Cultural homogenization refers to the idea that different cultures transform and become more similar to each other as globalization progresses (Hassi & Storti, 2012).
This process can take place both at a local level, such as a single city or country, or at a global level, among different cultures across the globe.
As a result of cultural homogenization, local and indigenous cultures lose their authenticity in favor of the dominant Western, particularly American, norms and values (Pritchard, 2009), and global stratification is exacerbated.
- Styles of Dress: Different cultures across the world have different attires based on their traditions, climate, religion and other factors. However, as a result of cultural homogenization the ways that people dress are increasingly looking similar across the globe, with items like jeans and t-shirts being widespread.
- Food: Despite the diversity of local and indigenous cuisines around the World, American fast food culture dominates an important part of the food market globally. Fast food or street food from other cultures, such as pizza, donair or sushi are also integrated into the global, homogenized food culture with slight modifications.
- Social Media and Technology: Social media and technology are dominated by a handful of brands or companies globally. Across different societies, millions of people access Youtube or Facebook. With the exception of the Chinese influence through brands such as Tiktok, Alibaba, or Xiaomi, a majority of these brands are American.
- Celebrations: Many societies increasingly share the same celebrations, which is a sign of cultural homogenization. The prevalent examples are Christmas or New Year Celebrations that take place even in non-Christian majority countries. Also, with the influence of social media, events such as baby showers and gender reveal parties or celebrations such as Halloween that are common in the USA increasingly become celebrated in some countries of the Global South as well (McKechnie & Tynan, 2008).
- Music: The culturally authentic and original instruments and music styles are increasingly losing their prevalence in favor of globally popular music styles and singers, especially in pop, rap, and hip hop genres.
- Cinema and Entertainment: Hollywood movies and actors are known and followed across different cultures, which contribute to cultural homogenization through perpetuating dominant American values. Similarly, Indian cinema or Bollywood is also popular across different cultures. With the increase of the prevalence of social media, platforms such as Netflix and Disney Plus also started to play a role in exacerbating cultural homogenization.
- Sports and Exercise: Sports such as football and basketball are followed across the globe, especially through global contests such as the recent Kuwait World Cup 2022. Similarly, exercises such as yoga, pilates, jogging or boxing reflect how the culture of sports and exercise has become similar across the globe.
- Language and Literature: Despite their local aspects authentic to each culture, pieces of popular literature are often determined according to their success in the Global North, such as becoming a best seller in the USA or UK. For example, the Harry Potter series is known across the globe, among people from various cultures. Similarly, the power of dominant languages, such as English, French, German, Spanish and Arabic further determine what kind of literature become well known, and which languages are valued more than others, which enforces cultural homogenization (Khan et al., 2015).
- Activism: While people from different cultures perform activism in different ways for different causes, the global channels such as change.org or global organizations such as GreenPeace become increasingly more dominant. Another example of the homogenization of the activism culture is the prevalence of Twitter activism, where people support different causes through Hashtags.
- Education and Curriculum: The Western models of higher education are prevalent across the globe. Both in social sciences/humanities and sciences, the textbooks and curriculums are often based on American or European resources. This trend reproduces cultural homogenization through education.
While homogenization refers to the increasing similarity of cultures in a way that makes them homogenous or unified, others like Appadurai (see: scapes theory) argue that globalization leads to cultural hybridization.
Hybridization is closely related to interactions between different cultures, and multiculturalism (Hassi & Storti, 2012).
An example of cultural homogenization would be the widespread consumption of American fast food in the Middle East, while an example of hybridization would be the popularity of Middle Eastern Doner Kebabs in Europe, as a result of migration from this region.
While some scholars argue that as a result of globalization we are going through cultural homogenization, some others use the concept of cultural heterogenization.
In contrast with homogenization which refers to the process of becoming similar, heterogenization refers to differentiation (Hassi & Storti, 2012).
Heterogenization can both take place in a local context, referring to the increased diversity within a territory, or in a global context, referring to increased transnational differentiation.
- Globalization: Globalization refers to the increasing interconnectedness between different societies across the globe. While it covers all aspects of social life, such as politics and economics, cultural globalization is one of its significant components too. The interconnectedness of different cultures is closely related to cultural homogenization, as it can be argued that the former leads to the latter (Melluish, 2014).
- Assimilation: At a local level, cultural homogenization can be interpreted as assimilation, which refers to the loss of cultural characteristics of a community, which is often an immigrant community, in favor of the dominant cultural norms and values. For instance, lack of Turkish language proficiency among third and fourth generation Turkish immigrants in Germany can be seen as an example of assimilation.
- Integration: Unlike assimilation which has negative connotations about losing one’s own culture, integration is a concept that refers to making compromises in order to adapt to the mainstream culture. Cultural homogenization at a local level (for example within a country or region) can be interpreted as a result of the integration of newcomers and immigrants, thus leading to a unified culture.
- Melting Pot: Due to its large scope and diverse migrant populations, the cultural homogenization of the United States is often explained with a third model which is an alternative to the concepts of assimilation and integration. This concept, which is the melting pot, describes the culture in the US as a result of the coexistence and mixture of different cultures which produce a new culture as a result, just like the ingredients of a food cooked in a pot (see also: cultural blending).
- Americanization: On a global level, cultural homogenization mostly refers to the increasing dominance of American popular culture in favor of local and indigenous cultures. Some scholars refer to this process as Americanization to emphasize the impact of the economic and political power imbalances between the United States and the countries of Global South in facilitating cultural homogenization (Pritchard, 2009).
- Cultural Imperialism: As a contemporary political phenomenon, imperialism refers to the aggressive expansion of superpowers (such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia) to control other territories and societies. Relevantly, cultural imperialism describes the expansion of dominant cultures to the periphery societies, on the expense of their local and indigenous traditions and values (Tomlinson, 2001). For example, the prevalence of Russian language in former Soviet countries in Central Asia and East Europe can be seen as a result of Russian cultural imperialism.
- Cultural Appropriation: As described above, a relevant concept to cultural homogenization is hybridization, which refers to the impact of local, indigenous, or immigrant cultures on the mainstream cultural norms and values, which leads to a shared hybrid culture among the society. However, parts of the cultural hybridization can be criticized as being acts of cultural appropriation, which refers to the use of indigenous or minority cultures’ traditions, values, habits or attires by the members of the mainstream culture. Cultural appropriation is often seen as a racist act, since it reduces indigenous, minority, or Global South cultures to objects of entertainment or consumption. An example can be the popularity of yoga among white middle-upper class Americans. While some might see this as an example of cultural hybridization, others might see this as the appropriation of Indian Hindu culture in which yoga is an act of worship (Nair, 2019).
Cultural homogenization refers to the process through which different cultures become similar to each other.
Critics of this concept argue that homogenization leads to the loss of local and indigenous cultures’ values and traditions in favor of the dominant ones.
In a local context, cultural homogenization can be seen as assimilation or integration while in a global case it can be explained as a result of cultural imperialism or Americanization.
Examples of cultural homogenization include the prevalence of dominant languages such as English and Spanish at the expense of the loss of indigenous and minority languages.
Hassi, A., & Storti, G. (2012). Globalization and culture: The three H scenarios. In Globalization-Approaches to Diversity. IntechOpen.
Khan, M. T., Humayun, A. A., Sajjad, M., & Khan, N. A. (2015). Languages in Danger of Death-and their Relation with Globalization, Business and Economy. International Journal of Information, Business and Management, 7(2), 239-254.
McKechnie, S., & Tynan, C. (2008). Halloween in a material world: trick or treat?. Journal of Marketing Management, 24(9-10), 1011-1023.
Melluish, S. (2014). Globalization, culture and psychology. International review of psychiatry, 26(5), 538-543.
Nair, L. (2019). When Even Spirit Has No Place to Call Home: Cultural Appropriation, Microagressions, and Structural Racism in the Yoga Workplace. Race and Yoga, 4(1), 33-38.
Pritchard, G. (2009). Cultural imperialism, Americanisation and Cape Town hip‐hop culture: a discussion piece. Social Dynamics, 35(1), 51-55.
Tomlinson, J. (2001). Cultural imperialism: A critical introduction. A&C Black.