Monoculturalism is the policy or process of supporting, advocating, or allowing the expression of the culture of a single social or ethnic group. It generally stems from beliefs within the dominant group that their cultural practices are superior to those of minority groups and is similar to the concept of ethnocentrism which involves judging another culture, based on the values and standards of one's own culture. It may also involve the process of assimilation whereby other ethnic groups are expected to adopt the culture and practices of the dominant ethnic group. Monoculturalism, in the context of cultural diversity, is the opposite of multiculturalism.
Rather than the suppression of different ethnic groups within a given society, sometimes monoculturalism manifests as the active preservation of a country's national culture via the exclusion of external influences. Japan, South Korea, and North Korea are examples of this form of monoculturalism (but in reality, various members of Japanese society –to name just one example– whether in official or unofficial capacity have led to the societal stigmatisation, prolonged suppression and practical extinction of the Ainu language and culture). However it may also be the result of less intentional factors such as geographic isolation, historical racial homogeneity, or political isolation. For instance, some European countries such as Finland, Portugal, Iceland, Poland and the Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway and Sweden) are still effectively monocultural because of the people's shared culture and ethnicity.
The idea of monoculturalism can be expanded to that of ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism is a belief that one's way of life is natural and valid. Such beliefs are likely to be prevalent among individuals and communities which have not been exposed to other cultures in depth. Colonialism might be described as an extreme form of ethnocentrism. This occurs when one nation or society takes over or politically dominates another country and imposes its own, natural and correct way of doing things on the other.
In many of the genocides practiced throughout history, some of them were based on ethnic supremacy. Ethnic supremacy is assumed by one group within a culture, following some distinct action by an external group or from one of the ethnic groups. With European intervention in places like Rwanda, social institutions worked to socially construct an ethnic inferiority, distinguishing the Hutus and Tutsis from one another and causing what would be one of the most horrific demonstrations of genocide in modern history.
A similar example to that of the Rwandan Genocide was the ongoing civil war in Burma. The civil war spanned from a constitution that granted Burma their independence from the British Empire in which a group of leaders created conditions that didn't involve many of Burma's Ethnic Minorities, and instigated a fight from them. Many of these ethnic minorities in Burma, including the Karen, have been significantly displaced by the military junta and placed into refugee camps in bordering nations. The remaining ethnic minorities have been living in poor conditions, and have been met by a variety of human rights abuses.
Globalization involves the free movement of goods, capital, services, people, technology and information throughout the world. It also involves the international integration of potentially very different countries through the adoption of the same or similar world views, ideologies, and other aspects of culture. Marsella argues that this is monoculturalism on a grand scale. Potentially it could lead to the suppression and loss of different ethnic cultures on a global scale.
- Monoculturalism, online Oxford dictionary
- Jackson, Y. Encyclopedia of Multicultural Psychology, p. 203
- Ethnocentrism, Ken Barger
- , A revealing map of the world’s most and least ethnically diverse countries, Fisher
- Ethnocentrism, Cultural anthropology, Lumen
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- Marsella, Anthony (2005). ""Hegemonic" Globalization and Cultural Diversity: The Risks of Global Monoculturalism" (PDF). Australian Mosaic. Issue 11 Number 13: 15–16.
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