Hybridity and translation

Sherry Simon
Concordia University
Table of contents

When two different things are brought together – when plants or animals are ‘crossed’, when two identities are fused, when literary genres are mixed, when a building combines the features of different architectural styles – something new results. This new thing is a hybrid. Today the idea of hybridity has largely positive connotations as it is articulated in esthetics or in cultural theory using postcolonial models (Bhabha, Young) and cyborg theory (Haraway). Mixed identities and creative interference are positively valued for their power to innovate and surprise, to express new emotions and ideas, to reflect changing sociocultural realities. In French, a similar revaluation of the term “métissage” has been undertaken. However, the idea of hybridity carries with it a long history of negativity. Consider the words mongrel or half-breed, which share the same semantic field. During the 18th and 19th centuries hybridity was regularly associated with the abnormal, the monstrous or the grotesque, and the term was implicated in some of the more somber episodes of scientific history having to do racist ideas of ‘polygenesis’ – which postulated the existence of more than one human species. For those who defended pure forms of expression, hybridity was a form of contamination – in the same way as religious syncretism was and continues to be rejected by defenders of authoritative dogma.

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Further reading

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