Assimilation in the traditional sense- according to means both absorbing and being absorbed:

1. the act or process of assimilating, or of absorbing information, experiences, etc.: the need for quick assimilation of the facts.
2. the state or condition of being assimilated, or of being absorbed into something.
3. the process of adapting or adjusting to the culture of a group or nation, or the state of being so adapted: assimilation of immigrants into American life.

But what is global assimilation? I am fully aware that we are all becoming global citizens but are we also simultaneously participating in global assimilation? and if so, what exactly does it mean?

As I prepare to teach my fall class at NYU called Anatomy of Difference where I examine the major and minor ways individuals and groups assign “difference” – this question is very present for me. We begin the course examining matters of race, ethnicity, gender, class, religion, etc. – what I call “landscape” definitions of difference and move in closer to define smaller categories. As I think about the concept of global assimilation, it seems to me that the class outline offers a framework for this conversation.

In the “good-old-days” we used to “assimilate” into whatever culture we moved into but these days if we are part of a global culture – how are we navigating our assimilation and are we aware of it? I suppose the idea itself has to be questioned, in other words, do we need to assimilate at all any more? Is the notion of assimilation itself passé? Is being global simply a lack of attachment or preference for the local? Is it merely about not being xenophobic?

There are some simple steps to understanding global assimilation – start with the local:

1- Examine how many “cultures” you belong to and try to understand yourself as a “composite” of many ways of thinking, seeing, and being in the world.
2- Look at your family history and examine the “diversity” there no matter how small the “difference” – whether geographical, political, social, whatever…
3- Survey your friends and the diversity they bring to your life.
4- Think about all this as a metaphor for global assimilation.

Singapore Taxi

Singapore Taxi

I believe we are constantly assimilating as part of adapting to the changing world and yes we are becoming global citizens – thus fully partaking in global assimilation. In psychological terms it sounds simple:  “Through assimilation, we take in new information or experiences and incorporate them into our existing ideas.” But the key here is embedded into the word “incorporate” – which implies not to judge or reject simply because something is not familiar to what we know.

The way I begin this discussion with my class is to share this from The Undiscovered Self by C G Jung  – “What is commonly called “self-knowledge” is therefore a very limited knowledge, most of it dependent on social factors, of what goes on in the human psyche. Hence one is always coming up against the prejudice that such and such a thing does not happen “with us” or “in our family” or among our friends and acquaintances, and on the other hand one meets with equally illusory assumptions about the alleged presence of qualities which merely serve to cover up the true facts of the case.”

So as we evolve from PC (politically correct) to multi-cultural to globalization, we also need to be more conscious of our abilities to assimilate on a much larger scale.

Welcome to global assimilation.