It is sometimes a source of great wonder how certain elements of a culture have great similarities among different groups of another culture e.g., art forms from one culture being held in high regard in some other part of the world. Some instances would be French Perfumes, Italian Leather etc. Further examples could be of cuisine. It is a testament to globalization how one does not need to venture far in order to enjoy Chinese, Italian, French, Thai or any other cuisine. What may be clearly ascertained is that there is a constant exchange between cultures today and that societies no longer remain in isolation. It is a commonly heard phrase that ‘India apes the west’. We talk about the ‘dilution’ of Indian culture and its values due to Western influences and how Indians tend to blindly adopt Western concepts and ideals. American society plays a dominant role in today’s world scenario due to its political and economic position of importance. It is an accepted fact that when two cultures come into close proximity, the dominant cultural forms are often ‘imposed, invented, reworked and transformed’ with far-reaching and even unintended consequences. While it is arguable that over exposure to Western culture, especially its media has had a detrimental effect on our society, one cannot deny that the end result of this intermingling of cultures is a more diverse and sensitive environment. In the course of this paper, various elements or traits that have arisen from Indian culture, juxtaposed with the forms they have taken in the West, will be examined. Finally, conclusions will be drawn for the possible reasons as to how and why such traits have achieved traction in the Western mainstream with respect to psychological mindset or sociological needs.
Chapter-1 | Diffusion, Acculturation and Assimilation
Through the years, sociologists and anthropologists have studied this process of cultures coming into contact through various media, each having a profound effect on the other thereby altering their cultural fate in irreversible and unforeseeable ways. Thus many theories, albeit with overlapping terminology and ideology, have been propounded. Some of such theories are detailed in order to provide a historical backdrop to this paper.
Diffusion may be simply defined as the spread of a cultural item from its place of origin to other places. A more expanded definition depicts diffusion as the process by which discrete culture traits are transferred from one society to another, through migration, trade, war, or other contact. Broadly, it comprises of acceptance, over time, of some specific item, idea or practice, by individuals, groups or other adopting units, linked to specific channels of communication, to a social structure, and a given system of values, or culture. Diffusionists are of the view that all cultures originated from a few, if not one main culture.
Acculturation comprises of all the changes brought about in a culture due to its contact with another culture, which leads to increased similarities between the two. This theory presupposed constant contact between cultures however theorists differed on whether this process was unidirectional or not. The process may in fact be reciprocal but is often asymmetrical. Diffusion contributes to acculturation and acculturation necessarily involves diffusion. However, diffusion is a matter of what happens to the elements of a culture; whereas acculturation is a process of defining what happens to the culture as a whole.
An individual is said to have been ‘assimilated’ into a culture when he is able to enter social, political, economic and educational areas of that society. Assimilation is the final step an individual takes in a foreign society after acculturation. If the individual fails to find...