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Cultural Syncretism: Africa, the Americas, China & India

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Compare and contrast the legacies of cultural syncretism in Africa and the Americas with the resistance to cultural change Westerners encountered in China and India. Had syncretism not occurred in the Americas, how might modern culture be different? If cultural syncretism had taken root during early encounters in China or India, how might they be different today?

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OTA 105878/Xenia Jones

Cultural Syncretism & Culture Outcome

Syncretism is the effort and process of reconciling what could potentially be opposing thoughts, practices and beliefs. We can say that when cultural practices syncretise, they 'combine' or go through a process akin to 'amalgamation' where otherwise unlikely pairings or combinations are 'fit' together for the purpose of merging different peoples and including all elements important to all members of society. The aim is to drive a sense of 'unity' despite the differences for the purpose of creating a shared identity. The etymology of the term has its origins in the notion of the 'Cretan Federation', an ancient group of Greeks who, despite their obvious differences tried to work it out and to fit their practices and believes in one, inclusive hegemonic culture to create harmony and forge unity for the purpose of survival.

The Americas

Now, syncretism happens due to a number of motivations. Let's talk about syncretism for example in the Americas. First, let us look at the approach of the Spanish and the Portuguese in their bid of controlling the 'New World'. The Amerindian civilizations then had their own social hierarchy, their own belief systems, their own traditions and way of life. But the conquistadores conquered them through warfare, politics and forced assimilation into Iberian culture. Soon, they had to throw away their pantheon of Gods as they were given Christian names and new Christian identities. The hegemonic culture was the culture of what came to be their Colonial masters - the arts, religion, cuisine, language, education - all of these were rewritten according to Iberian culture. So in every pueblo from Mexico to Argentina, the Catholic Church reigned over the Amerindians who now had Hispanic names and who spoke a derived version of Spanish and Portuguese dependent on who were their colonial masters. The Amerindians had no choice but to push out certain aspects of their culture and adopt aspects that belong to their masters. Still, they couldn't wholly throw away elements of their own native practices from the way they weave, the local dialects they spoke, the food they ate as well as the deities they worshiped. Hence, all over South America, we encounter Folk Christianity where the Virgin Mother and other saints take on the ...

Solution Summary

The solution is a 1,659 word narrative in the form of a sample essay that provides insight, advice, information and guidance to help students tackle the original task of comparing and contrasting legacies of cultural syncretism in Africa and the Americas as well as the resistance to cultural change presented in China and India against Westerners and their culture. Additionally, it weighs the problem of what America might be like today had syncretism not occurred. Same is done on China and India but the opposite scenario - if syncretism had occurred there, how might it be different today? References are listed for further exploration of the topic. An MSWord version of the solution is also attached.