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Contact between peoples with different cultures, usually leading to change in one or both systems. Forms of culture contact traditionally include acculturation, assimilation, and amalgamation. Acculturation is the process of change in material culture, traditional practices, and beliefs that occurs when one group interferes in the cultural system of another, directly or indirectly challenging the latter to adapt to the ways of the former. Such change has characterized most political conquests and expansions over the centuries. Assimilation is the process whereby individuals or groups of differing ethnicity are absorbed into the dominant culture of a societythough not always completely. In the U.S. millions of European immigrants became assimilated within two or three generations; factors included the upheaval of overseas relocation, the influences of the public school system, and other forces in American life. Amalgamation (or hybridization) occurs when a society becomes ethnically mixed in a way that represents a synthesis rather than the elimination or absorption of one group by another. In Mexico, for example, Spanish and Indian cultures became increasingly amalgamated over centuries of contact.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on culture contact, visit Britannica.com.