Colonialism had a big impact in shaping a nation's identity, culture and values. What is the role of popular culture in this process?

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readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a good but ambiguous question, because there are countries that colonize and countries that are colonized. For countries that colonize, their understanding of the world is that they have a right to colonize for various reasons. Perhaps they believe that they are bringing freedom or civilization to a place. In short, those who colonize have to justify their actions in some way. This will show in popular culture in the feeling of elitism.  Those who are colonized have mixed views. Some may welcome the external interaction, presumably because they have bought into the ideologies of the colonial powers. However, in my opinion, in time the colonized will feel resentment. There may be public demonstrations and outcries in time.

nicolas123 | Student

Colonialism in what was to become the United States involved use of the land by businesses and governments transporting distinct ethnic and cultural groups to North America in order to make money or control market share costs. The groups were exploitable.

The Mayflower colony (Massachusetts), consisted of religious utopians. New Amsterdam (New York City) consisted of venture capitalists setting up networks of trade for natural resources. What eventually became the southern states, consisted of agricultural penal colonies, as well as labor camps consisting of indentured servants and outright slaves.

The British employed German Hessians to subdue the spirit of independence which arose from the rabble so gathered, and many of those soldiers brought families with them, to stay.

There have been ethnically distinct settlements in every state which resulted from land sales targeted at various subpopulations of the world.

It has been, in a sense, a big mess consisting of individuals seeking identity, people who have had their original culture stripped from them through relocation, enslavement, zealotry, greed, power. The humor and sweetness of this was aptly touched by the author Mark Twain, in Tom Sawyer.

The American Experience has involved individuals reaping tremendous personal meaning from contributing to everyone. The National Motto is ‘E Pluribus Unum’, which means ‘Out of Many, One’.  

At one point in the development of The Cultural History of the United States, areas which may be said to have a defined American Culture were labeled as “Burnt Over Regions.” John D. Rockefeller Sr., Booker T. Washington, and others who, to greater or lesser degrees,  established keys aspects of what national identity we have, generally grew up impoverished in such areas. Traditions of the many places Americans migrated from play important roles too.

The same for traditions we might not like to contemplate, such as the autocratic religious penal colony attitudes of the south, the profiteering investment banking of New York, the big rock candy mountain of the west coast, the ‘forest or trees’ intellectual analysis of New England, or the exploitation of Mexican farm workers.

The poet, Robert Frost, wrote a poem ‘The Gift Outright’ that addresses the paradoxes of who Americans are, which he read at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy.    


further reference

Largest Self Identifying Ancestry ` US Census Map