The concept of hybridity in Derek Walcott’s “A Far Cry from Africa”
One of the central concepts in the work of post-colonial writer Homi Bhabha is that of ‘hybridity’. In the Introduction to The Location of Culture, Bhabha reflects on aspects of hybridity in the context of the ‘in-between’ of cultures. The essay will briefly discuss a passage taken out of this book in order to get a better idea about the significance of the term hybridity. Afterwards, the idea of hybridity will be transferred to Derek Walcott’s poem “A Far Cry from Africa”.
“The stairwell as liminal space, in-between the designations of identity, becomes the process of symbolic interaction […]. This interstitial passage between fixed identifications opens up a possibility of a cultural hybridity that entertains difference without an assumed or imposed hierarchy. ” (Bhabha 2004: 3)
The term ‘hybridity’, which is a very frequently used construct in post-colonial studies, seeks to explain the melting of different cultural ideas into one entity. Someone who experienced more than one cultural influence and incorporated these into his identity is therefore a cultural hybrid. Bhabha picks up the dynamic image of identity as presented in Stuart Hall’s work when he refers to a passage in a stairwell “between fixed identifications”. Thus, as identity is not a fixed construct but always in constant negotiation between the individual and its surroundings, hybridity is also a dynamic construct. A consequence of this dynamics is the uncertainty about the self of cultural hybrids on the one hand and a possibility to benefit from the different cultures on the other. The ‘in-between’ of cultures is where the differences between cultures are most obvious. In this context that David Huddart suggests that Bhabha “directs our attention to what happens on the borderlines of cultures”, as that is the space where people are explicitly confronted with differences and have to deal with them (Huddart 2006: 7). The contact between cultures then “leads to cultural mixed-ness” and as cultures are always in contact with each other there are never pure cultures. In other words, all cultures are hybrids themselves. Finally, important for the notion of hybridity, as discussed by Bhabha, is the “possibility” of entertaining difference “without an assumed or imposed hierarchy”. Bhabha’s idea of a stairwell suggests that in the context of colonisation both coloniser and colonised cannot be defined independently. When following Bhabha’s idea of the stairwell, cultures are not just antagonistic and independent but for identification depend on each other. In comparison to Edward Said, Bhabha tries to avoid a simply antagonistic image, where analysis primarily focuses on the fact that one culture is superior to the other and impresses its thoughts on the inferior.
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- Markus Emerson (Autor), 2011, The Concept of Hybridity in Derek Walcott’s “A Far Cry from Africa”, München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/311259