Meaning of acculturation

What is Acculturation:

Acculturation is the process through which an individual, a group of people or a people acquires and assimilates the traits and elements of another culture different from their own.

In this way, and for various reasons, many individuals or social groups have modified or adapted various cultural elements of their own by others, putting their culture in danger of loss.

It is worth mentioning that acculturation is a process that has occurred since ancient times throughout human history and from the first moment in which different social communities made contact.

Acculturation occurs in varying degrees of intensity depending on the cultural modifications that are carried out, which can range from the mildest, such as the use of a new word, to the most perceptible and notorious, such as the modification of a social value.

In general, the traits of the dominant cultures are adopted over the weaker ones. That is, changes are imposed but in an asymmetric way, because although there may be a mutual exchange of cultures, one will always stand out and dominate the other.

It can be seen as clear examples of acculturation all those cases of colonized peoples, in which external customs were more dominant and, in some cases destructive, over those that they modified or altered.

Acculturation is a constant process, either directly or indirectly due to globalization, economic exchanges or technological advances that facilitate interconnection and communication, among others. In these cases, one can speak of a peaceful acculturation.

However, it can also be achieved through a violent process when armed confrontations are unleashed and the strongest groups outnumber and dominate, in different ways and among them culturally, the weakest.

However, acculturation, whether individual or group, is not a specific event, on the contrary, it is generated over time in a continuous and systematic way. These modifications take a time in which resistance and domination are perceived.

See also Culture.

Examples of acculturation

There are several examples of acculturation. Among the most outstanding we can mention the following:

  • The colonization of America is an example of violent acculturation. The colonizers faced the indigenous groups and won the fight. Consequently, they imposed their customs, languages, values, religion, among others, on the cultures and traditions of the indigenous communities.
  • Migration is also an example of acculturation. When there are important human groups that emigrate from one country to another, they carry their culture with them, they instill the smallest ones. However, many others are losing their traditions and adapt to the culture of the place where they are.
  • With globalization there have also been various cases of acculturation as a consequence of cultural exchange. Among them we can mention the use of words in foreign languages, generally in English, to refer to a product or service.
  • Another example of acculturation is the consumption of exported products, either for their quality or low price, which also derive from the adoption of new customs and market dominance.

Acculturation and transculturation

As mentioned throughout the text, acculturation refers to the process through which one changes, totally or partially, one's own culture for another.

On the other hand, transculturation is called the process through which a people or community gradually exchanges and adopts cultural traits different from their own, as people communicate and interact.

Now, both terms are related because they affect the original culture of a group, as well as the personal and social identity of a people.

The alteration of cultural bases affects individuals, especially their identity, customs and social values. Hence, acculturation or transculturation has both positive and negative effects on individuals.

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