University News

Students protest alum’s performance

Grossman ’00 performs Hindu chants, responds to questions about cultural appropriation

By
Staff Writer
Friday, April 22, 2016

About 15 student protesters gathered outside of Carrie Grossman’s ’00 performance of Hindu chants, questioning her on whether her performance constituted cultural appropriation.

A group of about 15 students protested a performance by Carrie Grossman ’00, entitled “An Evening of Devotional Music” Thursday night. The performance was held in Smith-Buonanno Hall and was advertised as an “intimate evening of inquiry, music and meditation,” according to the description of the event on Facebook.

Before Grossman began, student leaders of the Contemplative Studies Departmental Undergraduate Group issued an opening statement regarding the protesters: “We see ourselves, as well as anyone that engages in the fruits and perils of globalization that are running their course, as responsible for a constant and critical examination of our behaviors, beliefs and attitudes.” The DUG had previously found out about the planned protest of the event and added a question-and-answer session to the end of the performance. But the DUG leaders also said that while they planned the event with good intentions, they “humbly acknowledge that those intentions do not preclude harm and hurt that we may have inflicted.”

As Grossman began describing her experience with Hindu chanting, the students began to ask her questions on her appropriation of Hindu culture. “How does your whiteness impact how you engage with these cultures?” one student asked.

Another student said that Grossman’s website used “disturbing and appropriative language” because it says that she “enjoys … pretending to be a Vedic priestess.” Grossman addressed these questions by describing how she discovered chanting on a visit to India, saying that she “found (chanting) very powerful and very healing.” She then reiterated that there would be a discussion after her performance and began chanting.

The student protestors continued to ask questions, but several audience members turned around and asked them to be quiet. In addition, some of the audience members stood up and moved to where the protesters were sitting to ask them to leave. The students were “asked to leave by the deans or to stay if we wanted” due to their constant questions, wrote Sohum Chokshi ’18, one of the student protestors, in a Facebook message to The Herald. But Chokshi said that the students left “because they wanted us silent.” As Chokshi exited, he announced that the protesters would hold their own kirtan, a form of Hindu chanting, outside the room.

After her performance, Grossman and several members of the audience joined the protesters outside the hall for a question-and-answer session.

“What is your working definition of cultural appropriation?” asked Aanchal Saraf ’16. Grossman responded by saying that she defined it as using elements of other cultures “in your own way.” Later, Grossman apologized for not understanding the consequences of her action or the offense that they would cause. Saraf responded, “You saying that it wasn’t intended to be harmful doesn’t make it an apology.” Both Saraf and Chokshi led the discussion with Grossman and highlighted the different ways that Grossman has the ability to give performances at the expense of minorities.

Toward the end of the question-and-answer session, the conversation turned toward the actions that Grossman could take in the future to create systemic change. “Use your privilege to make structural change,” Saraf said. “You as a white person are protected.” Saraf closed the discussion by saying that she wanted Grossman to leave with that message because “that’s what radical love looks like.”

34 Comments

  1. Willie Sam says:

    I wanted to congratulate these protestors for their bravery in standing up to cultural appropriation. How dare this white Jewess engage in Hindu chanting. Next time stick to Klezmer and highlights from Fiddler on the Roof.

  2. This is a tragic read. The idea of “cultural appropriation” being some sinister force, as well as the concepts of “white privilege” and “white supremacy” are the product of questionable scholarship that lacks rigor and has only tenuous grounding in fact.

    The curriculum of the Third World Transition Program has perverted the worldview of these student protesters. To the students: Don’t take these ideas at their face value. For your own sake, question how you were exposed to them, their sources, their validity, and, above all, question if these ideas are justified by the facts of the world and if they truly reflect your own realities as young people.

    It’s a shame (if not a form of child abuse) that these thoughtful students’ time at Brown will have been spent chasing phantoms. The administrators at Brown are causing real psychological damage to these kids by force-feeding them a suspect agenda promoted by activist scholars whose time has long passed. It is sad to read articles like this.

    Free yourselves from this bogus framework. You are pawns of unscrupulous ideologues who derive joy from your indoctrination.

    • TheRationale says:

      Child abuse? They’re supposed to be adults! You’re letting them off the hook too easily.

      • Perhaps victims of fraud. Do they really think they’ll police the world of cultural appropriation? Reality will smack them hard in the face.

  3. TheRationale says:

    Good lord, these students are absolute bigots. “How does your whiteness impact how you engage with these cultures?” Bigot. That’s the word. I’m going to say it again. Bigot.

  4. So I guess these protesters think everybody, (and I suspect, based on other recent protests, especially someone with a Jewish name), should stay in their place, and never explore and learn from other cultures, countries and worlds, for fear of “appropriation”. Such a sad and ignorant point of view. And it’s rather disgusting that even after the protesters are given, and take, the opportunity to share their perspective, and make their point, they insist on continuing their disruption of the event, and preventing others from harmlessly engaging in a topic and exploration of interest to them. Is this what Brown University students think is enlightened protest against oppression? So misguided, selfish, ignorant, and impolite.

  5. Ken Miller says:

    I have a question. When a Chinese student (by which I mean a student at Brown from the People’s Republic of China) presents a violin performance of classical (white) European music, is that also an example of “cultural appropriation,” and should that student’s presentation be subject to protest as well? I think the answer is obvious.

    • Are we appropriating Arab culture by using their numbers? Can an Anglo wear a guayabera (I hope so!)? What about a ‘military’ style haircut on civilians? Are wheels and fire appropriations of caveman (sorry, “cave person”) culture? Are non-europeans allowed to “appropriate” musical instruments like the guitar and piano? I’m going to need a list of what I am allowed and not.

    • Ken Scherer says:

      The power dynamics philosophy of the insane Left states that anyone can appropriate anything from the oppressor but not from the oppressed. Since the insane Left accuses whites of being the prime oppressors of the entire Earth, any non-white has the right to culturally appropriate anything from white culture. In fact, many in the insane Left are convinced that there is no so such thing is genuine white culture, because that insane Left believes every bit of white culture was stolen from non-whites.

  6. How sad! Would the Persian accuse Indians of appropriating their cultural elements, like everyday words and expressions? Would the Chinese accuse the Japanese of appropriating their writing system? Would the American accuse the Indians of appropriating their dressing culture?

  7. Kublai Khan says:

    I think what can be learned from all this is that academic jargon (or any obscure terminology/phraseology for that matter) does not make good speak for effective activism. You got to make sure everyone knows what you’re talking about!

  8. Max Blancke says:

    The cultural authoritarians are very troubling and
    sinister. Very few of them have any real understanding of historical
    cultural exchange. And when I have talked to them, it is apparent that
    they have not really thought about the topic to any real depth. They
    only know that they are angry, and they really enjoy policing the
    behavior of others. The most important thing is to never submit to these
    sorts of people, because they will only reply with ever more absurd
    demands. Their actual goal is not really about whether or not you try on
    a kimono or wear dreadlocks or practice yoga. Their goal is for you to
    submit to their demands. The demands are irrelevant. The submission is
    the only thing that matters.
    Most of the time, the appropriation
    protesters are not even representatives of the culture or religion that
    they have appointed themselves defenders of. There is no more absurd
    example of this than the Chinese American and Philippine American
    appropriation protesters angrily lecturing actual Japanese ladies about
    the proper wearing of Kimonos and appreciation of Japanese culture, as
    seen in the image below

    • chaotik_lord says:

      That’s it, isn’t it? I had my fill sometime within the past year. I came through the angry mob and saw the light. It has been taken too far. It is about power and punishment, it is about exacting a blood price (well…figuratively) for the crimes of past oppression. It is about submission. The classical higher education has sold out core requirements for the study of philosophy, logic, and other such objective examinations of thought in favor of earning credit hours in Indoctrination by Class. And you are right-it is about nothing more than submission. I suggest the course of action most recently taken by Ohio State University: threaten expulsion if they persist, remind them that they are sub-adults, not prodigious voices of wisdom and tolerance, and assert the university as a place of education, not indulgent coddling.

  9. It’s “cultural appropriation” for foreign students to come here & use our American culture to get an education.

  10. Humans imitate other humans, particularly when they see it as beneficial, moral, or helpful. The cultural appropriation authoritarians, by interfering with humans helping humans, are interfering with humanity. They ought to be apologizing to Grossman.

  11. 1st Amend. says:

    Please tell me this is a joke. I am about to complain that international students are speaking English.

  12. Stop apologizing to these nutjobs!

  13. Douglas Levene says:

    How ignorant and stupid are these student protestors? Have they studied even a drop of history? Do they know how religions continually form and change by “appropriating” the elements of other religions? How do they think Christianity got saints? What do they think Zen Buddhism is? And I’m not even getting to music, food, literature and all the other elements of culture.
    Brown University, as a school of higher learning, should be profoundly ashamed to have students like these.

    • Brown should start by expelling them for racist hate crimes. People like these are dangerous, they are the ones who will support regimes like Soviet Communism, Nazism, they need to know that civil society will not encourage or respect them.

  14. Ken Scherer says:

    Since Christianity began as a Hellenized Jewish sect in the Middle East and my ancestors are German, if I’m to avoid committing cultural appropriation, should I convert to Asatru and stop liking anything non-Germanic? Or am I simply forever hated by the completely insane racist faction of the Left that is comprised of sadly misguided people of color and self-hating whites who think whites are the worst creatures on Earth?

  15. Negatron99 says:

    0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 …. where did those very recognisable symbols come from?

    They were appropriated a long time ago. Are we expected to stop using them? Should we throw the world into chaos because we aren’t the originators of these 10 very useful symbolic forms?

    • They’d say it came from your keypad…. don’t lecture them on history. They’re experts (in their own minds).

  16. Cedric Marc Klein says:

    It is both to Carrie Grossman’s credit and her shame that she did not tell her Inquisitors to go to whatever abyss they slunk out of.

  17. Every-time a “cultural appropriation” brouhaha happens folks point out that all cultures are a melange of others (including the two French words in my sentence).

    Let’s be honest – this is just a big fat “f*ck you white girl for being white”

  18. The students are extremely ignorant. Their views taken to their logical ends would mean any white, Hispanic or black person wishing to learn Vedic knowledge or dharma from an authentic teacher would be forbidden. That is how it was 150 years ago, let’s not go back to that. Hinduism and dharma are not racially owned, it is a way of looking at the world, yourself and how you enact that vision. These students should learn something before they protest.

  19. How does chanting harm Indians or anyone? If you feel it does, how about just not attending the performance?

    Music, dance and other forms of performance used to be considered a “universal language” and a way to build bridges between cultures and people, not ways to reinforce divisions between us. These “protestors” clearly want the latter.

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