Cultural Convergence: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:04 What Is Cultural Convergence?
  • 1:34 Examples of Cultural…
  • 3:45 Globalism & Cultural…
  • 5:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

How can cultures be impacted by interacting with each other? It's an important question in today's world, and in this lesson we'll examine it from the perspective of cultural convergence.

What Is Cultural Convergence?

Do you like anime? If so, do you live in Japan? While anime is rooted in Japanese culture, it's accessible to people around the world. A number of Americans love Japanese anime, just as many people in England love American Western films, and other people across Europe enjoy British-style tea.

Cultures share things with each other all the time, but this may be taking on unique dimensions in the world today. The more that we interact, is it possible that we're becoming more alike? Some people think so. It's a theory known as cultural convergence.

Definition and Example

Cultural convergence is the theory that two cultures will be more and more like each other as their interactions increase. Basically, the more that cultures interact, the more that their values, ideologies, behaviors, arts, and customs will start to reflect each other. This trend is especially pronounced between cultures that are heavily engaged with each other through communication and transportation technologies, as well as organizational associations.

In today's world, these associations and changes are pretty evident. If people in the United States and Japan are frequently in communication via social media, transportation between these countries is relatively easy, and both cultures participate in the same athletic organizations or multinational institutions like the United Nations, then cultural convergence theory predicts that American and Japanese cultures will start to become more similar.

Examples of Cultural Convergence

Cultural convergence very often follows lines of communication, as well as the ability to communicate with people of other cultures. It's essentially what really makes convergence possible. This means that we can often see the impact of cultural convergence through the spread of language. Throughout the 20th century, and continuing into today, this has largely been seen through the spread of English around the world.

English became an international language of business and diplomacy in the 20th century, and as more countries adopted English, pathways were opened that permitted cultural convergence. Nations with no history of Western-style constitutional politics established Western-style nation-states. Western styles of dress and conduct became ubiquitous. English-language movies, books, and other forms of popular culture became widespread.

While the convergence of cultures towards these Western (and particularly English) values may be obvious to people of European cultures, convergence is not simply a one-way street. European cultures also changed from increased contact with the rest of the world. Flavors and recipes from other parts of the world became part of the standard cuisine in the English-speaking world. Artistic conventions from Asia inspired Europe's Impressionism, and aesthetics from Africa inspired Cubism, as well as much of modern urban culture.

In areas where contact is the highest, this convergence is particularly pronounced and even seen in language itself. A very notable example of this is around the U.S.-Mexico border, where interaction between English and Spanish produced a hybrid language of convergence, known colloquially as Spanglish.

It's important to remember that cultural convergence is not something exclusive to the interactions of cultures on different sides of the world. Studies of European cultures found that Northern and Southern Europe are becoming more similar in many ways since the development of the European Union, even to the point of blurring the line between beer-drinking and wine-drinking cultural zones (a longstanding traditional cultural division). Through their increased communication, ease of transportation, and participation in shared organizations, these cultures have been converging.

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