More on Hybridity

Nabeel makes some very good points in response to my post yesterday on Timothy Taylor’s discussion of hybridity. Especially interesting bit about seeing things through the peculiarities of your local predicament. He also pointed out a book I did not know – Marwan Kraidy on Hybridity as the cultural logic of late capitalism. I’ve published much on the idea of hybridizing capital, so will read Kraidy with interest. For the record, here below a little more on hybridity as such – an attempt to systematize my problems with the term. This was for a ‘Box’ that was eventually dropped from our book Diaspora and Hybridity:


Perhaps in the end we can identify the main parameters of a ‘career’ of the term hybridity as it has been discussed here:

– implications of biological and botanical heritage, the mongrel as infertile mix contrasted to the creative splicing of horticulture
– the term redeployed and reconfigured for culture and creativity
– creativity more often than not located at the margins, where the mixing ‘is’
– hybridity implies an anterior pure, a centre, or a tradition
– or it implies that everything is hybrid, and if so, what is gained from using the term when the old categories of race, class and gender are not exhausted?
– the term as noun is
essentialising and fixed, processes of hybridization suggest agency
– the term does duty to exclude a more adequate attention to politics, social inequality, economics, the South
– but what sort of politics can be founded on hybridity that might be adequate to oppose the cultural logic of capital, co-option and commercialization?

Does it matter what model or structure is used to map these terms? Is identity a double play or a network? Is hybridity a mix of two or more? To what degree are these terms interwoven? Is it clear that difference is relational, if not necessarily binary in terms of self and other, or of identity and difference, so if there is a range of relations at play and the term implies a positional dramaturgy? Could this argumentation be repeated for each of the terms under discussion in the culture salons? Does it matter that the specificity of these models remains opaque? The social construction argument is old and tired, however attractive, surely it offers nothing more than a means of erudite self satisfaction? So what does it mean to say cultural identity is fictional, constructed, a socially agreed illusion? And then to recognize that it still has its effects? This is a necessary but ultimately barren step if it leads only to the consequence of appreciation of some sort of complex reality: so what? It has become commonplace to declare that meanings are always translated, interpreted, negotiated and contextual – not fixed, but shared – so does greater awareness of the context of these translations offer a possibility? Any possibility? Is there a potential intervention around race to come in these discussions of identity, difference, hybridity and translation? Why are there so many that claim so? Is it impertinent to want to make a critical evaluation of these claims and to do so with an ambition that would both reject and extend them?


And finally, I’ll also carry forward these references from the comments page after the Taylor post. My response to Nabeel includes this:

I found you can read the first chapter of Kraidy here: Kraidy pdf. I had not seen this when I wrote my bits for the book “Diaspora and Hybridity”, but those bits can be seen in short form here: as Contact Zones, or here, and in fuller form in the journal ‘Ethnic and Racial Studies’, Volume 28, Issue 1 January 2005 , pages 79 – 102.

My other favourite texts on hybridity are mostly pretty well known, but I list them here anyway:

Brah, Avtar and Coombs, Annie 2000 “Hybridity and its Discontents”, London: Routledge.

Garcia Canclini, Nestor 1995 Hybrid “Cultures: Strategies for Entering and Leaving Modernity”, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Papastergiadis, Nikos 1998 “Dialogues in the Diaspora: Essays and Conversations on Cultural Identity”, London: Rivers Oram

Papastergiadis, Nikos 2000 “The Turbulence of Migration”, Cambridge: Polity Press. Lowe, Lisa (1996) Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics.


About john hutnyk

Writer on culture, cities, diaspora, history, film, prisons, colonialism, education, Marxism. Studied and taught in Australia at Deakin and Melbourne Universities; and in the UK in Manchester University’s Institute for Creative and Cultural Research; before moving to Goldsmiths in 1998, and becoming Academic Director of the Centre for Cultural Studies in 2004-2014. Has held visiting researcher posts in Germany at the South Asia Institute and Institute fur Ethnologie at Heidelberg University, and Visiting Professor posts in InterCultural Studies at Nagoya City University Japan, Zeppelin University and Hamburg University, Germany, Sociology at Mimar Sinan University, Istanbul, Turkey and at the Graduate institute for Social Research and Cultural Studies, National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan. Immediate past adjunct Professor of RMIT University, Melbourne and GIAN Visiting Professor Jadavpur Uni Kolkata.
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