Dominant culture refers to the cultural values, beliefs, and practices that are prevalent in a society and that are often associated with mainstream or dominant groups. Dominant culture is often characterized by its dominance over other cultures and its ability to shape and influence societal norms and expectations.
Dominant culture is often shaped by the social, economic, and political power of dominant groups and can be enforced through institutions such as education, media, and government. Dominant culture can also serve to reinforce and perpetuate the privileges and advantages of dominant groups, while also marginalizing and oppressing other groups. It is important to recognize and challenge the ways in which dominant culture can perpetuate inequality and injustice.
In the U.S., dominant culture is often used to refer a culture that’s white, able-bodied, cis-male dominated, and heterosexual. It also tends to center those that are affluent, living in more suburban and urban communities, and have a close proximity to industries that are fetishized, like tech, startups and small businesses.
Questions to ask yourself to better identify the role of dominant culture in everyday life.
Who Benefits From This Decision?
Consider the design of your local coffee shop. Who is most comfortable with the way the tables are oriented in the space? What type of music is playing, and which communities does it represent? What’s the price of the coffee, and how does that compare to other prices you’ve seen?
What Lived Experiences Are Missing from these Decisions?
Using the same scenario, consider: what types of people do you not see in the coffeeshop? What would be necessary for a more diverse audience to go here?
What Precedent Does This Decision Create / Reinforce?
Using the same scenario, consider: what do these decisions say about who “deserves” to get coffee at your local coffee shop in the morning? How does it align – or contrast – with your understanding of coffee shops? What forms of media or education helped shape your broader understanding of what a coffee shop should look like?