The Impact Of Cultural Imperialism On The Hausa Culture

Abstract: Imperialism is substantially a global, historical, cultural, economic, and political phenomenon. In Africa, how European imperialism has affected people continues to be subjected to debate with varying viewpoints. However, most of the literature on imperialism places greater emphasis on its political and economic dimensions, with passing discussion on its cultural aspect. This study intends to examine the impact of cultural imperialism on the Hausa people. Over the years, from precolonial through the colonial and post-colonial periods, Hausa cultures have been subjected to different changes due to different factors, imperialism included. Using primary and secondary sources, this study shows that the major areas of Hausa culture mostly affected by British cultural imperialism include language, culinary habits, attire, traditional sports, lifestyles, and festivities. Given the complexity of the current scholarly debate on the topic, a compilation of multiple viewpoints would be useful. In addition, the linked concepts, such as cultural imperialism and the concept of culture, will be examined in depth.

Keywords: Cultural imperialism, Hausa culture, Hausa language, Hausa people

Cultural Imperialism

The Impact Of Cultural Imperialism On The Hausa Culture

Muhammad Arabi Umar

Department of Languages and Cultures
Federal University, Gusau, Nigeria
Email: arabizulaiha@gmail.com
Phone: 07062052814


Cultural imperialism, as defined by Herbert Schiller and others in 1975, refers to the hegemonic effect of Western culture on the culture of less powerful countries. Cultural imperialism is not a constant concept, especially in light of the dynamic worldwide environment of the present day. Colonialism's decline and the rise of globalization and multi-polarity have necessitated a new form of cultural imperialism. The United States government has been actively working for the creation of a worldwide media market ever since the immediate post-war period, intending to reclaim control of the international cultural economy for the United States. Globalization has helped the United States establish a cultural hegemony over the rest of the world. Subtle cultural absorption that disturbs the essence of other civilizations is not the ideologically motivated colonial cultural imperialism of the Soviet Union and Britain of the past. A subset of academics contends that, even though colonialism is gone, a "colonial mentality" persists. Therefore, after colonization, some countries' populations may continue to hold a false belief about their former masters, a belief that may be perpetuated after several generations have passed. That is to say, the impacts of colonial-era cultural imperialism are still being felt today in the form of a symptomatic addiction to the dominant culture in areas of the weaker culture. In the same vein as decolonial cultural imperialism, such cultural imperialism no longer imposes its influence overtly but rather subtly.The media sector has become the epicentre of the first transformation of contemporary cultural imperialism. As a result of globalization, people from all walks of life can travel more freely from one place to another.

The fast growth of the media, especially the mainstream and mass transnational media, made possible by globalization has allowed cultural imperialism to become prominent and significant in the global propagation of ideas. Cultural imperialism has its roots in the wartime era of colonialism, but its focus has altered in light of modern globalization. The media industries (books, movies, TV, video games, and music) are at the centre of the assimilation issues that contemporary cultural imperialism seeks to address. (Shernock& McPhail, 1982) observe that the same group of advanced core countries controls the vast majority of the world's media corporations and hence sets the tone for media around the world. (Schiller, 1984) added that Western countries exert a disproportionate influence on the cultures of developing nations due to their control of global media. By flooding developing nations with Western media and consumer goods, cultural imperialism from the West can obliterate indigenous traditions in developing countries.Considering this newly emerging situation of the present globalization system, the West's cultural imperialism, particularly that of the United States, must be reevaluated immediately. Therefore, in this study, research on the impact of cultural imperialism on Hausa culture, including language, culinary habits, attire, traditional sport, lifestyles, and celebrations, will be comprehensively analyzed. Given the complexity of the present scholarly debate on the subject, a compilation of diverse perspectives on the matter would be conducted. In addition, the ideas involved, such as cultural imperialism and the notion of culture, will be explored in detail.

Literature Review

According to (Raji, 2019), the majority of Africa was colonized for two generations. The Berlin Conference (1884-1885) established the rule that European occupation of African territory must be based on effective occupation recognized by other states and that no single European power can claim Africa.3 Between 1878 and 1914, European powers divided up the entire African continent, except the independent countries of Ethiopia and Liberia.Changes in the way things were made in Europe led to the start of colonialism (for example, the emergence of the Industrial Revolution). The slave-based economy of the past was replaced by a new way of making things during the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution was an important turning point in human history. With the start of the Industrial Revolution, people had to figure out how to grease machinery. By this time, the slave trade and slavery had done their main job of providing primitive capital. The desire to invest accumulated capital and the need for raw materials drove the colonization of Africa. As a result, Europeans kept a close eye on the situation.

According to (Bunza, 2018), linguistic imperialism is the worst colonial policy in the history of humanity. In Africa, its cruelty transcends linguistic barriers and permeates deeply into the culture, religion, and educational policy. In their cultural and literary traditions, the Hausa's opposition to the unhealthful policy is pronounced. The brutal colonial language policy inflicts great damage on the indigenous African languages, hence facilitating the spread of the pernicious virus of language extinction across the colonies. As one of the first-class African languages, Hausa was the subject of the British war on language extinction. Residents of the Hausa colony protested the British fire brigade's attempts to impose English on the colony. The aggressive campaign to officialize the English language in colonial Hausa courts and palaces failed in a humiliating manner. Therefore, Western Education (Boko) was believed to be the imperialists' last hope.


In his book "Communication and Cultural Dominance," published in 1976, Herbert Schiller suggested the term "cultural imperialism" to describe and explain how large multinational corporations, like the media, from developed countries, dominated developing countries. People have said that he is one of the most important supporters of the cultural imperialism theory, and his book from 1976 is often used as an example in studies about cultural imperialism.Cultural imperialism proposes that society is brought into the modern world system when its dominating stratum is attracted, pressured, forced, and sometimes bribed into shaping its social institutions to correspond to, or even promote, the values and structures of the dominating centre of the system (Schiller, 1976). This theory will be used to find factual answers related to cultural imperialism in Hausa land.

What is Culture?

According to Taylor (1871), culture is " that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” Knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, and custom are all examples of what makes up culture.

The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy defines culture as “The way of life of a people, including their attitudes, values, beliefs, arts, sciences, modes of perception, and habits of thought and activity. Cultural features of forms of life are learned but are often too pervasive to be readily noticed from within”.

From the above definitions culture includes beliefs, attitudes, arts, knowledge, morals and values, customs and traditions, modes of perception and habits of thought and activity that are either tangible or intangible and can be symbolic, learned, shared and adaptive.

What is imperialism?

Imperialism is the process through which one country gains more influence over other countries by assuming control of its economy and government or by acquiring additional territory. Examples of the Age of Imperialism include the colonization of the Americas, which took place from the 15th to the 19th century, as well as the expansion of the powers of the United States, Japan, and Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The imperialistic expansion has been responsible for the eradication of a significant number of indigenous communities and ways of life throughout the course of history.

Imperialism can also be understood as the extension or expansion of a nation's authority or rule over territories that are not currently under its control, typically through the use of military force. This is a broader definition of imperialism. This can be accomplished through the purchase of land outright, as well as through the attainment of economic and political dominance. Unless the leaders of an empire believe there is a compelling reason to do so, the empire will not undertake the expenses and dangers associated with imperialistic expansion.

Imperialism is a process whereby powerful countries or groups try to extend their power and increase their resources by bringing over more countries under their control and domination. There are five major types of imperialism, namely, Military, Economical, Political, Communication and Cultural imperialism. The latter would be the focus of this paper.

Definition of Cultural Imperialism

Cultural imperialism is the promotion and imposition of culture on less powerful nations, typically by politically dominant societies. Cultural hegemony might take the form of an attitude, a formal policy, or anything else that reinforces it (Johnston, 2000). Additionally, it can establish foreign norms, beliefs, and expectations that can alter the home culture and socialization processes (McPhail, 1987). Cultural imperialism is the cultural legacies of colonialism or social actions that contribute to the perpetuation of Western hegemony.

In anthropology, sociology, and ethics, cultural imperialism occurs when a dominant group, typically one that is politically or economically powerful, imposes elements of its own culture on other communities. It is cultural in that the habits, traditions, religion, language, social and moral norms, and other features of the imposing group are separate from the economic and political institutions that define the other community, although they are often closely related. It is a form of imperialism in which the dominant society transforms or replaces cultural aspects of the subjugated population to impose its way of life on the subjugated population. (Weyenda, Theresa, 2007). The Oxford Dictionary of Media and Communication (2011) defines cultural imperialism as "influences of an economically dominant culture on others, generally propagated by trade, mass media, and the internet." The global diffusion of American brands, popular culture, beliefs, rituals, and practices, ostensibly at the expense of other civilizations.

Cultural imperialism is the dominance of a more well-known culture over other cultures; in other words, cultural imperialism is a subtle form of colonialism. Economic and technological considerations may play a role in cultural imperialism. Cultural imperialism is defined in the 1977 edition of The Harper Dictionary of Modern Thought as "the use of political and economic power to promote and spread the values and customs of a foreign culture at the expense of the home culture." Cultural imperialism is the rapid spread or advancement of one culture, typically that of the most powerful nations such as the United States and the United Kingdom, at the expense of others such as Nigeria and Niger, or its imposition on other cultures, which it modifies, replaces, or destroys for economic or political reasons. Colonized nations may have their languages and traditions, but colonizers utilize cultural imperialism to compel them to accept their cultural values and customs. By the time the Imperial Power extends its influence over another region, known as a colony, it is in charge of the colony's economy, culture, and politics, which are the three most significant aspects. Included in cultural control are language, education, social activities, and art. In the majority of cases, the imperial force suppresses or even destroys the native cultural customs of the people, as well as imposes ideals such as racism, religion, and capitalism on the colony. All of them are elements of the imperial power's control structure over the colony.

Nigeria And British Cultural Imperialism

In the year 1901, the British established a protectorate over Nigeria, which continued until 1960, when an independence movement was ultimately victorious. They made their presence known in several different ways. One of the most significant was their "cultural imperialism," which simply means their attempt to impose their way of life on the people they colonized, in this case, the Nigerians. The British believed that they were not only better in terms of military power but also superior in terms of cultural power. Because of this, it became imperative for them to substitute their own so-called "civilized culture" for the backwards civilizations they had inherited. Therefore, the major areas of Hausa culture mostly affected by British cultural imperialism include language, culinary habits, attire, traditional sports, lifestyles, and festivities.


Language is the most essential factor in identifying one culture from another and the most essential component of cultural identity. For instance, Hausa and Yoruba share a distinct language identity, culture, and social life within the context of the Nigerian institution. According to Ngugi (1994), language serves as both a method of communication and a cultural transmitter. The English language is one of the British's most effective control mechanisms in Nigeria. The rise of English in Nigeria is a significant indicator of cultural imperialism. When Britain took over as the colonial power in Nigeria, English became the language used to manage the new country. Thus, English became the administrative language (Bamgbose 1991, Lawal 2004). The primary objective of colonial rulers was to convince those they governed to adopt their culture (Morakinyo, O. 2015). In 1882, the colonial administration intervened in the education system by passing legislation making English the medium of instruction in schools and a subject that must be taught at all stages of educational development (Adetugbo 1979). In effect, the British colonizers controlled access to the language; and since knowledge of English was necessary for Nigerians to flourish under the colonial administration, they were required to go to the British. The British language policy had a lasting effect on Nigeria, where English remains the official language.

The indigenous languages are known as vernaculars at secondary and postsecondary institutions. The story by Ngugi (1994) is a clear indication of humiliation and subjugation due to the use of the mother tongue in Africa, Nigeria included, as I quote: "It was after a state of emergency was declared over Kenya in 1952 that all the schools run by the patriotic nationalists were taken over by the colonial regime and placed under District Education Boards chaired by the English. The language of my formal schooling was English. In Kenya, English became more than a language; it became the dominant language, and all others had to submit to it. Consequently, one of the most humiliating experiences is being discovered speaking Gikunyu near a school. The perpetrator received corporal punishment consisting of three to five strokes of the cane on the bare buttocks, or he was forced to wear a metal plate around his neck with phrases such as "I AM STUPID" or "I AM A DONKEY." Occasionally, offenders were fined so much money that they could "barely afford" it. As a result of this public humiliation, children not only learn that English is the language of power but also internalize that their culture is inferior; consequently, they work hard to learn "The Queen's English" at the expense of their mother tongue to succeed in the colonial and postcolonial eras.

Impact of Cultural Imperialism on Hausa People’s Lifestyle

The interests, views, actions, and behavioural orientations of an individual, community, or culture constitute a "lifestyle" The Hausa way of life has transformed as a result of the cultural imperialism that Hollywood and Bollywood have helped to disseminate over time. Hollywood is a double-edged sword; Hollywood films can influence people all around the world and have both positive and harmful effects. The United States is the most powerful nation in the world. Itaffectshas an effect on all elements, including politics, the economy, the military, and even the entertainment industry. Hollywood is consistently regarded as a fashion because due of the fact that actors and actresses in films have fashionable hairstyles, clothing, makeup, etc. In the absence of this, Americans in Hollywood films always say or do something nasty or confrontational, which the audience then mimics in real life. Hollywood is America's success story, and it influences the thoughts and cultures of people worldwide. "Those who do not follow the West are extinct." American culture and ideology are spreading to the rest of the world, and one medium carrying these messages is film. (Wanwarang,2012)

Bollywood films mostly feature traditional Indian music, dance, and love stories. It produces around 800 feature-length films annually in multiple languages, including Hausa. It began to include more love scenes and sexual scenes, which pose a significant threat to the Hausa people and their traditions. The predominant lifestyles depicted in both Hollywood and Bollywood are drinking, smoking, and partying. Numerous films show these types of lives freely and frequently. The influence of Western culture has had these effects on our culture. In our society, thuggery, kidnapping, rape, physical violence, and other vices have grown epidemic. On December 27, 2020, a group of youths organized a "nude party" dubbed "Kaduna Sex Party," which gained extensive social media coverage. However, the state authorities intervened and the organizers were detained. Youth parties, concerts, night parties, and bonfires are scheduled for amusement and to assist peopleto get to know one another better at graduation, naming, wedding, wedding engagement, Sallah, and political meetings.

Impact of Cultural Imperialism on Hausa Culinary Habits

"Food habits" or "eating habits" refer to why and how people eat, what they eat, and whom they eat with, as well as how they get, store, use, and throw away food.People would rather eat junk food and fast food than our traditional, healthier meals. The Hausa are farmers who live in communities, and they do share their food. This practice, which has been lost because of cultural imperialism, has been wiped out.In the past, the Hausa were known mostly as farmers who worked with the local raw food materials and, on occasion, purchased additional supplies from other locations. Even in modern times, members of this particular ethnic group continue to rely on the agricultural goods that they have personally cultivated to prepare their meals. Millet, sorghum, rice, and corn are just a few of the crops that they cultivate and then prepare for consumption as part of their meals. After grinding these four items into flour to form the traditional staple known as tuwonshinkafa, they next proceed to prepare the rest of the meal. Corn, millet, or rice can be used to make the Hausa dessert known as tuwonshinkafa, which has a pudding-like consistency. They serve it over a variety of soups, including miyantaushe, and it has a gooey, mushy consistency.

Impact of Cultural Imperialism on Hausa attire

In Hausa culture, there are rules about what people can and cannot wear. The men are easy to spot because they wear fancy clothes, like the large, flowing dress called Babban Riga. Usually, there are very detailed embroidery designs around the neck. Men also wear colourful caps called hula that have embroidery on them. Depending on where they live and what they do for a living, the women can be recognized by their wraps, which are called "Zani" and are made of a colourful fabric called "atamfa." They also wear a hijab, which is a matching blouse, head tie, and shawl. They like to wear jewellery and other pretty things. Hausa clothes are either hand-woven or hand-sewn, and the designs are very detailed and have deep cultural meanings. Western dresses like jeans, long coats, skirts, pants, tea shirts, bodycon dresses, shift dresses, off-the-shoulder dresses, midi dresses, and maxi dresses have replaced our traditional dresses at home, at work, at ceremonies, and so on.

Impact of Cultural Imperialism on Hausa Festivals

An event that is typically celebrated by a community and based on some defining component of that community's religion or culture is referred to as a festival. Simply put, if we take an example as Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, or Father's Day, these are recently imported Western celebrations that are involved with the global economic dimension in the name of cultural assimilation or homogenization

Impact of Cultural Imperialism onHausa traditional sporting

The Hausa culture is rich in traditional sporting events such as boxing (Dambe), stick fights (Takkai), wrestling (Kokawa), and many others. These events were originally organized to celebrate harvests; however, throughout several generations, they evolved into sporting events for entertainment. Traditional fights, also known as kokowa in the Hausa language, are a common kind of two-on-two competition in Hausa land. Before, during, and after the event, the entirety of the community takes part in it with a spirit of conviviality, which is what gives it all of its playful, cultural, and religious value. After the harvest, renowned wrestlers travel from village to village, accompanied by singers, marabouts, and other comical characters, to compete in matches. Wrestlers from the 1950s are considered living legends in history due to the spiritual and physical energies at their disposal, as well as the strategies they utilized.

Traditional wrestling is appealing because it is simple to learn and can be done by both wealthy and poor people, it can compete with modern sports, and, most importantly, it is still a sport for people who live in rural areas and maintains its childlike and cultural aspects. It is easy to learn and can be done by both rich and poor people. Wrestlers receive psychological preparation before, during, and after matches from a wide variety of sources, including traditional and political authorities, marabouts and fetishists, musicians and singers, buffoons, and Olympic-level experts. This is done to boost the competitors' self-assurance and improve their odds of winning.

The struggle provides the final framework for the cultural and bodily expression, rituals, beliefs, musical compositions, and spoken word poetry of the communities. Wrestlers are revered as heroes within their communities and countries. Boxing and wrestling are two of the oldest sports in Hausa culture's long history, and both of them were practised traditionally. In addition to their function as entertainment, the participants' bravery was on display during these activities. The imperialists do not want to take it to the world level, thus it has taken a significant step backwards as a result of this.


There is an ongoing cycle of arguments and counterarguments that never seems to end. Because of this, the idea of cultural imperialism is an extremely helpful concept for identifying the influence that conquerors had on the people they ruled over in their colonies. A culture that does not have an understanding of its past and how it came to be can never progress. This research demonstrates, through the use of primary and secondary sources, that the major aspects of Hausa culture that were influenced the most by the cultural imperialism of the British were the language, the culinary habits, the attire, the traditional sports, the lifestyles, and the celebrations. A collection of diverse points of view would be helpful, considering the complexity of the academic debate that is now taking place on the subject


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