Big words have big meanings- well, sometimes at least. Culture, and supremacy, are in every sense, BIG words. They’re relative, significant, contentious, emotional, one can go on and on. I’d like for you to take a few seconds to ponder on the title, close your eyes and reflect on the first image that comes to your mind. Is it black, white or shades of grey? Or maybe even colourful? Is it relatable, or merely reminds you of a history lesson from the past? Do let me know in the comments below! Meanwhile, let me make an attempt to decode “culture and supremacy” for you.
Supremacy is the condition of being superior to all others, in authority, power or status. When this idea is associated with culture, it essentially translates into a tense power struggle and eventual domination of one culture over another. Culture includes the values, norms, beliefs, rituals, mores and folkways of a group of people. Eating dinner together at the family table everyday, a ritual arising out of collectivist motivations, is an integral part of the Indian culture. The rituals, ideas, beliefs, etc. are dynamic in nature. They vary in the magnitude of dynamism, and are always changing. This is because of change in value judgements over time.
Value judgements are nothing but the assessment and subsequent ranking of certain values at any point in time, in order of importance. For example, material success has been valued very highly in several societies, including the Chinese, Indian and American societies. So, it is not surprising to see people from these countries striving for academic and later professional success in their lives. In the real world, the agency of such assessment generally lie with people who are economically more powerful, politically prominent, and have a high social capital. Thus, the values propounded and propagated by them become the norm. For example, caste system is an infamous element in the Indian culture. The caste system and corresponding code of conduct was perpetrated by the upper castes, who were not only racially and economically superior, but also had access to education- thus being high in cultural capital. Therefore, the rules of dressing, employment, education, etc. set down by them were accepted as cultural norms and rituals and became a part of people’s lives. This is how supremacy is exercised. Cultural supremacy may be evident within a nation, between nations, across races, language, and all forms of identity. Some cultures overpower the rest, and successfully dominate them. As explained above, the authority comes from economic power, political image and in today’s world, even technological prowess.
If you can think of examples of where this has happened, go ahead and hit the comment button!
Stay tuned for the next few articles where I take you through instances of cultural supremacy around the world, the process of Sanskritization in the Indian society, and so on, and bring out curious insights!