Halloween as a Learning Moment

As we enter the month of October on a college campus, conversations in the hallway and chat amongst departments may (okay, will) turn towards the topic of Halloween. While Halloween is an opportunity to engage with students, staff, faculty, and administration in the form of classroom events, campus parties, departmental decorations, and of course free candy, we also need to consider the topic of cultural appropriation. Since this article is written by Office of Professional Development, we’d like to make this Halloween a learning moment for all.


“We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” campaign created by Ohio University

What is Cultural Appropriation?

Essentially cultural appropriation is the adoption of elements of one culture by members of another culture, while distorting the original meaning or significance in the process. Such examples of appropriation would be dressing as a geisha, Pocahontas, Pancho Villa, or other representation of a culture not your own.

Recent college campaigns now seek to bring awareness to this issue. “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume,” was created by Ohio University in 2013 and the University of Michigan has a page dedicated to raising awareness.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  1. What culture does this style reference and what is my relation to that culture?
  2. Why am I choosing to wear this costume?
  3. How accurate and/or respectful is my costume to that culture?

Interested in Learning More?


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