culture contact

Contact between peoples with different cultures, usually leading to change in one or both systems. Forms of culture contact traditionally include acculturation, assimilation, and amalgamation. Acculturation is the process of change in material culture, traditional practices, and beliefs that occurs when one group interferes in the cultural system of another, directly or indirectly challenging the latter to adapt to the ways of the former. Such change has characterized most political conquests and expansions over the centuries. Assimilation is the process whereby individuals or groups of differing ethnicity are absorbed into the dominant culture of a society—though not always completely. In the U.S. millions of European immigrants became assimilated within two or three generations; factors included the upheaval of overseas relocation, the influences of the public school system, and other forces in American life. Amalgamation (or hybridization) occurs when a society becomes ethnically mixed in a way that represents a synthesis rather than the elimination or absorption of one group by another. In Mexico, for example, Spanish and Indian cultures became increasingly amalgamated over centuries of contact.

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Branch of anthropology that deals with the study of culture. The discipline uses the methods, concepts, and data of archaeology, ethnography, folklore, linguistics, and related fields in its descriptions and analyses of the diverse peoples of the world. Called social anthropology in Britain, its field of research was until the mid 20th century largely restricted to the small-scale (or “primitive”), non-Western societies that first began to be identified during the age of discovery. Today the field extends to all forms of human association, from village communities to corporate cultures to urban gangs. Two key perspectives used are those of holism (understanding society as a complex, interactive whole) and cultural relativism (the appreciation of cultural phenomena within their own context). Areas of study traditionally include social structure, law, politics, religion, magic, art, and technology.

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officially Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

(1966–76) Upheaval launched by Mao Zedong to renew the spirit of revolution in China. Mao feared urban social stratification in a society as traditionally elitist as China and also believed that programs instituted to correct for the failed Great Leap Forward showed that his colleagues lacked commitment to the revolution. He organized China's urban youths into groups called the Red Guards, shut down China's schools, and encouraged the Red Guards to attack all traditional values and “bourgeois things.” They soon splintered into zealous rival groups, and in 1968 Mao sent millions of them to the rural hinterland, bringing some order to the cities. Within the government, a coalition of Mao's associates fought with more moderate elements, many of whom were purged, were verbally attacked, were physically abused, and subsequently died; leaders Liu Shaoqi and Lin Biao both died under mysterious circumstances. From 1973 to Mao's death in 1976, politics shifted between the hard-line Gang of Four and the moderates headed by Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping. After Mao's death the Cultural Revolution was brought to a close. By that time, nearly three million party members and countless wrongfully purged citizens awaited reinstatement. The Cultural Revolution subsequently was repudiated in China. Seealso Jiang Qing.

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Han is a concept in Korean culture, attributed by some as a national cultural trait. Han denotes a collective feeling of oppression and isolation in the face of overwhelming odds. It connotes aspects of lament and unavenged injustice.

The minjung theologian, Suh Nam-dong describes han as a "feeling of unresolved resentment against injustices suffered, a sense of helplessness because of the overwhelming odds against one, a feeling of acute pain in one's guts and bowels, making the whole body writhe and squirm, and an obstinate urge to take revenge and to right the wrong -- all these combined.


Some scholars theorize the concept of Han evolved from Korea's history of having been invaded and occupied by other neighboring nations, such as the Khitans, the Manchu/Jurchens, the Mongols, and the Japanese. Others attribute han to class system strictures, such as the distinction between the elite Yangban class and the peasants.

Modern history such as the liberation by the surrender of Japan to the Allies rather than to the Korean Liberation Army, the Korean War and the subsequent division of the nation also contribute to the culture as missing glorious history and unresolved han. Han permeates Korean cultural expression, for example, in Korean shamanism and Pansori.

Han in popular culture

The Korean poet Ko Eun describes the trait as universal to the Korean experience: "We Koreans were born from the womb of Han and brought up in the womb of Han. Han connotes both despair at recognition of past injustice and acceptance of such matters as part of the Korean experience.

The Television show The West Wing also referenced the trait in Episode 5.4 (entitled "Han"). The episode concludes with Bartlet, the President of the United States, realizing his own personal understanding of the esoteric concept; "There is no literal English translation. It's a state of mind. Of soul, really. A sadness. A sadness so deep no tears will come. And yet still there's hope."

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