What Is the Definition of Cultural Erasure?

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Cultural erasure is a practice in which a dominant culture, for example a colonizing nation, attempts to negate, suppress, remove and, in effect, erase the culture of a subordinate culture. The idea of “civilizing” nonwhite people can be seen as cultural erasure.

Unfortunately, cultural erasure is a very common practice. One of the best living examples of cultural erasure is the State of Hawaii, which was, at one point, a sovereign island community with a unique native culture, language, religion and system of government. Though elements of Hawaii’s native culture still exist today, cultural erasure can be seen in the way places have been renamed with English or Anglicized words. For example, Diamond Head on Oahu was originally known by the native name of Lae’ahi. Cultural erasure can be seen as a system of small changes, such as the previous example, all leading to the forced acceptance of a new dominant, or non-native, culture.