An interesting new word has been coined in America to describe a social phenomen which seems to be the antithesis of globalisation and our increasing merging of cultures. Cultuphobia is defined as ‘the fear that another person’s culture is taking over your own’.
It’s a clever coining by writer Ruben Navarrette, who was inspired to come up with the term after a televisual experiment. To mark the launch of English-language, Latino-targeted television network Fusion, the hosts of Spanish-language breakfast show Despierta America appeared on Good Morning America, with talent from that programme going in the opposite direction.
What appeared to be an entertaining cross-cultural experience, enjoyed by all who took part, turned instead into an outpouring of online anger, with many fans of Good Morning America furious at what had happened to their favourite show and demanding that it shouldn’t happen again.
Navarrette used this as a way of introducing Cultuphobia as a term, saying that it demonstrated the fear that people have of a new culture coming in and changing the established order of things.
I think it is an interesting attempt to introduce a new word, but is it really necessary? There are lots of other terms that cover issues of people disliking and fearing other cultures. History has also shown us many occasions when the fear of another culture’s influence has seen the dominant culture abuse and ultimately drive out that smaller culture, so it is not a new concept.
I think cultuphobia covers an interesting nuance of meaning, but I am not sure it is distinctive enough to really establish itself as a word that defines something appreciably different. Nevertheless, it does remind us that even though the world is changing, and cultures are influencing each other an increasing amount, there will always be people for whom this is not a positive development.