Anthropology – Cultural Impact – Cultural Budget at the service of Social Justice

Mar 27, 2023

By: Jean-Marie Mauclet 

Last week, LaSheia sent Gwylène a newspaper article in French, from the popular science magazine Sciences et Avenir, entitled: l’ADN ancien redonne de leur identité à des esclaves africains vendus en Amérique du Nord. This translated to English is Ancient DNA gives back part of their identity to African slaves sold in North-America.”

For the last six weeks, at 2:00 pm on Thursday, TINYisPOWEFUL runs a podcast on OHMRADIO963, with hosts Rayn and Victoria. Last Thursday, they had invited Gwylène and me to be their guests. The topic of this hour of rather serious conversation was: WHAT DOES A CULTURAL BUDGET LOOK LIKE?

We did not have time, in one hour, to get to the ‘look like’ part of the question! What we understood though is that, if a financial budget should reflect the values of its authors, so should a cultural budget. In the case of TINYisPOWERFUL the words best revealing of its values and its goals are Belonging, Becoming, Reciprocity, Autonomy as active principles of Social Justice. What do these principles translate into, in order to fit in a cultural budget, then? They translate into art tools which TINYisPOWERFUL has developed to accomplish its work: in/with community work with the App, the Booklet of questions, “Good Trouble”, the Zine, the OhmRadio podcast – visual arts work like “You bet ‘n me ‘n me ‘n you”, the Jungle, Arianne’s indigo workshop, “a Tale for Reparations” (in progress) – collective or group work like the Circle of Advisers or the Question-Relay conversation format etc . . . In turn, to stay within the vocabulary of budget-building, we consider such art tools as art assets, in that they have a potential exchange value, cash or in-kind, when used/practiced in collaboration with other groups which may have solicited our participation in one of their own projects.

When I apply my attention to a particular subject, my mind, as it usually does, immediately conflates the readings and conversations from the last few days and somehow scans them to identify possible intersections. In this particular case, my exhilaration originated with the OHMRADIO podcast. I have attempted to compact it into one question: Could the ‘Cultural Impact Study’ methodology become an art tool for TINYisPOWERFUL and therefore be placed in the art assets column of its Cultural Budget? To refresh our memory, the concept of Cultural Impact Study comes from the USDAC (United States Department of Art and Culture), a non- governmental, not-for-profit arts organization with which conNECKtedTOO and TINYisPOWERFUL worked with in the past. One of USDAC’s missions is to legally demand that developers perform a Cultural Impact Study, the same way they perform an Environmental Impact Study, before being permitted to develop.

We know from history and from our own experience that development mostly sweeps through underserved neighborhoods. In a metropolis, when it strikes at areas so neglected by government, so run down, benighted really, such states of blight can make gentrification look like salvation! In cities like Charleston though, the process can be so insidious that it is hard, often, to grasp the daily violence of seeing neighbors move away one at a time, property taxes get out of reach, … and then the whole block – your block – destined to become a towering cluster of luxury and exclusion! This is gentrification. The destruction of whole neighborhoods, their people, their businesses, their schools, their history.

Of course all this is a question of social justice!

What troubles me most is how, from slavery in the past centuries to gentrification today, there proves to be a tool of choice, in Charleston, consistently used for the single purpose of rich proprietors to get richer at the expense of others: PEOPLE DEPORTATION. Whether from West Africa to Charleston or from Charleston to Goose Creek, mostly Black people are uprooted at will without a return ticket. And the anthropology in all this? It is, more specifically, the antidote to the data-fication of society in general, of each of us in particular. And, by the same token, the data-fication of budgets. A pure reflection of how we live in an economy-driven world, fixated on productivity, percentages, profit and loss. Without the introduction of the human factor in budgets, how can data-fication detect its own inhumane tendencies? It can only


| “…reproduce its own biases…” from Data Feminism

and carry over, from data sheet to data sheet, from one yearly budget to the next, inequalities, exclusion, the marginalization of others, all “Others”, including women. This is also why, the addition of a cultural budget to all budgets should be required. And so should Time Banking, as income.