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Assimilation versus Enculturation

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There were several immigrants who moved to America in the 20th century. After the 1890 depression, the number of immigrants to the US almost doubled. There were immigrants from all over the world with distinct races, ethnicities and national groups; these were Jews, Latin Americans, Europeans, Asians and also African Americans. The immigrants came to America for various reasons including escape from political persecution, religious freedom, and economic reasons, among others. Having come from various parts of the world, the immigrants found a different culture in America, very different from their own. The immigrants were then faced with the hard task of deciding whether to assimilate culturally or to preserve their own cultures. A majority of the immigrants assimilated into the American culture, especially the women who intermarried. Assimilation in this case meant the abandoning of their cultures and adopting a new dominant one. However, some like the Hispanics maintained most of their cultural aspects, mainly because of the close proximity to their original homeland.  The assimilation brought with it many effects including psychological adjustments. The immigrants seemed to have abandoned their origins and tradition which was seen as a negative thing. The assimilation was also seen to have helped many of the immigrants settle well in America; feeling as American as the natives. Enculturation is defined as the practice of knowing one’s original culture (Korzenny 1998). Enculturation can be either in favor of one’s own culture or of the foreign or dominant culture. Most immigrants nowadays try to teach their children their original cultures while still acculturating the American culture. The enculturation has mostly served to help the immigrants’ generations to understand where they came from and also appreciate other cultures. Enculturation creates open mindedness and broad knowledge. Enculturation has mostly been beneficial in psychological development but to some extent it has caused psychological instability. Introduction of many cultures from early childhood leaves some of the children feeling confused as they are not able to identify with either of the cultures. Some Americans with foreign cultures have also found it hard to fit in their original cultures with the American culture and this has resulted in them feeling alienated and like outsiders living in America. Some have even gone as far as disassociating themselves completely with their original cultures. The important thing is that there should be a balance between enculturation and acculturation since they both have their advantages and disadvantages.


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