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Acculturation

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Portrait of Native Americans from the Cherokee, Cheyenne, Choctaw, Comanche,


Iroquois, and Muscogee tribes in European attire. Photos dates from 1868 to 1924.

Acculturation explains the process of cultural and psychological change that results
following meeting between cultures.[1] The effects of acculturation can be seen at
multiple levels in both interacting cultures. At the group level, acculturation often
results in changes to culture, customs, and social institutions. Noticeable group level
effects of acculturation often include changes in food, clothing, and language. At the
individual level, differences in the way individuals acculturate have been shown to be
associated not just with changes in daily behavior, but with numerous measures of
psychological and physical well-being. As enculturation is used to describe the
process of first-culture learning, acculturation can be thought of as second-culture
learning.

The concept of acculturation has been studied scientifically since 1918.[2] As it has
been approached at different times from the fields of psychology, anthropology, and
sociology, numerous theories and definitions have emerged to describe elements of
the acculturative process. Despite definitions and evidence that acculturation entails a
two-way process of change, research and theory have primarily focused on the
adjustments and adaptations made by minorities such as immigrants, refugees, and
indigenous peoples in response to their contact with the dominant majority.
Contemporary research has primarily focused on different strategies of acculturation
and how variations in acculturation affect how well individuals adapt to their society.

Contents
1 Historical approaches

2 Conceptual Models of Acculturation

o 2.1 Fourfold Models

o 2.2 Predictors of Acculturation Strategies

3 Outcomes of Acculturation

o 3.1 Individual health

o 3.2 Culture

o 3.3 Language

4 Controversies and debate

o 4.1 Definitions

o 4.2 Recommended Models of Acculturation

o 4.3 Typological Approach

5 See also

6 References

Historical approaches
The earliest recorded thoughts towards acculturation can be found in Sumerian
inscriptions from 2370 B.C. These inscriptions laid out rules for commerce and
interaction with foreigners designed to limit acculturation and protect traditional
cultural practices.[3] Plato also said that acculturation should be avoided as he thought
it would lead to social disorder. Accordingly, he proposed that no one should travel
abroad until they are at least 40 years of age, and that travellers should be restricted to
the ports of cities to minimize contact with native citizens.[2] Nevertheless, the history
of Western civilization, and in particular the histories of Europe and the United States,
are largely defined by patterns of acculturation.

J.W. Powell is credited with coining the word "acculturation" in 1880,[4] defining it as
"the psychological changes induced by cross-cultural imitation." The first
psychological theory of acculturation was proposed in W.I. Thomas and Florian
Znaniecki's 1918 study, "The Polish Peasant in Europe and America." From studying
Polish immigrants in Chicago, they illustrated three forms of acculturation
corresponding to three personality types: Bohemian (adopting the host culture and
abandoning their culture of origin), Philistine (failing to adopt the host culture but
preserving their culture of origin), and Creative-Type (able to adapt to the host culture
while preserving their culture of origin).[5] In 1936, Redfield, Linton, & Herskovits
provided the first widely used definition of acculturation as "those phenomena which
result when groups of individuals having different cultures come into continuous first-
hand contact, with subsequent changes in the original cultural patterns of either or
both groupsunder this definition acculturation is to be distinguished from
assimilation, which is at times a phase of acculturation[6] Since then scholars in
different disciplines have developed more than 100 different theories of acculturation.
[2]

Conceptual Models of Acculturation


Although numerous models of acculturation exist, the most complete models take into
consideration the changes occurring at the group and individual levels of both
interacting groups.[7] To understand acculturation at the group level, one must first
look at the nature of both cultures before coming into contact with one another. A
useful approach is Eric Kramer's (1988[8] 1992,[9] 1997a,[10] 2003,[11] 2011,[12] 2012[13])
theory of Dimensional Accrual and Dissociation.

Kramer's theory of Dimensional Accrual and Dissociation (DAD) utilizes concepts


from several scholars, most notably Jean Gebser and Lewis Mumford, to synthesize
an explanation of widely observed cultural expressions and differences along a Neo-
Kantian manifold of spatial and temporal variance similar to the work of Edmund
Husserl, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, J. T. Faser, Sigfried Giedion, James Gibson,
Maurice Grosser, Edmund Carpenter, Edward T. Hall, Walter Ong, James Carey,
Robert Levine, and others but with many updates and additions. Most importantly,
Kramer's DAD theory emphasizes how various cultures communicate in generalized
terms from idolic to symbolic to signalic communication styles that helps explain
intercultural differences that influence intercultural and inter-ethnic relations as well
as acculturation processes. The DAD theory stresses however that dimensional
accrual is simply an additive process of dimensions. It does not presuppose a linear
metaphysic nor the ethnocentric concept of "progress" which is presumed in some
theories of acculturation claiming for example, that intercultural adaptation moves in
an "upward-forward" manner toward the singular and final goal of total assimilation
(Gudykunst and Kim, 2003, pp. 381382)[14] Gudykunst and Kim (2003) define
intercultural adaptation as an "upward-forward" progress of "acculturation that brings
about change in strangers in the direction of assimilation, the highest degree of
adaptation theoretically conceivable. It is the process by which strangers resocialized
into a new culture so as to attain an increasing functional fitness... complete
adaptation is a lifetime goal." (Gudykunst and Kim, 2003, p. 360).

Because no utopian goal or final solution to intercultural misunderstanding or


"miscommunication" (as Gudykunst and Kim, 2003, put it p. 361) is postulated by the
DAD theory such as an "upward-forward progress" in human development toward
total assimilation, the DAD theory cannot be used to measure movement toward final
desired and postulated outcomes based on value judgments. Dimensional Accrual and
Dissociation does not posit and advance a particular type of ideal person or society.
Rather, it is a social scientific theory, not a proposed method of social engineering.
Gudykunst and Kim (2003) make it a point to postulate a utopian or ideal type person
they confusingly call an "intercultural person" or a "universal person" with
"transcultural identity" (pp. 383384). They argue that this new ideal type of person
and society can and should be engineered by all means available including using the
mass media and primary schools to manufacture them "by design" (pp. 389, 395).
Though they never cite them, Gudykunst and Kim's intercultural adaptation theory is
not dissimilar to the Victorian Era ideology promoted in England for the betterment of
that empire at home and abroad by Herbert Spencer, Francis Galton, and Karl
Pearson. Interestingly, Pearson saw fit to change the spelling of his own name from
Carl to Karl later in life. In fact Spencer's use of the concepts adaptation, evolution,
and progress are very similar to how they are used by Gudykunst and Kim (2003) in
their theory of Intercultural Adaptation and their ideal-type person the "Intercultural
person" who presumably, if such a person existed, would live in a world beyond the
"emotional defilements" (p. 385) and distinctions of culture; entirely "above the
hidden forces of culture" (385).

Since natural selection is too slow, Gudykunst and Kim (2003) argue forcefully that
creating conditions on a mass scale to inculcate this new, more developed and better
kind of person is not only moral but will be a "special privilege" (p. 389) for those so
"trained" (p. 359). If primary enculturation as a child is missed then they argue that
the same social institutions should be used for the "resocialization and acculturation"
(p. 359) of unfit persons by means of the disintegration and reintegration of their
psyches in line with the "conformity pressure" of the dominant mainstream culture. In
this way they may achieve a higher level of "evolution" (p 384), "competence"
(p. 364), "operational ability" (p. 363), "functional fit" (pp. 372, 382), and
"productivity" (pp. 363, 380). This will assure the smooth running of the mainstream
culture. According to Gudykunst and Kim (2003), any resistance to conformity or any
lack of enthusiasm for disintegrating and unlearning one's original self on the part of
the immigrant suggests that they are "mentally ill" (pp. 365, 373), "hostile" and
irrationally "aggressive" (pp. 368372), weak (p. 369), lacking "self-control" (p. 369),
and "maturity" (pp. 377, 381), "self-deceived," "unrealistic," deluded (pp. 369, 379-
382), and simply "maladjusted" and failing to "perceive the world and himself
correctly" (pp. 372373).

The key to achieving perfect functional fit and communication, according to


Gudykunst and Kim (2003) is for the immigrant to "unlearn" and "deculturize"
(pp. 360, 379-382) themselves and avoid "ethnic communication activities" (p. 368).
According to Gudykunst and Kim (2003), unfortunately some people have
personalities that are inherently less amenable to such deculturization and training and
they tend to be "unrealistic," "functionally unfit," and "aggressive" (pp. 368372).
Presumably, since Gudykunst and Kim (2003) define these negative traits as
"personality predispositions" (p. 368) or "adaptive predisposition" (p. 370) they could,
just as Galton and Pearson proposed, be bred out of the human population through
comparison of group statistical means and selective reproduction. While logic may
lead this way, current morality does not. Gudykunst and Kim (2003) go more for
forced compliance via public education as they argue that the new kind of better
person and world they promote can be created by "programming" peoples' minds
(p. 358) through intense socialization so that the cultural patterns they (Gudykunst
and Kim) evaluate as good are "etched into our nervous systems and become part of
our personalities and behavior" (p. 376).

Differently, Kramer's DAD theory (Kramer, 1992,[9] 1997a,[10] 2003,[11] 2011,[12] 2012.
[13]
) is based on the observation that different cultures manifest predominantly
different modes of communicating; idolic or symbolic or signalic, which are merely
different relative to each other. No one mode of communication is inherently and
universally superior to the others. No final solution to intercultural conflict is
suggested by Kramer. Instead he puts forth three integrated theories, Dimensional
Accrual and Dissociation, Cultural Fusion Theory (Kramer, 1997a,[10][15] 2000a,[11][16]
2011,[12] 2012[13]) and Cultural Churning Theory (Kramer, 1997a,[10] 2003,[11] 2011,[12]
2012[13]) on what he calls "panevolutionary" systems principles whereby all elements
of a system, including minority elements, directly or indirectly influence each other's
future trajectories in a broader ecological process. This is more in line with chaos
theory. Each modality (idolic, symbolic, and signalic) has its own strengths and
weaknesses depending on circumstance. As dissociation increases from idolic to
symbolic to signalic communication, emotional investment and identification
decreases and symbols become increasingly arbitrary.

For instance, according to Kramer's DAD theory (1992,[9] 1997a,[10] 2003,[11] 2011,[12]
2012[13]) a statue of a god in an idolic community literally is god and if you steal it
you will be in big trouble. Many millions of people in India believe that "statues of"
the god Ganesh drink milk and people in Taiwan buy airplane seat tickets for the
"statue of" the goddess Matsu to visit her mainland Chinese home. To take such a
statue/god from its temple is more than a theft, it is blasphemy perhaps worthy of
death. One-dimensional idolic perception and communication involves identity and
being identical. Idolic reality involves strong emotional identification. A holy relic
does not simply symbolize the sacred, it is sacred and if lost or destroyed it cannot be
replicated. It can be replaced by another relic but if lost or destroyed it is gone. Idolic
things and places, such as the Temple Mount or the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem
are not arbitrary. They are not merely real-estate. They cannot be moved because the
land itself is sacred and so it is very difficult if not impossible to compromise, to
negotiate away commitments for to do so is to violate peoples' very identities as
devout Muslims and Jews. If you lose your lucky rabbit's foot or magic power crystal
you've literally lost your luck or power. By contrast the symbolic two dimensional
nature of a crucifix purchased for a church means that if you steal it you have not
literally stolen God but it is still a more emotional theft than say a speaker system for
that faith community. A two-dimensional symbol involves ambiguity in the form of
both literal and figural meaning. Finally, if you choose to communicate in a three-
dimensional signalic modality, for instance in x's and o's rather than p's and q's, few if
any will care because everything in the signalic modality is arbitrary. The
circumstantial nature of the relative communicative competence and effectiveness of
one style over another can be exemplified by coaching. It may be more advantageous
given the goal of winning for an athletic coach to be highly idolic and emotional in a
half-time speech even equating the stadium with "our house," this season as "our
time," and the number previously worn by a deceased teammate as "his presence on
the field" when worn by another player, but it is more advantageous to be less
emotional and more dissociated and signalic when discussing the x's and o's of
strategy and tactics days in advance of a game. This is why it is not advisable for an
otherwise very sober and analytic surgeon to perform emergency surgery on his own
family member but it is advisable and appropriate for the same father or spouse to
become emotionally involved and overtly cheer for the same family member during a
sporting event or musical performance.

The kind of flexibility that would enable a person to not care too much about differing
lifestyles and to deculturize and acculturize with ease would constitute a sort of
perfect postmodern non-identity. Despite whatever value judgments one might have
about it, pride in one's community, one's ethnic group membership, one's nation and
the like, are forms of prejudice. A fundamental premise in hermeneutics and
semiotics, which Kramer's DAD theory accepts as true is that identity depends on
difference. So too do meaning, communication, and learning. If everyone assimilates
into a monoculture that would mean that identity, meaning, and communication would
cease to be (Kramer, 1992,[9] 1997a,[10] 2003[11]). Regardless of how one may judge it,
the fact is that the stronger one's sense of identity, the more likely one is to care about
it, to see themselves as differentthe more meaningful it (personal concept) is and
the world one inhabits. The important point here is that the more a person manifests
self-esteem and self-efficacy the more outgoing and resilient they will be in a foreign
environment. In other words, it is not necessarily the case that the more confident a
person is the more flexible they will be. Quite the contrary. Pride is a form of
prejudice. The more dissociated a person is, the more things become arbitrary and the
less they care about them. For instance, according to Kramer's DAD theory, religious
identity for a predominantly idolic person, is not perceived by them as arbitrary, not
even questionable. By comparison, a predominantly symbolic person may be able to
convert from one religious faith to another but such a change in identity has very
profound emotional consequences. For a signalic person where everything is arbitrary,
changing churches is like shopping. It is a matter of personal choice and convenience,
a matter of membership. In fact one may choose to not belong to a religious
community entirely without much concern. But for an idolic person religious identity
is not at all an issue of membership or choice. It is inherent to who one is. So
acculturation varies from one person to another depending on what worldview they
manifest.

A pure postmodern nihilist, if one exists, is not likely to fight for anything. This may
be good or it may be bad depending on your own beliefs and value system. But
regardless of the goodness or badness of such a status, according to the observations
that led to the development of the DAD theory, there are few if any real total nihilists
in this world. Pure nihilism is a sort of fantasy that is not very useful for explaining
actual conditions in multicultural and intercultural circumstances where acculturation
and assimilation are salient. Additionally and ironically, nihilism itself is a school of
thought, an "ism" which is a particular perspective. As Hans-Georg Gadamer in his
book Truth and Method (1960 Ger./1984 Eng.[17]), argues a person without a
perspective, a prejudice, could not understand or make sense of anything because
understanding is always already from a point-of-view which both enables
interpretation and limits it at the same time. Francis Bacon agrees and enumerates
such structural enabling and blinding elements of perception/interpretation in the form
of his four idols (tribe which involves species limitations such as the innately human
abilities to see, hear, taste..., the idol of the theater which involves dogmas and
ideologies, the idol of the cave which involves my personal limitations such as my
education, my IQ, my eyesight..., and the idol of the market place which involves how
others I associate with influence my thinking and perception). Hence Gadamer's claim
that naive objectivity postulates knowledge without a fallible knower, that such a
philosophy constitutes an irrational prejudice against prejudice. It is irrational because
it is hopelessly idealistic suggesting the possibility of what Marurice Merleau-Ponty
called "immaculate perception."

Bottom line, prejudice is not only inescapable but it is a necessary condition for
understanding or sense-making as we know it. This is why acculturation, according to
Kramer's DAD theory, is a mode of learning, of integrating new information, and this
process of integration is always in terms understandable to the learner. The fallibility
of the human condition and cultural prejudice may seem "sad" or "bad" but the DAD
theory is not promoting value judgments but instead offers an attempted explanation
of what is the case. Perspectivism in epistemological terms is unavoidable. Just as I
cannot go to the gym and lose weight for you so too I cannot learn for you. You must
learn for yourself. You must make the knowledge your own. How an individual
acculturates is a very individual and personal process. A predominantly idolic person
will integrate into a social milieu differently than a symbolic or signalic person. A
Sub-Saharian tribesman will integrate into urban Los Angeles differently than a
student from Paris. A good example of differential integration and acculturation based
on the immigrant manifesting one communicative modality and worldview while their
host culture manifests a different one is to be found in Anne Fadiman's (1997) book
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down about a Laotian girl who has immigrated
to Merced, California and who falls ill. How her parents interpret her illness is very
different from how her doctors interpret her illness. The conflicts and
miscommunications that are illustrated in this study can best be explained by applying
Kramer's theory of Dimensional Accural and Dissociation. As a social scientist our
job is to offer an explanation of why things are as they areto understand and
predict. It is inadequate to say that such problems of intercultural communication can
be solved by simply eliminating cultural difference altogether; by one side totally
erasing themselves and conforming to the other side's way of thinking, feeling, and
behaving. This simply does not and cannot happen. Even if they wish, a person cannot
willfully unlearn themselves or change their racial phenotype. Another good example
that illustrates differential modes of acculturation is found in the 2008 documentary
Split Horn (directed by Taggart Siegel) about a Hmong Shaman living in Appleton
Wisconsin. Also recommended is Sabine Kuegler's (1980) book Child of the Jungle:
The True Story of a Girl Caught Between Two Worlds about a "German" girl who
grew up in the Fayu tribe in West Papua with her missionary parents and what
happened to her when she "returned" to Europe at age 17.

Taking into consideration the nature of the contact, one must look at how
acculturation results in changes to the culture of both groups. Kramer (2009)[18] refers
to such change as co-evolution. Kramer (2010)[15] also addresses what he calls the
qualities of entrance vectors which addresses the nature of contact. Interaction
potential is one aspect of entrance vector. Interaction potential deals with the
immigrant, migrant, or refugee after already settling into a host cultural milieu. It
involves how receptive a host culture is to the newcomer, how easy is it for the
newcomer to interact with and get to know indigenous folks, and vice versa. Of
course language is a big part of this and it greatly impacts acculturation. Regarding
entrance vectors, there are essential differences between forced immigration due to
war and famine constituting refugee status and selective immigration for commercial
and professional desires. Entrance vector involves forced versus voluntary
immigration as well as host community receptivity. A surge of thousands of unwanted
and reluctant refugees across a border may actually prompt a reactionary backlash
from a neighboring nation while, by contrast, corporations may seek out skilled
workers in other countries and attempt to lure them with financial benefits to relocate.
Why a person immigrates is just as important as the receptivity of her host cultural
destination (Kramer, 2000c,[19] 2009,[18] 2011). Unrealistic expectations on one or both
"sides" can lead to increased conflict, and/or a more profound sense of culture shock,
disappointment, and depression. Examples can include when relatively wealthy
people retire to other countries where the locals may expect an unrealistic boost to
their economy or when a corporation relocates bringing with it unforeseen problems
such as a foreign management style or pollution. Unforeseen variance in presumed
appropriateness of inequality among people (power distance), or age or gender
appropriate decorum are common sources of unrealistic expectations (see work on
expectancy violation theory).

Such differences in motivation, expectation, and perceived sense of agency have


profound consequences for the acculturation process. At the individual level, elements
of both the original cultures from which immigrants hail and the cultures to which
they migrate must be taken into consideration when considering an individual's
psychological acculturation. Psychological acculturation concerns the behavioral
shifts and experienced thoughts, feelings, and stress associated with cultural change.
[20]
Differences in psychological acculturation then affect how well individuals adapt
to their new cultural environment, leading to both psychological and sociocultural
outcomes such as experiencing low self-esteem or acquiring a new language.

Fourfold Models

Meta-analyses of research on acculturation have shown pronounced disagreement in


the categorization of different strategies of acculturation. However, the majority of
these models have divided the ways in which individuals approach acculturation into
four categories.[2]

The fourfold model categorizes acculturation strategies along two dimensions. The
first dimension concerns the retention or rejection of an individual's minority or native
culture (i.e. "Is it considered to be of value to maintain one's identity and
characteristics?"). The second dimension concerns the adoption or rejection of the
dominant group or host culture (i.e. "Is it considered to be of value to maintain
relationships with the larger society?") From this, four acculturation strategies
emerge.[21]

1. Assimilation Assimilation occurs when individuals adopt the cultural norms


of a dominant or host culture, over their original culture.
2. Separation Separation occurs when individuals reject the dominant or host
culture in favor of preserving their culture of origin. Separation is often
facilitated by immigration to ethnic enclaves.

3. Integration Integration occurs when individuals are able to adopt the cultural
norms of the dominant or host culture while maintaining their culture of
origin. Integration leads to, and is often synonymous with biculturalism.

4. Marginalization Marginalization occurs when individuals reject both their


culture of origin and the dominant host culture.

Studies suggest that individuals' respective acculturation strategy can differ between
their private and public live spheres. [22] For instance, an individual may reject the
values and norms of the dominant culture in his private life (separation), whereas he
might adapt to the dominant culture in public parts of his life (i.e., integration or
assimilation).

Predictors of Acculturation Strategies

The fourfold models used to describe the attitudes of immigrant groups parallel
models used to describe the expectations of the larger society of how groups should
acculturate.[1] In a melting pot society, in which a harmonious and homogenous
culture is promoted, assimilation is the endorsed acculturation strategy. In
segregationist society, in which humans are separated into racial groups in daily life, a
separation acculturation strategy is endorsed. In a multiculturalist society, in which
multiple cultures are accepted and appreciated, individuals are encouraged to adopt an
integrationist approach to acculturation. In societies where cultural exclusion is
promoted, individuals often adopt marginalization strategies of acculturation.

Attitudes of the larger society towards acculturation, and thus the range of
acculturation strategies available, have not been consistent over time. For example,
for most of American history, policies and attitudes have been based around
established ethnic hierarchies with an expectation of one-way assimilation for
European immigrants.[23] Although the notion of cultural pluralism has existed since
the early 20th century, the recognition and promotion of multiculturalism did not
come to prominence in America until the 1980s. Separatism can still be seen today in
autonomous religious communities such as the Amish and the Hutterites. Immediate
environment also impacts the availability and advantage of different acculturation
strategies. As individuals immigrate to unequal segments of society, immigrants to
areas low on economic and ethnic hierarchies may find efforts to assimilate leading to
limited social mobility and membership to a disadvantaged community.[24]

In a broad scale study, comprising immigrants in 13 immigration-receiving countries,


the experience of discrimination was negatively related to the adaptation to the
national culture, whereas it was positively related to the maintenance of the
immigrants' ethnic culture. [25] Hence, it seems as if individuals who experience high
degrees of discrimination are less likely to choose the strategies of integration and
assimilation, whereas they are more likely to choose separation or marginalization.
It should also be noted that most individuals show variation in both their ideal and
chosen acculturation strategies across different domains of their lives. For example,
among immigrants, it is often easier and more desired to acculturate to their host
society's attitudes towards politics and government, than it is to acculturate to new
attitudes about religion, principles, and values.[26]

Outcomes of Acculturation
Individual health

A great deal of public health research has used the degree to which individuals adopt
the cultural norms of the dominant host culture as a predictor of numerous health
outcomes, primarily among immigrant groups. Acculturation is thought to impact
health by impacting levels of stress, access to health resources, and attitudes towards
health. Among U.S. Latinos, higher levels of adoption of the American host culture
has been associated with negative effects on health behaviors and outcomes, but
positive effects on health care use and access.[27] The effects of acculturation on
physical health is thought to be a major factor in the Immigrant Paradox, the finding
that first generation immigrants tend to have better health outcomes than members of
the host culture, and that these differences decrease over generations.

One prominent explanation for the negative health behaviors and outcomes (e.g.
substance use, low birth weight) associated with the acculturation process is the
acculturative stress theory.[28] Acculturative stress refers to the psychological, somatic,
and social difficulties that may accompany acculturation processes, often manifesting
in anxiety, depression and other forms of mental and physical maladaptation.[29] Stress
caused by acculturation has been documented in phenomenological research on the
acculturation of adolescent female Mexican immigrants.[30] This research has shown
that acculturation is a "fatiguing experience requiring a constant stream of bodily
energy", an "individual and familial endeavor", and involves "enduring loneliness
caused by seemingly insurmountable language barriers". However, the same
individuals also report "finding relief and protection in relationships" and "feeling
worse and then feeling better about oneself with increased competencies" during the
acculturative process.

Culture

In situations of continuous contact, cultures have exchanged and blended foods,


music, dances, clothing, tools, and technologies. Cultural exchange can either occur
naturally through extended contact, or deliberately though cultural appropriation or
cultural imperialism.

Cultural appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a


different cultural group. It can include the introduction of forms of dress or personal
adornment, music and art, religion, language, or behavior.[31] These elements are
typically imported into the existing culture, and may have wildly different meanings
or lack the subtleties of their original cultural context. Because of this, cultural
appropriation is sometimes viewed negatively, and has been called "cultural theft."
Cultural imperialism is the practice of promoting the culture or language of one nation
in another, usually occurring in situations in which assimilation is the dominant
strategy of acculturation.[32] Cultural imperialism can take the form of an active,
formal policy or a general attitude regarding cultural superiority.

Language

The transactional nature of acculturation is particularly notable in the evolution of


languages. In some instances, acculturation results in the adoption of another
country's language, which is then modified over time to become a new, distinct,
language. For example, Hanzi, the written language of Chinese language, has been
adapted and modified by other nearby cultures, including: Japan (as Kanji), Korea (as
Hanja), and Vietnam (as Ch-nm). Another common effect of acculturation on
language is the formation of pidgin languages. Pidgin is a mixed language that has
developed to help communication between members of different cultures in contact,
usually occurring in situations of trade or colonialism.[33] For example, Pidgin English
is a simplified form of English mixed with some of the language of another culture.
Eric Kramer (2009) introduced the concepts of co- and pan-evolution to help explain
acculturation and interculturual communication.

Controversies and debate


Definitions

Some anthropologists make a semantic distinction between group and individual


levels of acculturation. In these instances, the term "transculturation" is used to define
individual foreign-origin acculturation, and occurs on a smaller scale with less visible
impact. Scholars making this distinction use the term "acculturation" only to address
large-scale cultural transactions.

Recommended Models of Acculturation

From the vast catalog of theories on acculturation, many different prescriptions have
emerged for the most adaptive form of acculturation. When asking individuals about
their preferred acculturation strategy, there is an almost universal preference for
integration and dislike of marginalization.[7] In general, most research seems to
indicate that the integrationist model of acculturation will lead to the most favorable
psychosocial outcomes[34] A meta-analysis of the acculturation literature, however,
found these results to be unclear.[2] Recognizing that acculturation was measured
inconsistently among these studies, a later meta-analysis of 40 studies showed that
integration was indeed found to have a "significant, weak and positive relationship
with psychological and sociocultural adjustment".[35] Factors such as how different the
two interacting cultures are, and how easily individuals can integrate these two
cultures (bicultural identity integration) may partially explain why general statements
about approaches to acculturation are not sufficient in predicting successful
adaptation.

Surprisingly, given the work of scholars over the decades such as W.E.B Dubois
(\\The Souls of Black Folk, 1903), and Milton Gordon, Robert Park, Daniel Patrick
Moynihan, Nathan Glazer, and many others in the 1960s and 1970s, and J. W. Berry's
work in the 1980s and 1990s there are still some theories that posit a fixed and
dominant "mainstream culture" toward which the newcomer must conform by means
of acculturation (Gudykunst and Kim, 2003). A good example of such a contemporary
theory is Intercultural Adaptation Theory by William Gudykunst and Young Yun Kim
(2003). They argue that an immigrant or migrant, what they call "stranger," manifests
mental illness, immaturity, incompetence, and unsuccessful integration until and
unless they are willing and able to "deculturize," and "unlearn" themselves
(Gudykunst and Kim, 2003). Gudykunst and Kim (2003) argue that acculturation
involves the disintegration and reintegration of the individual immigrant's psyche so
that the immigrant will "evolve" or increasingly act, think, and feel (behavioral,
cognitive, and affective conformity) just as an indigenous local does (pp. 364, 367).
According to Gudykunst and Kim's theory of Intercultural Adaptation, it is not enough
that when in Rome do as the Romans do but they argue that to be functionally fit one
must think and have the same emotions as Romans. Failure to do so means, according
to Gudykunst and Kim (2003), that the newcomer is irrationally hostile, immature,
mentally ill, maladjusted, and unrealistic (pp. 367374). They argue that acculturation
is a single variable so that the newcomer becomes acculturated only to the extent that
she "deculturizes" and "unlearns" herself with equal but opposite measure. But what if
one cannot change color or gender preference or really does not want to change their
language or religion? (Kramer, 2003, 1997b,[36]). Furthermore, Gudykunst and Kim
(2003) postulate that the individual psyche is like a full container so that every time
the immigrant learns something new she must forget something old. To aid in their
version of assimilation, which they equate with integration, both of which they equate
with simple conformity (p. 373), Gudykunst and Kim (2003) logically argue therefore
that the newcomer should refrain from any contact with their primary culture
including avoiding media content from the home country, association with groups
from the home culture, speaking one's original language, practicing in one's home
faith, and so forth (Gudykunst and Kim, 2003, pp. 365, 366).

As noted, in the field of intercultural communication, Gudykunst and Kim (2003,


p. 360) have for two decades (through publications from 1984, 1992, 1997, 2003)
consistently equated six concepts with each other; adaptation, integration,
acculturation, evolution, conformity (see for instance 2003, p. 373), and assimilation.
They equate these psychological processes with "upward-forward progress" toward a
general "positivity" (p. 369), greater emotional maturity (p. 377, 381, 384), greater
integration (pp. 381, 383), emancipation from ethnocentrism (p. 376, 382), increased
cognitive complexity (versus being simple-minded, p. 383), enhanced "clarity"
(p. 383), psychic growth/evolution (pp. 376, 380-382, 384), more developed and
balanced perception (p. 383), greater mental health (p. 365, 372-376), greater
functional/communicative competence (p. 361, 369, 372), being more realistic
conforming to "appropriate" patterns of feeling, thinking, and behaving: "the accepted
[mainstream] modes of experience" ("external objective circumstance", pp. 363, 369,
378, 380), being more emotionally stable/balanced (p. 383), overcoming "self-
deception" and delusion (p. 380), and other positive sounding value judgments
(Gudykunst and Kim, 2003, pp. 357390). They encourage the newcomer to be
"plastic" (p. 380) and to fit or conform to whatever dominating social structure they
find themselves in or be regarded as immature, insane, incompetent communicators,
cynical, irrationally aggressive, devolved, muddled and simple-minded, and so forth.
Gudykunst and Kim (2003) see no value in social change brought about by
newcomers, or in people trying to expand things such as civil liberties in the face of
unfair and unjust social conditions. For them the mainstream with its appropriate
patterns of communication and coercive pressure to conform is simply a matter of
numeric majority (p. 360). Of course this defies the general social scientific concept
of majority power whereby often it is numerical minorities who rule numerical
majorities. In order to help the newcomer become more mentally healthy, realistic,
competent, and fit or appropriate in their emotional reactions and thoughts Gudykunst
and Kim (2003) encourage the newcomer to "minimize maintenance of their original
cultural habits" (p. 360) by severing relations with their ethnic relational network and
abandoning involvements with their own ethnic institutions such as their original
language, churches, synagogues, mosques and "ethnic media" (pp. 365373).

Because Gudykunst and Kim (2003) see cognitive and emotional growth as a zero-
sum process they believe that maintaining contact with one's ethnic group,
institutions, and even media ("ethnic communication activities" p. 368), will
"discourage strangers' development of host communication competence" (p. 372) and
evolutionary transformation of their psyche toward greater "psychological health and
functional fitness" (p. 372, 376). According to Gudykunst and Kim (2003) the way to
being functionally fit is "to undergo a fundamental psychic transformation" and the
way upward-forward is to "abandon our identification with the cultural patterns that
have symbolized who we are and what we are" (p. 377). According to Gudykunst and
Kim (2003) the newcomers ways are "ethnocentric" while the host societies ways are
realistic and appropriate (p. 363, 369, 378, 380). The immigrant should "reassess" her
"ethnocentric ways" (Gudykunst and Kim, p. 376). Finally and curiously, while the
immigrant is strongly encouraged to assimilate into the mainstream "appropriate"
(p. 363) ways of feeling, thinking, and behaving, the ultimate solution to intercultural
misunderstanding and conflict, according to Gudykunst and Kim (2003) is to "rise
above the hidden forces of culture" altogether and look at all cultures "objectively"
(Gudykunst and Kim, 2003, p. 385). This they equate with the Buddhist notion of
nirvana. But if hermeneutic theory argues anything, it is that one cannot escape the
perspectival nature of perception, that, as Ludwig Landgrebe used to say, even God
has a particular and unique way of seeing reality even if it is from all points
simultaneously. Indeed only one being could possibly, inconceivably, manifest such a
perspective.

By contrast, Kramer's (2011,[37] 2010,[15] 2000a,[16]) theory of Cultural Fusion


maintains a clear conceptual separation between assimilation, adaptation, and
integration. Only assimilation involves conformity to a pre-existing form. Kramer's
(2000a, 2000b, 2000c, 2003, 2009, 2011) theory of Cultural Fusion also postulates
that as learning occurs cognitive complexity and growth increase. In other words,
there is no need to unlearn something in order to learn something new. Learning is not
a zero-sum game. So as the newcomer learns the ways of their adopted homeland they
add new repertoires, new ways of cooking, working, dressing, seeking entertainment,
playing, and so forth. The newcomer does not have to unlearn something old to learn
something new. According to Cultural Fusion theory the individual and also the
community is enriched as difference accrues. In accordance with hermeneutic theory,
Kramer's theory of Cultural Fusion (2011, 2009, 2000b) argues that the old is not lost
but is presumed and is necessary for integrating the new and as new information
accrues the individual and the community is enriched. For example, as new cuisines
enter a community, community members have more choices of restaurants thus
enriching their dining experiences. As new foods become available, like putting colors
side-by-side creates complementarity, old standards take on new meaning. Also as the
individual learns more about spices they can be more innovative and enjoy more
tastes. Borrowing from the hermeneutic theory of fusion of horizons developed by
Hans-Georg Gadamer, Kramer's theory of Cultural Fusion suggest that as a newcomer
enters a community there is mutual adjustment or Co-Evolution (Kramer, 2009), not
merely cultural coersion for the newcomer to assimilate.

When a process is defined as "natural" the rhetoric suggests that it is inevitable,


normal, good, and futile to question or resist. However, assimilation, especially forced
assimilation, has been shown to be none of these things. Leon Festinger (1956) and
Festinger and James Carlsmith (1959/2008) already demonstrated a quarter century
before Gudykunst and Kim first published their theory (and this has been replicated
many times since in psychology and sociology) that "forced compliance" does not
make people happy, more peaceful, or enjoy greater "psychic equilibrium." Festinger
(1957) and Festinger and Carlsmith (1959/2008) demonstrated that there are negative
cognitive consequences to forced compliance. And prior to this work Herbert Kelman
(1953) had already discovered that there is no linear correlation between rewards and
change in opinion. A person may be compelled to change his or her attitude toward a
state of affairs through either reward or punishment or a combination of the two, but it
has been known for some time now that neither works very well in compelling a
person to alter his or her opinion. Even forcing a person to rehearse the desired
narrative or behavior does not achieve much "self-convincing." Rather, forced
compliance can often lead to overt resistance to change. And compliance gaining is
greatly complicated by cultural differences (K. Miller-Loessi & J. N. Parker, 2003; W.
Griswold, 1994; J. Bruner, 1990/2010), gender differences (West & Fenstermaker,
1993; Fausto-Sterling, 1993; Ridgeway, 1993; Sprague & Zimmerman, 1993; Tuana,
1993; Haraway, 1991; Collins, 1991) disability (Cahill & Eggleston, 1994),
perceptions of race and ethnicity (Miall, Ramsbothom, & Woodhouse, 2005; Rawls,
2000; Devine and Elliot, 1995; Stryker & Burke, 2000; Paul, 1998; Devine, 1996;
Hunt, Jackson, Powell, & Steelman, 2000; Sherif, 1956/2008), comparative concepts
of identity (Hogg, 2003; Stryker, Owens, and White, 2000; Gergen, 1991/2010;
Snyder, 1980/2008), comparative concepts of family (Naples, 2001; Ferree, 1990; see
the resource Journal of Comparative Family Studies), body aesthetics (Crandall, et al.,
2001/2008; Cowley, 1996/2008), concepts of masculinity (Duneier, 1992; Anderson,
1990/2010), and so forth. Already in 1963, Nathan Glazer and Donald Moynihan
observed that while some immigrant groups assimilate others retain aspects of their
native culture. For instance, one may change one's religious affiliation and convert but
even such a conversion for the deeply faithful is not a simple process of "church
membership." Religion is an essential aspect of core identity. This has been
demonstrated time and again (Croucher, 2008; Croucher and Cronin-Mills, 2011;
Rokeach, 1968; Becker, 1973; Campbell, 1988).

According to Kramer (2000a, 2000b, 2000c, 2003, 2009), the presence of minorities
constitutes an organic aspect of social system and as a newcomer enters a community
both the individual and the community are changed. Such system-wide dynamics
Kramer calls "cultural churning" (Kramer, 2003, 2009, 2012). Co-evolutionary
relationships can be diffuse, as among all plants and insects, specific as between two
cells in an organism or just two species, symbiotic or competitive (both being
reciprocal), symmetrical or asymmetrical, and so forth (Kramer, 2000a, 2000c, 2009,
2012). Co-evolution was already recognized by Darwin in On the Origin of Species
(1859) as was the obvious trait of altruism (co-operation) in The Descent of Man
(Darwin, 1871). Those who borrow terms such as "evolution" and "adaptation" need
to be aware of what they mean. Adaptation does not mean assimilation or conformity.
And evolution is almost always within a system so that it is really co-evolution or
pan-evolution whereby all parts directly or indirectly, symmetrically or
asymmetrically, symbiotically or competitively influence each other. Neither
evolution nor adaptation means conformity to an already successful or dominant form
such as "mainstream culture" or a simple majority. Rather as Darwin was amazed by
the diversity of life he found on his voyage, evolution means innovation. It means
endless trial of deviant forms, some of which prove successful and endure. One must
remember that even the value-laden concept of progress requires deviance. The most
"competent" and "successful" people are innovators in all things from the arts and
sciences to industry and engineering. Patents and copyrights are for the new. This is
the proper application of systems ecological nomenclature to the process of
acculturation.

According to Kramer (2000c, 2003) it is impossible to willfully unlearn one's self and
that even if it were possible it would not aid in the newcomer's adjustment process for
the newcomer needs to integrate new information, making sense of new experiences
in accord with their pre-understanding. An example of fusion, whereby the individual
presumes and relies on pre-understandings to integrate new circumstances is driving a
bicycle or automobile in a foreign environment. While people in England drive on the
other side of the road from people in the United States, the English immigrant to the
U.S. can adjust her driving practices while relying on her previous understanding of
the rules of staying in one's lane, signaling before turning, leaving proper distance
between moving cars, and other aspects of driving. The same pertains to many jobs. If
she had to relearn all aspects of driving, her adjustment process would be much harder
and take much more time. And as Thomas Sowell (1994) demonstrates, typically the
most successful newcomers are ones who bring some new and different skills such as
violin making, stone cutting, hard rock mining, and the like to their adopted
communities. Those who find themselves to be redundant with skills already
prevalent have a harder time. Evolution proceeds not through conformity and
redundancy but through new emergent forms. As all business people know, it is easier
to create a new niche than it is to go head-to-head with a firm already well established
in the market place. And if one must go head-to-head, one must find some way to do
things differently to find an identity; either have higher quality and/or lower prices,
faster delivery and/or optionalization, etc. than the competition. Simply cloning the
competition that is already established is not effective. Fusion of horizons also does
not mean "unlearning" or disintegrating one's self and reintegrating as identical to a
local. Fusion is an explanation of integration, and integration unlike assimilation
means that the identities of individuals endure so that differences, which constitute
meaning and identity, can integrate. Without difference there can be no integration.
Integration ceases once total assimilation occurs. Gudykunst and Kim (2003)
mistakenly use several terms interchangeably including; integration, adaptation,
assimilation, evolution, and so forth. When difference is eliminated, meaning also
vanishes as meaning and identity are dependent on not being identical with the other
difference. According to Gudykunst and Kim, total assimilation, what they call "the
process of adaptation," is the ultimate goal and failure to do so makes the newcomer
"inappropriate" in their thinking, feeling, and "functional operation." Gudykunst and
Kim (2003) simply state that failure to conform is a failure of the newcomer to be "fit
to live in the company of others" (p. 358).

Typological Approach

Several theorists have stated that the fourfold models of acculturation are too
simplistic to have predictive validity. Some common criticisms of such models
include the fact that individuals don't often fall neatly into any of the four categories,
and that there is very little evidence for the applied existence of the marginalization
acculturation strategy.[38] In addition, the bi-directionality of acculturation means that
whenever two groups are engaged in cultural exchange, there are in fact 16
permutations of acculturation strategies possible (e.g. an integrationist individual
within an assimilationist host culture).[2] The Interactive Acculturation Model
represents one proposed alternative to the typological approach by attempting to
explain the acculturation process within a framework of state policies and the
dynamic interplay of host community and immigrant acculturation orientations.

See also
Biculturalism

Cultural assimilation

Enculturation

Intercultural competence

Language shift

Marginalization

Melting pot

Multiculturalism

Pidgin

Racial segregation

Westernization

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