As opposed to multiculturalism’s emphasis on the coexistence of a plurality of cultures, transculturalism stresses the mixture of several cultures in contemporaneity. Whereas the former establishes borders of recognition and institutionalisation of the multiple cultures that coexist within it, transculturalism stresses the fluidity of these borders. Transculturalism is characterised by its compatibility with globalisation, as it supports free trade. In this perspective, the most vigorous proponents of cultural miscegenation have been precisely multinational corporations. In effect, the shift from multiculturalism to transculturalism in public discourse, from the recognition of cultural difference to cultural fusion, is based on a liberal economic perspective of which consumption practices are a visible side (Kraidy, 2005: 151). Whereas the cultural imperialism thesis considers human action as based on the prevailing social structures and multiculturalism holds it lies on the individual or the community s/he belongs to, transculturalism sets the origin of action in social practices – such as consumption – which reproduce social structures in the individual’s everyday life (Hall, 1981).
Transculturalism therefore aims to go beyond a strictly culturalist vision, as it overcomes the concept of culture as ‘way of life specific’ of a given community. Transculturalism’s ‘way of life’ is no longer a particularity. It has become globalised due to the influence of globally hegemonic patterns as far as current consumer practices are concerned. Contemporary consumption culture has questioned traditional gender and class relationships, thus implying the redefinition of the social mobility map at a globalised scale. New social spaces (in terms of status, body image and richness) which defy previously existing identitarian categories are thus formed. This means consumers are targeted by evermore subtle practices of power aimed at obtaining their consent and approval by an increasingly competitive neo-liberal social order. In this context of cultural fusion as a result of the influence of mass culture, there are, however, new ways of differentiation produced by symbolic violence processes that denote relative uncertainty and anxiety to identity and social status issues (McRobbie, 2005: 148-50).
Critical transculturalism tries to appropriate the concept of ‘hybrid’, redefining cultural fusion as a social issue with human implications, rather than merely a simple economic issue with commercial implications. Consumerist practices, which are based on a neo-liberal economy, represent a hybrid crossing point between the economic, social, cultural and political capitals.
Hall, Stuart ‘Cultural Studies: Two Paradigms’, in Tony Bennett et al. Culture, History and Social Processes. Milton Keynes: The Open University Press, 1981.
Kraidy, Marwan Hybridity, or The Cultural Logic of Globalization. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2005.
McRobbie, Angela The Uses of Cultural Studies. London: Sage, 2005.