You are on page 1of 3

Hybridity, a major theme in postcolonial literature Having dealt with the theme of gender (in a limited scope), in this

essay, I wish to explore the spacious concept of hybridity in relation to postcolonial literature. In essence, hybridity is an every-day reality that we encounter in an increasingly multi-ethnic and pluralistic society. Common heritage of most of the Asian and African nations is that the heritage of colonialism. Colonialism, without doubt, is an encounter between cultures, languages, people and system of thought within the ambit in which the power is vested with the white colonial masters. Colonial administration in Asian, African and South American regions infused European form of thinking, European languages, culture, education and way of life from food to sports into a native 'context'. As theorised by postcolonial critic Homi K Bhabha Hybridity is a creation of a new cultural forms and realities resulting from colonial encounter. In colonial societies, Hybridity may be in the form of retrival or the revival of the pre-colonial past. This can be in either reviving folk or tribal cultural forms or conventions or adapting contemporary artistic and social productions to suit the present-day conditions of globalisation, multiculturalism and transnationalism. What is significant in the process of colonialism is that it was not a mere 'civilising mission' in which Europeans introduced languages such as English, French and Spanish but a process of creating 'Europeanised ' natives. This process has been theorised by leading postcolonial theorists such as Homi K Bhabha as the 'hybrid' colonised native. Pramod K Nayar observes, "The colonial 'plan' for such as hybrid native is clearly described in T.B Macaulay's (in)famous 'Minutes' of 1935 where he described the creation of Europeanised native as the creation of 'a class of persons', Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste , in opinion, in morals, and in intellect. V.S Naipaul in a description of contemporary Caribbean society captures this hybridised/ half-native/ half-Westernised, unsatisfactory identity of diasporic, once -colonised communities: A peasant-minded, money-minded community spiritually cut off from its roots, its religion reduced to rites without philosophy set in a materialistic colonial society: a combination of historical accidents and national temperament has turned the Trinidad Indians into a complete colonial, even more philistine that white. (The Middle Passage) Naipaul describing a Caribbean identity in which 'roots' have been erased and new ideas and ideologies planted." Diasporic writings One of the prominent areas where the Hybridity is captured is the diasporic writings. Although many assume that the diaspora is a novel concept, it was

in latter half of the 20th century, that in the writings of diasporic translated authors such as Bharati Mukherjee, Buchi Emecheta, David Dabydeen, Caryl Philips, and Hanif Kureishi have captured the diasporic, hybridised state of migrant communities. Commenting on diasporic writings, Nayar states, " Diaspora is simply the displacement of a community/culture into another geographical and cultural region. Such movements were common during colonialism. ...As communities settled down, they acquired certain traditions and belief-systems. However, it is important to distinguish between kind of migration and diaspora-refugees, asylum-seekers, illegal migrants, voluntary migrants and job-seekers constitute different forms of diasporic existence. Europeans moved all over the world, leading to colonial settlements (Canada, Australia, the Americas). They also transported Africans to colonies for slave labour, leading to yet another diaspora. Curiously, 'diasporic' writing today has come to signify the recent phenomenon of 'Third world' writers in Western metropolises." According to Roger Bromley that every narrative in diasporic writing is 'both an individual story and, explicitly, a cultural narrative'. The statement is closed to Jameson's claim/prescription that all 'Third world' literature 'functions as national allegory'. To a greater extent, it is true that diasporic writing is autobiographical, individual, communal and cultural. It is a fact that most of the writers who codify diasporic experiences are themselves diasporic in their real life. Dislocation Citing Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior (1975), Nayar observes the undecidable nature of diasporic writings. Hong Kingston's book can be considered as ethnic biography, fiction and documentary. The experiences of unsettlement, adaptation, language and longing depicted in diasporic literature may be drawn from the author's own experience of dislocation. Though individualistic in character, diasporic writing at the same time, maps out an experience which is shared by many if they have a voice. Therefore, one may argue that diasporic author can be seen as metonym, one who stands for the entire community. Nayar suggest that diasporic literature deals more with a 'problematic collective situation' than with a 'problematic hero/ine'. Primarily diasporic writings deal with experiences of exile and homeland. Nayar observes these polarities as : " All diasporic literature is an attempt to negotiate between these two polarities. The writings of exiled/ immigrant writers undertakes two moves, one temporal, and other special. It is, as Meena Alexander puts it, 'writing in search of homeland'. "

However, this movement is not merely physical displacement on the part of new migrants. It amounts to reconfiguration of the new reality in the diaspora. Nayar describes this phenomenon as: "The temporary move is a looking back at the past (analepsis) and looking forward at the future (Prolepsis). Analepsis involves a negotiations with a retreating history, past, traditions and customs. It produces nostalgia, memory, and reclamation as literary themes. Prolepsis involves a different treatment of time, where the writer looks forward at the future, seeking new vistas, new chances. This produces themes of ethic of work, survival and cultural assimilation. The proleptic narrative is agenda-driven as the characters seek to survive hostility, adapt new circumstances and gaze upon the future." One of the significant features of the spatial move is the process of a deterritorialisation and a re-territorialisation. The loss of territory (Deterritorialisation) involves not only the loss of geographical territory, the homeland but also cultural territory. As pointed out by Nayar, 'what is significant is that the loss of territory is almost accompanied by gain of a new one. Dislocation from is followed by re-location to. '. In this manner, diasporic literature deals with space between 'home' and 'foreign country'. But there are some first generation diasporic writers who have manifestly failed to integrate into the adapted country and its pluralistic culture. Agonies of inability to integrate into adapted country are, sometimes, manifested in eternal lament expressed through diasporic writings in general and in poetry in particular.