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Cultural assimilation is the process in which a minority group or culture comes to resemble those of a dominant group.[1] The term is used to refer to both individuals and groups; the latter case can refer to a range of social groups, including ethnic minorities, immigrants, indigenous peoples, and other marginalized groups such as sexual minorities who adapt to being culturally dominated by another societal group.[citation needed]

Cultural assimilation may involve either a quick or a gradual change depending on circumstances of the group. Full assimilation occurs when members of a society become indistinguishable from those of the dominant group.

Whether it is desirable for a given group to assimilate is often disputed by both members of the group and those of the dominant society. Cultural assimilation does not guarantee social alikeness. Geographical and other natural barriers between cultures, even if created by the dominant culture, may be culturally different.[2]



A place, state, or ethnicity can spontaneously adopt a different culture because of its political relevance or its perceived cultural superiority. An example is the Latin language and Roman culture being gradually adopted by most of the people subjugated by Ancient Rome.[citation needed]

Cultural assimilation can happen either spontaneously or forcibly (see forced assimilation). A culture can spontaneously adopt a different culture. Also, older, richer, or otherwise more dominant cultures can forcibly absorb subordinate cultures.

The term “assimilation” is often used with regard to not only indigenous groups but also immigrants settled in a new land. A new culture and new attitudes toward the origin culture are obtained through contact and communication. Assimilation assumes that a relatively-tenuous culture gets to be united to one unified culture. That process happens by contact and accommodation between each culture. The current definition of assimilation is usually used to refer to immigrants, but in multiculturalism, cultural assimilation can happen all over the world and within varying social contexts and is not limited to specific areas. For example, a shared language gives people the chance to study and work internationally, without being limited to the same cultural group. People from different countries contribute to diversity and form the "global culture" which means the culture combined by the elements from different countries. That "global culture" can be seen as a part of assimilation, which causes cultures from different areas to affect one another.

Indigenous assimilationEdit

Canada 1800s-1900s - Forced assimilation of AboriginalsEdit

During the 19th and 20th centuries, the Canadian government began a campaign to forcibly assimilate Aboriginals. The government consolidated power over Aboriginal land through treaties and the use of force, eventually isolating indigenous people to reserves. Marriage practices and spiritual ceremonies were banned, and spiritual leaders were imprisoned. Additionally, the Canadian government instituted an extensive residential school system to assimilate children. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada concluded that this effort was violent enough to amount to cultural genocide. The schools actively worked to alienate children from their cultural roots. Students were prohibited from speaking their native languages, were regularly abused, and were arranged marriages by the government after their graduation. The explicit goal of the Canadian government was to completely assimilate the Aboriginals into European culture and destroy all traces of their native history. [3]


In January 2019, newly elected Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro has stripped the indigenous affairs agency FUNAI of the responsibility to identify and demarcate indigenous lands. He argued that those territories have very tiny isolated populations and proposed to integrate them into the larger Brazilian society.[4] According to the Survival International, "Taking responsibility for indigenous land demarcation away from FUNAI, the Indian affairs department, and giving it to the Agriculture Ministry is virtually a declaration of open warfare against Brazil’s tribal peoples."[5]

Immigrant assimilationEdit

Immigrant assimilation is a complex process in which immigrants not only fully integrate themselves into a new country but also lose aspects, perhaps even all of their heritage. Social scientists rely on four primary benchmarks to assess immigrant assimilation: socioeconomic status, geographic distribution, second language attainment, and intermarriage.[6] William A.V. Clark defines immigrant assimilation as "a way of understanding the social dynamics of American society and that it is the process that occurs spontaneously and often unintended in the course of interaction between majority and minority groups."[7]

United StatesEdit

Taiwan-born U.S. politician Ted Lieu

Between 1880 and 1920, the United States took in roughly 24 million immigrants.[6] This increase in immigration can be attributed to many historical changes. The beginning of the 21st century has also marked a massive era of immigration, and sociologists are once again trying to make sense of the impacts that immigration has on society and on the immigrants themselves.[6]

Assimilation had various meanings in American sociology. Henry Pratt Fairchild associates American assimilation with Americanization or the melting pot theory. Some scholars also believed that assimilation and acculturation were synonymous. According to a common point of view, assimilation is a "process of interpretation and fusion" from another group or person. That may include memories, behaviors and sentiments. By sharing their experiences and histories, they blend into the common cultural life.[8]

The long history of immigration in the established gateways means that the place of immigrants in terms of class, racial, and ethnic hierarchies in the traditional gateways is more structured or established, but on the other hand, the new gateways do not have much immigration history and so the place of immigrants in terms of class, racial, and ethnic hierarchies is less defined, and immigrants may have more influence to define their position. Secondly, the size of new gateways may influence immigrant assimilation. Having a smaller gateway may influence the level of racial segregation among immigrants and native-born people. Thirdly, the difference in institutional arrangements may influence immigrant assimilation. Traditional gateways, unlike new gateways, have many institutions set up to help immigrants such as legal aid, bureaus, social organizations. Finally, Waters and Jimenez have only speculated that those differences may influence immigrant assimilation and the way researchers that should assess immigrant assimilation.[6]


Canada's multicultural history dates back to its European colonization in the 16th century, when French settlers, British settlers, and indigenous peoples vied for control of the region. [9]

1900s-present - IntegrationEdit

Canada retains one of the largest immigrant populations in the world. The 2016 census recorded 7.5 million documented immigrants, representing a fifth of the country's total population [10]. Focus has shifted from a rhetoric of cultural assimilation to cultural integration. In contrast to assimilation, integration aims to preserve the roots of a minority society while still allowing for smooth coexistence with the dominant





See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Boyer, P (2001). Cultural Assimilation. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences. pp. 3032–3035. doi:10.1016/B0-08-043076-7/00364-8. ISBN 9780080430768.
  2. ^ Parisi, Domenico, Federico Cecconi, and Francesco Natale. "Cultural change in spatial environments: the role of cultural assimilation and internal changes in cultures." Journal of Conflict Resolution 47.2 (2003): 163–179.
  3. ^ "Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 June 2018.
  4. ^ "Brazil's new president makes it harder to define indigenous lands". Global News. January 2, 2019.
  5. ^ "President Bolsonaro 'declares war' on Brazil's indigenous peoples - Survival responds". Survival International. January 3, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d Waters, Mary C.; Jiménez, Tomás R. (2005). "Assessing Immigrant Assimilation: New Empirical and Theoretical Challenges". Annual Review of Sociology. 31 (1): 105–125. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.29.010202.100026.
  7. ^ Clark, W. (2003). Immigrants and the American Dream: Remaking the Middle Class. New York: Guilford Press. ISBN 978-1-57230-880-0.
  8. ^ "Assimilation facts, information, pictures | articles about Assimilation". Retrieved 2016-11-11.
  9. ^ Griffith, Andrew (2017-10-31). "Building a Mosaic: The Evolution of Canada's Approach to Immigrant Integration". Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  10. ^ Government of Canada, Statistics Canada (2017-10-25). "Immigrant population in Canada, 2016 Census of Population". Retrieved 2018-12-10.


  • Alba, Richard D.; Nee, Victor (2003). Remaking the American Mainstream. Assimilation and Contemporary Immigration. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-01813-6.
  • Armitage, Andrew (1995). Comparing the Policy of Aboriginal Assimilation: Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. UBC Press. ISBN 978-0-7748-0459-2.
  • Crispino, James A. (1980). The Assimilation of Ethnic Groups: The Italian Case. Center for Migration Studies. ISBN 978-0-913256-39-8.
  • Drachsler, Julius (1920). Democracy and Assimilation: The Blending of Immigrant Heritages in America. Macmillan.
  • Gordon, Milton M. Daedalus Yetman (ed.). "Assimilation in America: Theory and Reality". Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Boston, Mass. 90 (2): 245–258.
  • Gordon, Milton M. (1964). Assimilation in American Life: The Role of Race, Religion, and National Origins. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Grauman, Robert A. (1951). Methods of studying the cultural assimilation of immigrants. University of London.
  • Kazal, R. A. (April 1995). "Revisiting Assimilation". American Historical Society. 100.
  • Murguía, Edward (1975). Assimilation, Colonialism, and the Mexican American People. Center for Mexican American Studies. University of Texas at Austin. ISBN 978-0-292-77520-6.
  • Zhou, Min (Winter 1997). "Segmented Assimilation: Issues, Controversies, and Recent Research on the New Second Generation". International Migration Review. 31 (4, Special Issue: Immigrant Adaptation and Native–Born Responses in the Making of Americans).
  • Zhou, Min; Carl L. Bankston (1998). Growing Up American: How Vietnamese Children Adapt to Life in the United States. vol. III. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. ISBN 978-0-87154-995-2.

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