Cultural Syncretism

The term syncretism is used to denote “the combination or alliance of opposing religious or philosophical doctrines, often with political undertones” (Mills & Mills, 2003). If cultural syncretism had taken root during early encounter with Europeans in China and India, these countries might have been different today. Theoretically, European culture, religious and philosophical doctrines could have had a vast and irreversible impact on the cultures of these Asian countries. Changes which affected African, Australian and both American continents, might have taken place in India and China, as well. This might have resulted in cultural, social and geopolitical effects. For example, in China English language could have spread and become commonly used together with Mandarin, similarly to the spread of English language in India in 18th and 19th centuries. Possibly, syncretism could have been responsible for the emergence of new religious movements that would adopt and mix norms of Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism. Moderate degree of syncretism could have affected China and India, as it happened to Africa (Simpson, 2011). Large degree of syncretism could have transformed these countries, as it happened in Americas (Watts, 200?). Christianity could have served as an agent of big changes. By analogy with other historical samples of syncretism, European influence could have contributed to the development of education, literacy and new opportunities for disadvantaged. The power of the ruling class would have been relatively limited. Traditional customs and ceremonies would have co-existed with western traditions (BBC, 2013). Out of two societies, society that gets acculturated is not the one who is militarily dominant but the one that perceives its culture as inferior. For example, Mongols defeated and conquered Chine in 13th century but adopted culture of Chine within one generation (O’Neil, 2009). Both European and Chinese and Indian cultures take pride in their cultures and are strong in their identity. Thus, conclusion can be made that neither of them would have dominated strongly over the other but European and Indian or Chinese culture would have existed together in relative harmony.

References

BBC World Service. (2013). The story of Africa: Christianity. Retrieved from

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/africa/features/storyofafrica/8generic1.shtml

Mills, C. & Mills, M. (2003). South Asian folklore: An encyclopedia.New York, NY:

Garland Publishing.

O’Neil, D. (2009). Acculturation: Part 1. Retrieved from http://anthro.palomar.edu/change/

change _3.htm

Simpson, D. (2011). Syncretism in two African cultures. Totem: The University of Western

Ontario Journal of Anthropology 2(11): 61-64.

Watts, S. (200?). World history: Africa and the Americas in the age of European expansion.

Retrieved from http://users.wfu.edu/watts/w02_AfrAmer.html

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