Dominant Cultures Case Study Assignment
Although many societies are multicultural, they generally have a dominant culture— a term used by sociologists, anthropologists, and researchers in cultural studies to describe the established language, religion, behavior, values, rituals, and social customs of a particul ar society. The dominant culture may or may not represent the majority of the population; i nstead, it is considered dominant because it controls or has influence over social institution s such as the media, educational institutions, law, political processes, business, and artistic expression (Marshall, 1998). When the dominant culture is not the majority in terms of pop ulation, it is known as the dominant minority. One political example of a dominant minority was White South Africans during apartheid in South Africa. Even though this ethnic group comprised only 22% of the country, it dominated the political and economic institutions of the nation and was able to enact laws and sustain other customs that kept Black South Afric ans from having equal rights and opportunities. An economic example is Chinese dominanc e in Southeast Asia, where, even though they comprise 15% of the population, they control over half of other Asian countries’ economies (Chua, 2003). This power and control is not absolute, nor is it permanent; other groups within the society may challenge the dominant culture. For example, because people from England, Ireland, a nd Scotland predominantly settled the original 13 colonies in the United States, many aspec ts of U.S. culture were based on British culture, which was itself a mix of English and other European traditions. As a result, the English language as well as elements of its legal and po litical systems, religious views, attitudes toward work, recreational pastimes, and other cha racteristics of Anglo (English) culture became dominant in the United States (Mio, Trimble, & Arredondo, 1999). These laws and traditions also established the roles of males and fema les in dominant American culture, sometimes overtly via laws that stated that married wo men were not recognized as legal entities separate from their husbands. Small but effective co- cultures such as the women’s suffrage movement in the 1920s, the women’s rights moveme nt in the 1960s and 1970s, and the current #MeToo/#TimesUp movement, built and sustai ned both interpersonally and on mediated channels, are often responsible for marked shifts in dominant cultural beliefs regarding gender roles.
When individuals are born into a particular society, they begin a process of enculturation w herein they learn and adopt the norms, traditions, and beliefs of their dominant culture. For example, they will eat food that is preferred by members of that culture, learn the primary language, and view and experience the major forms of media popular within that culture. I mmigrants usually undergo a period of acculturation as well, during which they learn and b egin to adopt the norms and the behaviors that are acceptable or preferred in the dominant culture. Acculturation, for example, involves observing others who are members of the do minant culture to see how they behave, communicate, and what their preferences and disli kes are. From these observations, and by directly interacting with the newly adopted cultur e, the individual will begin to absorb the characteristics of that culture. The acculturation pr ocess is not just one-way— as more new members join a culture, their values and beliefs shape and influence the domi nant culture as well. That being said, a society may celebrate its multicultural makeup, but its most widely share d customs, holidays, and traditions are usually those of the dominant culture, such as the U. S. holidays of Thanksgiving and Independence Day. The dominant culture of a society can c
hange, but, unless a revolution or other major social upheaval occurs, this change usually h appens slowly.
In addition to a dominant culture, most societies have several co-cultures— regional, economic, social, religious, or ethnic groups that are not the dominant culture but still exert influence in society. These co- cultures have characteristic customs and patterns of behavior that are unique to them and t hat distinguish them from the dominant culture. The terms co- culture and subculture have similar meaning, but co- culture implies that multiple cultures can exist together in the same geographic space, wher eas subculture could imply that some cultures are necessarily subsumed into, or are inferior to, other cultures. The term co- culture emphasizes that, even though you identify with a dominant culture, there may be an other culture with which you identify more closely and feel best represents who you are an d how you behave. An example of this might be your high school. Although every student in the school identified as a member of the student population dominant culture, co- cultures existed alongside each other as well, such as the football team, the theatre club, or the jazz choir. Each of these co- cultures had their own communication norms. If you were a part of two co- cultures, you may remember adapting to and changing your communication— such as using jargon or specific nonverbal cues—based on which co- culture’s members you were communicating with at a particular time. On a broader scale, y ou might identify yourself as an American, but have a particular co- culture, such as a religious affiliation, geographic region, or occupation that you also strongl y identify with and that is an important component of who you are.