Syncretism refers to the combination of different beliefs and blend of practices of different schools of thought. It involves the assimilation or merging of various originally discrete cultural or religious traditions or in politics. Thus, cultural syncretism arises in the case when an aspect or feature of one or more different cultures merge together for creating new custom, practice, philosophy or idea. In other words, cultural syncretism refers to the imposition of an alien culture and its practices in a large scale on an existing culture resulting in a new culture with new beliefs, practices, customs, ideas and philosophies.
One of the major examples of cultural syncretism is the American food cuisine. In the American cuisine, most of the foods have origin in other countries, such as, tacos, pizza, Chinese food, schnitzel, Mediterranean food, and many more. America is a land of immigrants and hence, there is a large scale mix of people belonging to various countries and distinct cultures. People from the Mediterranean region had brought their distinct food and flavours, the Hispanic people brought their Mexican foods, similarly, Italians, Europeans, Asians as well as Africans have all brought their own cuisines to America and over the years, a distinct American food culture and items had developed. The blending of the cultures have resulted in Americanized food which is different from the original one, such as, the American style thin crust pizza is different than the original Italian thick crust pizza. The authentic Chinese food also tastes different than the American Chinese. The toppings in the Mexican tacos have evolved to suit the taste buds of the Americans and people from other cultures. Similarly, the Chinese noodles blended with Italian traditions and became Italian spaghetti. American music also displays the cultural syncretism. For example, jazz music is a combination of the Brazilian beats, German parade music and components of the blues, which all were the results of the mixed European and African cultures and customs. There is blending in clothing and architecture also. For example, the eastern world has adopted the western fashion widely. Similarly, when the Europeans invaded America and other countries, they built churches and other buildings as per their customs and traditions, which have become popular tourist destinations in every place.
Syncretic traditions include practices that focus on the unity of the essential human belief system and not on the differences. The syncretic traditions are those that allow for the blending of different beliefs and practices of two or more religions, cultures, or political ideologies to develop new ideas or beliefs. For example, the pagan culture has blended with Christianity and people all over Europe and America celebrate festivals of both religions.
Cultural exchanges refer to the mutual sharing of cultural information and practices between two or more distinct cultures in order to improve the relationship, mutual respect and understanding between the people. Thus, cultural exchange provides opportunities for exploring other cultures and their traditions, beliefs, customs, languages, societies, food and many more aspects. This helps in broadening the horizon of the perspectives of people, makes them aware about their own and others’ cultures, increases knowledge and mutual respect for others, helps them to accept diversities and break stereotypes and misconceptions.
Cultural appropriation refers to the adoption of the components of one culture by the people of another culture. In other words, cultural appropriation indicates the act in which a culturally dominant group of people adopts the components of another culture, which was systematically oppressed for many years. However, it is different from cultural exchange. It has been seen in the history that features of the cultural appropriation often involved practices leading to cultural misappropriation, which indicates the adoption of the cultural elements in the colonial manner. In such cases, people from the dominant culture use the elements from the suppressed culture outside the context or sometimes against the wishes of the representatives of the other culture resulting in misappropriation of culture. On the other hand, cultural exchange indicates a mutual and beneficial exchange of cultural beliefs, practices and traditions. Thus, it is considered as expected and it contributes to the diversity and acceptance, tolerance of other cultures and free expression. Cultural exchange usually occurs due to admiration towards the other cultures with no intention of harming. While cultural exchange can happen between cultures of any status, cultural appropriation involves adoption from weaker culture. For example, the American culture is considered as cultural exchange and not cultural appropriation. Thus, the basic difference between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation is the existence of power.
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