The definition of “assimilation” and its subsequent usage has long been a contentious issue in American scholarship. Fundamentally, assimilation raises difficult questions about the social composition of a society or culture. More specifically, the debates around the term address the adaptation of those populations or individuals understood as outside or different from mainstream society. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines “assimilate” as a verb meaning to “take in (information, ideas, or culture) and understand fully” and “absorb and integrate.”

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