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Free «Cultural Syncretism» Essay Sample


It is clear that all through the history of humanity people exchanged ethnicities and ideas. This exchange was as a result of various groups of people coming into contact with one another. These interactions in humanity have several repercussions. For instance, certain people on earth think that modernity has gradually replaced traditions as humanity progressed drastically from the Stone Age, the agrarian revolution to the present day techno-savvy driven society.  It has outstretched the opportunities of binding cultural resources from pronounced traditions for achievable progress in other parts of the world. This has resulted result in cultural syncretism which involves efforts to combine and analogize different originally distinct ethnicities especially in the doctrine and tradition of religions, expressions of arts, culture and politics. Cultural syncretism is a prominent theme of world history. This is because it indicated interactions between people of different societies. Therefore, the correlation between culture and the global society is a crucial fact that the contemporary society should understand by garnering as much knowledge on it as possible.



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The interaction between people from different societies and traditions is a principal agent of change in the human history. Contacts sustained with foreigners has rarely been a completely pleasant experience since it has often taken place in a context of political tension or even violence and in some cases, it has involved prolonged exposure to unfamiliar cultural conditions. It is clear that various people of the world have elaborated many different combinations of ideas and skilled technologies exchanged among foreigners for their useful sophistication, appropriations and adaptations. However, demographic problems were severe enough to threaten the survival of large states and empires and had great influences on cultural and political systems which opened ways for twisting changes (Kuhnt-Saptodewo, Grabowsky  & Großheim, 2003).     

Cultural syncretism in America involved institutions that had dichotomous effects in creating the black culture. This was mainly set by the Europeans and later by the blacks themselves. This culture assisted in defining the roles of the blacks. This new delegation of roles helped them know what activities to take part in the society. This forced the merger of the different African cultures to form a broad and diverse African culture that characterized the African-American population. The resultant culture formed the foundation on which slave based plantations economies thrived in design. It made sure the Europeans possessed the power and strongly influenced how they maintained their cultural practices from Africa. In addition the hand institutions developed by the African slaves allowed them to resist actively and passively. African presence in America left an indelible mark on its economy, social, ethnic aspects, culture, religion and artistic development. The slave masters huddled the Africans from diverse ethnic groups together in communal households which eventually lead to their coexistence and the exchange of religious and social norms and values (Whitfield & British Library, 2004).

Cultural and narrative dialogues between Africa and Americas began when during the forced migration through the middle passage in the 16th and 17th centuries. African Diaspora was ear-marked by the scattering of Africans from their homeland. Consequently, a later generations of African-American heritage, language, religion and beliefs in the socio-cultural sphere emerged. It is clear that the continued interrelationships between the cultures of Americas, serves as an ongoing reality to reaffirm the African-American identity.

On the contrary, neo-traditionalists in China and India reasoned that it was possible to syncretized while preserving traditions and norms. They envisioned cultural syncretism as a purely technical process which they assumed would not have much impact on their traditions and original culture. Cultural syncretism appeared as a threat to authority structures which viewed tradition as the sole legitimate mechanism. But then industrialization which sheered benefits demonstrated by authorities and modernized programs in China arose. This eventually led to these countries accepting Arab and Indian societies. This happened in the 19th century. Reformers had to back up culture and modernization in the name of traditions as a necessity to defend the traditional value systems and authority structures on the aspect of European colonialism. Traditions were a significant part of human resources that needed skillful use in the process of development and not an obstacle that required destroying. Japan’s modernization and industrialization in particular showed the ingenuous ways by which the Japanese made skillful use of their society’s traditions, social structures and value systems in the course of industrial development. Religion induced culture provided some of the cultural preconditions for development in most of the Asian societies. Buddhism and Hinduism have over the centuries dug deep into psychological and ethical grooves and habits (Whitfield & British Library, 2004).

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The reason syncretism did not take place earlier on in India and China was due religion adaptability and focus based on discipline and work culture. For instance, Hinduism did not have elements of structured religion in India and in China traditions carried on the sources of valued systems and modernization for material gain. The effect and reaction to westernization is often described as being unavoidable but also viewed as a reason that makes up fruitful changes. Despite the surrender of Asian countries to their allies in the earlier centuries, they still managed to keep up their culture characterized by strict social hierarchy and limited individualism especially in Japan. China tried to adopt isolationism in response to westernization but it failed. It adopted many aspects of the western culture. If cultural syncretism had taken root during early encounters in these states, many indigenous languages could have been extinct. This is because it could have altered or even destroyed the existing cultures and ethnicities in the process (Ritzer & Atalay, 2010).

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Cultural syncretism involved conversions by voluntary associations which resulted from political and social advantages that were initially the incentives of an association. The originally suspected motives opened ways that indicated acceptance of more aspects of foreign cultures. This close contact led tolerance and full acceptance of foreign cultures and social practices. Military conquest led to some form of conversion that was pressure inclusive. The conquest brought widely separated regions into close contact and further facilitated cross cultural exchanges. Interactions between populations of different sizes contributed to the shared custom values and cultural interactions. Migratory acts led to the indirect exchange between cultures. The migratory groups were larger or smaller compared to the indigenous populations they met in the process of migration depending on the circumstances they faced. Some minority groups adapted and assimilated the prevailed traditions of the greatest groups and eventually adopted these cultures as their own (Kamstra, 2001).

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Despite syncretism and conversion as common results of cross cultural contacts, there was cultural resistance that involved passive forms. It occurred when the society members ignored the new cultural alternatives in favor of original long-standing traditions. Another common result of resistance was rebellion as seen in historical records such as the Chinese under the Mongolian Yuan dynasty. The Manichaeans fled into Asia and China to escape Islamic expansions. This acts of resistance represented societal attempt to set up and define cultural boundaries and to limit incursions by foreign cultural traditions (Graber & Burri-Nenova, 2008).

The social norms heritage, religious beliefs and customs applied to countries whose histories were strongly marked by European immigration and settlement. Different states went through a long succession of inter civilization encounters both from the west and other regions. Westernization believed to have originated from the classical ancient Roman era and Christianity. The records of historical western culture ranges from complex philosophy, Christianity and rational thinking that developed through a long age of change and formation that enlightened science, democracy and socialism. As a result of global connection through colonization, the European culture penetrated into different ethnic and social classes (Ritzer & Atalay, 2010).

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Beliefs and religions exhibited syncretism that blended two or more systems to form a new kind of religious system. This occurred for many reasons following scenarios that happened quite commonly in areas where multiple religious traditions and beliefs existed in proximity and functioned actively in the culture. It also took place in case a superior power conquered a society and the conquerors brought their religious beliefs with them but failed to exterminate the old traditions and practices. The public and religion innovators created new religion practices to cut inter religious tension and antagonism (Lindenfeld, & Richardson, 2011).

Cultural syncretism evolved gradually and changed over time. It differed according from region to another. This regionalization and culture are deeply intertwined. However, changes in religion and cultural practices have raised questions and clauses. They have not given proper determinations of whether their outcomes are satisfactory or not. Issues that bind different communities and societies with varied ethnicities and traditions, attach different meanings to the outcomes and processes of evolution. It is difficult to note external cultures that claim authority for its interpretation of cultural elements, in a multicultural environment (Graber & Burri-Nenova, 2008).

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Cultures of the old world evolved through combinations of conversion, resistance and syncretism. Some cultures displayed abrupt and dramatic shifts in beliefs and traditions while some barely changed at all over long periods of time. Some groups were the recipients of new traditions while others passed on their customs from generations to generations. Regardless of the rate of change in culture, it was obvious that no culture or group of cultures developed in isolation. It is clear that economic growth based on cultural relationships with minimum legal regulations and transparency worked in good times. However, some cultures that had faith in the long-term and even believed in heroism of suffering for the long-term, inhibited prompt and necessary adjustments. Others have had the courage and temerity to present more specific cultural traits that fostered or inhibited social and economic development through the years (Lindenfeld, & Richardson, 2011).


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