What does transculturation mean?

The term “transculturation” was coined by 20th century Cuban sociologist and ethnologist Fernando Ortiz. He proposed the term in contrast to the word “acculturation,” which describes the process of transition from one culture to another on the part of an individual or a group.

Transculturation, on the other hand, refers to the encounter between or among cultures in which each one acquires or adapts elements of the other(s) or in which new cultural elements are created. Ortiz found this a more appropriate (and less ethnocentric) term to describe the processes of cultural change at work in the creation of Cuban culture. In the encounter between races, he described five phases of transculturation, from enslavement to compromise to adjustment to self assertion to integration. More generally, the word transculturation can simply describe changes brought about in one culture by the introduction of elements from another.

Neela Kale

Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.