Influence of imperialism on world cultures Essay

July 1, 2021 by Essay Writer


Imperialism played a key role in the interaction of world cultures, resulting in new forms of literature, art and other forms of cultural expression. While there is no doubt that imperialism had an ugly side, scholars now realize that it was a platform for contact and cultural exchange between different communities. Locals had a role to play in the reception of foreign culture from imperialists.

Through an analysis of changes that took place during and after imperialism, this report will demonstrate that the phenomenon hybridized local culture. General focus will be given to the impact of imperialism on locals’ economies, culture, development and architecture.


Definition of Imperialism

Imperialism is the process of dominating a state through the use of cultural, economic and territorial inequality in order to create an empire. Imperialism may be extreme or progressive. The Nazis practiced the extreme form by eliminating unwanted peoples. Conversely, the British, French and Belgians exerted progressive imperialism by assimilating the colonized people into their culture. The colonizers claimed that they had a civilizing mission in ‘backward’ nations.

Imperialism and its impact on culture

Imperialism had a profound effect on native languages. Many locals learnt the language of their colonizers. Additionally, the phenomenon also altered their worldviews. It affected their religious standing as well as their leadership structures (Gratale 95). Imperialism altered their conception of gender, collectivism and health, as well. It should be noted that cultural imperialism can either be passive or active.

Active cultural imperialism occurs when the foreign culture subjects the dominated group to forceful adoption of their culture. Passive cultural imperialism occurs when the colonized nation accepts different aspects of foreign culture passively. In this regard, such individuals perceive their own cultures as partly deficient. Therefore, they presume that western culture would enrich them. Usually, the local culture may not think actively about different dimensions of the culture as they presume that it is for their benefit.

Imperialism leads to a low self esteem and perception of the colonized cultured as inferior (Ferguson 80). These sentiments emanated from the colonizing bodies themselves. Said (55) explains that most westerners often perceived Easterners as separate, exotic and inferior.

They derived such thoughts from predominant literary and scholarly thinkers like Dante, Napoleon and Shakespeare. Therefore, the roots of the inferior-superior dichotomy were sown several years ago. Institutional structures created perceptions of non-westerners as worthy of sympathy and backward. It is these notions that were carried forth during interactions with colonized individuals. Many of them believed what colonizers told them and stuck to these ideas.

Imperialism and its impact on the economy

Imperialism perpetuated consumerism in colonies around the world. Western nations introduced foreign products, which made life easier for local communities.

They passively accepted the commodities without knowing that these products supported a capitalistic system. In essence the products have hidden power or soft power since they could transform the way colonized countries managed their economies. Additionally, imperialism affected people’s understanding of trade through neoliberal thought. Western neoliberal ideology is centered on individualistic views.

It is founded on the belief that competition and self interest lead to economic prosperity. These ideas eventually led to contradictions with local values. Many communities abandoned their collectivist ideas in order to become successful. However, others also took it to extreme levels by bribing, killing and threatening their rivals in order to stay ahead.

A depiction of the dangers of these extremes was the central character of the fictional novel “The Death of Artemio Cruz”. Cruz grew up poor and dejected; however, he used his destituteness as a stimulus to become successful. Unfortunately, the character chose the wrong path to wealth creation.

He used his position as a soldier for the Mexican Revolution to negotiate shady deals with others after his side won the war (Fuentes 15). Therefore, his self enrichment came at the price of other people’s well being. Cruz symbolizes the dangers of individualism and self enrichment that imperialists taught the Mexicans.

Saeed also manifests the same ideas in the fictional book “Season of migration to the North”. He was a well-educated Sudanese who got numerous opportunities because of European imperialism. However, his position in the government translated into no tangible results for the people. He did nothing for his people because he was used to getting free things. In the end, he abandoned this passive attitude. “All my life, I had not chosen, now I am making a decision.” (Salih 169). These sentiments reflect the rot that emanates from the clash of cultures between imperialists and natives.

Imperialism and its impact on architecture

Imperialism also changed the built landscape of targeted countries; it altered religious infrastructure. For instance, many Muslims had unique architecture prior to the entry of imperialists in their nations.

The novel “Midaq Alley” best describes how Egypt’s architectural landscape had altered after colonialism. The nation had streets and alleys that harbored several businesses (Mahfouz 46). Bakeries, barbershops, and several other enterprises are located in Midaq alley. The novel also talks about a street of apartment buildings found on Pasha Street.

It also has a University known as Al-Azar. It is likely that these physical structures would have been absent if the British Imperialists had not entered Egypt (Mahfouz 93). The book is fictional, but bases most of its descriptions on real life events. Consequently, it is correct to assume that Egypt possesses comparable facilities to the ones mentioned in the book.

The imperial institute and how it affected the development of culture

The Spanish invasion and its impact on Latin American Life

Latin American life changed tremendously owing to the Spanish invasion and imperialist connection. They brought about alterations in communication and management of land. The fictional character of Artemio Cruz exemplifies these issues. He was a newspaper and landlord; such titles were almost non existent prior to the Spanish invasion. Furthermore, his local culture would have placed a lot of restrictions on access to wealth.

Too much concern was given to one’s lineage as well as one’s upbringing (Fuentes 93). Therefore, Latin Americans did not have equal opportunities for wealth creation owing to this cultural bias. Cruz’s family rejected him because of the Creole – Mulatoe differences that existed in that society. Imperialism introduced the notion of self-made wealth because it instilled the concept of neoliberalism in Latin Americans. Colonialists paved the way for optimistic tendencies among inhabitants of the region.

Imperialism and its impact on African art and culture

One of the most adverse effects of imperialism was manifested in Africa because Africans fought for independence bitterly and almost all countries in the continent were colonized. Indigenous language was the first aspect to be affected by the presence of colonialists (Ezema 18).

Formal institutions and access to economic opportunities were associated with knowledge of the English language or the Western language that had colonized a country. As a result, imperialists perpetuated the domination of African nations through the use of language.

Various art forms in these nations are a reflection of imperialistic influences. The same phenomenon is prevalent in Caribbean nations or states that consist of black people. Jamaican popular culture, as seen through television, is a localized version of western culture (Gordon& Nickesia 312).

Its stations were initially government owned, but obligations from the World Trade organizations forced the nation to private its television companies. As a result, no safeguards were present to ensure that cultural programs were aired. Many of these stations borrowed concepts from dominant European cultures.

Many nations cultivate the development of art through the education system. In Africa, most schools were organized along colonial lines. This implies that their perceptions of what literature or visual art represented western thought. Nonetheless, one must not ignore the fact that hybridization of cultures still occurs among numerous African nations.

Individuals still sing local songs although they often use modern instruments to enrich them. Furthermore, many sculptors and painters have a distinct Africa style, which unites concepts from western and local cultures. Therefore, influences from imperialism have created new forms of expressions that would otherwise have been non existent in the continent.

Imperialism and its manifestation in Indian and Asia art and culture

Indians’ interactions with colonialists may have led to some positive attributes in their culture. Some of their religious beliefs were radical and violent. Rahman (11) explains that prior to British occupation, Bangladesh abided by strict anti-blasphemy laws. However, imperialism brought about a new world view that challenged these aggressive stances. Islamic Asian nations still struggle with difficult laws, but progress is being made.

Women, especially, have been downtrodden by religious penal codes. Some feminists, such as Dr. Humayun Azad, have challenged the male-oriented ideologies of the Islamic faith. She is aware of the fact that women have an alternative way of life, which was propagated by imperialists and other people of non-Eastern origin. Therefore, imperialism can liberate oppressed members of society if their laws are too extreme.

A further illustration of how imperialism affected India was through the fictional novel “Sea of Poppies”. One of the key figures in the book is Deeti; a humble Indian wife whose husband dies in her lifetime (Amitav 137). The Indians used to conduct a ritual known as Sati, in which a man is cremated along with his wife and most of his belongings. Deeti was rescued by a man known as Kalua who plans on taking Deeti as his wife.

Since the residents in Kalua’s and Deeti’s villages do not accept such arrangements, the two individuals are forced to escape into an American ship. It was sailors such as these who brought imperialism to India. While the story may not have involved a direct case of colonization, it illuminates the excessive cultural practices of the Indian people. Burning someone to death was not just cruel but it was also inhumane. The imperialist established new laws that eliminated such cultures, and thus enriched those target nations.


Imperialism affects a country’s art and culture by hybridizing it. Sometimes this may lead to dilution of local forms of expression such as language. It may also create individualistic thought. On the other hand, it may save locals from aggressive laws, which oppress locals. Therefore, the study illustrates that no conclusion can be made until more research is done.

Works Cited

Amitav, Ghosh. Sea of Poppies. India: Penguin Books, 2009. Print.

Ezema, Ifeanyi. “Globalization, Information revolution and Cultural Imperialism in Africa”. Information, Society and Justice 3.1 (2010): 11-22. Londonmet. Web.

Ferguson, Niall. Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World. London: Penguin Books, 2004. Print.

Fuentes, Carlos. The Death of Artemio Cruz: A Novel. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009. Print.

Gordon, Ann. & Stacy Nickesia. “Globalization and Cultural Imperialism in Jamaica”. International Journal of Communication 3.1 (2009): 307-331. IJOC. Web.

Gratale, Joseph. “Globalization, Culture, and the Question of Cultural Imperialism: The Case of Goody’s and the Greek Context”. International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences 4.8 (2009): 93-100. Cgpublisher. Web.

Mahfouz, Naguib. Midaq Alley. London: Transworld, 2011. Print.

Rahman, Harisur. “Cultural Imperialism and Its Possible Effects on Global Communication”. Centre for Practical Multimedia Studies 1.1 (2011): 1-39. Academia. Web.

Said, Edward. Orientalism. London: Vintage Books, 1978. Print.

Salih, Tayeb. Season of Migration to the North. London: Heinemann, 1991. Print.

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