Hybridity

by Stephanie Cawley

Within postcolonial studies and theory, “hybridity” is an important and complicated topic. Robert J. C. Young, in Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction, presents Algerian rai music as an example of a culturally hybrid form. Young explains that “As a hybrid popular form, often working in complex and sometimes covert ways by allusion and inference, rai has offered a creative space of articulation and demand, revolt and resistance, innovation and negotiation, for many of the contradictory social and economic channels operating and developing within contemporary Algerian society” (79). On the most basic level, rai is hybrid in that it does not fit into easy categories of musical genres due to its unique combination of influences, but Young’s examples also points to the broader use of the term hybridity. One important theorist to first use the term “hybridity” in this broader way in relation to postcolonial theory was Homi K. Bhabha, in his 1994 book The Location of Culture. Bhabha’s hybridity refers to something more than just the mere result of mixing or combining two cultures; to Bhabha, hybridity is a channel of negotiation between or outside of the boundaries and binaries that frame identities and cultures.

"Self-Portrait" by Baljit Balrow (www.baljitbalrow.co.uk/)

Hybridity can thus be manifested in many ways: in works of literature such as Persepolis, in which identity is constantly negotiated across the boundaries of East and West, in other artforms, and, perhaps most importantly, in social identities. Hybridity challenges notions of identities and cultures as fixed, stable, or bounded entities, emphasizing the interactions and exchanges that take place and have taken place across cultures. The concept of hybridity thus functions politically as a challenge to binaries between East/West or colonizer/colonized that are often used to enforce and justify imperial and colonial politics. Kelly Chien-Hui Kuo explains that “The politics of hybridity is to overcome cultural unevenness and to challenge binary divisions—between upper and lower, Western and Eastern, White and Black, Occident and Orient, etc” (234).

"Animal Spirit Channeling Device for the Contemporary Shaman" by John Feodorov (www.johnfeodorov.com)

"Animal Spirit Channeling Device for the Contemporary Shaman" by John Feodorov (www.johnfeodorov.com)

Other theorists like Stuart Hall, Gayatri Spivak and Paul Gilroy have all written on theories of hybridity and associated terms like diaspora (the dissemination of culture and people around the world), creolization (the production of hybrid languages), syncretism and bricolage. These terms all describe common features of postcolonial and border societies where cultures directly interact, combine, and hybridize across culturally-constructed boundaries.

Works Cited

 

 

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