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Socio-cultural exchanges (8 hours)

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Cultural diffusion: the process – Describe cultural traits in terms of language, customs, beliefs, dress, images, music, food and technology. Examine the diffusion of cultural traits resulting from the international movement of workers, tourists and commodities.

Consumerism and culture – Describe the role of TNCs and the media in spreading consumer culture. Select two different branded commodities and examine the spatial and temporal pattern of adoption on a global scale.

Sociocultural integration – Examine the role of diasporas in preserving culture in one country and the adoption of minority traits by host societies.

Examine the impact of cultural diffusion on one indigenous and remote society through the influence of international interactions.

Examine the ways in which international interactions may result in the homogenization and dilution of culture. Define and exemplify the concept of cultural imperialism.

Cultural diffusion: the process

Culture: A set of shared ideas, actions, principals, beliefs and values.
Cultural diffusion: The spread of cultural ideas from their place of origin to other regions, groups or nations.

In an increasingly globalised World, culture has become fluid and may adapt and change because of new influences. Some might say culture has become more homogenised because of this, while others may say that culture has diversified because of the increased choice and variety. Some ways that culture has converged, changed and adapted are below:

Language: It is estimated that there is over 6,500 spoken languages in the world today. Countries with a large number of indigenous groups tend to have the most languages. In Papua New Guinea that only has a population of about 5 million, there are over 800 languages. Other countries like Belgium (French and Flemish) and Canada (English and French) are officially bilingual, while others have one predominant language and some minority languages e.g. in France about 500,000 either speak Corsican or Breton. The most widely spoken language in the world is Mandarin, followed by English and Spanish. The UN has six official languages; Arabic, Mandarin, English, French , Russian and Spanish. However, despite the wide variety of languages, many languages are being lost. English has become an international language. It is the first language used in many international conferences, in business transactions, in media, and in transport. It is also the language most commonly taught as a second language. Despite many languages being lost, there is a fight to preserve others. In wales there have been many laws introduced to protect the language, including making it compulsory up to GCSE level in all Welsh school.

Food: Most countries have traditional dishes that they are famous for e.g. pupusas in El Salvador and pho in Vietnam. Many countries also have regional dishes e.g. Staffordshire in the UK is famous for oat cakes, Lancashire for Lancashire hot pot and Yorkshire for Yorkshire pudding. However, with increased migration global foods have spread around the world and most cities will now have Indian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Italian and French restaurants. Most cities also have fast food restaurants like Burger King, KFC and McDonald’s. With the globalisation of food there has also been the development of fusion food e.g. the mixing of food from two or more countries and the development of seemingly foreign dishes in surrogate countries e.g. Chicken tikka masala which is seen as an Indian dish was actually invented in Birmingham, UK. As well regional foods there are also foods associated with religions e.g. Hindu’s will not eat beef while Muslims will not eat Pork. Muslim and Jews also specify that their food should follow strict criteria for slaughter, preparation, etc. For Muslims this is known as Halal food for Jews Kosher food. In short globalisation has probably increased the variety of foods available and reduced the consumption of traditional dishes. It has also changed people’s diet, which has caused health problems in some countries e.g. the growth of fast food in Asian countries has increased obesity and heart disease.

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Dance: A lot of countries are associated with particular forms of dance e.g. England is associated with Morris dancing, Argentina the tango, Brazil the samba, Egypt belly dancing and Ireland Irish dancing (River Dance and Michael Flatley). However, international film, music and media like YouTube means individuals are exposed to a greater variety of dances that come and go in popularity. Break dancing, body popping and hip hop have all grown and fallen in popularity.

Religion: There are five major religions in the World i.e. Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and Taoism. Out of these probably only Islam and Christianity can be regarded as truly global. However, even these world religions have many different sects e.g. Islam has Sunni, Shia, Wahhabi, etc., while Christianity has Roman Catholic, Baptist, Church of England, etc. However, despite the growth of some religions e.g. Islam, many are seeing a reduction in the number practicing. Secularism is also on the rise in many countries like France and the UK.

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Music: Most regions have traditional styles of music, traditional instruments and national or regional songs e.g. Italy is very much associated with opera. However, the growth of the internet, TV and radio mean that people are exposed to different styles of music. The power of TNCs to sell their artists means that certain styles of music e.g. rock, pop, rap, R&B have become dominant. Many countries managed to retain some of their national music style through their national anthems. TV shows like Eurovison may also promote music styles from some countries, not normally exposed to an international audience.

Dress: Most countries have traditional dress e.g. the ao dai in Vietnam and the sari in India. However, globalisation has meant that in many countries traditional dress is worn less as global fashions take over e.g. jeans. Some cultures though do follow strict dress codes either by choice or by law in Saudi Arabia women have to wear an abaya and head scarf, in Afghanistan women also had to wear a full burka (although these restrictions have now been slightly relaxed). At the other end of the extreme the French government has decided that the burka is a sign of repression and banned its wearing in public.

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Hierarchy: In many societies men have traditionally been the head of the family and the main money earner while the female has often been the head of the house. However, with the growing emancipation of women, their improved education and national laws to protect individual rights, traditional hierarchical structures are being broken down. Now it is becoming increasingly common to see countries with female political leaders e.g. Angela Merkel in Germany and Julia Gillard in Australia and to see men to stay at home with children and women to go back to work. However, there are still areas of the world where women’s rights and movements maybe restricted e.g. Saudi Arabia where women can’t drive or converse with any man that is not immediate family.

Ethnicity: In centuries gone by there were very distinct ethnic groups. There was little migration between regions, let alone around the world. Mixed race marriages were also very rare. However, with the increase in migration and international tourism mixed race marriages are now common place. In countries like the UK children may have parents who are of different ethnicity, different nationality, speak different first languages and follow different religions

Sport: Some sports were developed in certain countries and therefore are associated with them e.g. golf and rugby were invented in the UK. Other countries have adopted certain sports as their national sports and are strongly associated with them e.g. cricket in India and rugby in New Zealand. Other countries have festivals to celebrate national sports e.g. in Mongolia the Naadam festival celebrates wrestling, archery and horse riding. However, commercialism and the growth international sports events like the Olympics and the Football World Cup mean that some sports have become international. Football is now regarded by many as the ‘Global Game’. This has meant that many regional and national sports have lost players to more globalised games.

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Art: Many cultures are associated with certain forms of art e.g. cave painting, oil painting, pottery, and sculpture. Globalisation has meant that different forms of art are more widely available, maybe appreciated more and sold globally – some art like Aboriginal art has proved very popular commercially and the number of people practicing it has increased. However, many art forms are no longer passed between generations as youngsters enjoy other forms of entertainment like computer games. Some cultures try to protect traditional art in museums and workshops.

Housing: Many countries have traditional forms of housing and traditional living arrangements. In the Middle East many people would have been traditionally nomadic and lived in tents, the Inuits are associated with igloos and Mongolians with yurts. However, most people now live more sedentary lifestyles and want luxuries like inside flush toilets, running, water, electricity, gardens, etc. More and more people now also live in urban areas. The movement of people to urban areas and economic development mean that houses are becoming more uniform with many people living in suburbs and apartments.

Transportation: Types of transport have changed with development and globalisation. Traditionally, most cultures would have walked and used some sort of animal e.g. horses in Europe and camels in the Middle East to move around. However, the development of transport networks and forms of transport has meant that transport is now much more uniform with the car probably the most important. Some cultures are still identified with certain types of transportation e.g. the rickshaw in India, the bike in the Netherlands and tuk-tuks in Bangkok. Groups of people like the Amish have also rejected motorised transport and only use horse and carts.

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Jobs: Most societies traditionally start off with most people being subsistence farmers and then see the development some secondary and eventually tertiary industries. Globalisation though has created a more international division of labour where jobs are often dependent upon education, availability of technology and availability of resources. Also some jobs have been lost because of mechanisation or because there job has become redundant e.g. because most people now send e-mails we do not need people who can send telegrams via Morse code. However, some jobs are still traditionally associated with certain cultural groups e.g. Peal diving is traditional to the Arabian Gulf, Staffordshire is associated with pottery and Sheffield steel.

Marriage: There are two main forms of marriage; monogamy (between two people) and polygamy (one man and multiple females). The incidence of polygamy is probably decreasing as women become more independent, but globalisation/development has also brought many other changes in marriage. Some countries have legalised same sex marriages or certainly allow civil partnerships. Also many people are choosing to get married later, in the UK the average age is now over 30  and some people are choosing to not get married. Divorce has also increased in most parts of the world.

Customs: These are common patterns of behaviour found with particular countries or regions that are then passed down through generations. Examples may include bowing to elders, not tipping, taking of shoes inside houses and celebrating certain days e.g. St. Patrick’s (Paddy’s) Day. Some of these customs may get diluted as young people see different behaviour in the media, while others may grow. St. Patrick’s Day is a classic example. Not only are there now Irish bars around the World, but also the day is celebrated around the World, New York & Boston actually have a St. Patrick’s Day parade.

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Technology: The development of technology can certainly change culture. The development of agricultural equipment e.g. tractors and combine harvesters has meant that the number of agricultural societies around the world has decreased. The development of contraception and the medical procedure of abortion has brought about debate in the Catholic church. Also the development of computers and phones has possibly reduced face-to-face contact both in social and business settings.

Images: Images can now be spread around the world via the internet. These images can be from the past or the present. Images can help break or reinforce stereotypes. Traditional stereotypes of the English may be suited people with bowler hats and brief cases, but more images show that it is much more diverse. The internet can be used for positive purposes e.g. to spread images of environmental damage or political repression or more negative purposes e.g. promoting racism. Therefore images may not necessarily change our culture, but it may change our understanding and opinions of others.

Economic Migrants

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As the world has become more globalised and transport and communications have improved, the global workforce has become more footloose. Both professional e.g. teachers and doctors and manual e.g. construction workers, increasingly travel to where jobs are available and demanded. Some countries like Australia have fairly strict quotas and requirements for people migrating there. However, others like the UAE who have worker shortages actively advertise (through third parties) for migrants. In places like Europe the movement of workers has also increased with the EU’s common labour market. The exact figure of international migrants is not fully known because many are illegal or temporary, but the figure is somewhere between 100-200 million.

When migrants move to other countries (either temporarily or permanently) they often take aspects of their own culture with them and introduce them. In El Salvador and Vietnam expatriates introduced cricket and established cricket leagues. In the UAE churches and temples were built by expatriates. Expatriates also take with them other aspects of their culture like:

  • Language
  • Clothes
  • Food
  • Entertainment

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In some countries there are so many migrants that areas develop that carry many of the cultural traits of migrants. For example many cities have ‘China Towns’ and in Miami there is a ‘Little Haiti’ and a ‘Little Havana’. In these two areas of Miami you are more likely to hear Spanish been spoken than English and more likely to see Central American restaurants rather than American.

International Tourists

As transport has improved along with people’s disposable income and leisure time, the amount of international tourists has rapidly increased. There are now probably about 1 billion international tourist trips a year. Not only are there more tourists, but tourists are going to more and more remote locations e.g. Antarctica, Siberia, Tibet, Mongolia and the Amazon Rainforest. At the moment the majority of tourists are from developed countries and they tend to visit developed tourist centres. However, tourists can still have an impact on local cultures. Some of the most common ways include:

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  • Availability of drugs, alcohol and tobacco: Many tourists demand these substances while abroad. Their increased circulation inevitably mean locals start to use them. 
  • Sex: Unfortunately many tourists demand sex while they are away increasing the number of prostitutes and possibly conflicting with local beliefs on sex and marriage.
  • Dress: Many tourists wear clothes that are different to the local country’s traditional dress, some of which may be inappropriate or offensive e.g. bikinis and swimming shorts in the Middle East.
  • Materialism: When tourist arrive with hard currency, cameras, etc. locals previously unexposed to material goods, develop a sense of materialism. This can lead to jealousy, crime, etc.
  • Privatisation: With the arrival of tourists and tourist facilities places can become privatised e.g. ruins, National Parks, beaches, etc. denying the locals access to culturally important sites. Things like National Parks may also forbid traditional activities like hunting.
  • Global brands: Global hotel chains, airlines, restaurants, etc., also emerge where there are tourists to make money from. This may mean local shops, restaurants, and hotels are forced out of the market. This may change tastes in food, clothes, music, etc.
  • Second homes: Some tourist destinations attract foreign buyers. This changes the nature of the area as many properties sit empty and can force locals out of the market.
  • Inflation: Increased demand from tourist can force the price of land, property, transport, products, etc. to increase. These may mean that some locals e.g. fishermen can no longer afford to live in the area.


As globalisation has increased TNCs have attempted to sell their products to an ever growing global market. This has meant that many countries have global brands been sold in their shops and global franchises opening. In El Salvador fast food restaurants e.g. McDonald’s, Burger King and Starbucks already have a strong hold and other global shops like ZARA, Sears, Payless, Apple and Benetton have opened (and GAP is opening soon). Commodities do not only mean food sold in restaurants and clothes sold in shops, but may also mean things like furniture, electronics, cars and books. The presence of global commodities can change individuals:

  • Diet
  • Fashion
  • Music and film tastes
  • Methods of transport
  • Shopping practices

Commodity: Any product that can be traded or exchanged.

Bhutan – Cultural Diffusion

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Bhutan is a landlocked country found in South Asia, squashed between the two Asian giants of China and India. The capital of Bhutan is Thimphu. The whole of the country is very mountainous and only has a population of about 700,000 people. Bhutan is a largely Buddhist country (although some do practice Hinduism) and has traditionally been an absolute monarchy, although some powers have been handed over to an executive council. Bhutan has four main languages, with Dzongkha been the official language. The economy is mainly based on agriculture and forestry – 60% of the population depend on these industries.

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Bhutan is a very traditional society where the King has promoted ”Gross National Happiness” as an ideal and national dress has to be worn. Bhutan has tried to protect its culture from outside influences. It has done this in a number of ways including:

  • Banning TV
  • Banning the internet
  • Setting a quota on tourists and charging an expensive tourist tax

TV and the internet were finally allowed in in the late 1990’s, although an “Information, Communication and Technology Act” restricts what people can look at. The government has put in place restrictions because they are worried about the sex, violence, dance, dress, commodities, etc. that people might be exposed to. Some have argued that TV is to blame for the rise in crime, while other point out that over half the country don’t even have electricity so can’t be influenced by TV.

Bhutan which only allowed outsiders into the country in the 1970’s plans to allow 100,000 tourists in in 2012. Some argue that this is unlikely considering tourists have to pay between $200 and $250 a day. Bhutan currently receives about 30,000 tourists a year. Tourists are restricted to protect the environment and the culture. However, this is a careful balancing act because tourism can also bring in valuable income.

The enforcement of traditional Bhutanese culture has caused some discontent and protests amongst Nepalese citizens living in Bhutan. After the eruption of violence about 100,000 fled to refugee camps in Nepal.

Consumerism and culture

Consumerism: The growing consumption of goods.

Consumer culture: The link between personal consumption and material possessions and that of personal happiness.

Mass media: Sections of the media that are designed to reach a mass audience. Satellite TV and the internet has allowed mass media to grow.

Brand: A distinguishing name or logo of a product.

Need: Something that you need to remain healthy e.g. food, water, clothes, shelter, etc.

Want: Something that you desire, but do need for your survival. People’s perceptions of needs and wants have changed. Many people would now say that their mobile phone is a need, but in reality it is just a want. Wants are sometimes referred to as luxuries e.g. TV, car, mobile phone, holidays.

Advertising: The act of promoting a product or service.

The growth of mass media, aided by improvements in communication and technology has allowed TNCs to reach new markets and further consumerism. Technology has meant that TNCs advertise in a growing variety of ways and a growing variety of places, including:

  • Cinema
  • TV
  • Radio
  • Magazines and newspapers
  • Internet (included targeted adverts through mediums like Google, Hotmail and Facebook). Companies are able to target adverts by looking at things like your internet search history, location and credit card transactions.
  • E-mail (spam)
  • Cold calling (sales phoning your mobile or house phone)
  • Product placement (products being used in films or TV e.g. an actor using a Blackberry in a film – TNCs will pay for this to happen). Product placement might be regarded as subliminal, because people are not aware that products are being advertised or promoted.
  • Stadiums, arenas (adverts and branding) e.g. Emirates Stadium
  • Billboards
  • Product giveaways in the street

Advertising is now a multi-billion dollar industry, with current expenditure close to $300 billion (over 1% of global GDP). Through advertising and product placement certain brands have become associated with certain aspects of culture e.g. Adidas became linked with hip-hop culture.

Because advertising has become more targeted and it can encourage the consumption of harmful products, some attempts have been made to control advertising. In the UK controls have included:

  • Banning cigarette advertising
  • Restricting alcohol advertising
  • Restricting the advertising of products aimed at children
  • Having an advertising standards agency to ensure all claims made in adverts are genuine

Tobacco displays to be banned from shops!!

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McDonald’s is the World’s largest hamburger chain. It has over 33,000 restaurants in 119 countries and serves an estimated 68 million customers daily.

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McDonald’s started as a barbeque restaurant in 1940 in California. The company was started by Maurice and Richard McDonald. In 1955 Ray Kroc bought the operation off the McDonald brothers.

McDonald’s now employs over 1.7 million people and has revenue in excess of $24 billion. McDonald’s became a listed company in 1965 and the “Big Mac” first appeared three years later in 1968. McDonald’s first international restaurant opened in Canada in 1967, the second country it opened in was Costa Rica in 1970. The UK did not get a restaurant until 1974.

McDonald’s restaurants are operated as either a franchise, an affiliate or directly by the corporation. About 15% of all restaurants are owned directly by the corporation, while the rest operate as franchises or part franchises (affiliates). Franchises pay the McDonald’s Corporation franchise fees, marketing fees and rent – normally all based on profits.

To increase its market share, McDonald’s has developed its restaurants in a number of different ways. McDonald’s first drive “thru” was opened in 1975. To compete with the growth of coffee shops McDonald’s launched McCafe in 1993. McDonald’s has also opened restaurants with playgrounds for children and McExpress and McStop which are aimed at customers on the move with limited time. McDonald’s has also adapted it restaurants to suit local tastes (glocalisation) e.g. halal meat in the Middle East or kosher meat in Israel and no beef in India.

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Coca Cola

Coca Cola is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia and is the World’s largest soft drinks company. It now sells products in over 200 countries and its range has increased (over 3,500 different beverages) to include products like Sprite, Fanta, Inka Cola and water like Joy. Coca Cola now has over 146,000 employees worldwide.

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Coca-Cola started in 1886 when it was sold for 5 cents a glass from a soda fountain in ”Jacob’s Pharmacy”. Asa Candler then developed Coca-Cola from a product into a business. He promoted Coca-Cola through aggressive marketing, like giving out free tastes. Joseph Biedenharn was the first person to bottle Coca Cola in 1894. However, Asa Candler didn’t see the importance of bottling and sold the bottling rights for just $1 to two lawyers (Benjamin F. Thomas and Joseph B. Whitehead) in 1899. At the turn of the century Coca-Cola launched its now famous contour bottle and started selling in other countries like Cuba, Panama, France and Canada.

In 1919 the company was bought off Asa Candler by Ernest Woodruff. Woodruff”s son Robert was a very clever marketer and introduced Coca Cola to the Olympics in 1928. Post WWII Coca Cola grew even more expanding into over 120 countries. In the 1960’s new products like Sprite were launched along with the first can. To this day Coca-Cola continues to expand its products range (through acquisition and development). It also increased its marketing through international sporting events and teams.

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Adbusters was started by Kalle Lasn and Bill Schmalz in Vancouver in 1989. It is a non-profit, non-government organisation. Adbusters is often associated with anti-capitalism. Its mission is to: “diffuse the fog of mental pollution and change the way information flows. Through philosophical thrusts and tactical briefings, we hope Adbusters gives you an epiphany and is the start of your permanent occupation.” One of its early campaigns involved subvertising. Subverts aimed to highlight the environmental, cultural and social (including health) damage caused by many leading brands.

Subvertising: The alteration of an existing image or advert to highlight an alternative message.

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Sociocultural integration

Diaspora: Any groups that has been dispersed outside its original homeland. Diasporas can develop through voluntary migration or forced migration.

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  • A population of a country who has migrated abroad and keeps strong identity ties with the homeland.
  • A permanently displaced and relocated collective.
  • The forced or voluntary dispersal of any population sharing common racial, ethnic or cultural identity, after leaving their settled territory and migrating to new areas

The table below relates to the Irish diaspora however it can be equated to any large group.

  • Improved economic links with different countries
  • Increased political influence around the World
  • Irish culture (music, food, dance, drink, etc.) has been spread around the World
  • It has increased tourism in Ireland, both migrants visiting their homeland and foreigners interested in Irish culture
  • An increase in revenue for Irish companies like Guinness
  • Global support for Ireland’s sporting teams (rugby, football, cricket, etc.)
  • Possible remittances from migrants living overseas


  • Loss of workers (“brain drain”)
  • Potentially large numbers (millions) of people who could claim Irish citizenship and move back to Ireland causing overcrowding
  • Many wrongful claims of Irish citizenship or descendency
  • Exploitation of Irish culture, possible dilution of Irish culture
  • Break up of families (with improved genealogy websites it is now only becoming possible for people to trace their routes)
  • Possible political and economic interference from people living outside the country
  • Possible dependency on outside help e.g. remittances


The magic of diasporas

Immigrant networks are a rare bright spark in the world economy. Rich countries should welcome them

THIS is not a good time to be foreign. Anti-immigrant parties are gaining ground in Europe. Britain has been fretting this week over lapses in its border controls . In America Barack Obama has failed to deliver the immigration reform he promised, and Republican presidential candidates would rather electrify the border fence with Mexico than educate the children of illegal aliens. America educates foreign scientists in its universities and then expels them, a policy the mayor of New York calls “national suicide”.

This illiberal turn in attitudes to migration is no surprise. It is the result of cyclical economic gloom combined with a secular rise in pressure on rich countries’ borders. But governments now weighing up whether or not to try to slam the door should consider another factor: the growing economic importance of diasporas, and the contribution they can make to a country’s economic growth.

Old networks, new communications

Diaspora networks—of Huguenots, Scots, Jews and many others—have always been a potent economic force, but the cheapness and ease of modern travel has made them larger and more numerous than ever before. There are now 215m first-generation migrants around the world: that’s 3% of the world’s population. If they were a nation, it would be a little larger than Brazil. There are more Chinese people living outside China than there are French people in France. Some 22m Indians are scattered all over the globe. Small concentrations of ethnic and linguistic groups have always been found in surprising places—Lebanese in west Africa, Japanese in Brazil and Welsh in Patagonia, for instance—but they have been joined by newer ones, such as west Africans in southern China.

These networks of kinship and language make it easier to do business across borders. They speed the flow of information: a Chinese trader in Indonesia who spots a gap in the market for cheap umbrellas will alert his cousin in Shenzhen who knows someone who runs an umbrella factory. Kinship ties foster trust, so they can seal the deal and get the umbrellas to Jakarta before the rainy season ends. Trust matters, especially in emerging markets where the rule of law is weak. So does a knowledge of the local culture. That is why so much foreign direct investment in China still passes through the Chinese diaspora. And modern communications make these networks an even more powerful tool of business.

Diasporas also help spread ideas. Many of the emerging world’s brightest minds are educated at Western universities. An increasing number go home, taking with them both knowledge and contacts. Indian computer scientists in Bangalore bounce ideas constantly off their Indian friends in Silicon Valley. China’s technology industry is dominated by “sea turtles” (Chinese who have lived abroad and returned).

Diasporas spread money, too. Migrants into rich countries not only send cash to their families; they also help companies in their host country operate in their home country. A Harvard Business School study shows that American companies that employ lots of ethnic Chinese people find it much easier to set up in China without a joint venture with a local firm.

Such arguments are unlikely to make much headway against hostility towards immigrants in rich countries. Fury against foreigners is usually based on two (mutually incompatible) notions: that because so many migrants claim welfare they are a drain on the public purse; and that because they are prepared to work harder for less pay they will depress the wages of those at the bottom of the pile.

The first is usually not true (in Britain, for instance, immigrants claim benefits less than indigenous people do), and the second is hard to establish either way. Some studies do indeed suggest that competition from unskilled immigrants depresses the wages of unskilled locals. But others find this effect to be small or non-existent.

Nor is it possible to establish the impact of migration on overall growth. The sums are simply too difficult. Yet there are good reasons for believing that it is likely to be positive. Migrants tend to be hard-working and innovative. That spurs productivity and company formation. A recent study carried out by Duke University showed that, while immigrants make up an eighth of America’s population, they founded a quarter of the country’s technology and engineering firms. And, by linking the West with emerging markets, diasporas help rich countries to plug into fast-growing economies.

Rich countries are thus likely to benefit from looser immigration policy; and fears that poor countries will suffer as a result of a “brain drain” are overblown. The prospect of working abroad spurs more people to acquire valuable skills, and not all subsequently emigrate. Skilled migrants send money home, and they often return to set up new businesses. One study found that unless they lose more than 20% of their university graduates, the brain drain makes poor countries richer.

Indian takeaways

Government as well as business gains from the spread of ideas through diasporas. Foreign-educated Indians, including the prime minister, Manmohan Singh (Oxford and Cambridge) and his sidekick Montek Ahluwalia (Oxford), played a big role in bringing economic reform to India in the early 1990s. Some 500,000 Chinese people have studied abroad and returned, mostly in the past decade; they dominate the think-tanks that advise the government, and are moving up the ranks of the Communist Party. Cheng Li of the Brookings Institution, an American think-tank, predicts that they will be 15-17% of its Central Committee next year, up from 6% in 2002. Few sea turtles call openly for democracy. But they have seen how it works in practice, and they know that many countries that practise it are richer, cleaner and more stable than China.

As for the old world, its desire to close its borders is understandable but dangerous. Migration brings youth to ageing countries, and allows ideas to circulate in millions of mobile minds. That is good both for those who arrive with suitcases and dreams and for those who should welcome them.

Irish Diaspora

The Irish diaspora is one of the largest diaspora in the World. It is estimated that there are about 80 million Irish migrants and their descendants living around the world – there are over 40 million in the US alone. In the UK about 10% of the population claim Irish descent which would account for about 6 million people. These totals are compared to a current Irish population of only about 4.7 million. However, at the beginning of the new century when the Irish economy was doing well migration reduced (about 15,000 a year) and many migrants choose to return. Unfortunately with the Eurozone crisis and global recession many Irish have started to migrate again. In 2010 it was estimated about 1% of the population left (42,000).

The reasons for Irish migration are varied. One of the largest migrations was triggered after the Great Famine during the 1840’s (1 million people are believed to have migrated during the 7 year famine). Other factors may have included discrimination by the British and a lack of economic opportunities. There are now significant Irish diasporas in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Chile, Mexico and Argentina.
Because there are now so many people of Irish descendent living around the World, you get a lot of people claiming that they are Irish, but in fact are not. People claiming to be Irish who or nor, or even Irish people who were born outside Ireland are often called “Plastic Paddies”. Legally great grandchildren (4 generations) of migrants can claim Irish residency as long as their parents and grandparents both claimed citizenship before they were born.

Because of Irish migration, a lot of Irish culture is now known and celebrated around the world. Most major cities have at least one Irish pub, Guinness is available in nearly every country, curling and Gaelic football are played in many countries. Leprechauns and four leaf clovers are often considered to be lucky and bangers and mash is a common international dish. Irish music has also been popularised through musicians like U2 and Sinead O’Connor. Irish dancing is performed globally and many countries have St. Patrick’s Day parades – New York hosts a major parade each year.

Because of the large scale migration out of Ireland, there are some now very famous people around the World that claim Irish descent, including the likes of; Che Guevara, John F Kennedy, Ronald Regan, George Clooney, Mel Gibson, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Henry Ford.

For a named host country, examine the role of Diasporas in preserving their culture within it and the adoption of minority traits by host society. [15 Marks]

Cultural Diffusion on Indigenous Society

The Dani

The Dani are an indigenous group that live on the island of New Guinea. The island of New Guinea is divided between Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya (part of Indonesia). The Dani live on the Indonesian side. The Dani numbers are close to 200,000. They live along river valley’s at altitudes of between 1200 metres and 2100 metres. The weather is tropical (warm, wet and humid) and the vegetation is thick rainforest. About 100,000 Dani live along the “Grand Valley” of the Baliem River and further 90,000 live along smaller tributaries.

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The Dani were uncontacted for nearly 25,000 years so they developed very unique customs, languages, religion, etc. Aspects of their culture include:
Housing: Men and women live separately but have communal areas for cooking and ceremonies. Houses have earth floor and thatched roofs.
Clothing: They very little clothes, the men wear a phallocrypt over their penis and the women a grass skirt.
Food and farming: Sedentary farming with sweet potato being the main crop. Land was owned but poor soil meant that diets were poor. Pigs were eaten on special occasions and there was some hunting of birds and small marsupials.
Ceremonies: The pig feast held every 3 to 6 years was the most important
Social structure and marriage: Dani are split into two groups the Weya and Wonda. Marriage was between opposite groups. Polygamy was allowed with men marrying at about 20 and women 12. Women have their menopause induced at about 20. After family deaths women removed a finger and men an ear lobe.
Warfare: Each village was believed to be separate so could go to war with each other. Spears and arrows were used during fighting, which was often short lived and there were not many deaths.
Religion: They believe in spirits and ghosts and saw things around them as living e.g. rain was believed to be urine.

culture 23

The Dutch colonised Irian Jaya in 1848 although did not travel deep into their interior although explorers like H.A Lorentz are believed to have met individuals. The first major contact was made by American Richard Archbold in 1938. He spotted them when he flew his plane over the area. He made numerous visits in the coming years. Missionaries from the Netherlands arrived by 1954. The arrival of the Missionaries changed the Dani in a number of ways including:

  • Over 80% converted to Christianity and more took biblical names
  • People married later and polygamy was discouraged
  • There was less subsistence farming and greater trade (markets) and improved diet
  • Healthcare and literacy rates both improved
  • Money was introduced and warfare discouraged

After the Dutch left (decolonised) the Indonesian government moved in to Irian Jaya (1962). They too had significant impacts on the Dani including:

  • More were forced to wear clothes and more Western style houses were constructed
  • Indonesian language was introduced and loyalty to the state was demanded
  • Christian missionaries left and Islam was introduced
  • The variety of foodstuffs was increased and people lived more as nuclear families
  • There was a return to some inter-tribal warfare

The Indonesian government and the Christian missionaries are not the only people that have had an impact on the Dani, tourists also started arriving in 1984. The tourism peak was in 1996 when over 6,000 visited the Dani. Again tourists changed the Dani in a number of ways including:

  • Created greater materialism as tourists carried cameras, sleeping bags, etc.
  • There was a greater dependency on outsiders as more money was introduced
  • More Western clothes were worn and greater desire for Western luxuries
  • Many aspects of culture became acted and not real

Cultural Imperialism

Cultural imperialism: The practice of promoting the culture values or language of one nation in another.
Cultural dilution: Local cultures becoming less pronounced as they are influenced by outside (foreign) cultures.

In the past cultural imperialism has been associated with colonialism. When the UK colonised large parts of the world they took with them their language (English), their sports (rugby and cricket), their forms of transport (railways), their dress (suits), their legal system, police system etc. and imposed it upon their colonies. Now cultural imperialism is more associated with economic forces, although former colonial powers often have some influence over many of their former colonies e.g. The Queen is still head of state for many Commonwealth countries including Australia, Jamaica, Canada, Belize and New Zealand. The US currently has the World’s largest economy and has been able to export its control and influence through the commodities of its TNCs e.g. Google, Ford, McDonald’s, Walmart. America’s cultural imperialism has sometimes be described as Westernisation and/or Americanisation. Cultural imperialism may also take place via global institutions like the IMF, WTO and World Bank (many of which are heavily influenced by the US and Western Europe). Five common areas that are often studied to look at the impacts of cultural imperialism are:

Language: There are currently over 6,000 languages spoken around the World, but half my disappear by 2100. Although Mandarin is spoken by the most people, English is becoming the dominant international language.
Tourism: Tourism is one of the World’s largest industries and at the moment it is mainly citizens from developed countries (US, UK, Germany, Japan) that can afford to travel internationally and spread their culture (although they also experience new foreign cultures).
Global Brands: Apple, Google, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s are all brands recognised and used around the World.
The Media: Disney, Time Warner, HBO, BBC , CNN, etc. all have enormous influence in terms of the television programmes made and aired as well as the music played and the news reported.
Democracy: The US as well as organisations like the World Bank and the UN have often promoted Democratic Capitalist systems over systems like Communism.

Culture 26

As well as controlling culture through the economy and media, it has also been suggested that some countries impose culture and ideas through their military and/or electronically. This maybe through occupation, many people claim that the US and its allies are trying to impose their ideals of Afghanistan and Iraq through occupation. China has also been accused of imposing its ideas through its military presence in Tibet and its state wide censorship of the media.

  • There may be a greater variety of commodities available
  • It may mean new technologies are introduced
  • Language skills may increase
  • Economic development may take place as trade increases between two locations


  • Places around the World become increasingly homogenised (the same)
  • Local cultures are lost or diluted (language, dress, food, music, etc.)
  • Local businesses may be forced out of business they can’t compete with large international TNCs
  • Economic and political exploitation e.g. resources may be stripped

Zuma visit: ‘Thanks for the show, cultural imperialists!’

culture 24

It was all polite smiles and meticulous protocol as Jacob Zuma met the Queen yesterday afternoon. But just hours before he left for his state visit to Britain, South Africa’s flamboyant President revealed what he really thought of his hosts.

In an astonishing interview given shortly before he boarded his flight to London, Mr Zuma launched a scathing attack on the British, accusing them of being cultural imperialists with colonial attitudes who still viewed Africans as “barbaric”.

“When the British came to our country they said everything we did was barbaric, was wrong, inferior in whatever way,” he told The Independent’s sister group of newspapers in South Africa. “Bear in mind that I’m a freedom fighter and I fought to free myself, and also for my culture to be respected. And I don’t know why they are continuing thinking that their culture is more superior than others, those who might have said so.”

The catalyst for Mr Zuma’s remarkable outburst was criticism from a number of British columnists who questioned the President’s polygamy, a common and accepted practice among South Africa’s Zulus.

Many visiting heads of state might have chosen to ignore the stinging barbs of tabloid journalism, but Mr Zuma – who has married five times and currently has three wives – is a political bruiser who enjoys taking on his detractors in public.

Rather than stick to the protocols of a state visit (pomp, splendour and no criticism of either the host or visiting nation) the South African President clearly felt compelled to speak out against what he perceived to be British cultural snobbery.

“I am very clear on these issues,” he said. “I’ve not looked down upon any culture of anyone, and no one has been given an authority to judge others. The British have done that before, as they colonised us, and they continue to do this, and it’s an unfortunate thing.”

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