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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. In this context, 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, China, South Korea, and North Korea are examples of this form of monoculturalism. 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, Poland and Scandinavia 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 being the idea that one's ethnic background is superior to that of others. A feeling of superiority is one that can project mono-cultural ideals in an attempt to justify intrinsic ways of thinking. In nations with a majority of the population being native, ethnocentrism is blindly put upon those of other cultural backings. The idea of ethnocentrism being combined with monoculturalism yields many examples from history. Most obvious is the Holocaust, but further from that is any instance of genocide or simple racism. In defining genocide you can find the correlation it has with monoculturalism, and how it can be a resultant of mono-cultural, as well as, ethnocentric thinking.
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 Hutu's and Tutsi's 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
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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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