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Cultural imperialism is the practice of promoting the culture or language of one nation in another. It is usually the case that the former is a large, economically or militarily powerful nation and the latter is a smaller, less affluent one. Cultural imperialism can take the form of an active, formal policy or a general attitude.
Empires throughout history have been established using war and physical compulsion (military imperialism). In the long term populations have tended to be absorbed into the dominant culture, or acquire its attributes indirectly.
The Greek culture built gyms, theatres and public baths in places that its adherents conquered (such as ancient Judea, where Greek cultural imperialism sparked a popular revolt), with the effect that the populations became immersed in that culture. The spread of the koine (common) Greek language was another large factor in this immersion.
As exploration of the Americas increased, European nations including England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal all raced to claim territory in hopes of generating increased economic wealth for themselves. In these new colonies, the European conquerors imposed their language and culture.
English cultural imperialism
A revealing instance of cultural imperialism is the Prayer Book rebellion of 1549, where the English state sought to suppress non-English languages with the English language Book of Common Prayer. In replacing Latin with English, and under the guise of suppressing Catholicism, English was effectively imposed as the language of the Church, with the intent of it becoming the language of the people. At the time people in many areas of Cornwall did not speak or understand English. Many speakers of the Cornish language were massacred by the King's army while protesting against the imposition of an English Prayer book. Their leaders were executed and the people suffered numerous reprisals.
Throughout the 18th and 19th century the dominant English establishment attempted (unsuccessfully) to eliminate all non-English languages within the British Island group (such as the Welsh language, Irish language and Scottish Gaelic language) by outlawing them or otherwise marginalising their speakers. Many other languages had almost or totally been wiped out by this point including Cornish and Manx.
Swedish and Finnish cultural imperialism
During the late 18th, 19th and the early 20th centuries, the Swedish and Finnish government continually repressed the Sami culture. Repression took numerous forms, such as banning the Sami language and by forceful removal of many cultural artifacts, such as the magic drums of the naajds (the Sami shamans). Most of the drums have not to date been returned. During the early 20th century even the Sweden-Finnish people of Torne Valley had still in the 1960s their native Finnish dialect banned from use in schools and public records. The Sami Parliament of Finland ("Sámediggi" meaning Sami assizes) was found as late as in 1996. It is a self-government institute of Sami culture . The predecessor of the Sami assizes was the Sami Parliament which was found in 1973 according the special act set by the Finnish government. The Nordic (Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish) Sami Parliaments established the Democratic Sami Council in Trondheim in 1997. This council started its work in 2000.
20th century cultural imperialism
China has, in various periods over the 20th century, pursued repressive policies towards the indigenous cultures and religions of Tibet and Xinjiang, and has encouraged Han Chinese immigration into those regions, for example, through the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. This has been widely viewed as cultural imperialism by exile and dissident groups abroad and their supporters. The nationwide promotion of a standardized Chinese language has also sparked debate, both in Mainland China and Taiwan, about whether this constitutes a form of cultural imperialism over regional dialects.
Cultural imperialism in the twentieth century was primarily connected with the United States and with the Soviet Union, and to a lesser extent with other countries that exert strong influence on neighboring nations. Most countries outside the US feel that the high degree of cultural export through business and popular culture--popular and academic books, films, music, and television--threatens their unique ways of life or moral values where such cultural exports are popular. Some countries, including France, have policies that actively oppose Americanisation. Some American cultural producers such as Reader's Digest have responded to or altogether avoided such resistance by adapting their content (or the surface of it) to local audiences.
Representatives of al-Qaida stated that their attacks on US interests were motivated in part by a reaction to perceived US cultural imperialism.
It should be noted that 'cultural imperialism' can refer to either the forced acculturation of a subject population, or to the voluntary embracing of a foreign culture by individuals who do so of their own free will. Since these are two very different referents, the validity of the term can been called into question. The term cultural imperialism is understood differently in particular discourses. E.g. as "media imperialism" or as "discourse of nationality" (Tomlinson, 1991).
Cultural influence can be seen by the "receiving" culture as either a threat to or an enrichment of its cultural identity. It seems therefore useful to distinguish between cultural imperialism as an (active or passive) attitude of superiority, and the position of a culture or group that seeks to complement its own cultural production, considered partly defective, with imported products or values.
The writer Edward Said, one of the founders of the field of post-colonial study, wrote extensively on the subject of cultural imperialism, and his work is considered by many to form an important cornerstone in this area of study. His work highlights the inaccuracies of many assumptions about cultures and societies and is largely informed by Michel Foucault's concepts of discourse and power.
Canada is also grappling with the ever-potent influence of the U.S. Aside from the fact that American businesses are purchasing Canadian industries and resources, the Canadian population is continuously exposed to the American media.
Pierre Elliot Trudeau, arguably one of Canada's most famous prime ministers has, for many Canadians, expressed the sentiment Canadians feel about living witht he United States:
Living next to you (the USA) is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly or temperate the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt. -- Pierre Elliot Trudeau
Canada, as being one of only two countries to border on the United States, has faced a difficult position in regards to American cultural imperialism. While Canada tries to maintain its cultural sovereignty, it also must balance this with responsibility in trade arrangements such as NAFTA.
One of the first such responses to perceived American cultural "invasion" was through the National Film Act of 1950 that brings the National Film Board into a more powerful position. Its purpose is to help promote Canadian films and give money to projects that would help promote Canadian culture. This, unfortunately, has very little true impact on the situation and leads to The Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences, also known as the Massey-Lévesque Commission , or simply the Massey Commission.
The Massey Commission advocates the creation of a government sponsored organization that would distribute grants to Canadian artists. This organization, named the Canada Council, help distribute large sums of money in hopes of promoting Canadian culture. Unfortunately, like its parent, the National Film Act, it had little immediate impact.
More importantly, the Massey Commission warns that Canada is at risk of an invasion of foreign culture, most notably that of the United States of America. This leads to an increased fear that Canada might well loose its culture.
With the latter fear, the government appoints Robert Fowler to chair a Royal Commission that is known as the Fowler Commission in 1955. The Fowler Commission reports that the majority of Canadian stations, including the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, uses not Canadian material, but American. It is the Commission's belief that a quota system should be enacted to protect Canadian content on the airwaves.
This recommendation, passed in 1958, shaped Canadian media significantly. It affirmed the CBC as Canada's official broadcasting station and, more importantly, it intiated the quota system. In its inception, the quota system said that 45% of all content broadcast on the airwaves must be Canadian in origin.
While this number has flucuated over the years, it has remained at almost half of all programming on Canadian airwaves being Canadian in origin. Much to the dismay of some Canadians, this hasn't stopped abuse of the system. Networks repeatedly by-pass this requirement by broadcasting sporting events as "Canadian content", leaving more "culturally" oriented programming off the large-network airwaves.
This reformation of the Canadian ariwaves, according to some, did not have the desired impact on Canadians. T. B. Symons , shortly after the Fowler report's installation in Canadian law, released a report entitled "To Know Ourselves". The report looked at Canadian high-school history books and found that while the Winnipeg General Strike went without mention, the books contained two chapters on Abraham Lincoln. The report also looked at Canadian children's general knowledge of their government and most could not identify the Canadian head of state (the Governor General) and the basis for Canada's law and founding (the British-North America Act ).
While this cultural protectionsim by the Canadian government has raised the hackles of certain companies, specifically Reader's Digest and Time, it has also had a negative impact on Canadians, some historians believe. It has created a somewhat self-absorbed Canadian identity that has largely been defined as 'I AM NOT AMERICAN'. It has also lead to many indivduals and companies to dismiss all Americans into a stereotype that clearly sets up boundries between Canadians and Americans.
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