Cultural Expo showcases diverse organizations
Last Friday night, students had the opportunity to learn about diverse cultures, along with the issues surrounding cultural appropriation at the Cultural Expo hosted by the Sigma Iota Rho Honor Society (SIR) at the Danforth University Center. Featured at the event was a panel on cultural appropriation, free food from different restaurants and student groups and performances from Washington University cultural groups Staam, CRASH, Garba and more.
During the panel, students discussed the serious implications that cultural appropriation can have on a community as diverse as Wash. U.’s. Halloween especially is a time when students tend to appropriate other cultures by wearing misrepresentative or offensive costumes without understanding the consequences. The panelists encouraged attendees not only to avoid participating in this form of appropriation, but to also call out others for doing so. They advised that the best way to avoid unintentional cultural appropriation is to make your intentions known. “I think being able to smile and laugh and celebrate a culture like everyone doing here is a privilege and not a right,” one panelist said during his closing remarks. “If you really take that idea to heart, there’s a lot of responsibility that come with celebrating a culture.”
The Iranian Culture Society, Russian Club, African Students Association and Liberty in North Korea were a few of the groups handing out food and informing curious students about their respective cultures. Attendees tried dishes such as Japanese rice cakes with red bean paste filling, African injera and sushi. For some students, the event presented a new and unique opportunity to branch out of their usual eating routines.
“At home we really eat the same kinds of meals, so I’ve never really tried many different types of foods from different cultures, but I just had three positive experiences trying new food, which makes me want to get out and try new things more often,” sophomore Andi Rodriguez said.
The event was also a way for clubs to get themselves more publicity and spark student interest.
“It’s a really good opportunity for Wash. U. students to get exposed to different cultures in a fun and immersive way,” freshman Claire Mai, a member of the Japan Peer Network, said. “Obviously, food is as hands-on as you can get.”
“The Cultural Expo is really important because Wash. U. has such an incredible diversity of cultures on campus that people don’t take the time to really dig into and appreciate,” sophomore Emma LaPlante said. “Having an event like this gives people a platform to talk about what is important to them and can open the eyes of people on campus to how much Wash. U. has to offer.”
The Russian Club was handing out Golubtsi, a traditional dish with stuffed cabbage and chicken. Club member and sophomore Lia Downing talked with students about common misconceptions of Russia prevalent in the U.S.
“The Russian image in the U.S. is [reduced to] Putin, Stalin, socialism, but Russia is actually very diverse and has a rich culture, especially in terms of performance art like ballet, poetry and literature,” Downing said. “In the process of different cultures interacting, where’s the line between pure cultural exchange and negative cultural appropriation?”
Through meaningful discussion and good grub, the Cultural Expo was a beautiful place to learn about various cultures and open the door for further learning.