Cultural imperialism refers to the practice of promoting the culture and/or language of one nation in another, usually in terms of a large and powerful nation promoting itself within the borders of a small and poor nation. This takes a variety of forms, ranging from an active policy to a very casual general attitude. The name comes from the analogy to military imperialism, or the conquest of nations by military might.

Cultural imperialism takes on two distinct forms based on the relationship between the dominating state and the dominated state.

Pre-Empirical Cultural Imperialism

Pre-empirical cultural imperialism occurs when the practice of promoting a culture or language occurs within a culture that is not nominally part of the empire of the culture being promoted. In other words, it occurs when the culture of one sovereign state is promoted within the borders of another sovereign state. In the modern age, this is the more common type of cultural imperialism.

One example of pre-empirical cultural imperialism is the use of Christian missionaries sent to non-Christian third world nations in order to both aid in the development of an infrastructure in a Western style as well as to spread the word of God.

Another example of pre-empirical cultural imperialism is the gradual pervasion of anime into America. It is a form of artistic expression developed and produced in Japanese culture, yet it is becoming widely spread throughout the United States.

Post-Empirical Cultural Imperialism

Post-empirical cultural imperialism occurs in the aftermath of a military conquest of a previously distinct culture. In this, the culture of the land is gradually transmogrified into the culture of the conquering state. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, this was the most common form of cultural imperialism.

One example of post-empirical cultural imperialism is the spread of the Etruscan and, later, Latin culture and language by the Roman Empire as it conquered Europe. This spread of Latin throughout Europe led to the foundation of most of the Romantic languages, which make up most of the tongues heard today that have originated in Europe.

Another example of this is the practice of the British Empire, who upon conquest of another culture, would actively participate in cultural imperialism. The British would provide education in spoken and written English, teach the people the game of cricket, and also promote and practice Christianity. These practices were a large part of the success of the British Empire.

Implications of Rejection of Cultural Imperialism

In many cases, the rejection of cultural imperialism can bring about unintended and undesired consequences. This can range from simple refusal to adopt a language or custom to outright revolution and military conflict.

Perhaps the best example of the rejection of cultural imperialism in a variety of manners is the Prayer Book rebellion of 1549 in Cornwall. England, in the process of rejecting non-English languages (the first rejection), sought to spread the English-language version of the Book of Common Prayer, thus replacing the Latin used in the Catholic Church with English. In Cornwall, however, many of the people did not speak English (the second rejection), speaking Cornish in conversation and writing and using Latin in church. When the rest of England attempted to replace the Latin Book of Prayer with an English one, many of the peasants in the area revolted against the change (the third rejection). This rebellion did not last long; the King's army invaded Cornwall, executed the leaders of the rebellion, and instituted numerous reprisals against the people.

Cultural Imperialism Today

Today, cultural imperialism is more of a factor than ever before, even to the point of transcending itself. In the era of globalization, the lines between states and cultures are extremely blurred, making it much easier for groups and individuals to visit other countries and practice and promote their own culture within these countries. The first clear example of this was the widespread multinational immigration into the United States in the past two centuries, creating the so-called melting pot.

Cultural imperialism in the past had a greater relationship to military imperialism, but in the modern era, it is more closely related to economics. For example, franchises born and developed in America but now present in other nations, such as McDonalds, occurs largely due to economic factors rather than a culture-spreading issue; this spread of culture is a mere side-effect.

Last night I picked up the Washington Post. On the front cover was a 32 year old woman from Afghanistan. Her eyes had been gouged out; her nose and earlobes were gone.

Her husband admitted to tying her up and mutilating her, because he suspected her of having an extra-marital affair. After 16 months, he was finally brought to trial. Relatives and friends shook his cuffed hands as he walked to the courthouse. Chances are that despite the evidence against him, this man will not go to prison. Many judges even justify this kind of behavior.

She deserved it. He did what had to be done.

Makes me feel nauseated just writing it.

Apparently very few of these cases are even reported to the police--they are called "accidents" instead, even by the women who are the victims. Why? Because it doesn't happen? Of course not. Because they are afraid and there are few people they can turn to for help.

The couple is Muslim. Islam as a religion (if you look directly to the Koran) does not condone this sort of behavior. In fact, the Koran grants women basic equality to men. However, certain interpretative texts, written later, have effectively abolished these rights.

This is akin to using the teachings of Jesus to justify the Spanish Inquisition.

I ask you, in these circumstances, do you think it is morally wrong for people outside of Muslim fundamentalist culture to condemn these actions, when the judicial system of Aghanistan will not?

After I spent an hour in the bathtub with my hands over my eyes, I decided I had to condemn these "honor killings" and punishments at the risk of treading on someone else's cultural values with my lilly-white American toes, which have not been slashed off with a razor. I just couldn't stop at the individual level on this one.

I feel similarly about female circumsicion--particularly when it is performed on children.

Update: I did not mean to say that all Western cultural values are in any way superior to those of other cultures. I was speaking about a specific practice that I cannot help but judge. On the other hand, even though I am American, (yes, we too can have a sense of perspective) I recognize how consumer culture(and with it Western ideology and self-righteousness) has descended on the rest of the world. I think this imperialism is obscene and rather fascist.

On the other hand, it is not solely an American phenomenon, but one that is tied to the possession of international power. But that is a subject for another node...

What coffy describes are atrocities.

"Since when are Democracy, egalitarianism, and respect for people's basic rights a cultural attribute?" I agree that these things are good,what I understand they mean, but I recognize that they grow out of a long social and political tradtition that has deep roots in England and its history.

As for calling mathematics, electricity, and antibiotics cultural imperialism, well, where can I begin.

For antibiotics, the assumption must be made that only antibiotics cure, or prevent infectious disease; there is some debate on this subject.

The reason people outside the "charmed circle" of mathematics and electricity mostly live in the squalor they do, is not only, or even primarily, because they have been left behind by progress. Less developed countries, like poorer neighbourhoods, become dumping grounds for the richer.

However, this is not the reason I'm noding here. The American Model of Democracy, as imposed upon Nicaragua, Cuba, or even Canada, leaves much to be desired.

And the belief of many Americans that liberal means what they want it to mean, in defiance of all other traditions...

In America, as Noam Chomsky, and others, have long observed, the process of Newspeak has proceeded so far, so fast. This is what I mean by cultural imperialism. American media--say AOL-TimeWarner-Emi--export words, language, ideas, stories, histories, ways of thinking, not all good, and all without regard for what is already there.

As a Canadian, I have witnessed this all my life. It is almost impossible for any American, or any citizen of an Imperial Power, say Roman, to reflect upon this.

They do not see their culture as a national culture; they see it as a universal culture--until it collapses.

I always viewed cultural imperialism more as the outward trappings of one society creeping into another -- Italians wearing New York Yankees baseball caps, etc.

Per my definition, the classic example of American cultural imperialism gone a bit too far was an event on the first day of my recent trip to the United Kingdom, wandering the street across from Harrods.

As I looked through a tie shop, I suddenly realized that I was looking through an entire rack of Dilbert (a cartoon satirizing U.S. corporate/engineering culture) and Peanuts (perhaps the most American of all cartoons) ties, while the latest R.E.M. single was playing on the store's radio.

It was at that point that I decided London was New York with different money and natives who can't drive (wait a minute, New Yorkers can't drive either). Fortunately, this jetlagged observation turned out to be only partly true, as I found when my group returned to London on the final weekend of our tour.

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