diffusion, diffusionism
Diffusion refers to the spread of cultural attributes from one culture to another through contact between different cultural groups. Diffusion theory developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in opposition to evolutionary theory, both being concerned with the origins of human culture. Diffusionists such as Robert Lowie (The History of Ethnological Theory, 1937) saw cultures as patchworks of borrowed traits, the superior traits moving out from the centre, like the ripples from a stone thrown into a pond. The movement of these cultural traits could be reconstructed by assuming that the traits most widely distributed are the oldest.
Some diffusionists sought to prove that all human culture originated in one place and spread out from there by diffusion. The similarities between Mayan temples and Egyptian pyramids led anthropologists like W. Perry (1887-1949) and Elliot Smith (1871-1937) to argue that Egypt was the fount of human culture (see, for example,, The Growth of Civilization, 1926).
Anthropology has largely moved away from this debate, seeing most cultural traits in disparate areas as having developed independently, and criticizing the diffusionists for extracting cultural artefacts from their context. For example, although the Mayan temples and Egyptian pyramids share a similarity of form, they have completely different religious functions. Some of the original interests of the diffusionists have continued to be pursued by the American historical school of anthropology. See also Galton's problem.

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

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  • diffusion — [ difyzjɔ̃ ] n. f. • 1587; lat. diffusio, de diffundere 1 ♦ Action de se répandre, de se diffuser. La diffusion de la lumière, de la chaleur, du son dans un milieu. Phys. Phénomène par lequel les diverses parties d un fluide deviennent homogènes… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Diffusion — Dif*fu sion, n. [L. diffusio: cf. F. diffusion.] 1. The act of diffusing, or the state of being diffused; a spreading; extension; dissemination; circulation; dispersion. [1913 Webster] A diffusion of knowledge which has undermined superstition.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Diffusion [1] — Diffusion. In Gasen und Lösungen gleichen sich lokale Unterschiede der Konzentration allmählich durch Wanderung der Materie aus. Diesen Vorgang bezeichnet man im ersten Falle als Gas (Atmolyse nach Graham), im zweiten als Hydrodiffusion. Unter… …   Lexikon der gesamten Technik

  • diffusion — DIFFUSION. s. f. Terme de Physique. Il se dit Des fluides en parlant De l action de se répandre, ou de l état de ce qui est répandu. Diffusion de lumière, de la lumière. Il se dit figurément Da discours, du style, lorsqu il est trop abondant en… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1798

  • Diffusion — Diffusion, 1) Weitläufigkeit; 2) Diffusion der Gase, die Eigenschaft der elastischen Flüssigkeiten, sich, den Gesetzen der Schwere entgegen, sowohl in anderen Gasen, als auch in Flüssigkeiten u. festen Körpern zu vertheilen, s.u. Gas …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Diffusion — (lat., »Ergießung, Ausbreitung«), der Vorgang der allmählichen Mischung zweier miteinander in Berührung befindlicher Körper, insbes. von Flüssigkeiten oder Gasen. Gießt man Weingeist vorsichtig auf in einem Gefäß befindliches Wasser, so haben… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • diffusion — UK US /dɪˈfjuːʒən/ noun [U] ► MARKETING, COMMUNICATIONS the process by which information, ideas, changes in behaviour, etc. spread through a group of people: »The research looks at factors influencing the diffusion of innovative products in… …   Financial and business terms

  • Diffusion — Diffusion. См. Диффузия. (Источник: «Металлы и сплавы. Справочник.» Под редакцией Ю.П. Солнцева; НПО Профессионал , НПО Мир и семья ; Санкт Петербург, 2003 г.) …   Словарь металлургических терминов

  • Diffusion [2] — Diffusion des Lichts, s. Reflexion …   Lexikon der gesamten Technik

  • Diffusion [3] — Diffusion im Bergbau, s. Wetterwirtschaft …   Lexikon der gesamten Technik

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