Cultural diffusion  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
In anthropology, cultural diffusion refers to the process by which discrete culture traits are transferred from one society to another, through migration, trade, war or other contact (Wintrop 1991:82)

Since cultures have never been completely isolated from each other, diffusion has happened throughout history, and continues on today. Version of diffusionist thought included the conviction that all cultures originated from one culture centre (heliocentric diffusion); the more reasonable view that culture originated from a limited number of culture centers and finally the notion that each society is influenced by other but that the process of diffusion is both contingent and arbitrary (Wintrop 1991: 83-84)

There are three different forms of cultural diffusion:

  • Direct diffusion is when two cultures are very close to each other, resulting in intermarriage, trade, and even warfare. An example of direct diffusion is between the United States and Canada, where the people living on the border of these two countries engage in hockey, which started in Canada, and baseball, which is big in American culture
  • Forced diffusion occurs when one culture subjugates (conquers or enslaves) another culture and forces its own customs on the conquered people. An example would be the conquistadors that took over the indigenous population and made them practice Christianity.
  • Indirect diffusion happens when traits are passed from one culture through a middleman to another culture, without the first and final cultures ever being in direct contact. An example could be the presence of Mexican food in Canada, since they have a huge country in between them.

Direct diffusion is very common in ancient times, when small groups, or bands, of humans lived in adjoining settlements. Indirect diffusion is very common in today's world, because of the mass media and the invention of the Internet.

Cultural diffusion is one of the mechanism of cultural change other being Evolution. Direct diffusion leads to process to acculturation.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cultural diffusion" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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