The idea of cultural hybridization is one of those deceptively simple-seeming
notions which turns out, on examination, to have lots of tricky connotations
and theoretical implications.
HYBRIDITY IS one of the emblematic notions of our era. It captures the spirit of the times with its obligatory celebration of cultural difference and fusion, and it resonates with the globalization mantra of unfettered economic exchanges and the supposedly inevitable transformation of all cultures. At a more prosaic level, since its initial use in Latin to describe the offspring of “a tame sow and a wild boar” (Young, 1995, p. 6),1 hybridity has proven a useful concept to describe multipurpose electronic gadgets, designer agricultural seeds, environment-friendly cars with dual combustion and electrical engines, companies that blend American and Japanese management practices, multiracial people, dual citizens, and postcolonial cultures. As one journalist put it, the “trend to blend” (Weeks, 2002, p. C2) is upon us.
I favor the term “hybridity” because it has a broader meaning that often encompasses the objects and processes captured by equivalent terms such as “creolization,” “mestizaje,” and “syncretism.” In this preference I am not alone. For example, Argentinian-Mexican cultural critic Nestor Garcia-Canclini (1989/1995) prefers the word “hybridity” because it “includes diverse intercultural mixtures—not only the racial ones to which mestizaje tends to be limited—and because it permits the inclusion of the modern forms of hybridization better than does ‘syncretism,’ a term that almost always refers to religious fusions or traditional symbolic environments” (p. 11). As I use it, “hybridity” refers mostly to culture but retains residual meanings related to the three interconnected realms of race, language, and ethnicity. In this regard, the link between language and race was made explicit in an 1890 entry in the Oxford English Dictionary, which read: “The Aryan languages present such indications