What happens when two or more cultures come into contact?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: February 23, 2019

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Submitted: February 23, 2019



When two or more cultures come into contact there is an exchange of ideas, values, conventions and materials. When cultures make contact acculturation occurs. Acculturation is the modification of the culture of a group or individual as a result of contact with a different culture (Gillin, Raimy 1940). It is a dynamic process of adaptation to new conditions of life (Thurnwald 1932). Material exchange, such as mode of dress, food habits and technical skills are readily observed but we must also consider physiological and psychological changes.

Two or more groups that come into contact are separated from each other in three ways: culturally, by different ideas, values and behavior, separated by their social relationships, and biologically (Roy 1962). When these groups come in contact there is a material exchange, such as the learning of a new language, the adaptation of different dress and food habits, and the acquisition of new technical skills. There will also be an internal exchange because of symbolic meanings attached to these “external arrangements” (Willems 1955). Physiological and psychological changes are manifested in acculturative stress. Identity confusion, anxiety, and depression indicate acculturative stress. The severity of stress depends on the voluntariness of contact and mobility. Voluntary contact includes sedentary ethnic groups and migrant immigrants. Sedentary native peoples and migrant refugees are examples of involuntary contact. Studies show that levels of acculturative stress increase when cultures are subjected to involuntary acculturation and/or are subjected to a migrant mobility (Berry et al 1987).

Acculturation produces one of four outcomes: assimilation, integration, separation or marginalization (Berry et al 1987). A society may merge cultural traits with a previously distinct culture; the current Haitian culture is a result of French and African influences. Some groups integrate or become part of a previously distinct culture, such as the African/American culture. A case which involves one group separating with another group in an effort to preserve its own distinct characteristics is the Maori in New Zealand. The Australian Aboriginals and North American Natives were both cast as inferior by a dominating culture and live on the outskirts of the dominating cultures.







Berry, J. W.; Uichol Kim; Thomas Minde; Doris Mok


1987 Comparative Studies of Acculturative Stress


International Migration Review, Vol. 21, No. 3, Special Issue: Migration and Health. (Autumn,

1987), pp. 491-511.


Gillin, John, and Victor Raimy

1940 Acculturation and Personality. American Sociological Review 5:371-380.

Roy, Prodipto

1962 The Measurement of Assimilation: The Spokane Indians

The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 67, No. 5. (Mar., 1962), pp. 541-551.

Thurnwald, Richard

1932 The Psychology of Acculturation. American Anthropologist 34:557-569.

Willems, Emilio


1955On the Concept of Assimilation


American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 57, No. 3, Part 1. (Jun., 1955), pp. 625-626.



© Copyright 2019 Charles E Alexander Jr. All rights reserved.

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