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Acculturation

  • 24 Aug 2022
  • 7 min read

For Prelims: Meaning of Acculturation

For Mains: Acculturation and its outcomes, Significance of Acculturation, India and Acculturation

Why in News?

India, with its distinctive fusion of various cultures, has ideals that provide a deeper understanding of the concept of acculturation and its outcomes.

What is Meant by Acculturation?

  • The concept of acculturation was coined in 1880 by American geologist John Wesley Powel in a report for the U.S. Bureau of Ethnology.
    • He defined it as the psychological changes induced in people due to cross-cultural imitation, resulting from the interaction with different cultures.
  • Acculturation, in present days, is defined as the process in which a person or group from one culture comes in contact with another culture, adopting the values and practices of the other while still retaining their own distinct identity.
    • A suitable example would be the integration of Black Americans within the white American society.
  • Sociologists understand acculturation as a two-way process, wherein the minority culture adopts aspects of the majority to fit in and the culture of the majority is also influenced by that of the minority.

What are the Different Outcomes of Acculturation?

  • Assimilation:
    • A study by W.I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki in 1918 on Polish immigrants in Chicago provided a better understanding of the concept of assimilation.
    • It is a process in which groups adopt a new culture that virtually replaces their original culture, leaving only traces behind.
    • In assimilation, individuals or groups eventually become indistinguishable from the culture they came in contact with.
    • It occurs when the importance given to one's culture is minuscule and where ‘fitting in’ is given high significance, deeming it necessary for survival in a new cultural space.
    • This outcome is likely to occur in societies that are "melting pots" into which new members are absorbed.
  • Separation:
    • It refers to the process wherein an individual/group comes in contact with a new cultural group, but does not embrace aspects of the new culture, as they wish to maintain their own unique identity without being ‘contaminated’ by the values and norms of another culture.
    • The rejection of a new culture while maintaining one's own traditions and customs usually occurs in culturally or racially segregated societies.
  • Integration:
    • Under integration, an individual/group adapts to a new culture while maintaining their original culture. It occurs where cultural adoption is considered significant for the smooth functioning of society.
    • Such a strategy is used in a multicultural society with a relatively high proportion of minority groups.
    • Individuals or groups who use this strategy can switch between the values and norms of the different cultures they have absorbed to interact with groups from both cultures with ease.
  • Marginalisation:
    • It occurs when individuals/groups barely interact with a new cultural group.
    • This strategy results in the isolation of the person or group, pushing them aside to the corners of society, forgotten by the rest.
    • In a society where cultural exclusion is practised, it becomes almost impossible to interact and integrate with a different cultural group due to the barriers created between the two.
  • Transmutation:
    • It is the process in which importance is placed on both maintaining one’s own culture while also adopting aspects of a new culture.
    • It is different from integration in the sense that the cultures are amalgamated into creating a new one (instead of integrating and switching between the codes and conducts of two different cultures).
      • Thus, a unique blend of two cultures creates a new one that is accepted by both the individuals/groups.

How Relevant is Acculturation in India’s Context?

  • India’s distinctive fusion of various cultures helps significantly in understanding the concept of acculturation and its outcomes.
  • Persian culture has influenced almost all aspects of Indian society; the origins of popular food items like biriyanis and faloodas and spices like saffron, and cumin seeds trace back to Persian origins.
  • The Urdu language, a blend of Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Hindi, is an example of the amalgamation and transmutation of cultures.
  • The architectures of Christian Churches in Kerala like the Cheriapally (small church) in Kottayam or the Pazhaya Suriyani Pally (old Syrian church) in Chengannur have marks of Hindu Temple architectural styles.
    • Sculptures of Christian deities inside a lotus similar to that of Hindu deities, and sculptures of animals like cows, elephants, and monkeys carved onto the church walls are excellent examples of the integration of Hindu and Christian traditions and cultures in Indian society.

Conclusion

  • Acculturation is an inevitable social process, as migration and interactions with different cultures have always been part of the evolution of civilization.
  • Acculturation allows us to learn and understand new aspects of various cultures and appreciate their differences.
    • Resentment toward other cultures and the belief that one’s heritage is superior can result in the marginalisation and separation of different cultures, ultimately disrupting the functioning of a society.
  • A harmonious exchange of cultures between various groups is imperative for a peaceful society.

Source: TH

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