Good Example Of Research Paper On The Concept Of Transculturation In Latin America

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Culture, United States, America, People, Phenomenon, Latin America, Countries, Ethnicity

Pages: 7

Words: 1925

Published: 2021/02/28

What is Transculturation?

Transculturation refers to a phenomenon wherein two formerly separate and sometimes even isolated cultures, for some reason, merge or converge. It was “first coined by 20th century Cuban sociologist and ethnologist Fernando Ortiz; he proposed the term in contrast to the word acculturation which describes the process of transition from one culture to another on the part of an individual or a group” .The result of this cultural phenomenon is a somewhat hybrid form of culture that is the product of the combined cultures that arise either as a result of conflict or any other complex cultural phenomenon. It is important to note that transculturation often exists or happens as a secondary effect of another phenomenon, be it political, economic, or foreign policy-related.
Most people do not understand what transculturation really is because it is not often used in textbooks and other media sources. In fact, it is often mistakenly interchanged with the terms cultural assimilation and adaptation. One important thing to note about transculturation is that it is a phenomenon that is different from the process of a group of people transitioning from having one culture to having another as in the case of cultural assimilation. Also, it does not pertain to the phenomenon where one cultural group who used to have their own cultural identity simply acquires the ideas and concepts of another culture as in the case of acculturation. And lastly, it does not pertain to the process of abandoning or uprooting an indigenous culture and replacing it with a new one as in the case of de-culturing.
Transculturation merely describes a social phenomenon where two unique cultures merge their unique ideas and concepts which then leads to the consequent establishment of a new culture. This means that the two cultures that formerly did not coexist as one culture get left to survive albeit not in a technical way. They get to survive because the ideas and concepts contained in that culture gets carried over to the new culture that has been developed as a result of the cultural convergence. It is also important to note that not all ideas and concepts contained in one culture gets carried over because for two or more cultures to actually converge, some ideas and concepts from each of the two or more cultures must be left behind and abandoned in order for the new resulting culture to be unique in itself; some of the popular examples of transculturation would be that in North America and in Latin America.
In North America’s case, for example, particularly the United States, the country is being hailed as one of the most culturally rich and diverse country in the planet. However, the reality is that America’s present culture is a direct result of transculturation. This may be due to the fact that the country has been bombarded by numerous waves of immigrants during the past decades and so now, people living there can actually see themselves living with other people belonging to not just the white culture but to other ethnicities and cultural minorities such as the blacks, the Hispanics, the Asians, among others. Although most experts in the field of social studies would still support the idea that the overall culture in America is still largely divided mainly because of the fact that most whites still cling to the idea of primordial identity or the idea that white people are still superior to the blacks, the Asians, and the Hispanics. However, in many practical cases, this is not the case, at least not anymore.
This may have been the case before, perhaps a few decades after the first waves of international immigrants hit the North American soil. However, as years go by, as more and more immigrants flock into the country’s borders, the diversity of the culture got so high that the society had no choice but to adapt to it and use it as its strength. In reality, this is what happened.
The United States, thanks to its highly diverse population, and therefore, workforce, has been hailed as one of the greenest pastures, if not the greenest one when it comes to establishing a business and looking for a job. Because the North American society has been left with no choice but to adapt to the uncontrollable waves of immigrants coming from different countries across the planet despite the different cultural categorization programs and policies that they raised, it was the general population that adapted. The result was a combination of numerous cultures. Some of the keywords that may be important to remember if the goal is to understand and correctly identify and or define transculturation relative to other similarly natured social phenomena would be convergence and merging of culture.
Another important aspect of transculturation to remember is the fact that it is different from ethno-convergence (i.e. the convergence of ethnicities). In this case let us use the case of Latin America as an example. The overall culture in Latin America is not as transculturally-rich as that in North America because most countries’ culture, economy, and geopolitics have been relatively stable for quite some time already. Also, people there did not really have too much of a reason to start migrating to the other neighboring countries and actually start the real functional process that makes transculturation possible.
The result was a more stable cultural map. However, assuming that in a Latin American country, the level of transculturation has become so high that it has already become difficult to divide people based on their culture (i.e. original culture). This principle cannot be applied to ethnicity because according to Ignatieff, in one of the papers he published, convergence of two or more cultures does not directly entail a similar convergence in ethnic features and identities .
This means that a culture might be the result of transculturation but there remains the possibility that the ethnic identities of the people whose cultures have already been merged into one super culture still remains. This may indeed be phenomenon that happened in Latin America that is why one can still classify whether a person came from which culture or ethnicity. The reason behind this rather complex phenomenon is rather simple. People who are members of a certain ethnic group would certainly find it justifiable to adapt to the newly established culture especially if there are economic and other benefits of doing so but those people would still have the option to retain their ethnic identities.
It goes without saying that the decision to replace one’s culture or to assimilate is perceived as wrong or incorrect for some people regardless of their culture because technically, that may be classified as a form of abandonment. The same is true when it comes to ethnicity. Most people would find it wrong or incorrect to abandon their ethnic identity. So, perhaps in an effort to keep them free of the guilt that may be associated with abandoning one’s both cultural and ethnic identity, most people try to retain their ethnic identity and let their present culture get replaced by the newly established one.

How Transculturation Develops

There are many ways how transculturation may develop. The truth is that the forces that steer this process are complex and are often caused by forces existing at the macro-social, political, can economic levels. It is also rather surprising that even if the forces that lead to this phenomenon are so complex and macro; it generally affects society at an interpersonal level.
Perhaps the most common mechanism that leads to the development of transculturation is border frictions between two or more countries in close proximity. This means that proximity is one key consideration for professionals who may want to determine whether there is a possibility for any two or more countries to develop a hybrid culture. National territories are all constrained by their boundaries. One major purpose of those boundaries is to separate or isolate the people—often people who have different cultures, ethnicities, among other factors. It does not mean that these people cannot coexist.
The real reason, why people are constrained inside set boundaries is somewhat related to security. This is why countries often become hostile when another country, often a nearby one, attempts to encroach on its territories. However, when things get sour between two countries and the situation turns into a war, for example, and the winning country decides to take over territories of the losing country or even annex it; that is where transculturation would start to develop. The dominant country’s culture would most likely be the one that is more prominent in the resulting hybrid culture.
It is also important to note that the losing country’s culture (i.e. in the case of a war) would not be completely wiped out or replaced by the culture of the winning country because as mentioned earlier, most people often see the act of replacing their cultural or ethnic identity despite the benefits and incentives of doing so because as incorrect or immoral as it is equivalent to abandonment. So at some point, the native culture in the losing country would still survive because its people want it to, nothing more and nothing less.
In the case of Latin America, most sociology experts would agree that the cultural division in that region is still largely heterogeneous—that is, they are still divided. However, some authors argue that the major reason behind Latin America’s cultural heterogeneity is transculturation. In Rama’s book entitled Narrative Transculturation in Latin America, she described transculturation as the central, most revealing and sustained phenomenon in the formation of Latin America’s cultural heterogeneity . This is rather ironic because one would normally expect transculturation to cause cultural homogeneity and not heterogeneity because it creates a process where two or more cultures get converged.
However, Rama, along with other popular cultural critics argues that because transculturation is a double edged sword, it affects everyone. In the case of Latin America, when some of the countries in the region got colonized, it was not just the citizens of the colonized countries that were culturally colonized but the colonizers as well. According to Rama, if people would change their perception of transculturation to this one—to it being a double edged sword, then they would be able to understand why it led to Latin America’s cultural heterogeneity. In any case, the general principles of transculturation would still point to the direction of cultural homogeneity. It is just that in Latin America’s case, there were more than just cultural issues involved—there were wars, political conflicts, and other things that may have complicated the situation, which explains why it led to a widespread cultural heterogeneity.
In today’s case, we have an ongoing phenomenon called globalization. It is not just present in Latin America or in any other region in the planet. This phenomenon is currently happening, right at this very moment, everywhere. It is a phenomenon where every region and country in the planet becomes so interconnected culturally, economically, and politically. The cultural exchange that happens between all the countries of the world may in fact be considered as a form of transculturation although on a much larger scale.


Ignatieff, M. (2010). From Blood and Belonging: Journeys into the New Nationalism. Random House.
Kale, N. (2014). What does transculturation mean. Busted Halo.
Rama, A. (2012). Writing Across Cultures: Narrative Transculturation in Latin America. Duke University Press.

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