What Is Cultural Syncretism?

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Cultural syncretism is a concept that refers to the social processes by which the beliefs and practices of two unique cultures mix and create new cultural characteristics. These cultural beliefs and practices are exchanged through indirect and direct contact.

Mediated imagery, such as television programs, radio podcasts and Internet blogs, carry the beliefs and customs of the culture within which they originate with them. International travel and advanced communications technology encourage cultural syncretism as well. One positive impacts of cultural syncretism is the discovery of new cultural characteristics. Critics of culture syncretism fear it leads to the disappearance of unique cultural beliefs and assets. Some even suggest it is not mixing at all, but one culture dominating and erasing the existence of the other culture. A contemporary example of cultural syncretism is the popularity of hip-hop, which was originated in the Bronx in the early 1980s. A historical example of cultural syncretism is the way Christianity incorporated many of the dates and rituals the pagan religions Christian missionaries encountered. Colonialism is a negative example of cultural syncretism. Cultures that isolate themselves by limiting outsiders and controlling media outlets are more resistant to cultural syncretism. The best cases of cultural syncretism are those where both parties benefit.