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Cultural assimilation (often called merely assimilation) is a process of consistent integration whereby members of an ethno-cultural group (such as immigrants, or minority groups) are "absorbed" into an established, generally larger community. This presumes a loss of many characteristics of the absorbed group.

Assimilation can be the process through which people lose originally differentiating traits, such as dress, speech particularities or mannerisms, when they come into contact with another society or culture.

Assimilation may be voluntary, which is usually the case with immigrants, or forced upon a group, as is usually the case with the receiving "host" group or country.

A region or society where assimilation is occurring is sometimes referred to as a melting pot.

Assimilation by a richer culture

Sometimes there are two contradictory tendencies at work. When a numerical minority and/or less developed culture achieves political power, usually by military conquest, it is in a formal position to impose elements of its culture on the counterpart, which usually happens at least at the start and in 'public' domains such as administration. Often this is more than compensated by a natural tendency for the older, richer culture and/or the law of numbers to see itself imitated by the new masters, e.g. the victorious Roman Republic adopted more from the Hellenistic cultures than it imposed in most domains, except such Roman specialties as law and the military.

Assimilation of immigrants

While it is widely held that a given ethnic group may assimilate to its host culture over a period of time, rhetoric espoused by the host culture rarely takes into account the difficulties for the individuals involved. In fact, the question may be asked "is it possible for an individual to assimilate at all, and if so, till what age is it impossible?"

In host countries, ethnic minority parents' children who have regular association with non-ethnic minority people are successful at assimilating.

Immigration, as held by some, is often thought to be in the interest of the politically and economically powerful elites more than in the interest of the weak (usually motivated by individual 'no choice', not collective goals). Where national groups are strongly urged to assimilate, there is often much resistance in spite of the use of governmental force.

It may be argued that past occurrences of assimilation are really only occurrences of compatibility of cultures. It is hard to distinguish between situations where a given ethnic group has assimilated and situations where said group has merely become a contributing sector of society.

Some contemporary scholars of immigration, such as George De Vos, Celia Jaes Falicov, Takeyuki Tsuda, Min Zhou, and Carl L. Bankston, argue that immigrants and children of immigrants often fit into host societies through adaptation, more selectively than assimilation: they retain or re-shape elements of their ethnic culture depending on how the culture meets their needs in the host county.

Forced assimilations

Reason of forced cultural assimilation

If a government puts extreme emphasis on a homogeneous national identity, it may resort, especially in the case of minorities originating from historical foes, to harsh, even extreme measures to 'exterminate' the minority culture, sometimes to the point of considering the only alternative its physical elimination (expulsion or even genocide).

Assimilation by immigrants and colonization

Assimilation is also the state of change. This occurs often with immigration. When new immigrants enter a country, the surrounding people try to change the immigrants into what their culture or society expects. Sooner or later the immigrants will no longer seem to be immigrants, they will seem to be similar to every one else because of assimilation. Assimilation also occurred in Australia when the Europeans invaded the country and forced their traditions upon the Indigenous Australians. They treated the Aboriginal people like immigrants, but it was the Europeans that were the immigrants to Australia.

Assimilation of the ethnic minorities

Cultural assimilation is an intense process of consistent integration minority groups into an established, generally larger ethnic community. This presumes a loss of many characteristics which make the minorty different.

See also Assimilation (linguistics).

Religious assimilation

Assimilation also includes to the (often forced) conversion or secularization of religious members of a minority group, especially Judaism. Throughout the Middle Ages and until the mid-19th century, most Jews were forced to live in small towns and were restricted from entering universities or high-level professions. The only way to get ahead in the host culture was to abandon their identification with co-religionists and become "assimilated Jews." Well-known assimilated Jews of this period include Moses Mendelssohn, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud, who became dissociated with Orthodox Judaism. In the second half of the 20th century, assimilation in the form of Jewish-Christian intermarriage decimated the ranks of Orthodox Judaism even further. Jewish law (Halakha) does not recognize children of non-Jewish mothers as Jewish, and further, the children of intermarriage may not be raised with a strong Jewish identity and tend to intermarry themselves.

Main article: Jewish Assimilation

See also



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