Cultural appropriation

Evaluation in a changing world

June 19 to 21, 2023; workshops on June 17 and 18; international sharing on June 22

The Canadian Evaluation Society (CES) is committed to promoting diversity, supporting inclusion and building equity through peer-to-peer learning.

Cultural appropriation refers to using intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artefacts from another culture without permission. It is most likely to be harmful when it involves a power dynamic in which the source culture is a group that has been oppressed or exploited, or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive or sacred.

While it may seem difficult to distinguish between the appreciation for another culture and the act of cultural appropriation, it is important that we do so, especially in our roles as professional practitioners, peer educators and evaluation ‘experts’.

Cultural appropriation is harmful because:

  • ideas are often used without proper credit to their originators;

  • benefits can accrue to people from the dominant culture instead of to people from the source culture;

  • there is an increased risk of misinterpretation or misrepresentation when ideas are used by someone from outside the source culture;

  • using an idea from another culture without actively engaging in anti-oppression efforts does not transform the systemic violence or heal the harm that the people of that culture experience.

As part of the online C2023 submission process, we will be asking for a description of how the identities and experiences of all presenters pertain to the content of their presentations and thematic breakfasts, as well as for a declaration that they are not engaging in cultural appropriation. Leaders, presenters, and discussants are also encouraged to reflect on such questions during their workshops, presentations, and thematic breakfasts.

The following resources provide further information on cultural appropriation to assist you.