Saturday, March 19, 2016

What J.K. Rowling’s New Story Can Teach Us About Cultural Appropriation


harry potter

After leaving Harry Potter fans to subsist on rereads and tiny snippets about Professor McGonagall from Pottermore for what felt like decades, J.K. Rowling has been back with a vengeance.

A new play, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” will give fans a look into the life of Harry the family man, chronicling his life as a busy Auror, husband, and father dealing with a troubled son. The upcoming Potter world film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” starring Eddie Redmayne, will bring the wizarding world to the big screen for the first time since “Deathly Hallows.” And to prepare for the latter project, Rowling recently published the four-part story “History of Magic in North America,” which glosses over the Salem witch trials, the Magical Congress of the United States of America, the wizarding school of Ilvermorny, and skinwalkers.

Oh, yes, that last one: One of four parts of Rowling’s magical history addressed magic in the Native American “community,” as she put it, including the Navajo tradition of skinwalkers, which Rowling wrote as legends surrounding Native Animagi, born of rumors spread by jealous medicine men.

Rowling’s entire section on Native American magic, which appeared on Pottermore last week, ignored the plethora of different, unique tribal nations across the continent in favor of vague generalizations and stereotypes about Native magic, which quickly drew backlash from Native leaders and activists.

“We as Indigenous peoples are constantly situated as fantasy creatures,” wrote Cherokee scholar Adrienne Keene on her blog, Native Appropriations. “But we’re not magical creatures, we’re contemporary peoples who are still here, and still practice our spiritual traditions, traditions that are not akin to a completely imaginary wizarding world.” (Read more here)

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