What Sociologists Mean when They Talk about Assimilation

Cultural Assimilation Possible?

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Assimilation (cultural assimilation) is the process by which different cultural groups become more and more alike. When full assimilation is complete, there is no distinguishable difference between the formerly different groups. Assimilation is often discussed in terms of minority immigrant groups coming to adopt the culture of the majority and thus becoming like them in terms of values, ideology, behaviour, and practices. This process can be forced or spontaneous and can be rapid or gradual.

Assimilation, however, does not necessarily always happen this way. Different groups can blend together into a new, homogenous culture. This is the essence of the metaphor “melting pot” one often used to describe the United States (whether it is accurate or not). While assimilation is often thought of as a linear process of change over time, for some groups of racial, ethnic, or religious minorities, the process can be interrupted or blocked by institutional barriers…

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