Research: Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation

New research from Monash University, University of Auckland and University of Melbourne looks at how we consume culture from other countries and cultural appropriation. 


  • Dr Angela Gracia B Cruz, Monash University
  • Associate Professor Yuri Seo, University of Auckland
  • Professor Daiane Scaraboto, University of Melbourne


Countervailing discourses of cultural appreciation versus cultural appropriation are fueling a tension between the ethnic consumer subject, who views the consumption of cultural difference as a valorized identity project, and the responsibilized consumer subject, who is tasked with considering the societal impacts of such consumption. Drawing on an extended qualitative investigation of international K-pop consumers, this study illustrates that this tension spurs consumers to pursue self-authorization—the reflexive reconfiguration of the self in relation to the social world—through which consumers grant themselves permission to continue consuming cultural difference. Four consumer self-authorization strategies are identified: reforming, restraining, recontextualizing, and rationalizing. Each strategy relies upon an amalgam of countervailing moral interpretations about acts of consuming difference, informing ideologies about the power relationships between cultures, and emergent subject positions that situate the consuming self in relation to others whose differences are packaged for consumption. Findings show notable conditions under which each self-authorization strategy is deployed, alongside consumers’ capacity to adjust and recombine different strategies as they navigate changing sociocultural and idiographic conditions. Overall, this study advances understanding of how consumers navigate the resurgent politics of marketized cultural diversity in an era of woke capitalism.

Read the full research report at the Journal for Consumer Research