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Hybridity Concept In Postcolonial Studies Cultural Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 2399 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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This chapter seeks to examine key concepts that underpin this study. Hybridity, ‘otherness’ and stereotyping in postcolonial studies are discussed in relation to the central argument of this thesis which is the roles teachers and students play at aiming for the construction of shared Malaysian identity in multicultural classrooms. The intention of this literature review is to identify the significance of hybridity, otherness and stereotyping in post colonial studies to my research and how Bhabha’s notion of ‘The Third Space’ helps to formulate the establishment of collective identity in students’ ‘zone of development’ (Gutierrez, Baqudano-Lopez and Tejeda (1999).

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Hybridity concept in Postcolonial studies

The flow of information and the movement of people in this ever evolving, interconnected and interactive world have been a profound reason in the creation of new cultures in the form of mixing of local and foreign ideas and values. This kind of mixing is a tiny part of the loose and slippery meaning of hybridity. The term hybridity is used in many areas such as hybrid economy (the mixture of private enterprises and government active participation in global economy) (Koizumi,2010); hybrid cars, hybrid language (creole and patois), and most importantly in relation to this study is in the arena of hybrid cultures (Tomlinson,1999; Coombs & Brah,2000).

Easthope (1998) contends that hybridity can have three meanings; in terms of biology, ethnicity and culture. In biological science, hybrid could mean the composition of genetic component in human being, animals or plants. In the second and third definitions, hybridity can be understood to mean an individual who possesses two or more ethnic and cultural identities. However de Toro emphasises that the meaning of hybridity in modern cultural theory has nothing to do with the biological and zoological origin of the term (de Toro, 2004). Hutnyk (2005) on the other hand reveals that the term hybridity and syncretism seem to serve the inner cultural aspects of colonialism and the global market.

Several key thinkers in the realm of hybridity includes among others Homi Bhabha, Robert Young, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy, who draw upon related concepts from Deleuze, Derrida, Marx, Fanon and Bakhtin to name a few.(Ref) In particular, Bhabha has developed his concept of hybridity from literary and cultural theory to describe the construction of culture and identity within conditions of colonial antagonism and equity (Meredith, 1998; Bhabha, 1994; Bhabha, 1996).

In socio-cultural milieu, hybridity is used as an explicative term and ‘hybridity’ became a useful tool in forming a discourse of ‘racial mixing’ which was seen as an aberration in the end of 18th century. The kind of hybrid during this era was largely referring to inter marriage of ‘black’ and ‘white’ and the offspring were identified as the hybrid product. It has also been referred to as an abuse term in colonial discourse for those who are products of miscegenation or mixed-breeds. Papastergiadis in Werbner & Modood (2000) on the other hand asserts that ‘the positive feature of hybridity is that it invariably acknowledges that identity is constructed through a negotiation of difference and that the presence of fissures, gaps and contradictions is not necessarily a sign of failure’. (ibid:258). Therefore hybridity can be seen in both negative and positive forms.

Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin (2006) assert that hybridity occurs in post-colonial societies as a result of economic and political expansion and control and when the coloniser ‘diluted’ indigenous peoples’ (the colonised) social practices and assimilate them to a new social mold. They also further explain that hybridity extends until after the period of imperialism when patterns of immigrations from rural to urban region and from other imperial areas of influence; such as Chinese and Indian labourers coming in into the Malay Peninsula during the labour intensive period.

However, with the end imperialism, with the rising of immigration and economic liberalisation, the term hybridity has profoundly been used in many different dimensions and is one of the most disputed terms in postcolonial studies. It can take many forms including cultural, political and linguistics. It is important to note that hybridity can be interpreted in many different accounts from a slight hybrid to the extreme of culture clash. In the postcolonial studies the term ‘hybrid’ commonly refers to ‘the creation of new trans-cultural forms within the contact zone produced by colonisation’ (Ashcroft et al.,2003). One other dimension of this term is the ‘hybrid talk’ which is associated with the emergence of postcolonial discourse and its critique of cultural imperialism.(elaborate)

Easthope (1998) on the other hand asserts that in his discussions of hybridity, it has no fix definition except in relation to non-hybridity:

…that the opposition between difference and absolute presence needs to be relativised by introducing more than one concept of identity, that a coherent, speaking subject cannot live in the gaps between identities. (p.347).

Pieterse (2001:221) maintains that ‘New hybrid forms are significant indicators of profound changes that are taking place as a consequence of mobility, migration and multiculturalism’. In addition, cultural diasporization (Hall, 1990) signifies a new form of identity as a result of interculturality and diasporic relations (Anthias,2010). However, Anthias (ibid:620) postulates that:

If hybrid social identities are now the characteristic identities of the modern world, then struggles over cultural hegemony and the underlying mechanisms that support it, become increasingly empty signifiers; merely to occupy the space of the ‘hybrid’ constitutes an emancipator human condition.

In addition, de Toro (1991,1996a) contends that hybridity is always inherent to culture, identity and nations but it is the object of reflections and definitions of different settings and also applied in very different fields. Correspondingly, de Toro suggests that one has to understand the notion of hybridity in a broader metacontext and has to see hybridity as mixing systems at the base of the combination of different models and processes.

The discussion of hybridity in this study focuses on the contemporary debate about culture, ethnicity and identity which underpins de Toro’s model of hybridity as a cultural category. The main argument of this study is the problematic nature of managing the differences of cultural, ethnical and religious groups in Malaysia’s plural society in the quest for the construction of shared Malaysian identity. The discussion of hybridity in the Malaysian context in this study therefore is not about finding a midway to the solution of differences in cultures and identity but to identify a space where cultural, religious and ethnic difference can be celebrated.

In as much the arguments in the succeeding sections deal with ethnicity, culture and religion, this study does not attempt to explicate an in depth discussion of the cultural theory concept. However, cultural theory will be reviewed at a surface level.

In the linguistics setting, Bakhtin (1981) puts forward the notion of linguistic hybridity. He, according to Young (1995) delineates the way in which language, even within a single sentence, can be doubled-voiced. Bakhtin affirms that linguistic hybridity mixes two social languages within the limits of a single utterance but differentiated by other factors of those social utterances. Simplistically, it describes the ability ‘to be simultaneously the same but different’ (ibid:20). Young further postulates that for Bakhtin, hybridity describes the process of the authorial unmasking of another’s speech, through a language that is ‘double-accented’ and ‘double-styled’.

Bakhtin (1981) divides his linguistic hybridity into two; intentional hybridity and unconscious or organic hybridity. The former occurs when a voice has the ability to ironise and unmask the other within the same utterance. The organic hybridity , on the other hand occurs when two languages fused together:

…. the languages change historically primarily by hybridization, by means of a mixing of various languages co-existing within the boundaries of a single dialect, a single national language, a single branch, a single group of different branches, in the historical as well as paleontological past of languages. (Ibid:358).

The language hybridity phenomenon is one of main discussions in this current study as the multicultural society evolves in Malaya then Malaysia respectively, languages evolve in tandem. The discussion involves the emergence of Malaysian English or ‘Manglish’ in social interactions of the populace within one’s own ethnic community or with the other communities at large. This is argued in the discussions and findings chapter of this current study.

The section that follows discusses in greater detail of hybridity in the light of Bhabha’s (1998) work on cultural diversity and cultural difference.

Understanding Bhabha’s concept of hybridity in relation to cultural diversity

Bhabha’s conception of hybridity is developed from literary and cultural theory by which he identifies that the governing bodies (coloniser) translate the identity of the colonised (the other) in tandem with the essentialist beliefs. This action of ‘translation’ however does not produce something that is known to the coloniser or the colonised but essentially new (Papastergiadis, 1997). Bhabha believes that it is this new blurred boundaries or spaces in-between subject-position that are identified as the locality of the disruption and displacement of predominant influence of colonial narratives and cultural structures and practice.

Bhabha (1994) claims that the difference in cultural practices within different groups, however rational a person is, is actually very difficult and even impossible and counterproductive, to try and fit together different forms of culture and to pretend that they can easily coexist. As he affirms:

The assumption that at some level all forms of cultural diversity may be understood on the basis of a particular universal concept, whether it be ‘human being’, ‘class’, or ‘race’, can be both very dangerous and very limiting in trying to understand the ways in which cultural practices construct their own systems of meaning and social organisation’ (ibid:209)

There is truth to a certain degree to the statement above in terms of the universality of cultural diversity applied in many pluralistic countries including Malaysia. However, to a larger extent, this present study, at a later stage would render the limitations of that statement amidst difficulties and multitudes of problems in inter-ethnic relationship; Malaysian society has proven its ability to be one of the select few which are able to prove that the differences in cultural practices could be the catalyst not hindrance or counterproductive amongst different groups to coexist.

This concept of the third space is central and useful in analysing this current study in terms of its ‘interstitial positioning’ between cultural and ethnic identity with that of a negotiated identity (shared identity) in the Malaysian context.

Bhabha believes that the process of cultural hybridity gives rise to new and unidentifiable, a new era of negotiation of meaning and representation. For him controversies are inevitable and unavoidable in a multicultural society as negotiations happen almost in all circumstances including socio-politics and economy down to minute affairs such as in classrooms context. The implication of western colonial legacy which had changed cultural ideology of a former colonised nation is central to the modern discourse of negotiation and instead of questioning the legality of certain cultural status assigned to immigrant cultures, it is inevitable but to accept, admire and celebrate diversity in ways which are appropriately befitting the society as a whole.

The significance of the hybridity concept

Post-colonial cultural politics assertions: integration and assimilation to unification

As a result of hybridisation, dominant culture becomes diluted and more dispersed; less integrated and can then be negotiated.

The process of cultural hybridisation allows greater opportunity for local culture to be emphasised thus presents a greater likelihood for more people to feel the sense of belonging. (Canclini,1995;Pieterse,2004).

Hybridity needs to be considered as a continuous transaction of renewals and compromise of the practices of identity

A more analytical perspective that reviews the assumption about culture and identity from us-them dualism to a collective sense of ‘both’. Therefore acceptance and conciliation of both difference and similarity.

5.0. The ‘Third Space’

Appropriation of ‘The Third Space’ to the study


Stereotyping in Post Colonial Studies

9.0 Applying hybridity, otherness and stereotyping to the construction of shared identity

Identity in Plural Society

Propagating and espousing a new conception of shared identity

New opportunities, new challenges to develop a collective sense of identity

Identity is multiple, overlapping and context-sensitive (Kwame Appiah in Koizumi)

New conception of self ‘hybrid self’ rejects singular identity and adopt a fluid context-dependent identity

Classification of identity formation: ‘inherited’ and ‘acquired’ (social and psychological)

The Construction Malaysian Identity



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