Culture: Homogenization and Heterogenization

Effects of Globalization of Culture

Today’s world is a global village. This is the assertation being made by almost every civilized human being living in the 21st century. Yes. The world is getting smaller in the wake of every day. The tyranny of traveling long distances to convey messages, to visit family and friends, the mail which used to take a month to reach its destiny and another month for the reply, all these have been eliminated in the new borderless world we are living in, thanks to technology advancements, the catalyst behind the process of cultural globalization. The conveyance and search for information have almost been made instantaneous. This changing trend amounts to globalization, the unidirectional process through which the world (the greater society) becomes interconnected or unified.

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Society currently is taking the form of globalization. The globalization process is taking two main dimensions in influencing culture in the society. Globalization is either leading to homogenization and or Heterogeneity of the culture. Culture was traditionally preserved within various territorial boundaries. However, globalization has led to the increase of interchange of cultural content as well as interactions across different cultures. Culture is no longer a territorial bound, but a deterritorialized society of grand mobility in socio-cultural activities. Arguably, heterogenization and homogenization are the two facets of globalization in the society; in any way, globalization has to take one of the two faces.

Globalization of culture and homogenization

The process of globalization which integrates different cultures into some sense of general similarity is what homogenization entails. The mix of cultural elements derived from different and diverse cultural contexts, to build or develop a universal culture across the society or particular societies entails homogenization of culture.

Cultural Hybridization is a term that commonly refers to homogenization, a process of cultural globalization. Cultural hybridization has been triggered by globalization of cultures specifically through cultural interactions and cultural exchanges between various cultures. For instance cultural hybridization has been manifested throughout a great portion of the world’s population, as in embracing the American pop culture. American music, celebrities, blues jeans, soft drinks have all become popular all over the world, as a result of cultural globalization. An American music is released in the market today, and is popular in Africa or Asia tomorrow. The global culture has been homogenized into one widespread American culture in various contexts. Westernization of the world cultures is also a good example of how globalization of cultures is leading to homogeneous cultures all over the world (Ervin & Smith, 2008).

Hybridization emphasizes mixing of cultures, while discouraging their separateness. Cultural forms are referred to as hybrid or mixed or syncretic or Creolized, since the elements in the mixture are derived from different cultures. According to, Pieterse 2009:86, Creole cultures were derived from homogenization of the Creole languages, which were developed and integrated to become elaborate and universal culture, the Creole culture. This does not mean that all cultures developed through integrations are Creole, but the sense of drawing elements from different cultures to form a universal culture is what Pieterse 2009:86 meant. Other terms connoting cultural globalization in the perspective of homogenization are such as cultural imperialism, cultural hegemony, cultural dependence, modernity, westernization, autonomy, cultural convergence and world civilization, among other terminologies. It was evident that cultural globalization was in great terms contributing to cultural homogenization (Pieterse 2009:86).

According to Ervin & Smith 2008:35, Neoliberals argue that globalization of culture leads to the advancements of understanding and cooperation networks between individuals from diverse cultures, a factor which contributes to the building of cultural homogenization, as well as being a core process for cultural imperialism. Cultural imperialism entails the efforts of dominant cultures to control and manipulate other cultural traditions and norms, specifically through information and communication. This is evidenced by the American and European cultures in their attempts to westernize and Americanize the world cultures. Cultural imperialism therefore leads to cultural homogeneity, as a result of cultural globalization through uniformity and standardization.

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Hopper 2008:87 also observed that globalizing processes of cultures were contributing significantly to cultural homogenization. He specifically noted three areas through which globalization of cultures was influencing cultural homogenization. These were notably the media, communication as we as the economy. The three factors have a great homogenizing effect on global cultures.

New information was prevalent and its access is quite instantaneous, advanced communication technology, advanced transportation as well as global media emergence meant that the world is in the transition to a smaller space, “global village.” This has left local traditions struggling for survival, and the traditional cultural difference which used to exist freely being eroded at a very fast rate, credit to globalization of culture.

Comments have been heard frequently that most of the city centers worldwide are increasingly looking similar. The global major retailers, financial houses such as banks, advertisement billboards and fast-food restaurants, can be found in almost all the city centers, courtesy of globalization of cultures. Same programs can be seen, on television screens concurrently all over the world. According to Hopper 2007: 88, Ulrich Beck gave a description of this trend of cultural convergence in the manner, “in the villages of lower Bavaria, just as in Calcutta, Singapore or the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro, people watch Dallas on TV, wear blue jeans and smoke Marlboro… ” (Hopper 2007: 88). This homogeneity of culture has been necessitated by globalization of culture.

Hopper 2007:88 observed that it is possible to name a homogeneous global culture, formed as a result of cultural imperialism, articulated as Americanization and westernization. The conception of Americanization, a global culture, can be derived from the global superiority of the American country. The country is extremely powerful and exerts its influence internationally in almost all aspects. For instance the global media-entertainment industry has been dominated by American companies such as CBS, Time Warner and Walt Disney. American brands such as Levi-Strauss, Macdonald’s, Coca-Cola and Pepsi have garnered a considerable global appeal and influence, advancing the Americanization culture globally.

Globalization of culture and heterogenization

The globalization of culture is criticized to override locality, ethnic and national identities, to some extend its helping in building diversities in cultures. Appadurai 1998 maintained that cultural experiences in the global and local contexts were interlinked. Globalization is a process of heterogenization, observed that cultural globalization occurs through and in cultural transformations which occur within the local level Cultures. The two processes i.e. cultural globalization and the local practice in everyday life are interlinked and interconnected. The sense of cultural globalization is tied to the local cultural differences as well as the mobilization of the different group identities (Dirlik 1996).

Soma & Darwin 2005 argued that the peculiarity and dematerialization of certain groups, and identities are shaped by cultural globalization, hence heterogenizing cultures across the globe. Several ethnic groups have been known globally because of the preservative nature of their cultures. For instance the Mayan tribes of Mexico, the Aboriginals of Australia and the indigenous tribes of Indonesia have come into the global limelight due to their ethnicity. The Menominee people of North America have been known for their indigenous cultures. The world has been able to know various ethnical cultures of different groups of people, because intermingling has been made easy. This is a result of globalization culture, particularly in communication, and the easiness of sharing information. It is evident that the globalization of cultures is promoting heterogeneity.

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Migrants away from their countries are known to exhibit their national identities. For instance Apparudai observed that Turkish Workers who migrated to Germany gathered regularly to celebrate their traditional and religious festivals, and watched Turkish movies. Moreover, he observed that quite a number of cultural groups globally live their cultural lives irrespective of the place where they are, without being dictated by the dominant culture of the hosting country (Apparudai 1998).

On another note, globalization of culture is both homogenizing and heterogenizing. This was reaffirmed by Apparudai 1998; he maintained that the global culture constructs nations or states, diasporic communities, religions, political and economic groups. With regards to modernity which many sociologists maintained contributed to the homogenization of cultures, Apparudai 1996 observed that modernity is experienced differently in different parts of the globe. He disagrees with several modernization theories, identifying societies as traditional vs. modern or rural vs. urban. He supported his arguments by citing several modern metropolitan cities experience their traditional cultures simultaneously with modernity. Such cities include Mexico City, Cairo and Sao Paulo. These cities have emerged into the limelight as a result of globalization of culture.

Globalization of tourism culture is also a contributing factor to cultural homogenization and heterogenization. The tourist’s side of the industry experiences homogeneity while the cultures at the destinations enjoy cultural heterogenization. For instance tourists visiting places to experience the traditional, religious and ethnic practices of different communities are involved in promoting both homogeneities of the tourism culture and heterogeneity of the cultural practices of the different cultures attraction tourist (Apparudai 1998 and Soma & Darwin 2005).

Conclusion

Advancements in technology are the key factors behind globalization of cultures leading to both homogenization and Heterogenization. Hybridization, cultural imperialism, westernization, Americanization are just but a few terms connoting homogenization of culture. Cultural modernity and tourism cultures are the main aspects portraying heterogenization of culture, although to some degree they are also promoting homogenization. Even though globalization of culture is influencing both homogenization and heterogenization, it is much more contributing to the former than it is doing on promoting the latter.

References

  1. Apparudai A 1998, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
  2. Apparudai A 1996, The production of locality in modernity at large: cultural dimensions of globalization, University of Minnesota press, Minneapolis.
  3. Dirlik A 1996, The Global in the Local: In Global/Local: Cultural Production and the Transnational Imaginary. Duke University Press, Durham.
  4. Ervin J & Smith ZA 2008, Globalization: A Reference Handbook, ABC-CLIO, London.
  5. Hopper P 2007, Understanding Cultural Globalization. Polity Press. Cambridge.
  6. Pieterse NJ 2009, Globalization and Culture: Global Mélange (2nd Ed.), Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, New York.
  7. Soma H & Darwin HS 2005, Globalization, philanthropy, and civil society: toward a new Political culture in the twenty-first century, Birkhäuser, Chicago.

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