Author Topic: neb-relssek says: Hello!  (Read 3368 times)

Offline neb-relssek

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neb-relssek says: Hello!
« on: December 22, 2016, 10:03:22 pm »
Hi, all.  My name is Ben Kessler.  I'm a white fellow (Lithuanian-Welsh-German-Polish-Russian-Chilean-Ashkenazi-Armenian mutt) from Virginia. 

A couple of years ago, I took a teaching job with an outdoor-ed center in the enthusiastic model of Tom Brown, Jr.  The spectacle was pretty much as you'd imagine.  Noting the tell-tale aroma of rodents, I went digging for evidence of fraud (or of legitimacy, on the off-chance my gut instincts, common sense, and natural bull-detector were guiding me awry) on the part of Mr. Brown and his associates.  The elegant collection of proofs of perfidy and thoughtful commentary assembled by the folk of the NAFPS forum provided plenty of ammunition with which to test the faith of my erstwhile comrades in education.  Though no longer employed by that particular school, I remain peripherally involved in the deeply problematic "primitive skills" and outdoor-ed communities, in the capacity of a gadfly.

Though a lurking reader of the NAFPS threads since my initial inquiries, I never felt as though I had anything especially valuable to contribute to the discussions; anything I might say was usually said by someone else, or was negated by a more astute comment.  It's been an educational couple of years; I appreciate the public nature of this forum so much for that. 

I recently requested permission to join the forum in part to invite comment and contribution to a book project.  I recently published a collection of essays that touched on the matter of cultural appropriation (among other things) but I didn't feel I was done writing about the subject.  I am currently working on a more ambitious project, tentatively structured as a series of interviews with folks of differing perspectives on the matter of cross-cultural exchange and theft- of religious and spiritual practice, aesthetic forms, language and terminology, national territory and political sovereignty, and other elements that make a people a people.  The interview format appeals to me, in part due to my own limited cultural perspective.  To be obvious about it, as a white, male, US citizen, I know well the experience of taking something that doesn't belong to me; I have comparatively little direct experience of items of deep personal value unapologetically absconded with, crassly imitated, or grossly distorted.  Interviews also prevent me from superimposing my own opinions too crushingly onto the subject matter- beyond the games of introduction, inclusion, and omission played by the editor's knife, at any rate.  Further, hearing the justifications made by known culture-pirates adjacent to the more nuanced and to my ears convincing arguments for cultural sovereignty and alliance culture, may sway an audience of imperialist tendencies for whom the segregated perspectives might never be acknowledged.  I'm not solely interested in interviews with folks with academy credentials, public fame, or other such hallmarks- I think there's value to be learned from the opinions, knowledge, wisdom, and plum foolishness of folks from all walks of life.  As such, I'll be soliciting the voices of common folk as well as their moneyed gurus on the appropriating end also.  Slap it all together and see it if stands up on its hind legs.

I expect to make quite a few errors in the process, more at first and less as time goes on, education willing.  It would be disingenuous of me to demand forbearance and forgiveness for my ignorance without my expending any effort to amend it; I'll endeavor instead to earn that.

I am aware that much has already been said about cultural appropriation, in voices far more eloquent and knowledgeable than my own- many of them present on this forum- to the degree that any new words- especially as curated by an apparent appropriator of the very cause such as myself- seem superfluous.  Much has been said, but in some communities very little of it has been heard.  Those Anglo outdoor-ed circles I move in, for instance, seem on the whole ignorant of the observations of several generations of cultural analysts and vigorous defenders of sovereign dignity, or if made aware, remain unmoved.  The practical questions I run into involve whether or not folks such as my colleagues can be educated, whether or not it's worth the effort, and if both cases are so, how best to go about it.  And that's where the book comes in, operating on the general principles of throwing mud at a wall.  I would enjoy talking activist literary strategy until the cows come home, but I suspect that the time and place for that is later and elsewhere, though if that is your passion as well, do let's talk shop.

Any and all who would like to be interviewed for the book, please let me know via comment, PM, or email (follow the website address below) including the specific matters you'd like to focus the conversation on.  Interviews can be written via email, or conducted over the phone (as soon as I figure out how to hook a recording device up to my antique rotary cell-phone!)  I won't use any written, spoken, or otherwise communicated material unless consent is explicitly given for its inclusion.  Likewise, I invite any recommendations of background material that could inform any framing essays for the book or independent magazine essays I work on in between book gigs and my usual workaday grind.  Mods: if this is an inappropriate place to advance this invitation, please do let me know so that I may retract it.

My thanks to the moderators for inviting me into this community, and to you all for the good work of doing right by the people, right by the land, right by the spirits, right by the past, right by the future.

Good health,

P.S: The collected essays I mentioned earlier can be found here: or on the usual internet big-box stores.