Cultural Hybridity – Postcolonial Studies

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The term hybridity is a common term that mainly features in studies dealing with postcolonial theory. It is the point of reference when researching cultural studies and also constructing methods and models for the subject. Nonetheless, the premise is also under criticism by many scholars developing counter arguments of the theory while others modify the concept to apply in the prevailing circumstances (Kraidy 3).  The idea creates a democratic space to some while others view it as a strategy meant to propagate certain ideologies such as capitalism in the neocolonialism era. There has also been an allegation that the concept tends to reflect more on the lives of the theorists as opposed to depicting the beliefs and traditions of communities cited in the models. There is sufficient literature developed both in support and in protest over this postcolonial theory. The concept continues to gain popularity in the international arena and due to increased interest in communication studies. It is because initially, the cultural hybridity concept intended to serve as a communication tool.

It was a means for people to learn and orient themselves about the cultural differences and provided solutions on how to handle the identified challenges (Kraidy 3). Disciplines that examine communication for different cultures and also at the international level utilize the hybridity concept as a descriptive tool. That is, the concept is crucial when trying to explain how different cultures perceive and integrate different practices introduced at the international level. However, the use of the concept as a descriptive tool creates a new challenge of how to distinguish it from a product of global or local interactions as a way of a gaining political mileage. The following discussion looks into studies conducted on the application of the concept and how they influence community lifestyle in different parts of the world.

Literature Review

In New Zealand, the approach for cultural integration borrowed mainly from the country's practices during the colonial era. Over time biculturalism became a popular concept, and people understood what it meant from the practical scenarios. Taking center stage has been the emergence of cultural politics about the debate on the binary of Maori. The country employed a simplified approach on the issue and settled for distinguishing categories especially the idea of us versus them. This situation created unnecessary rivalry and tension in the country because of the people who felt excluded (Acheraou 107).  The relationship between the Maori and Pakeha continued to face challenges as the two groups interacted. Similar to the main factors leading to cultural differences, issues of race, gender, social status and geographical locations characterized the basis of the rivalry between the two groups in New Zealand.

Scholars raised concerns over the issue and recommended a more subtle approach to the situation. They proposed that the country needed to revisit the bicultural politics in the country and take a new perspective. The idea involved reversing us versus them mentality with a more inclusive approach such as 'both' or 'and' as a way of creating a mutual sense of respect and belonging (Acheraou 107). Bhabha's theory of hybridity and the third space is a frequent reference on matters to do with cultural studies.  The approach was also helpful in dissecting the issues in New Zealand. However, critics argued that the history behind the concept was somewhat offensive and could lead to other problems. It is because the definition of the word initially intended to demean people belonging to a mixed race. However, some historians challenged this perspective and argued that people should not limit themselves to the use of words or phrases that appear polite. Instead, they proposed that the situation required a more critical analysis because the weight of the issues goes beyond the circumstances that led to the coining of the term (Acheraou 109).

In other words, if a particular name or concept can help solve the underlying problems on cultural differences, then how the name came to being is in a sense inconsequential.  Some also added that the hybridity concept was most appropriate dealing with problems arising from cultural differences because the term came to be at a time when the country was experiencing similar issues. The word was a product of the post-cultural era that intended to analyze the problems brought about by cultural differences and find a balance between the advantages of the in-betweens(Acheraou 109). Bhabha constructed the hybridity theory within conditions characterized by inequity and colonial rivalry.

The second aspect of the theory of hybridity was the element of Third space. It is an equally important concept attributed to matters of power and identity after the colonial period. It was the tool used by those considered a minority in the society. The idea defied the mindset of ethnocentrism and embraced the philosophy of hybridity of cultures. The third space philosophy focused on understanding the balance brought by the values of different culture rather than magnifying the existing cultural differences (Occupying the Third Space). The Third space was a driver for transformation. It is for this reason that the combination of Bhabha's two concept-hybridity and third space- become the best suit to analyze cultural differences in any setup.  Nonetheless, the third space highlights some of the issues that foreigners undergo when they cross the borderlines created from cultural differences. It gives perspective about the prevailing conditions experienced by a stranger in a foreign land. Studying the concept illuminates on issues that may arise due to language differences and ethnocentrism from a broader perspective. Cultural diversity and cultural differences are also crucial issues in any discussion dealing with multiculturalism.

Whereas cultural diversity is a component of the study of multiculturalism, cultural differences make up the process of understanding the dynamics of this concept.  In New Zealand, the two concepts (hybridity and third space) were instrumental in reconstructing a sense of nationalism and patriotism.  The two were the basis of creating a more inclusive environment for a cultural politics between the Maori and Pakeha. Consequently, there was the need to review the composition of key institutions in the country for purposes of inclusivity. Key organizations included the legal and political systems. It is because the structures within these two institutions can reflect on the norms, practices, and principles of the different communities in any given society.  In addition., the two institutions have the machinery necessary to bridge existing gaps by creating awareness among members of the community. Therefore, of importance in New Zealand was to determine the causes of tension between the Maori and Pakeha.  From Bhabha's point of view, it is of the essence to conduct a thorough review of the existing binary structure in any bicultural community. What was necessary for New Zealand, therefore, was the reconstruction of existing laws and institution to capture aspects of the two groups. The end product of the process must reflect hybridity to foster good future relations.

The Huffington Post surveyed to determine the feeling among Britons on multiculturalism. Research findings showed that majority felt that the concept added no value in the country but made the situation worse (Dore).  But it is essential to understand the genesis of multiculturalism in some of these countries even as we examine the current status. In Britain for example, the concept runs back to the ninth century at a time when Frenchmen invaded England. They managed to take over the country, and the effects are present to date. The language and some of the rules in force in the United Kingdom came to effect at the time.  The English vernacular became an official language after a parliamentary decree but continues to accommodate phrases from other languages. Scholars argue that the ability to incorporate the needs of different language speakers makes English a popular language in most parts of the world.  Cultural hybridity, in this case, is evident from the many roots in the English language. Not all western countries show the same level of commitment in promoting multiculturism like the United Kingdom. Some of these nations even expect immigrants to adopt and embrace the new cultures as opposed to giving allowance for adjustment in their newly found countries. Just like in the ninth century, France is among the states that have policies that work to have immigrants take on cultural practices of the country (Smith).   The United Kingdom is one of the few countries that have favorable policies to promote multiculturalism. Though the UK continues to welcome immigrants, the nation also looks out to protect its borders against criminals.

Research Problem

Bhabha's theory of cultural hybridity, regarding the enforcement of binary thinking, is a satisfactory explanation to the national practices which started since the British colonization and which still exist in its imperial form nowadays (Acheraou). However, Bhabha appears too optimistic in theorizing hybridity when examining his expectations and claims about the positive outcomes of the emergence of the third space. He overlooks several cultural, political, social and personal factors that interfere and affect the hybridization of identities. This disconnection or omission of the complexities residing beneath hybridity as a process in his theory bags a closer look to examine and investigate the failure or success of the third space in defeating binarism (Acheraou). Therefore, because literature is useful to many authors (especially migrant or non-white authors) as an effective tool that reflects upon and celebrates cultural hybridity, Bhabha's theory calls for critical attention by conducting a historical and textual study, as this thesis aims to do.

Research Objectives

  1. To determine the level of hybridity for each character as represented in available literature.
  2. To determine the success and sustainability of the hybridity concept as a means of demolishing binarism.
  3. To determine the different factors that affects the success or failure of hybridity.
  4. To determine whether the success and failure factors function in the same way and whether they produce the same results.


The thesis adopts a critical, analytical approach to literary texts through close reading the selected documents in which hybridity is a major theme which is depicted differently through main characters' mimicry to the new culture, their alienation from their own cultures, and their rejection or acceptance of other cultures.

Original Contribution

This Thesis aims to use literature as a deconstructive tool to critique cultural hybridity from a historical and textual perspective situated in a literary context (using literature to theorize about hybridity). The thesis analyses a selection of novels and other scholarly sources that discussing hybridity by British migrant novelists: Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses(1988), Hanif Kureishi's The Buddha of Suburbia (1990), Zadie Smith's The White Teeth (2000), Monica Ali's Brick Lane (2003), and Caryl Phillips' In the Falling Snow (2009).

Works Cited

Acheraou, Amar. "Critical Perspectives on Hybridity and the Third Space." Questioning Hybridity, Postcolonialism and Globalization, 2011, pp. 105-120.

Ahmed, Shahab. Before Orthodoxy: The Satanic Verses in Early Islam. London, Penguin Books Ltd., 1988. Ali, Monica. Brick Lane.? 2014.

Amherst College. "The Third Space: Cultural Identity Today." Amherst College, 2008,

Dehdari, Ali, et al. "A Study of the Notion of Bhabhasque's Hybridity in V.S. Naipaul's In a Free State." International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, vol. 3, no. 3, Feb. 2013, pp. 135-143,

Dore, Louis. "More Britons Believe That Multiculturalism Makes the Country Worse - Not Better." The Independent, 4 July 2015, Accessed 15 Nov.? 2017.

Hollinshead, Keith. "Tourism, Hybridity, and Ambiguity: The Relevance of Bhabha's 'Third Space' Cultures." Journal of Leisure Research, pp. 297-316,

Kraidy, Marwan M. "Hybridity in Cultural Globalization." Temple University, Aug. 2002, Kureishi, Hanif. The Buddha of Suburbia. 2014.

Meethan, Kevin. "Mobile Cultures? Hybridity, Tourism and Cultural Change." Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change, vol. 1, no. 1,? 2003, pp.? 11-28.

Meredith, Paul. "Hybridity in the Third Space: Rethinking Bi-cultural Politics in Aotearoa/New Zealand." University of Waikato, July 1998,

"Occupying the Third Space." X-Section Journal, 23 Nov. 2014,

Phillips, Caryl. In the Falling Snow. Vintage Books, 2010. Smith, Louise. "Multicultural Britain: What Does It Mean?" Extensive Information on Immigration in the UK, 16 May 2016, Accessed 15 Nov. 2017. Smith, Zadie. White Teeth. 2017.

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Cultural Hybridity – Postcolonial Studies. (2018, Dec 14). Retrieved June 18, 2024 , from

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