What Are Some Examples of Cultural Clashes?

Examples of culture clashes in history include the reintroduction of freed American slaves into Africa and the conflict between early European settlers and the Great Plains Indians. Christian missionary attempts all around the world have also been met with severe clashes and misunderstandings between different cultures.

Speaking from his own experience, novelist Chinua Achebe described in “Things Fall Apart” the way in which incoming European missionaries misunderstood native African culture. In the novel, the Reverend Smith describes Africans as “heathens,” implying their incompleteness or primitive nature by the standard of God. In turn, the Igbo people of Achebe’s novel think Christianity “foolish.”

In 1821, the nation of Liberia was established by the American Colonization Society. The idea of its founders was to ship freed slaves back to their “homeland” and out of America while, at the same time, encouraging these free black Americans to promote the Christian faith and American society to the natives. This resulted in clashes between the region’s indigenous people and the Americanized former slaves who considered their own ideas of society to be more sophisticated.

Americans caused a similarly violent culture clash earlier when colonizing the New World. The settlers believed in justified extermination of the indigenous peoples on the basis of their own perceived racial superiority. Without much in the way of meaningful communication, the settlers and Native Americans were locked in ongoing bloody battles until one side was eventually subdued.