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Acculturation can be defined as the process of bringing previously separated and disconnected cultures into contact with one another. Acculturation is not the absorption of different cultures as a result of a mere physical contact or superficial exposure. The processes of cultural transmission and cultural borrowing are the result of conscious decision-making on the part of an individual or a group that is approaching a culturally distinct group. If no force or coercion is involved, the individual or group must decide whether and to what extent the new culture will be accepted or rejected. E. Franklin Frazier (1957) made the distinction between ”material acculturation” and ”ideational acculturation.” Material acculturation involves the conveying of language and other cultural tools whereas ideational acculturation involves the conveying of morals and norms. Individuals and groups can consciously decide to accept the language and cultural tools of a new culture without accepting and internalizing the morals and norms of the new culture.
The process of acculturation is complex and is not a simple matter of the cultural majority forcing its culture upon the cultural minority. Some individuals and groups respond favorably and with relative ease to the possibility of acculturation whereas others respond unfavorably and with unease. How the individual or group perceives the process of acculturation and how the larger society perceives this process are both significant. If the larger society views the possibility of an incoming group’s acculturation as favorable and with ease, there will be less hostility and discomfort throughout the process. If the acculturation of an incoming group is viewed unfavorably and with unease by the larger society, there will be greater hostility, discomfort, and the process will require more effort on the part of this incoming group.
- Frazier, E. F. (1957) Race and Cultural Contact in the Modern World. Beacon Press, Boston, MA.
- Myrdal, G. (1944) An American Dilemma. Harper & Row, New York.