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HANDOUT 2: Considerations for Cultural Borrowing — Questions to Ask (and Answer)

Prepared by the 2003 UUA Cultural (Mis) Appropriations Ad Hoc Committee, Judith A. Frediani, chair. This document can also be found here on the website of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

This is a comprehensive set of questions to consider when potentially integrating culture specific practices into Unitarian Universalist worship and teaching.


  • Why am I doing this? What is my motivation?


  • What is the goal?
  • Why do we want multiculturalism?
  • Why this particular cultural material or event?


  • What is the context in which I will use the cultural material?
  • What is the cultural context from which it is taken? The history?
  • What are the controversies/sensitivities surrounding this material?
  • What are the power relationships in this context? The privileges?


  • What am I willing to do to prepare for this experience?
  • Have I done my homework on this material?
  • What sources/resources have I used?
  • Have I asked people from the culture for feedback/critical review of my plans? The history?
  • Have I asked people from the culture to create or co-create the material?
  • Did I invite people from the culture to participate? To speak for themselves in this plan?


  • Am I in relationship with people from this culture?
  • Am I willing to be part of that community's struggle?
  • What is my relationship with the source of the material?
  • What can I give in return? What do I offer?
  • With whom do I ally myself with this usage?
  • Am I working alone?


  • How does this work nurture self-identity and group identity?
  • How does this strengthen UU identity?
  • How does it help UUs be religious?
  • What does this say about UU faith?
  • How does it relate to UU spirituality or spiritual practice?
  • What can UUs learn from other traditions?


  • With printed material, who holds the copyright?
  • Have I received permission to use the material?
  • Who has the right to adapt? Why?
  • Who will be insulted/offended by this adaptation?
  • With whom do I ally myself with this adaptation?
  • What is the difference between symbolic and real ritual, and how am I using this ritual?
  • If I am using a translation is it accurate, authentic, and current?


  • Am I using current, authentic language?

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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.

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