Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Financial, Wikipedia.



a trend in bourgeois ethnology and archaeology encompassing a number of related schools. Diffusionism explains the development of cultures not in terms of their independent evolution but primarily or even exclusively in terms of cultural borrowings and migrations of peoples.

Diffusionism arose at the turn of the 20th century as a reaction to positivist evolutionism, contrasting the evolutionist view of complete uniformity in cultural development with the concept of absolute diversity in cultural development, disrupted only where borrowings or migrations govern cultural similarity. Subsequent diffusionism substitutes development in time by displacement in space (the German scholars L. Frobenius and F. Graebner) and denies the unity of the historical process (the Austrian scholars W. Schmidt and W. Koppers). Attempts were made to use diffusionism to develop racist theories, ascribing an exclusive cultural role to certain peoples or races (the Austrian scholar O. Menghin and the German scholar G. Kossinna). Marxist ethnology, archaeology, and sociology considers cultural influences and migrations as an important but not the determining factor in cultural and historical development.


Artanovskii, S. N. Istoricheskoe edinstvo chelovechestva i vzaimnoe vliianie kul’tur. Leningrad, 1967.


References in periodicals archive ?
Neither of the theories of dependency nor diffusionism alone account for the intellectual captivity of Malaysian intellectuals, as proposed by Alatas.
Haddon, had already been promoting diffusionism at Cambridge (see Haddon, 1895; Costall, 1991).
Through the use of irony and caricaturization, however, Diderot's narrative illustrates that diffusionism is by definition not universal but ethnocentric: that is, it takes the peoples and habits of one nation and claims that they should be shared by all cultures.
Still, following Blaut, the problem with eurocentric diffusionism is two fold.
2012): Politics, Diffusionism, and the Issue of Pre-Columbian Transoceanic Influences.
Richards' theoretical framework accords with diffusionism, a school of thought in nineteenth-century anthropology that sought to explain the spread of cultures.
Historical particularism, diffusionism, functionalism, cultural ecology, structuralism, and historical materialism have found enthusiastic followers (as well as critics) among past generations of anthropologists on the Island.
The essays that follow deal with diverse topics that address the fate of the antiquities collected by the French expedition, the role of the lesser-acknowledged personality Sir William Gell as an intermediary in the dissemination of progress in the decipherment of the ancient Egyptian language, examination of the antiquarian effects of the 1882 war, Egyptological interests in Spain, parallels of the exploration of Egypt and Mesoamerica, the rise of diffusionism as a popular theory, the changing scholarly interpretation of the position of the Greco-Roman peasantry, the British and the Copts, the development of Afrocentric views, and "republican values" as an influence on the study of ancient Egypt.
Post-World War II anthropology is broader and more historical than structural functionalism, while usually not as global as evolutionism and diffusionism (see Kirsch 1982; Stocking 1992).
In fact, nothing of the sort happened: attached to a historical essence and radically hostile to evolutionism, diffusionism was never linked to Semon's theories, any more than it was to Gabriel Tarde's Les Lois de l'imitation (1890), or to Maurice Halbwachs' La memoire collective (1877), which presented themselves as a common ground of understanding.
The author links three generations of anthropologists with three successive cultural theories: evolutionism in the late Victorian period; diffusionism prior to and during World War I; and functionalism in the 1920s and 1930s.