of the story, rather than directly retelling it.

So read that book, but don't just read that book. Look for critical essays and reviews about that book, especially those by Aleut people. Find other books by outsiders about Aleut people, and see what criticisms were raised about those. Read books that are written by Aleut people (actually by them, not through a third party), and again, look for criticism (just because it's written by an insider doesn't mean everyone will agree it got things right).

Read things that you don't think are directly connected, rather than just folklore books. Blogs by Aleut people on their daily life, news stories, forums. Read any fiction and poetry by and about Aleut people you can find, regardless of subject. When you don't know about a culture, don't assume you know what it is you need to research. Read widely.

And don't assume you know if a source is accurate or not. You're defending books here, when you've said yourself you don't have that knowledge. Question what they're telling you. Be prepared to discount a source if it becomes clear it's shakey.

You'll still make mistakes, but far fewer.

L M Ashton
01-11-2012, 11:54 AM
Folklore and folk tales are the poster children of public domain.
Unless that folklore and those folk tales come from Sri Lanka (http://www.nipo.gov.lk/copy.htm).


Folklore
The expressions of folklore of Sri Lanka are protected against the unauthorized use.



Direct from Code of Intellectual Property Act No. 52 of 1979 (As Amended by Act Nos. 30 of 1980, 2 of 1983, 17 of 1990, 13 of 1997 and 40 of 2000):


Sri Lankan folklore: Perpetual copyright. Permission to make any work derived from folklore must be sought from the Minister in charge of the subject of Culture. This right is claimed worldwide. Works falling in this category are considered unfree on Commons and are not allowed.


I have no idea if any other countries have any similar laws.

Morwen Edhelwen
01-11-2012, 12:16 PM
You've said yourself - he isn't Aleut. By definition, he's a cultural outsider. One who went to primary sources for research, but still an outsider. That doesn't mean the book has no use, but you shouldn't use it as a single source. (Or any other book for that matter... you need as many sources as you can find, and beware sources repeating inaccurate information from other sources).

As well as what happens in the story, you also need to know what it means to the people who tell it. The story may vary between different communities. It may be one that's only told at a certain time of year or not one that's normally discussed outside. You may be better off hinting at aspects of the story, rather than directly retelling it.

So read that book, but don't just read that book. Look for critical essays and reviews about that book, especially those by Aleut people. Find other books by outsiders about Aleut people, and see what criticisms were raised about those. Read books that are written by Aleut people (actually by them, not through a third party), and again, look for criticism (just because it's written by an insider doesn't mean everyone will agree it got things right).

Read things that you don't think are directly connected, rather than just folklore books. Blogs by Aleut people on their daily life, news stories, forums. Read any fiction and poetry by and about Aleut people you can find, regardless of subject. When you don't know about a culture, don't assume you know what it is you need to research. Read widely.

And don't assume you know if a source is accurate or not. You're defending books here, when you've said yourself you don't have that knowledge. Question what they're telling you. Be prepared to discount a source if it becomes clear it's shakey.

You'll still make mistakes, but far fewer.

This question's directed at Polenth (and anyone else), is it possible to make no mistakes at all when writing about another culture? I'd like to make no mistakes... there's this book about a Chinese Singaporean girl that I read. It's by a White writer, and since that's part of my culture, I was impressed. She didn't make any mistakes, not that I could see. And that's a culture I'm very very familiar with.)

Morwen Edhelwen
01-11-2012, 12:37 PM
And BTW, the only book I know of about Aleut peoples is Karen Hesse's Aleutian Sparrow, about the WWII internment camps. And that's also written by an outsider. Can someone name books by Aleut writers?
(If you are a cultural outsider, but you have lots of very close friends from a particular culture, can you write about that culture with no mistakes?)

shaldna
01-11-2012, 02:54 PM
is it possible to make no mistakes at all when writing about another culture?

No.

Hell, it's not even possible to write about your own culture without making a mistake somewhere. They don't even have to be big ones, they can be so small that they slip by, but that doesn't mean that someone, somewhere, won't pick up on them.

Polenth
01-11-2012, 04:40 PM
This question's directed at Polenth (and anyone else), is it possible to make no mistakes at all when writing about another culture? I'd like to make no mistakes... there's this book about a Chinese Singaporean girl that I read. It's by a White writer, and since that's part of my culture, I was impressed. She didn't make any mistakes, not that I could see. And that's a culture I'm very very familiar with.)

It isn't possible to portray anyone in a way that everyone in the group agrees is accurate. You're aiming to minimise mistakes and make them as small as possible, rather than for perfection. You aren't going to get perfection.

As for your research, that's down to you. Expect it to take time and be difficult to find what you want.

ironmikezero
01-12-2012, 12:09 AM
Oh I like that. Is it yours? Are you claiming copyright on it? May I tweet it? :D


Ben, aye 'tis mine... and I grant you the right to use it world-wide*...

*except in Sri Lanka (reciprocal negotiations are underway - albeit stalled at the moment - damn the red tape!).

- Mike

Diana_Rajchel
01-12-2012, 12:30 AM
Unless that folklore and those folk tales come from Sri Lanka (http://www.nipo.gov.lk/copy.htm).



Direct from Code of Intellectual Property Act No. 52 of 1979 (As Amended by Act Nos. 30 of 1980, 2 of 1983, 17 of 1990, 13 of 1997 and 40 of 2000):


I have no idea if any other countries have any similar laws.

I'm highly curious as to how they'd go about enforcing it. Is this a situation where they would sue every mythology book collection that publishes orally collected tales?

Morwen Edhelwen
01-12-2012, 02:33 AM
Well, I found the Qawalangin tribe's website. Lots of cultural stuff.

Morwen Edhelwen
01-12-2012, 04:19 AM
No.

Hell, it's not even possible to write about your own culture without making a mistake somewhere. They don't even have to be big ones, they can be so small that they slip by, but that doesn't mean that someone, somewhere, won't pick up on them.

shaldna, does that mean that even if I was writing about Chinese Australians, I might still make mistakes? Polenth-- are you talking about the fact that everyone, even from the same culture, has different individual life experiences and a different experience of what their culture means to them?

For example, one of my friends who's a White Australian is going to have a different experience of being a White Australian than another friend of that same culture. Same with me and other Chinese Australian girls. Is that what you're talking about when you say it's impossible to "portray anyone in a way that everyone in a group agrees is accurate?" Because it's relatively easy for me to get information on cultural traditions and differences between regions or ask questions etc and have an accurate portrayal of those traditions and their differences between regions.
Or are you talking about something like the topic of this article? http://wowlit.org/blog/2009/06/29/culture-matters—especially-if-it’s-my-culture/.
In that case-- I want to get the minor details correct. Things like what traditional foods would be eaten and the differences between each region/island on that, that sort of thing. I'd want someone writing about Chinese Australian culture to get those little details right.
I know my story isn't going to be representative of the experiences of all 13-year-old American girls, all 13-year-old Aleut girls, or all girls from that part of the U.S. But I want to weave those little details in that show I know something of what I'm talking about. I want
them to be an important part of the story, to be there. I've experienced the feelings of being worried about your parents when they're not at home. I want that to be there too. The little details are what I'm talking about when I ask whether it's possible to not make any mistakes.

ironmikezero
01-12-2012, 05:35 AM
I'm highly curious as to how they'd go about enforcing it. Is this a situation where they would sue every mythology book collection that publishes orally collected tales?

Absent a specific treaty (international agreement with some form of sanctioned protocols, procedures, and remedies) it would be essentially unenforceable.

Consequently, some say it otherwise amounts to little more than feel-good legislation, roughly the equivalent of minor flag waving while jutting out one's lower lip, a true tempest in a teapot.

L M Ashton
01-12-2012, 06:37 AM
I'm highly curious as to how they'd go about enforcing it. Is this a situation where they would sue every mythology book collection that publishes orally collected tales?
No idea.

Please note, however, that there are plenty of laws here that are regularly not enforced.


ETA: I should really clarify that. It would be more accurate to say that laws are inconsistently enforced here depending on who the perp is and how much money/power they have. And the cops and politicians are not exactly known for being honest and ethical. So, who knows?

Karen Junker
01-12-2012, 06:50 AM
I'd like to think that some people will do what is morally right, even if they won't be busted for it. Some indigenous people pass their stories and songs orally--and the stories and songs are believed by them to be owned by their family or tribe. I am one of those people who respect the beliefs of other people, so I try not to repeat songs or stories that I've happened to hear within that context. I feel that it is wrong to co-opt the stories and songs of others, even if they don't have the same method of protecting their work as we in, say, the US do.

Morwen Edhelwen
01-12-2012, 09:22 AM
Karen Junker, so if you had a protagonist who was from that culture and referencing the stories was important would you summarise the stories rather than directly retell them? In many indigenous cultures stories are important in people's lives. I'm not planning to use the stories just for the sake of using them, they're meant to develop characterisation. The protagonist's parents and grandparents tell her and her siblings stories as a way of reinforcing cultural values and teaching about heritage. Many writers use folk stories and allude to them in their plots.

Jamesaritchie
01-12-2012, 06:50 PM
Use it. Folklore, from countries and cultures all over the world, is not only fair game, it's the basis of many of our best novels and movies.

History belongs to everyone, and myth belongs to everyone. Niether is covered by copyright, even in Sri Lanka. Folklore almost always falls into one category or the other.

The notion that a writer from anywhere can't write about anything or anyone is just silly.

darkelf
01-12-2012, 08:15 PM
if it's from a European culture who went around conquering people, you're unlikely to do any harm by getting it wrong

You don't find this statement to be a bigoted double standard? Respect every culture except European? I should think all cultures deserve the same respect, unless European stories are somehow impervious to 'harm'. I think I am misunderstanding something here.


I'd like to think that some people will do what is morally right, even if they won't be busted for it. Some indigenous people pass their stories and songs orally--and the stories and songs are believed by them to be owned by their family or tribe. I am one of those people who respect the beliefs of other people, so I try not to repeat songs or stories that I've happened to hear within that context. I feel that it is wrong to co-opt the stories and songs of others, even if they don't have the same method of protecting their work as we in, say, the US do.

I am curious about this too. Why would the stories of a small culture be better off not repeated? Is it better that they be forgotten, not talked about, or not shown to 'outsiders'? Is it better that others not know the morals and mores being taught by the old stories? If the people of that culture expressed that wish, then absolutely, it should be respected. But I wouldn't want my culture to disappear into silence.

When I was little, my father told me stories at night. These were mostly stories about Coyote and Raven, and the things they did, the tricks they played. I have no idea where he got these stories; the most recent Native American in my ancestry is four or five generations back. This doesn't make them NOT my stories. They ARE mine. Part of my childhood and my family.

I guess, in the end, I can't truly wrap my brain around the evils of 'cultural appropriation'. Cultural curiosity, travel, and interest in the myriad of peoples around me and their history is not a bad thing to me. Not being allowed to talk about those peoples, or their stories and culture, because I am not one of them baffles me.

OnlyStones
01-12-2012, 08:54 PM
Yes, please.

Native peoples can be very sensitive with re-tellings of our folk tales and mythologies. I don't know any Pashtun or Aleut personally, but when I met I˝upiaq and Tlingit storyteller Ishmael Hope recently, cultural appropriation of his tribes' stories was a very big issue with him. One major issue for him was, for example, the appropriate of native folktales for children's story books, without any acknowledgement of the culture from which these stories originated.

That said, I don't think it's a problem as long as you treat them with respect and try to research and get as close to native sources as you possible can, and be absolutely sure to give credit to the people from whose culture you're borrowing. In other words, don't appropriate stories — borrow them with respect and dignity, and at the end of the day, hand them back with proper thanks and acknowledgement.


Well said. Research, respect and recognize. I think one of my biggest peeves is to read someone's work that uses a Cheyenne story in a way that goes beyond it's original intent and bends it to try and serve their own purpose. When that happens we've stepped on the toes of many ancestors who have labored to tell the story verbatim for generations.

Flicka
01-12-2012, 09:52 PM
As a basic rule of thumb, if it's from a European culture who went around conquering people, you're unlikely to do any harm by getting it wrong

I take this to mean that no one must mess up Swedish folk stories as we are European but didn't really go 'around conquering people'? Or can I do it on account of being Swedish? That'd be good because I did briefly think of including some in my current project. ;)

But seriously, there's quite often not a single, correct way to tell folkstories. Being part of a living, oral tradition, they'll quite often vary between different groups, families or even individual story tellers. However, it usually takes intimate knowledge of a culture to get them wrong in the right way, so to speak.

I don't think they're different from any other part of a culture. Approaching them from the 'outside' takes care and yes, you can be accused of cultural appropriation. I think the key is knowledge and respect in equal measures.

Polenth
01-12-2012, 10:55 PM
You don't find this statement to be a bigoted double standard? Respect every culture except European? I should think all cultures deserve the same respect, unless European stories are somehow impervious to 'harm'. I think I am misunderstanding something here.

I'd encourage respect and accuracy for all cultures. My comment wasn't about that. It's about the impact of making a mistake, which isn't the same for all cultures. It matters whether a culture is the coloniser or the colonised.

The coloniser gets to spread their culture everywhere, so everyone knows about it. Mistakes in a single novel are not going to change the mainstream understanding of that culture. They're not going to impact the daily lives of people in the culture, because there are plenty of positive examples to counteract the negative. British cultures are examples of coloniser cultures.

The colonised don't have that luxury. Their culture has been suppressed and much of the information about it is already misinformation. A single novel may well be taken as the truth, and the author as their spokesperson. It can be harmful in the daily lives of members, because they're bombarded with negative and inaccurate images of themselves. Positive examples are rare. This can cause low self-esteem and high suicide rates. Native American cultures are examples of colonised cultures.

This is not saying you shouldn't write about other cultures. It's to be aware of whether the culture you're writing about is already under pressure, because the potential to do harm is much greater.

(Not all cultures fit into the extremes, which is why it's a rule of thumb. But often when people ask this question, they're asking about cultures which are firmly in the colonised category.)

shaldna
01-13-2012, 12:54 AM
Use it. Folklore, from countries and cultures all over the world, is not only fair game, it's the basis of many of our best novels and movies.

History belongs to everyone, and myth belongs to everyone. Niether is covered by copyright, even in Sri Lanka. Folklore almost always falls into one category or the other.

The notion that a writer from anywhere can't write about anything or anyone is just silly.

While I sort of agree with the sentiment, I also know that there are lots of funny laws regarding indigenous people and their culture etc, so I wouldn't be handing out legal advice here.

Karen Junker
01-13-2012, 12:54 AM
Karen Junker, so if you had a protagonist who was from that culture and referencing the stories was important would you summarise the stories rather than directly retell them? In many indigenous cultures stories are important in people's lives. I'm not planning to use the stories just for the sake of using them, they're meant to develop characterisation. The protagonist's parents and grandparents tell her and her siblings stories as a way of reinforcing cultural values and teaching about heritage. Many writers use folk stories and allude to them in their plots.

I might make a reference to the story, but I would not tell the story.

Let me give you an analogy: I am also Wiccan, an initiate of a British Traditional Wicca coven. We have an oral tradition which is passed down from elder to student. It is secret. I do not repeat the information to anyone who is not also an initiate of the specific tradition within BTW. I have sworn an oath not to do so. I do write stories about witches and I do reference the oathbound material, I just don't repeat it (and I don't make it clear in my references whether it is oathbound or not).

Our stories are not dying, they are being kept alive within a very prescribed context. Just as the stories that are passed from family member to family member among the Native Americans are being kept alive. Just because you happen to have heard the story, does not mean it is yours to share. Just as with copyright, it is understood in the context of a powwow or other ceremony that the songs and stories you hear are not yours to share. To do so is to dishonor yourself, in my opinion. It is completely different if you are a family member of the family that owns the story or song. You may sing or tell the story in front of outsiders, but that does not give them permission to repeat the song or story.

Morwen Edhelwen
01-13-2012, 04:34 AM
Does that mean that no-one else is allowed to tell a Chinese story, if for example I tell a Chinese story in front of a white person, they're not allowed to tell it? Because those stories ARE mine, by culture. About colonisers- I am very westernised, mostly because of living in Australia, and the white cultures are dominant here.

Karen Junker
01-13-2012, 04:44 AM
I don't know about other cultures, but I'm aware of the ownership of stories by Native American peoples because my daughter is mixed and has become quite involved in that part of her cultural heritage. As the white parent, I have tried to stay out of the Native traditions--unless I'm invited.

Do Chinese people have a rule against giving the right to tell their stories to non-Chinese? If not, then that probably isn't a problem.

Morwen Edhelwen
01-13-2012, 04:54 AM
No, we don't. At least, I don't think we do. But once my family was on holiday and watching a movie, and my dad pointed out an inaccuracy in the use of a particular legend.

Karen Junker
01-13-2012, 04:59 AM
I imagine that some people have varying ideas about some folk stories or legends and they express that in their own way.

Morwen Edhelwen
01-13-2012, 05:00 AM
In fact, on reference vs retelling of folktales, I'm wondering if something like the following quoted passage from the book mentioned in my first post count as a reference or a retelling of a folktale? (quoting the whole thing, to give an idea of what I'm talking about)

From Marrying Ameera by Rosanne Hawke, p34:
"I thought of a story Papa had told me. A boy called Adam and a girl called Durkhane loved each other, but her marriage to another had already been arranged. After the wedding Adam tried to rescue Durkhane by hiring a war chief to abduct her for him. But it didn't work out as her husband paid a higher price. Adam was betrayed and he lost Durkhane forever. He went to play his stringed rabaab up on the hills, and was so grief-stricken he fell to his death. When Durkhane heard of the accident, she became ill and never recovered. Even though Adam's friend played his rabaab to her it didn't help. Papa said she died of a broken heart. She was buried with Adam." I was planning to include a passage similar to this in The Dutch Harbor Alexa, but maybe not. Would this sort of thing count as a reference or retelling? Or both? Are there any Pakistanis or people familiar with Kashmiri-Pakistani culture who have opinions on the use of Pakistani folktales by non-Pakistanis? (As a Chinese person, I can only really offer opinions on Chinese folktales)

Morwen Edhelwen
01-13-2012, 05:13 AM
What about collections of stories taken from recordings made by people who knew that the stories they told would be recorded? Are those permissible to use? After all, it's not as if the people telling the stories didn't know the purpose of the recordings.

darkelf
01-13-2012, 07:03 AM
The colonised don't have that luxury. Their culture has been suppressed and much of the information about it is already misinformation. A single novel may well be taken as the truth, and the author as their spokesperson. It can be harmful in the daily lives of members, because they're bombarded with negative and inaccurate images of themselves. Positive examples are rare. This can cause low self-esteem and high suicide rates. Native American cultures are examples of colonised cultures.

This is not saying you shouldn't write about other cultures. It's to be aware of whether the culture you're writing about is already under pressure, because the potential to do harm is much greater.



I can understand the point about the lack of information about a culture, and care needed for accuracy. I understand how this can shape the image of a culture. But isn't that exactly the point in writing about the lesser known peoples? To make them more known and appreciated? Overwhelmingly I've seen advised 'if you're not from that culture, don't write or talk about it, it's disrespectful'. To me this is nothing more than another type of suppression, disguised as politically correct.

Stories don't always survive intact when transitioning from one language or culture to another. This isn't always a bad thing (though I suppose it sometimes is). Cinderella's glass slipper was originally made of fur.

Karen Junker
01-13-2012, 08:08 AM
Overwhelmingly I've seen advised 'if you're not from that culture, don't write or talk about it, it's disrespectful'.

Actually, I don't think anyone is saying not to write or talk about other cultures.

I AM saying it is disrespectful (and wrong) to steal other people's work, specifically Native American people. I can't speak to the cultural expectations of other groups, but just because you CAN repeat a story, doesn't mean that it's right to do so.

kuwisdelu
01-13-2012, 08:35 AM
As a Native American, I'd say there is a big difference between borrowing a story with respect and attribution and stealing it.

darkelf
01-13-2012, 09:39 AM
Actually, I don't think anyone is saying not to write or talk about other cultures.



Does that mean that no-one else is allowed to tell a Chinese story, if for example I tell a Chinese story in front of a white person?

It looks to me like I'm not the only one who got the feeling that you shouldn't write about what isn't you.

I can site other sources, but most get into racial issues, and I don't want to derail this thread completely.

Personally, I would do what I wanted, attribute my sources, and just tell the story I wanted to tell -- every bit of it. I'm inclined to think unless you get the information first hand from a culturally native storyteller, the story is public. Do make sure it is a folk tale though, and not someone's personal work masquerading as something else.

Morwen Edhelwen
01-13-2012, 09:41 AM
As a Native American, I'd say there is a big difference between borrowing a story with respect and attribution and stealing it.
OK (Tell me if I'm too far off in trying to get what you're saying), is the difference something like (for example) retelling something from a collection and saying something like "this came from a collection of stories from X people compiled by Y, with the help of Z" in your acknowledgements page and retelling something without the slightest mention of where it came from beyond the culture being mentioned a single time? Or are you referring to something more than that? And can someone comment on whether or not that Pakistani example from Rosanne Hawke is a retelling or reference?

Morwen Edhelwen
01-13-2012, 09:50 AM
Or is she excused because she spent some time in Pakistan?

kuwisdelu
01-13-2012, 09:55 AM
So (tell me if I'm too far off) Is the difference something like (for example) retelling something from a collection and saying something like "this came from a collection of stories from X people compiled by Y, with the help of Z" in your acknowledgements page and retelling something without the slightest mention of where it came from beyond the culture being mentioned a single time? Or are you referring to something more than that?

I think what was said earlier about colonized versus colonizing cultures is important. When it comes to using stories from colonized cultures — ones who have not gotten the opportunity to write their own history — I think it's important to get as close to a primary source as possible.

IMO, it's more about understanding the culture behind the story, and treating that culture with respect, than getting details right or worrying over mistakes you might make.

If secondhand retelling is the closest source you can get, one should still make an effort to understand the culture, because stories have meanings and nuances, and even if — especially if — you might want to put your own spin on an old folktale, understanding the culture is key to understanding the story and treating it with respect.

But the internet is a wonderful thing. There are resources all over it that will help you get in contact with the people whose stories you want to borrow.

It would be best to preface or acknowledge somewhere a story, "a retelling of a X story, as told to me by Y, a member of the X people." But then, it might be that the people you might ask think the account in such a compilation as a good reflection of their tale, or even that it's the only account left, so you might say "a retelling of a X story, as retold by Y, from the accounts of the X people, in the collection Z."

Let me put it this way: consider these stories as people, living creatures, and imagine you are writing their biography. How would you do it? How would you treat them? That is what you are doing.

Morwen Edhelwen
01-13-2012, 09:58 AM
OK, thanks. If someone was considering using Chinese tales, I think I'd pretty much say the same thing. Because that's my culture they're dealing with. And actually, the plot is something else. The stories are just woven in. There's no spin on the stories. They're just there.

kuwisdelu
01-13-2012, 10:01 AM
And can someone comment on whether or not that Pakistani example from Rosanne Hawke is a retelling or reference?


Or is she excused because she spent some time in Pakistan?

As far as its use at all, I'm not familiar with the book, but if Papa is Pakistani, I'd consider the context a fair acknowledgment. As far as its appropriateness, I imagine that is something that only someone familiar with Pakistani culture could adequately answer. I'm not.

When it comes to if you use something at all, I think acknowledgement of the people the story came from is important. When it comes to how you use it, I think it's important to do your best to understand the culture from which it came.

Morwen Edhelwen
01-13-2012, 11:48 AM
So, kuwisdelu, in your opinion would a passage in which the narrator sees something and thinks about a traditional Aleut story her dad (or another relative) told her when she was six and then retells it be a fair acknowledgment?

kuwisdelu
01-13-2012, 12:20 PM
So, kuwisdelu, in your opinion would a passage in which the narrator sees something and thinks about a traditional Aleut story her dad (or another relative) told her when she was six and then retells it be a fair acknowledgment?

Yes, I do think that would be fine. But then, I'm not an Aleut, but even when it comes to tribes, we're not always all in agreement. I think as long as the reader recognizes where it came from, that's fine.

And like I said, I do think, wherever possible, that it's important to try to understand the culture behind the story. IMO, mistakes in details aren't so important as knowing what you are retelling and why it was told.

ETA: Frankly, with the extent of your questions and how much you worry about doing the right thing here, I don't think you have anything to worry about. I think your instincts will treat you well.

Morwen Edhelwen
01-13-2012, 12:39 PM
thanks. I hope so.