A preoccupation with hybridity is natural in a period like ours marked by increasingly frequent and intense cultural encounters. Globalization encourages hybridization. However we react to it, the globalizing trend is impossible to miss, from curry and chips – recently voted the favourite dish in Britain – to Thai saunas, Zen Judaism, Nigerian Kung Fu or ‘Bollywood’ films. The process is particularly obvious in the domain of music, in the case of such hybrid forms and genres as jazz, reggae, salsa or, more recently, Afro-Celtic rock. New technology (including, appropriately enough, the ‘mixer’), has obviously facilitated this kind of hybridization.
It is no wonder then that a group of theorists of hybridity have made their appearance, themselves often of double or mixed cultural identity. Homi Bhabha for instance, is an Indian who has taught in England and is now in the USA. Stuart Hall, who was born in Jamaica of mixed parentage, has lived most of his life in England and describes himself as ‘a mongrel culturally, the absolute cultural hybrid’. Ien Ang describes herself as ‘an ethnic Chinese, Indonesian-born and European-educated academic who now lives and works in Australia’. The late Edward Said was a Palestinian who grew up in Egypt, taught in the USA and described himself as ‘out of place’ wherever he was located.
The work of these and other theorists has attracted growing interest in a number of disciplines, from anthropology to literature, from geography to art history, and from musicology to religious studies. In this issue, the contributions discuss Africa, Japan and the Americas as well as Europe and range from the 16th century to the 21st, from religion to architecture and from clothing to the cinema.