Some Considerations about Cultural Assimilation

LEVEL
7 min readJun 28, 2023

--

written by art historian & curator Mihaela Manolache

Today we are all experiencing cultural assimilation in one way or another. The continuous exposure to major social, cultural, and economic events such as globalization, war, and immigration are some of the predominant issues of contemporary times in which people are interconnected in several ways. Through this exposure, individuals adopt the cultural norms, values, practices, and behaviors of another culture, the dominant culture. Nevertheless, the process goes on both sides as not only does the assimilated culture feel a major loss of identity, but the dominant culture is experiencing a dilution of its own values or practices, creating a cultural gap regarding their ancestors.

Cultural assimilation can also have a significant impact on artistic practices and expressions. It can give birth to new art forms that blend elements from multiple cultures. Artists and communities draw inspiration from their cultural surroundings, which represent a reservoir of symbols and metaphors ready to be employed in their works. These cultural symbols carry layers of meaning that resonate with assimilated cultures. Culture shapes the audience’s understanding and interpretation of art. Art is not created in isolation but is meant to be experienced and understood within a cultural context. How is cultural assimilation expressed by contemporary artistic practices and what are the main aspects of it, we are going to analyze this in the next paragraphs.

What is cultural assimilation and when it occurs

Cultural assimilation is a matter of concern in various parts of the world today. While the specific dynamics and contexts vary, cultural assimilation remains a complex issue in contemporary society as it regards a shift in cultural identity and integration of one’s original culture with the dominant culture.

Three Lakota Indian Boys, the Carlisle Indian Industrial School circa 1900

In some cases, communities may voluntarily assimilate to fit in, gain social acceptance, or pursue economic opportunities in a new cultural context. They may adopt the dominant culture’s language, customs…

--

--