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Immigration Patterns: Risk of Disappearing

Introduction

Immigration, the movement of people from their home country to another with the aim of settling, has been an inherent part of the human history. Throughout the years of human existence, there have been numerous mass migrations of small and large groups of people. Although the person entering a new environment is likely to experience a culture shock, the host country’s social equilibrium is also disturbed by the newcomer. The clash of customs and traditions that often results from immigration raises the need for acculturation and assimilation, whether they be voluntary or forced.

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Historically, migration has a significant effect on the international relations of the future. To integrate into the host country’s society, the immigrants are expected and often pressured, into adopting the customs and traditions of the majority. Meaning, the immigrant minorities assume the cultural values and beliefs of the host country. Although this might seem harmless at first glance, benefitting both the immigrant and the host society, it might lead to a loss of the minority’s culture. The less dominant culture of the migrants, including language, traditions, and national dress, might be at risk of disappearing due to the perceived need to acculturate to be accepted in the new society. Nevertheless, it is often the case that acculturation leads to assimilation or amalgamation, resulting in a new culture that is a combination of the original ones.

Globalization and Immigration

With globalization becoming more prominent over the recent decades, it has a profound effect on the immigration patterns. According to Baylis et al. (2014), various sectors are affected by globalization, namely economic, military, legal, ecological, cultural, and social (p. 21). For example, globalization has led to the creation of the International Criminal Court, as well as numerous global human rights initiatives (Baylis et al., 2014, p. 21).

Furthermore, the increased popularity of mass media and the Internet has created a tendency for a global popular culture (Baylis et al., 2014, p. 21). However, cultural, and economic homogenization has also led to an increase in nationalism (Baylis et al., 2014, p. 21). And, since globalization has also increased international communication and transportation, and the world’s migration patterns and magnitude have been affected profusely, this has led to a more severe need for assimilation. Residents of the host countries, afraid for their own cultural identities, feel threatened by the immigrants. As a result, immigrants might feel safer abandoning their own traditions or practicing them in secret, in an attempt to appear more similar to the host culture.

It can be difficult to differentiate between the origins of a particular culture due to its likely syncretic nature. Increased trade and communication create similar popular patterns within different countries, and the widespread learning of common languages further facilitates the spread of information. Today, it is not even necessary for physical migration to occur for cultures to mix, due to the nature of online communication. Therefore, there is a higher chance of preservation of various minority cultures due to the seeming non-excludability of the Internet storage space for different cultural customs.

Immigration Patterns

As mentioned above, migration has historically occurred around the world for different reasons. It is often the case that people will move to a more economically stable country with the hopes for better opportunities. Furthermore, the political situation in the country is also often a factor. Within the countries, migration to the urban areas has always been a prominent pattern (Ravenhill, 2014, p. 54). On a greater scale, migration from one country to another follows a similar pattern.

People move to the locations they judge as having more potential for their and their children’s futures. Thereby, in the recent years there has been an increase in migration from the South to the North and from the East to the West (Baylis et al., 2014, p. 21). Although different sovereign states have varying approaches and policies on immigration, some level of movement into the country is almost unavoidable without a complete closing of the borders. Therefore, it is often the case that the same countries are leading in emigration, and the same ones are enduring an influx of foreigners, leading to certain cultures becoming more widespread.

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Acculturation and Assimilation

To answer the essential question of a process on how the immigration-induced cultural changes occur, the concepts of acculturation and assimilation must be considered. In its simplest form, acculturation is the adoption of the values and traditions of the host country’s culture, as mentioned above. Some examples of this might include learning the language, celebrating the national holidays, or accepting the religion of the host country. Although acculturation can manifest in different forms, such as partial or full, it is often easier for the further generations of immigrants, such as second or third, to follow the culture of the majority.

Furthermore, acculturation is sometimes enforced by the host country’s authorities in the attempt to prevent potential conflict of values and culture clashes. As mentioned previously, the influx of foreign culture can be threatening to the sovereignty and security of the host country. Hurrell (2008) mentions the ‘migration-security nexus’ (p. 292), which refers to the human insecurity resultant from migration. The strict border-control laws, as well as the acculturation requirements, are therefore both expected and understandable.

Despite acculturation allows for individual expression and differentiating from the majority’s culture, assimilation is the result of complete absorption of the minority culture by the more dominant one. For example, the European colonizers in North America forced the Native Americans to assimilate into the European culture, resulting in insufficient expression of the culture of the latter today. Whilst assimilation often results in slight changes in the host country’s culture as well, there are still many components of the minority culture that are lost.

Cultural Changes in the Host Country

Nevertheless, as mentioned above, the system of the host country seldom remains undisturbed. As the cultures meet each other, it can be difficult with time to distinguish where one ended and another one begun. Nayak and Selbin (2010) ask a few important questions about identity (p. 45), which are not easily answered. Not only is there no fundamental definition on what it means to be German, or American, or Australian, but the concept of national identity is constantly evolving. After the mass colonization of the world by the Western European countries in and around the 15th century, the central view of the world became based on the European ideals (Nayak & Selbin, 2010, p. 4). However, as the forced assimilation continued, and immigration shaped history for centuries to come, the European culture could not remain unchanged.

Nowadays, the question of identity, national amongst others, is as relevant as it has ever been. The centuries of immigration, mixing, and amalgamation of cultures can be seen in the customs and traditions of today. Despite the fact that the abovementioned rise in nationalism often prevents people from recognizing their own similarities and roots, it is understandable due to the uncertain nature of it. What the rise in nationalism is most evident of is the tendency towards assimilation and amalgamation of cultures, which can be difficult to accept for those without a secure identity. Nonetheless, it also indicates the importance of preservation of distinct cultural traits that allow for individualism and various perspectives.

Conclusion

While there is a risk of forgetting the less dominant culture, it is more likely to morph into a new culture together with the other globalized traditions. In the highly interconnected world of today it is almost impossible to find a culture or country that is completely isolated from the rest of the world. Hence, most cultures today are already amalgamations of the previously existent cultures, meaning a relatively even blending of them.

It is possible that the more dominant culture will have a more substantial part in the mix of the two, however, it is not necessarily the case. Cultural diversity is essential to the human development, as it makes possible the existence and understanding of different viewpoints. Furthermore, people have a psychological and anthropological tendency to create smaller groups that are more easily governed and connected. Hence, although it is possible for some existing minority cultures to disappear in their current form, they are likely to manifest in syncretic traditions and customs of the future.

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References

Baylis, J., Owens, P. & Smith, S. (2014). The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations. (6th ed.). Oxford University Press.

Hurrell, A. (2008). On Global Order: Power, Values, and the Constitution on International Society. (1st ed.). Oxford University Press.

Nayak, M. & Selbin, E. (2010). Decentering International Relations. Zed Books.

Ravenhill, J. (2014). Global Political Economy. (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

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