Expansion Diffusion Examples & Definition – Human Geography

expansion diffusion examples and definition

Expansion diffusion is one of six types of cultural diffusion. It refers to cultural diffusion that starts in one central location and spreads.

Examples of expansion diffusion include the spread of Roman culture during the expansion of the Roman Empire and the spread of Western culture during British Imperialism.

Expansion diffusion is commonly taught in Human Geography courses, including the AP Human Geography course in the USA.

Expansion Diffusion Definition

Expansion diffusion is a type of cultural diffusion that occurs when a group of people spreads out from a central location and introduces their culture to new areas (Codrington, 2005, p. 704).

The important part is that the culture remains strong in the original area.

Cultural items spread through a population from one area to another so that the total number of users and the areas of occurrence increase.

This can occur through a variety of means, such as migration, colonization, or the spread of a religion or political ideology.

In expansion diffusion, the culture being spread is usually more dominant or influential than the cultures it is coming into contact with. This can happen when a group of people has a particular advantage or technological advantage that allows them to expand and impose their culture on others.

For example, the Roman Empire was able to expand its territory and influence through military conquest, and as a result, Roman culture was spread throughout Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

Expansion diffusion can also occur when a particular religion or ideology becomes popular and spreads to new areas through evangelization or missionary work.

For example, the spread of Christianity throughout Europe and the Americas was facilitated in part by the expansion of the Roman Empire, which made it easier for missionaries to travel and spread the religion to new areas.

This type of cultural diffusion can be further divided into three sub-categories:

  1. hierarchical diffusion
  2. contagious diffusion, and
  3. stimulus diffusion.

Depending on the context, expansion diffusion can have both positive and negative effects on the cultures involved.

10 Examples of Expansion Diffusion

  • The European colonization of the Americas: The European colonization of the Americas led to the spread of European culture, including language, religion, and economic practices, to the Americas. This expansion also had a significant impact on the native cultures of the Americas, leading to the spread of European diseases and the loss of traditional cultural practices.
  • The expansion of the British Empire: The British Empire spread its culture to new areas through colonization and trade. This expansion led to the spread of English language, law, and economic practices to new areas.
  • The expansion of the Mongol Empire: The Mongol Empire spread its culture to new areas through military conquest and trade. This expansion led to the spread of Mongol language, art, and architecture throughout Asia and Europe.
  • The expansion of the Ottoman Empire: The Ottoman Empire spread its culture to new areas through military conquest and trade. This expansion led to the spread of Ottoman language, art, and architecture throughout Europe and the Middle East (Darke, 2022).
  • The expansion of the Roman Empire: The Roman Empire was a major global power that spread its culture throughout Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East through military conquest. This expansion led to the spread of Roman language, law, and architecture throughout the region (National Geographic Society, 2022).
  • The spread of Buddhism: Buddhism spread to new areas through the expansion of the Buddhist kingdoms of ancient India, as well as through the efforts of missionaries and traders. This expansion led to the spread of Buddhist philosophy, art, and architecture throughout Asia (Heirman & Bumbacher, 2007).
  • The spread of Chinese Culture: The Chinese Empire spread its culture to new areas through military conquest and trade. This expansion led to the spread of Chinese language, art, and architecture throughout Asia.
  • The spread of Christianity: Christianity spread to new areas through the expansion of the Roman Empire and through the efforts of missionaries. This expansion led to the spread of Christian culture, including the religion, language, and values, to new areas (Woodhead, 2014).
  • The spread of Hinduism: Hinduism spread to new areas through the expansion of the Hindu kingdoms of ancient India, as well as through the efforts of missionaries and traders. This expansion led to the spread of Hindu culture, including the religion, language, and values, to new areas.
  • The spread of Islam: Islam spread to new areas through the expansion of the Islamic Caliphate (ʻIzzatī & Ezzati, 2002), as well as through missionary work and trade. This expansion led to the spread of Islamic culture, including the religion, language, and legal system, to new areas.

Fact File: Understanding Cultural Diffusion

Cultural diffusion occurs when people from different cultures come into contact with one another and exchange ideas and practices, either through migration, trade, or other forms of interaction (Domosh et al., 2011, pp. 10-11).

This can happen within a single country or region, or it can occur on a global scale as people from different parts of the world come into contact with one another.

The six types of cultural diffusion are: expansion diffusion, relocation diffusion, hierarchical diffusion, contagious diffusion, stimulus diffusion, and maladaptive diffusion. This article is concerned with the first type.

Cultural diffusion can lead to the spread of new technologies, customs, languages, religions, and other cultural practices. The idea was first introduced in anthropology and sociology by the German ethnologist and archaeologist Leo Frobenius in his work Der westafrikanische Kulturkreis (Frobenius, 1897).

Different Types of Cultural Diffusion

There are several different ways cultural diffusion can occur, and it can be useful to classify these different types to better understand the process. Here are six major types of cultural diffusion:

  • Expansion diffusion: This type of cultural diffusion occurs when a group of people spreads out from a central location and introduces their culture to new areas. For example, the expansion of the Roman Empire resulted in the spread of Roman culture throughout Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.
  • Hierarchical diffusion: This type of cultural diffusion occurs when a more powerful or influential group imposes its culture on a less powerful group. For example, colonial powers often imposed their own language, religion, and customs on the people they colonized.
  • Contagious diffusion: This type of cultural diffusion occurs when a cultural practice or idea spreads rapidly through a population, like a contagion. For example, the adoption of smartphones has spread rapidly throughout the world in recent years.
  • Stimulus diffusion: This type of cultural diffusion occurs when a new idea or practice is introduced to a group and then adapted or modified to fit the local culture (Kroeber, 1940). For example, the introduction of fast food restaurants in other countries has often resulted in the creation of local versions that incorporate local ingredients and flavors.
  • Relocation diffusion: This type of cultural diffusion occurs when people from one culture move to another location and bring their culture with them. For example, the large-scale immigration of people from Latin America to the United States has contributed to the spread of Latin American culture in the United States.
  • Maladaptive diffusion: This type of cultural diffusion occurs when cultural practices or ideas that are not well suited for a particular environment spread in that environment. This can occur when people adopt practices or technologies from other cultures without fully understanding their implications or without adapting them to fit their own cultural context.

Conclusion

Expansion diffusion is a type of cultural diffusion that occurs when a group of people spreads out from a central location and introduces their culture to new areas while the culture remains strong in the original area. This can occur through a variety of means, such as migration, colonization, or the spread of a religion or political ideology. In expansion diffusion, the culture being spread is usually more dominant or influential than the cultures it is coming into contact with.

References

Codrington, S. (2005). Planet Geography. Solid Star Press.

Darke, D. (2022). The Ottomans: A Cultural Legacy. Thames & Hudson.

Domosh, M., Neumann, R. P., Price, P. L., & Jordan-Bychkov, T. G. (2011). The Human Mosaic: A Cultural Approach to Human Geography. W. H. Freeman.

Frobenius, L. (1897). Der westafrikanische Kulturkreis. Petermanns Mitteilungen.

Heidemann, F. (2011). Ethnologie: Eine Einführung (1. Aufl.). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Heirman, A., & Bumbacher, S. P. (2007). The Spread of Buddhism. BRILL.

Kroeber, A. L. (1940). Stimulus Diffusion. American Anthropologist, 42(1), 1–20. https://doi.org/10.1525/aa.1940.42.1.02a00020

National Geographic Society. (2022). Traces of Ancient Rome in the Modern World | National Geographic Society. https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/traces-ancient-rome-modern-world

Woodhead, L. (2014). Christianity: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press.

ʻIzzatī, A. al-Faz̤l, & Ezzati, A. (2002). The Spread of Islam: The Contributing Factors. ICAS Press.

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.

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