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Conceptualizing Cultural Hybridization: A Transdisciplinary Approach

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Conceptualizing Cultural Hybridization: A Transdisciplinary Approach

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Within the context of globalization, cultural transformations are increasingly analyzed as hybridization processes. Hybridity itself, however, is often treated as a specifically post-colonial phenomenon. The contributors in this volume assume the historicity of transcultural flows and entanglements; they consider the resulting transformative powers to be a basic feature of cultural change. By juxtaposing different notions of hybridization and specific methodologies, as they appear in the various disciplines, this volume’s design is transdisciplinary. Each author presents a disciplinary concept of hybridization and shows how it operates in specific case studies. The aim is to generate a transdisciplinary perception of hybridity that paves the way for a wider application of this crucial concept
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Chapters (12)

Why should we question “hybridity” once again? This term that has been constantly debated since Homi Bhabha published his seminal work The Location of Culture in 1994. Especially within the context of globalization, cultural transformations are being increasingly analysed as hybridization processes. Hybridity itself, however, is often treated as a specifically postcolonial phenomenon and discussions have rarely overcome the narrow boundaries within this narrow field of study. In most other disciplines, the terms hybridity and hybridization are used to characterize phenomena which are easily detected as somehow “borderline” but not so easily explained.
Hybridity is becoming increasingly fashionable, most notably in the field of post-colonial literary studies, which focus, mainly through the analysis of texts, on the suppression and resistance of social as well as cultural minorities amid the present global condition. A brief outline of the history of the term shows, however, that for the most part of the twentieth century it was predominantly used in anthropology, sociology and history, until literary scholars took it up in the 1980s. Based first on a biological model focusing on the issue of miscegenation, the term shifted to a linguistic model stressing the subversive potential of a hybrid counter-culture. The essay then moves on to a discussion of the central metaphors of ‘borrowing’, ‘mixing’ and ‘translating’, underlying the concept of hybridity. After proposing to shift the perspective on hybridity from the text-based to a more empirically grounded analysis, potential areas of future research are discussed, such as hybrid objects, as well as situations of and responses to cultural contact.
The worldwide circulation of goods is one of the driving forces of globalization. This statement holds true in particular for the early globalizing phenomena like the widespread adoption of clothing, weapons and alcohol, whereas nowadays, electronic devices like mobile phones are perceived as having higher relevancy. Modifications of these and many other objects and the constitution of new contexts are at the core of the new cultural concept of hybridization. Rejecting the notion of purity, hybridity contributes to the understanding of mixing cultural phenomena, regardless of their origins, and refers to the transformation of objects, values and cultural institutions, but also to the unequal power relations in many cultural contacts. Historical and ethnographical examples show how hybridity helps to explain the subversive character of many of these changes. As indicated fifty years ago by Arnold Toynbee, Western culture in non-Western contexts undergoes a process of fragmentation. Although Toynbee did not use the term of hybridity, he was the first to hint at the sometimes problematic entanglements that are highlighted by this concept.
Today, there continues to be an enormous epistemological gap between the lively discussion on the phenomenon of cultural hybridization in cultural anthropology and the reality of methodological approaches in archaeological interpretation. The diversity of human interaction and the hybridization processes connected therewith, on the one hand, and the fragmentary and silent character of archaeological source material on the other have been seen as insuperable obstacles to the translation of this concept into a practical method for archaeology. In my contribution, I shall attempt to overcome these barriers by breaking down a complex anthropological discourse into components that may be useful for archaeological sources. My aim is to unravel hybridization processes, which I call processes of entanglement, into distinct stages and consider the potential of each stage to be materialized in the archaeological record. I shall further attempt to distinguish between the entanglement of objects and the entanglement of social practices, because foreign, but in their materiality still unchanged, objects can be used in already entangled social practices. Subsequently, I shall examine what stage of the process of entanglement has given rise to an entangled object or social practice. Finally, the application of the concept of hybridization in recent studies on the Late Bronze Age Eastern Mediterranean will be reviewed and my own approach demonstrated on the basis of a case study.
The field of prehistory and early history has an extraordinary potential for widening the scope of our understanding of the effects of interculturality, since it deals with the material remains of societies that were characterized by a true universe of differing systems of value and forms of social space. It is argued that the concept of cultural hybridity raises too many problems to be useful for a better understanding of interculturality, since, in spite of its promise to overcome outdated obsessions with purity and origins, the application of this concept bears the danger of these very aspects sneaking in through the back door. Moreover, if the concept of cultural hybridity is thought to be generally applicable, it is far too unspecific to be of any explanatory value. In dealing with the appearance of foreign traits, the focus of attention must be placed on clarifying the ways of appropriation on a local level and on how, in the course of their integration into existing practices, new cultural forms were created. Such an investigation of the appropriation of objects coming from the outside necessitates, however, radically questioning our presuppositions about the factors guiding pre-modern intercultural exchange. While this is quite clear in the case of the assumption of a general applicability of “rational” economic behaviour, it is much less obvious that our concept of the “world” cannot be assumed to apply universally. Based on differing social imaginaries, societies have conceived the shape of the surrounding world in very different ways, which in turn must have had an immediate bearing on the changing attitudes towards goods and ideas coming from the outside.
Since Christian visual culture emerged from the substratum of antique pagan imagery in the late second – third century AD, the relationship between iconoclastic and iconophile views has oscillated in Christianity. The basis of the criticism against imagery was the ban imposed in the Old Testament, which was interpreted, depending on exegetical stringency, as a strict ban on either the production of images of God or of any representation of animated creatures. In the eighth century, the confrontation between the opposing inner-Christian positions culminated in the Byzantine Iconoclastic Controversy. With reference to the actual discourse of hybridity in cultural theory, this paper provides a case study of processes in the eighth century which took place in the Syro-Palestinian region during the clash of Christian and Muslim Arab religious ideas and visual cultures. Archaeological investigations of church interiors in this area have documented a trend towards geometrical motifs on the one hand, and deliberate destruction of older figural representations on the other: mosaic tesserae were removed from relevant places in floor mosaics and rearranged on the same spot into abstract or floral motifs. These discoveries raise the questions of the agents’ identity and the backgrounds to these iconophobic acts.
This paper examines the transfer of human resource (HR) practices from German parent companies to their Chinese subsidiaries. Based upon a review of the literature we outline important determinants and outcomes of cross-border transfers in HR-practices. The review suggests that transferring the best practices is a “sticky” process often requiring local adaptation and hybridization. Following a section describing our research methods, the third section presents data on the transfer process from in-depth interviews with German expatriates in China. The interviews centred on the question: what practices are transferred by what processes and with what effects from German parent companies to their Chinese subsidiaries? The results of the analysis challenge the view that the cross-border transfer of organizational practices regularly involves adaptation to local institutions/national cultures in order to be effective in a new context. The discussion traces out the implications of the findings, in particular for cross-border transfer within multinational corporations.
The status of the state in India as a modern, electoral democracy is well established. But, while the country responds positively to most items on formal check lists of democracy and stateness, doubts persist because of its anomalous characteristics in areas crucial to modern democratic states. The emergency provisions built into India’s constitution, the practice of relinquishing state power to the military under the Armed Forces Act in areas considered ‘disturbed’, hybrid civil institutions that undertake the role of the military, capitulation to social actors and ethnic groups in communal riots and, most importantly, glaring failures to protect secularism and individual rights – the ultimate symbols of high modernity – are seen as “functional” lapses of this hybrid state. I argue in this chapter that rather than being merely a diminished sub-type of liberal democracy and modernity, the state in India resembles a manifold – an embodiment of the “avatars [incarnations] of Vishnu” (Rudolph and Rudolph 1987). The state in India is a hybrid – one which diverges from the Western state “in the importance it accords to ‘pre-modern’ political forms… because they express different cultural values and traditions that form part of the cultural heritage.” (Mitra 1990b, 6) The case study of the Indian state leads to a larger questions. Is hybridisation – the strategy and vision of modern political actors of re-using the past – the essential factor behind the resilience of the Indian state? More generally, in everyday life, is hybridity the essential reality behind the chimera of a radical disjunction between tradition and modernity?
Hybridization is a phenomenon that can be observed in many cultural domains – not least in language. After a consideration of the term’s origins, hybridization is defined as a process whereby separate and disparate entities or processes generate another entity or process (the hybrid), which shares certain features with each of its sources but which is not purely compositional. The paper then considers possible instances of hybridity – the basis for hybridization – on different levels of language, such as speech sounds, words and texts. It posits that hybridization is possible on all levels of language, from the most basic to the most abstract, but with regard to different aspects, namely formal, semantic, functional, etymological and communicative hybridity. The frequently used metaphor of language as an organism may explain the closeness of linguistic hybridity to the original biological concept – though particular features of the system language, such as the distinction between the levels of langue and parole (cf. de Saussure 1916/2005, 30–31), give hybridization in language a special character.
The aim of this paper is to reconstruct the history of New Zealand English. New Zealand English today has some special features in its lexicon and grammar and particularly in its phonetics and phonology, when we compare it to other varieties of English. Therefore it is the accent that reveals most about the origins of New Zealand English. Theories about the development of the New Zealand accent can mainly be divided into three categories: Lay, single origin and multiple origin. This study will discuss and evaluate different hypotheses against the background of New Zealand’s cultural history and in the light of linguistic theories about the development of varieties of English. Arguing for a multiple origin theory as the likeliest scenario, the paper will show that the New Zealand English accent is the result of a mixture of other English accents. Thus, the history of this variety of English is a classic case of hybridization.
Any interdisciplinary effort to conceptualize hybridity or hybridization has to take into consideration potential differences between the disciplines, and this entails not only a reflection on the term’s translation from natural into social sciences, linguistics or the humanities, but also – within the humanities – a recognition of the different fields of literary and cultural studies in which the term was popularized most successfully. Thus, in the first part of my essay, I will briefly reconstruct the emergence of American studies from its inception in the myth and symbol school to the current attempts at dismantling and deconstructing static conceptualizations of “America” by the so-called New Americanists. Thriving on a strong democratic ethos from the very beginning, American studies has aimed at a progressive political function, and hybridity is among the latest entries in its critical vocabulary. Yet, how does the terminology, with its poststructuralist affiliations, fit into such an engaged scholarly agenda? Homi K. Bhabha’s The Location of Culture (Bhabha 1993) has had, and continues to have, a strong impact on the academic understanding of American society, its contradictory epistemological and political claims, as well as its underlying aesthetic connotations. Comparing Bhabha’s efforts to Wolfgang Iser’s conceptualization of an aesthetic “in-between state” (Iser 1990) in theory of aesthetic response, I will tackle the widely-held critique that Bhabha offers an aesthetic perspective on culture rather than a political one.
The present paper proposes to accept a usage-based theory of communication, as recently advanced by developmental psychology and cognitive linguistics. With respect to semiotics, this change of theoretical design means to abandon the belief that verbal language is strongly connected to reasoning; it drops the distinction between signifier and signified; and it draws attention to the blurry difference between “ordinary things” and signs. It turns out that, in fact, only essentially hybrid objects exist whose communicative “parts” can hardly be disentangled from their non-communicative “parts.” The present paper assesses a theory of communication which does not depart from language but asks what one can do with things. Such a question leads to an examination of the conditions governing mental representation, social interaction, and abstract analysis. Nonetheless, it finally explores why language is so important in increasing social complexity and in creating mental representations of the world – even though it cannot be equated with reasoning and abstract thought.
Chapter
Trade before Civilization explores the role that long-distance exchange played in the establishment and/or maintenance of social complexity, and its role in the transformation of societies from egalitarian to non-egalitarian. Bringing together research by an international and methodologically diverse team of scholars, it analyses the relationship between long-distance trade and the rise of inequality. The volume illustrates how elites used exotic prestige goods to enhance and maintain their elevated social positions in society. Global in scope, it offers case studies of early societies and sites in Europe, Asia, Oceania, North America, and Mesoamerica. Deploying a range of inter-disciplinary and cutting-edge theoretical approaches from a cross-cultural framework, the volume offers new insights and enhances our understanding of socio-political evolution. It will appeal to archaeologists, cultural anthropologists, conflict theorists, and ethnohistorians, as well as economists seeking to understand the nexus between imported luxury items and cultural evolution.
Article
The concept of leadership has a long history but gained vogue in Africa with the emergence of democracy and end of colonialism. Leadership, however, cannot be understood independent of context and so there have been questions of what African leadership is, African leadership in the diaspora, African leadership styles, and the future of Africa. The combination of past linkages, traditions, culture, history, and indigenous habits creates unique leadership styles that are distinctly African. Traditional leadership ontologies must acknowledge how leadership has evolved in ways distinct to the African experience. Collective and practiced ontologies of leadership must attend to the ways dialogic exchange, relationship, and socio‐material meaning take on a unique character when viewed through the lens of African culture and context. For Africans living outside of the continent (the diaspora), the expression and practice of leadership is embroiled with many issues. Studies on African leadership identify some features of African leadership culture and how those features play out on the identity, style, and development of African leaders exploring leadership as a vehicle for development in Africa. Using systematic review of the literature, the paper explores African leadership in the diaspora through dominant collective and practice leadership ontologies and cultural hybridity.
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The appearance on Sardinia during the first half of the fourth millennium of an unprecedented and extraordinary cult edifice in the form of a monumental temple mound – the Red Temple at Monte d'Accoddi – was paralleled across the island by an outpouring of anthropomorphic cult imagery expressed in sculpture, inscription, and reliefs – equally unprecedented and unmatched locally. Based on a deeper reading of Bhabha’s notion of ‘inbetweenness’ it is argued that the contemporary dispersion of diverse anthropomorphic cult gestures coalesced through varied media in what is suggestive of a state of iconographic – and by implication ideological/spiritual – uncertainty, contestation, and ambivalence consistent with a state of inbetweenness – as understood here in Bhabha's sense of a third‐space of relations.
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People from different areas of the insular Caribbean and the coastal zone of mainland South America moved in and out of the Lesser Antilles throughout the archipelago's history before the European invasion. Successive migrations, the development of networks of human mobility, and the exchange of goods and ideas, as well as constantly shifting inter-insular alliances, created diverse ethnic and cultural communities in these small islands. We argue that these processes of alliance-building and ethnicity can be best understood through the concept of creolization. We examine this idea first in terms of the cultural interactions reflected in the pottery traditions that emerged among the Windward Islands before colonization, and second by analyzing the historiographical and emerging archaeological information available on the formation of the Indigenous Kalinago/Kalipuna and Garifuna identities from the late fifteenth to the early seventeenth centuries. Finally, we discuss the colonial and contemporary Afro-Caribbean pottery traditions on these islands, in particular Grenada and Saint Lucia. The embedding of this study in a deep historical framework serves to underscore the divergent origins and developmental trajectories of the region. including the disruption of the Indigenous cultures and the impact of European colonization, the African diaspora, and the emergence of today's cosmopolitan Caribbean cultural tradition.
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Around the middle of the third millennium BC drastic changes occur in the Aegean in several aspects of material life. One such important change is the introduction of Anatolianizing shapes and features into the ceramic traditions of the Cyclades and the southern east‐central Greek Mainland. In this article, I use the ceramic assemblage from the Minasian plot at Aigion to explore these ceramic changes in the southern Greek mainland (Peloponnese) within the framework of cultural hybridization theory. By focusing on the specific example of Aigion, I discuss the multiple factors which contribute to ceramic hybridization, while I explore their impact on our understanding of broader cultural change at Aigion at this time.
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Many difficulties exist when defining and deciding which requirements should be implemented first in an ultra-large-scale multi-stakeholder involved system. This often leads to system failure and product dissatisfaction. This paper established a suitable method supporting more precise and accurate decision-making in prioritizing requirements. We collected and analyzed a large number of software requirements in a case study, which was based on real-life practices and processes. Structured interviews and questionnaires were used to collect data from 600 stakeholders. We formulated a model based on the analyzed requirements using the CBRanking, and the MACBETH approaches. We ranked the requirements and considered the requirements' relative importance according to the stakeholders' opinions. Thus, a hybridized mathematical model was proposed for prioritizing these functional requirements and evaluated its performance for consistency and completeness. The results showed the software's best functional requirements concerning the customers' expectations.
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This paper offers a detailed overview of past approaches to the world of maritime interaction in the southern Aegean during the third millennium BC, including Tsountas’ pioneering launch of the term “island cultures of the Cyclades”, Renfrew’s thought-provoking “Emergence of Civilisation” in the southern Aegean, and Broodbank’s insightful analysis of “insularity” and long-distance seafaring. Taking as its point of departure recent phenomenological approaches emphasizing a range of factors, from the notion of the seascape to bodily performances related to the sea, the central argument put forward is the need for a more integrated approach to the “maritime”, which departs from island-centred perceptions of the sea and seafaring and stresses the analytical value of concepts such as mobility, hybridity and relationality, through reference to the Early Bronze Age longboat.
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The Festival of Sant'Efisio has been carried out for centuries in Sardinia, Italy, to honor a vow made to the Saint after a plague in the seventeenth century. As a result of the global health crisis in 2020, the Festival was performed mainly through social media. Studying this event under such conditions accentuated the inherent complexity of interpreting ethnographic data from religious festivals, in which the body, emotions, and participation play a fundamental role. Emphasizing the hybridity of online and offline worlds, we reflect on how fieldwork has been transformed by COVID-19 through a reflexive account of the methodological challenges of online festival ethnography.
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The IB DP is widely perceived as a globally recognised, outstanding international curriculum by a growing number of education scholars and policymakers in South Korea. Recently, education authorities from certain provinces have taken steps to adopt the IB DP in public high schools, contending that the programme will improve and galvanise teaching practices to be student-centred and inquiry-based. It is important to emphasise, however, that this ambitious belief lacks empirical research evidence. To address such research gaps, this study interviewed 13 Korean graduates who participated in the IB DP from a wide range of international schools and currently attend higher education institutes in Korea. Major findings revealed that, contrary to the dominant perceptions in Korea (and probably elsewhere), the participants had ambivalent feelings about the curriculum and instructions of the IB DP. Findings also demonstrated that the participants’ experiences of the international curriculum were affected by local contextual factors such as school ethos, academic culture and belief systems, not just by the educational philosophy of the IB DP. As findings portrayed gaps between the academic principles of the IB DP and experiences of students, this study contends both Korean policymakers and international scholars to carefully consider the potential implications of enacting the IB DP in local school systems. As curriculum change is nestled within a web of global-local dynamics, more context-specific knowledge is needed to understand how students will participate in the IB DP.
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Kien Nghi Ha analysiert den aktuellen Diskurs über Hybridität von zwei Seiten her: Einerseits werden die historischen Bedeutungsschichten dieses Begriffs von seiner antiken Entstehung bis in die Kolonialkontexte hinein kulturgeschichtlich rekonstruiert; andererseits wird der grundlegende Bedeutungswandel in der Postmoderne untersucht. Die Aufwertung des Hybriden wird als eine spätkapitalistische Warenform betrachtet, die neue Formen des kulturellen Konsums des Anderen ermöglicht und paradoxerweise mit Essentialisierungen und Ausschließungen verbunden ist. Has Beitrag bereichert damit die Postcolonial Studies und Kulturwissenschaften um eine innovative Perspektive.