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Assimilation is similar to acculturation. Assimilation is considered as one of the acculturation phases. There have been different forms of cultural assimilation, and examples of types of acculturation include voluntary and involuntary assimilation. Cultural assimilation can happen either spontaneously or forcibly. A culture can spontaneously adopt a different culture. Older, richer, or otherwise more dominant cultures can forcibly absorb subordinate cultures.
Assimilation could also involve the so-called additive acculturation wherein, instead of replacing the ancestral culture, an individual expands their existing cultural repertoire. Assimilation occurs when members of a society become indistinguishable from those of the dominant group.
Assimilation: An Alternative History: Catherine Ramírez develops an entirely different account of assimilation. Weaving together the legacies of US settler colonialism, slavery, and border control, Ramírez challenges the assumption that racialization and assimilation are separate and incompatible processes. This book decouples immigration and assimilation and probes the gap between assimilation and citizenship. It shows that assimilation is not just a process of absorption and becoming more alike. Rather, assimilation is a process of racialization and subordination and of power and inequality.
Assimilation is generally used to refer to immigrants, but in multiculturalism, cultural assimilation can happen within varying social contexts and is not limited to specific areas. A shared language gives people the chance to study and work internationally, without being limited to the same cultural group. People from different countries contribute to the diversity and form the "global culture" which is the culture combined with the elements from different countries. "Global culture" can be seen as a part of assimilation.
Forced cultural assimilation is extremely relevant in regards to indigenous groups during colonialism taking place between the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Assimilation includes religious conversion, separation of families, changes of gender roles, and division of property among foreign power. Cultures that are forced into different cultural practices through forced cultural assimilation may revert to their native practices.
Voluntary assimilation is often in response to pressure from a more dominant culture, and conformity is a solution for people to remain safe. An example of voluntary cultural assimilation would be during the Spanish Inquisition when Jews and Muslims accepted the Roman Catholic Church as their religion. Assimilation here may be in order to convince a dominant power that a culture has peacefully assimilated. Voluntary assimilation does not mean the group fully conforms to the accepted cultural beliefs.