Delineating the boundaries between genuine cultural change and cultural appropriation in majority-group acculturation

Jonas R. Kunst, Katharina Lefringhausen, Hanna Zagefka

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1 Citation (Scopus)
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An emerging literature has begun to explore the acculturation of majority-group members within increasingly diverse societies. Given the inherent power asymmetries and ethnic hierarchies that usually favor majority groups, it becomes critical to examine their acculturation process through the lens of power dynamics. Central to this examination is determining when a majority group’s adoption of cultures from other groups (e.g., ethnocultural minorities who are indigenous or have a history of forced or voluntary migration) constitutes cultural appropriation versus genuine cultural change. In this paper, we argue that cultural appropriation becomes evident when majority-group members exploit cultural elements from less powerful ethnic groups against their will, often for material or symbolic gains, without providing proper credit or demonstrating a deeper understanding of the culture. By contrast, genuine cultural change is distinguishable from appropriation when it is characterized by deep cultural learning (as opposed to cultural engagement that remains superficial), concerns other groups as equal, and is consented to by the group whose culture is being adopted. Existing acculturation research suggests that the cultural adoption by majority-group members is typically driven more by self-reported egalitarian motives than by a desire for dominance, and that minority groups do not principally object to this adoption. Therefore, it is improbable that all aspects of majority-group members’ cultural adoption would constitute cultural appropriation. However, further research is needed to empirically differentiate cultural appropriation from genuine forms of cultural change within majority groups, particularly by investigating the perspectives of the groups whose cultures are being adopted.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101911
JournalInternational Journal of Intercultural Relations
Early online date22 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


  • Acculturation
  • Cultural adoption
  • Cultural appropriation
  • Majority acculturation
  • Minority
  • Power

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Business and International Management
  • Sociology and Political Science


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