Cultural erasure is also often used to describe efforts to completely eliminate a people’s culture through genocide or forced assimilation. It may happen at the hands of another culture that is stronger than the one being erased.
Cultural erasure is something that we see in our everyday lives, even if we may not recognize it as such. For example, many people have gone through life without knowing that there are many different ways to define what it means to be masculine or feminine; they simply accepted those definitions at face value because they were presented as “common sense” and never questioned them further.
Cultural erasure is often used as a tool to colonize other nations or peoples. Today’s mass media has also been accused of cultural erasure by promoting Western values over those from other parts of the world.
Cultural erasure has occurred throughout history and around the world. Some examples include:
In North America: The forced relocation of Native Americans from their homes to reservations resulted in the loss of traditional lands, language, and culture for many tribes.
In Europe: The Holocaust resulted in the murder of millions of Jews and other minorities; many survivors were forced into exile or concentration camps where they lost their homes, community members, and possessions. The survivors who returned home after liberation found that their property had been confiscated by Nazis or taken over by Poles who had moved into their homes during their absence.