Hybridity, So What? The Anti-Hybridity Backlash and the Riddles of Recognition

Hybridity, So What? The Anti-Hybridity Backlash and the Riddles of Recognition

Theory, Culture & Society
Volume 18, Numbers 2-3 (June 2001)
pages 219-245
DOI: 10.1177/026327640101800211

Jan Nederveen Pieterse, Mellichamp Professor of Global Studies and Sociology
University of California, Santa Barbara

Take just about any exercise in social mapping and it is the hybrids, those that straddle categories, that are missing. Take most arrangements of multiculturalism and it is the hybrids that are not counted, not accommodated. So what? This article is about the recognition of hybridity, in-betweenness. The first section discusses the varieties of hybridity and the widening range of phenomena to which the term now applies. According to anti-hybridity arguments, hybridity is inauthentic and ‘multiculturalism lite’. Examining these arguments provides an opportunity to deepen and fine-tune our perspective. What is missing in the antihybridity arguments is historical depth; in this treatment the third section deals with the longue durÈeand proposes multiple historical layers of hybridity. The fourth section concerns the politics of boundaries, for in the end the real problem is not hybridity—which is common throughout history—but boundaries and the social proclivity to boundary fetishism. Hybridity is a problem only from the point of view of essentializing boundaries. What hybridity means varies not only over time but also in different cultures and this informs different patterns of hybridity. Then we come back to the original question: so what? The importance of hybridity is that it problematizes boundaries.

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