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Cultural comparisons

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Compare the legacies of cultural syncretism in Africa and the Americas with the resistance to cultural change Westerners encountered in China and India.

What cultural factors caused the differences in outcomes?

What legacies have the differences in types of encounters and degrees of cultural change left today?

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?

Each member of the group will accept a research role and a writing role within the creation of the project. These roles will be posted to the Small Group Discussion Board area. The substantive participation in the research and writing process by each member will be evident in the small group discussion board area.

One cohesive, final document, 3-4 pages in length, (cover page and work cited page not included) should be crafted from the work of all participating members.

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Solution Summary

The cultural factors caused by the differences in outcomes are provided. Legacies for differences in types of encounters and degrees of cultural change left today are given.

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The solution below should get you started. In this particular task, you are being asked to conduct cultural comparisons between 3 countries on the topic of cultural syncretism. In my further understanding of your post - you are given a task as a group - with each of you tasked to provide a particular role in a 4-page paper. I am supposing that this 4-page paper must answer all the questions you listed. This means you can take any of the questions - and use this as your contribution. But since you did not indicate which problem you've been assigned - I am supposing that the best advice I could provide you is a general viewpoint so that you can answer each of these questions and provide assistance to your classmates in that way too. I suggest this simple outline for a 4-page paper:

1. Overview - 200 words
2. Cultural Syncretism & Factors leading to outcome differences - 200 words
3. Legacies of encounters - 200 words
4. American experiences & modern culture - 200 words
5. China & India - 200 words

This outline should yield around 1,000 words which should cover what you need. I have advised on this very problem some years back and I have provided the same general ideas below as I have previously knowing that said ideas would likely be relevant in your studies. Do not forget to check the particular part of the task you are going to contribute and focus on. You can use the ideas from here directly and expand on them further by using the listed resources.

Cultural Syncretism

How do cultures form? How do cultures survive? How is culture or elements of it adapted and then accepted as part of another? What, before any further discussion about it, is culture? Let me first define it (Jones, 2011):

"Culture - The set of shared beliefs, practices, language and linguistic traditions, mores, history and heritage of a people/social group wherein those who share in it see it as part of their identity."

It is therefore understandable and expected that cultures of nations, of peoples, of social groups differ and are particularly unique expressions and representations of that social grouping alone. But since culture is practiced, it is subject to influence, to being lost or to amendment and change as explained by Stewart (1999) below. For him cultures are, "...porous; they are open to intermixture with other, different cultures and they are subject to historical change precisely on account of these influences. This has no doubt always been the case." In this paper we will discuss this nature of culture - of being subject to change and adaption, of being relegated to history and of being reshaped. We will discuss the topic of syncretism, of factors that lead to outcome differences and examples in America, India and China.

Syncretism & Outcome

A central theme in understanding cultural phenomenon is the notion of syncretism. In social groupings where opposing parties and opposing ideas come together, syncretism is what takes place to make this so. 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. What results in cultural syncretism is the creation of what ...

Solution provided by:
  • MPhil/PhD (IP), Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
  • MA, Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
  • Certificate, Geva Ulpan (via Universita Tel Aviv)
  • BA, University of the Philippines
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