Digging around, I found that on June 8th, 2005, the book Who Owns Culture?: Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law by American lawyer Susan Scafidi was released in June 2005. In May the following year, the annual feminist science fiction convention WisCon held a panel on cultural appropriation that started considerable discussion. The concept of cultural appropriation was then picked up by African-American, native American and First Nation groups in at least Canada, the US and Australia because it fitted with existing beliefs and lines of argument. It also fitted with the post colonial anti-imperialistic rhetoric and beliefs. I don't think that the apparent absolute country ranking in Google trends - Canada followed by the US and then Australia and the UK - is a coincidence.
Today, the concept has recently become quite prominent and intensely political. Some random examples:
- Ruby Hamad accused the recent Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation ad on lamb on Australia Day for its use of the word boomerang
- The cancellation of university yoga classes at the University of Ottawa on grounds that included cultural appropriation
- Justin Beiber's hair
- Beyonce's portrayal of a Bollywood character
- Pressure over the use of the name Walkabout for a dance festival, forcing a name change
- At the University of East Anglia, student pressure stopped a Mexican restaurant handing out sombreros on the grounds that it was racist, while in Canada Kendall Jenner's Tribal Spirit Mango ad was attacked on social media as cultural appropriation.
“Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else's culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture's dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. It's most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.”
In the United States, cultural appropriation almost always involves members of the dominant culture (or those who identify with it) “borrowing” from the cultures of minority groups. African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans and indigenous peoples generally tend to emerge as the groups targeted for cultural appropriation.