Cultural convergence is the process by which two or more cultures begin to blend together, resulting in the sharing of values, beliefs, customs, and behaviors.
It can occur as a result of globalization, modern advances in technology, through cultural intermarriage, or environmental and territorial changes to a group of people’s region or country.
Examples of cultural convergence include global blending of music preferences, standardization of sports rules for international sporting events, and blending of religious beliefs.
Cultural Convergence Definition
Convergence theory supports that the more interaction two countries have each other, the higher the potential that their similarities or shared interests will increase.
Simply put, the more that cultures interact,the more their ideologies, entertainment, and way of thinking will start to reflect each other.
The internet, social media, and other technological advancements have enabled people around the world to become less disconnected, and more like a global village, where people of all cultures and backgrounds are able to freely interact and exchange ideas.
This has had a profound impact on our lives and has changed the way we interact, consume, produce, and even think.
Speaking on the importance of cultural convergence, and similarly globalization, Marber (2009) writes:
“If the world is going to continue to grow sustainably and pull the remaining poor out of deprivation, we must begin to recognize the complex interactions and interconnections that constitute the blur- ring new millennium—one in which countries are clearly separate yet inexorably bound in a global system at the same time” (p.xv).
Examples of Cultural Convergence
- Music – The rise of the K-pop industry, the global popularity of hip-hop/rap music, and the “viral meme song” Tik-Tok subculture exemplify cultural convergence on a global scale.
- Movies and Entertainment – Thanks to worldwide streaming media platforms like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, movies and television series from many different countries are able to reach a global audience instantly.
- Cuisine: Cuisine from different countries and cultures have become increasingly popular in in all corners of the world. In most major cities around the world, you can find Japanese, Indian, Korean, Chinese, or any other variety of world cuisine.
- Education: International, and multicultural “English” schools as a sought-after alternative in some Asian/Southeast Asian countries.
- Language: World languages and language learning tools have become increasingly accessible to anyone with internet access, this has promoted both cross-cultural communication and understanding.
- Mobility and Cultural Convergence: When one population of people move or emigrate to another area, creating a blend of cultures.
- Syncretism (Religion): During specific periods of history different religions have converged and cooperated despite their difference in beliefs. In the 21st century people from all different religious beliefs and backgrounds work together, maintain deep friendships and relationships, and co-exist peacefully with one another.
- News Media and Journalism: Technology has allowed us to connect with people from all over the world, creating a global network of ideas and opinions; this is especially the case in how the news and media reach their audience.
- Literature: Books are translated into other languages, and in turn, it allows readers from all over the world to get a better understanding of a culture, traditions, and way of thinking.
- Sports: Sports are a global phenomenon. Global Sporting events like the Olympics and the World Cup are examples of cultural convergence through competition.
- Glocalization: A phenomenon that occurs when globalized culture is embraced but adapted for a local audience.
- McDonaldization: The spread of standardized approaches to business, education, and other sectors through the use of economic rationalization.
Cultural Convergence Case Studies
The cultural convergence that has occurred in music has been largely due to the instant access to music that technology provides.
This cultural convergence has opened up a wide range of possibilities for musicians and music fans alike.
Artists are now able to collaborate with other musicians from different countries, and fans can easily access music from all corners of the globe. In this way, globalization has made music more accessible and more diverse than ever before.
Hong & Dal (2021) explain what happened in the case of Korean music throughout the 1970`s. As a result of the exposure to Anglo-American music, Korean popular music went through phases that ranged from consumption, to copying, to finally creating unique Korean versions of many popular songs.
For example, when people from Korea were exposed to acoustic folk music from US and UK musicians like Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and James Taylor in the 60s and 70s, a few Korean musicians such as CHO Young-nam, SONG Chang-sik and YOON Hyung- joo began to cover these songs with Korean lyrics.
During this process, other artists started to make their own acoustic folk music that was reflective of Korean culture. They borrowed some elements of American music, and created a new blended genre with Korean lyrics and deeper meaning (pp. 81-84).
Cultural convergence in education is an important aspect of life in Asia today.
To meet the needs of a globalized economy, a large number of educational institutions (from elementary to the tertiary level) offer specialized courses with many focusing on the development of cultural competency, specifically in English lingua franca.
Additionally, the rise of the internet and social media has enabled students to access educational materials from universities and organizations all over the world, resulting in the sharing of learning methods and ideas.
Education research analyst from Thailand, Padunchewit (2014), says:
“…global competence is simply having an open mind while actively seeking to understand cultural norms and expectations of others and leveraging this knowledge to become adept at interacting, communicating and working effectively outside one’s environment” (p. 37).
He feels that international schools across Asia are an emerging concept that give students an education helping them understand the concept of global citizenship, multiculturalism, and global-mindedness (pp. 33-34).
3. Mobility and Cultural Convergence
Mobility has been a part of human history since the dawn of time. People have been migrating from one place to another for thousands of years, seeking out new opportunities and better lives.
Mobility can also have a major impact on the way cultures interact and merge. This can often have a positive effect on our societies, as it helps to break down barriers and foster a sense of cross-cultural understanding.
Nan (2021) refers to the concept of cultural convergence through mobility in the context of “immigrant cities”.
He uses the example of the Northwestern Chinese city, Shenzhen. He states “Today, Shenzhen’s lifestyle, values, and cultural characteristics are fundamentally different from traditional local culture because the immigration culture gives society a new color and identity”(p. 67).
The influx of other non-Chinese and Chinese people from various regions in the 1980’s, created substantial changes to the way language was spoken (both Mandarin and Cantonese), to the local cuisine, and to culture and entertainment (pp. 66-69).
Mixing of Buddhist and Hindu beliefs in India, or the adoption of Christianity in South Korea or in small demographics within Japan are examples of cultural convergence via religion.
In the 21st century, globalization has also led to greater exposure to different faiths, and opened avenues of learning about them through multi-lingual religious texts.
History also provides a window into convergence, showing not only how religious conflict has caused shifts in culture, but how cooperation has benefitted mutual understanding and peace.
Laskier and Lev (2011) explore this theme in a book compilation titled “The Convergence of Judaism and Islam: Religious, Scientific, and Cultural Dimensions”.
Through this book, various writers show the mutual cultural and social cooperation between Judaism and Islam. The book gives examples of how during an 800-year time-frame (roughly 500-1300) a a period of “productive Jewish-Arab symbiosis” existed.
Through this duration, Muslim faith and Arab nationalism were shaped by Jewish impact in the earlier part, while traditional Judaism was finally refined by Muslim-Arab influence in the later half (pp. 11-13).
5. News Media and Journalism
News media and the world of journalism have undergone a cultural convergence over the past decade.
Social media has enabled news to be shared faster and more widely than ever before, and it has given people the power to become part of the news-making process.
Journalists no longer have sole control over the news that is published, as readers and their threaded comments are now a part of the process.
This convergence has also changed the way news is delivered, as news outlets switch to digital formats to reach larger audiences.
Jenkins (2006) refers to media as entire “culture systems”, and technology as the “delivery system” for these culture systems.
He claims that media convergence is more than just a social shift, convergence “alters the logic by which media industries operate and by which media consumers process news and entertainment”(p. 16).
The hand-held, multi-functional, and interactive cell phone is used as the prime example of the ultimate “delivery system” for culture systems.
Cultural Convergence vs Cultural Divergence
There are also instances in which cultures diverge. This is often a result of ruptures in communication, emergent religious divides, wars, and other events that can disrupt cultural continuity. We call this cultural divergence.
For example, North Korea and South Korea were, prior to the Korean civil war, were a relatively united culture. But after the war, communication divides and separate political and economic systems saw the cultures diverging.
Similarly, diaspora (cultural groups who migrate from their homelands) may develop their own unique cultures that are separate from the cultures in their homelands.
|Aspect||Cultural Convergence||Cultural Divergence|
|Definition||The process by which different cultures adopt similar characteristics, ideas, or practices, often as a result of increased interaction, communication, or globalization (Kobayashi, 2019).||The phenomenon whereby cultures develop distinct characteristics, practices, and beliefs due to various factors such as geographical isolation, historical events, or social and political differences (Rubenstein & Healy, 2014).|
|Impact on Culture||Results in the blending of cultural elements, leading to shared values, practices, and ideas (Jenkins, 2006).||Leads to unique cultural characteristics, customs, and beliefs that set individual cultures apart (Kobayashi, 2019).|
|Effect on Globalization||Facilitates global understanding and interconnectedness by creating common ground between cultures (Rubenstein & Healy, 2014).||Highlights the importance of preserving cultural diversity and respecting the unique aspects of individual cultures.|
|Challenges||Can result in the erosion of cultural identity, overshadowing of local customs, and concerns about cultural imperialism.||May lead to misunderstandings, prejudice, and conflicts between different cultural groups.|
|Benefits||Encourages cross-cultural communication, exchange of ideas, and fosters global cooperation (Jenkins, 2006).||Preserves the uniqueness and diversity of human cultures, contributing to a rich and varied global cultural landscape (Rubenstein & Healy, 2014).|
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Hong, S.K., & Dal Y.J. (2021). Transnational Convergence of East Asian Pop Culture (Routledge Research in Digital Media and Culture in Asia). 1st ed., Routledge.
Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. NYU Press.
Laskier, M. M., & Lev, Y. (2011b). The Convergence of Judaism and Islam: Religious, Scientific, and Cultural Dimensions (1st ed.). University Press of Florida.
Marber, P. (2009). Seeing the Elephant: Understanding Globalization from Trunk to Tail (1st ed.). Wiley.
Nan, H. (2021). Mobility and Cultural Convergence in the Context of Modernity—A Case Study of the Immigrant City: Shenzhen. International Journal of Frontiers in Sociology, 3(19). https://doi.org/10.25236/ijfs.2021.031913
Padunchewit, J. (2014) “Cultural Convergence Amidst Diversity: The Role of Strategic Communication in the Promotion of Intercultural Literacy at the American School of Bangkok, Thailand.” NIDA Case Research Journal, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 33–80