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Culture recentering is a process that results from the units of the society socializing in the global modernized culture that originated in two different centuries in the West. The rise of empires and European Colonization period in the seventeenth and eighteenth century led to significant changes in minority groups of people. The western societies experienced steady but gradual changes, though they lived and practiced the same cultures for thousands of years. With advanced discoveries in the new world like the creation of maps, the compass and caravel, the non-western cultures were facing ominous signs of overrun from other European cultures.
One’s understanding of the group they belong to defines their cultural identity. As a multifaceted idea, culture involves different notable areas, namely: religion, traditions, language, music, food, customs, clothing, and values. The named cultural aspects are centered on values and beliefs of a certain group. For example, in America, during the colonial period, culture revolved around the concepts of family, individualism, work ethics and freedom of religion. These values shaped the culture and provided a basis for the society's establishment. While the non-western cultures accomplished a lot during the end of eighteenth and nineteenth century, the other international cultures feared change and rapid progression. The non-western cultures did not prepare for change or modifications in their own culture. This is because of the influence of western culture to which they were still adapting and its own complex changes. They retained their own values and ways of tradition; hence their culture underwent a cultural shift when they started losing their identity.
This essay looks into the relationship between global cultural socialization and recentering of culture, majorly the western culture in relation to the case of Africa.
What is the meaning “decentering” of the culture of a cultural group?
In the later nineteenth and early twentieth century, a change of culture for a given ethnic group was mainly due to globalization. This influenced the economy of a cultural group and things that majorly affected it, such as communication, fashion, music, media, technology and traditions. Non-western cultures faced challenges with pressure from the western culture in the twentieth century; therefore, the above mentioned factors that impacted the economy such as music, fashion, technology, media and communication started changing and modernizing to the present time. Communication and technology grew rapidly since the nineteenth century, and cultures like those of literature and music developed to succeeding generations.
The Influence of Western or Europe Cultures on Africa
Many cultures in Africa faced de-centering and suffered from the effect that it had on families and communities, because most villages fell with the abduction of their men to slavery.
Politically, the western culture dismantled old original institutions and submerged others as it erected the foreign rule. This jumbled up the African culture, because those traditional institutions were not just political but acted as chief custodians of culture in the African communities. Western culture introduced in Africa distorted the indigenous African culture and values of different institutions in the African community (Boyi, 2002).
The total recognition of African economic life led to the transformation of its economy system by the Europeans. It altered the production and consumption plan of the African economy. In the nineteenth century, a philosophy came in the western culture that introduced monetarism in the African economy. The need for demand and supply developed this philosophy, which later changed communalism in Africa to capitalism.
Socially, the western culture broke down the values of the traditional African descent extremely fast. The importance of the extended family unit lost worth giving way to the nuclear family, hence the disregard for age; the young adults no longer have respect for their elders, such as a mere gesture of greeting their elders. The western culture’s side of individualism also rubbed on the African culture of communing. The occurrence of single parents quickly emerged and family no longer cared for each other like in the past.
Housing in the western culture was different, and they introduced this in Africa along with urbanization. The African unique pattern of building types faced competition from new brick-ventilated houses from the west. This led to displacement and migration of the rural population segments. Erosion of values and morals of the African leaders due to the influence of the western culture and civilization led to corruption in the African political leadership. The sexuality concept also changed due to this erosion of culture and moral values. Children became promiscuous at an unusually young age, and Africans became mentally enslaved.
Africans embraced the western style, thus proficiency in African-native languages declined. However, the western style alienated the African people with different dialects rather than promoting the African culture. Christianity also came with the introduction of the western culture. It strongly affected the African belief systems, and those who sought to transform were not just diffused with different modes of life but with new values and ideas on the institution of marriage and family.
Cultural adjustment occurred due to the pressure that came with the introduction of the western methods of treatment as opposed to the traditional healing methods the African natives used.
What was Africa Prior to the Late Nineteenth Century?
Africa flourished prior to the Europeans, and their values contained their own old traditions. This nation lived peacefully in small groups and villages that had one designated leader. The African culture was rich and original with music, art, poetry and dance. One of their traditions was to dance “stages of human development, the passing of the seasons or stages of the agricultural year” (Boyi, 2002). Africa was once a prosperous nation with Ghana and Kanem-Bornu being the most powerful empires in the region. Ghana controlled a significant part of trading in ivory, slaves, salt, iron and gold. The number of slaves in Africa was over a million by the twelfth century, with the majority being men who worked in the mines. Ghana fell in the eleventh century, and the Mali Empire succeeded it with Kanem Empire adapting Islam in the same century (Asare, 2005). Some of the African communities later copied this and converted to Muslim to avoid slavery and poverty.
How did Africa Change due to European Expansion?
Due to the powerful influence of the Europeans, industrial revolution emerged and affected trading in Africa in that slavery became the profitable mode of business in line with mining. African people were infected with new strains of the diseases that the Europeans’ brought with them, and due to the slow discovery of ways to treat some of these diseases, they died. The European expansion also led to the isolation. For instance, the African people did not have access to some amenities like hospitals and many died, leading to high immortality ratio. Besides, there was the rise of social stratification: social classes that discriminated between the poor and the rich in the African community sprouted with the expansion of the European people.
This change was relevant to de-centering of culture because it resulted into a shift in the culture of the African people from the traditional to the western explosive and developed culture. The African political culture shifted from communal institutions led by leaders, like the Nabongo Mumia clan in Kenya, to democratic political parties. The economy shifted from hunting, pastoralism, gathering and grain trade to the industrial revolution era of machinery. Socially this change represented a shift in culture because of the evident moral decay in the present Africa and the rise of cases of Aids and teenage pregnancies (Vidrovitch, 2009).
In conclusion, the western culture has taken over the refined African cultural values. It further discontinued the traditional form of living that the African people held in high regard throughout the continent. This cultural dualism presented a dilemma in real life in the modern Africa. Modernism challenged Africans; its results shifted the family and communal settings in the native African communities. Recentering and de-centering of culture is a long process in history that can no longer be ignored but embraced for the rehabilitation of the eroded cultural values in many African communities and other countries in the world.
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