Sihem Arfaoui Abidi: “The Between-world Dilemma: Pains and Pleasures of Hybridity in Arab and Arab American Memoirs”

The dis­cus­sions of hybridity in works dwelling the Asian, African and Latin Americas – in the folds of texts like The Bluest Eye or The Woman Warrior – as a between-world dilemma almost amount to axiomatic or even common-sense exer­cises for the world-wide readers of English lit­er­a­tures. Unfortunately, it seems to require the 9/11 events to turn atten­tion to another sig­nif­i­cant seg­ment of English American lit­er­a­ture, that is, Arab American writ­ings and shed light on their con­tri­bu­tions to the inves­ti­ga­tion of sim­ilar issues, since what brought this genre to the spot­light has often-times been related to this eventful decade. This is not to sug­gest that Arab American fic­tion is more orig­inal when it comes to such issues as hybridity, but rather that this seg­ment of American lit­er­a­ture needs to be taken into account in the artic­u­la­tion of the con­sid­ered ques­tion. In the spirit of reviving the cur­rent keen interest in this mul­ti­lay­ered lit­erary corpus – albeit in com­par­ison with an Arab memoir written in English, I pro­pose to study the rep­re­sen­ta­tions of hybridity in two mem­oirs by Arab and Arab American women writers. These include Dreams of Trespass (1994) by the Moroccan woman writer Fatima Mernissi and The Language of Baklava (2005) by Palestinian-Jordanian American nov­elist Diana Abu-Jaber. Both mem­oirs, I argue, abound with instances where the iden­ti­tarian between-world status remains dilemmic as long as it oscil­lates between pain and plea­sure. By drifting away from racial purity and cul­tural authen­ticity, Mernissi’s and Abu-Jaber’s life-writ­ings tell painful sto­ries of dis­place­ment, exile, insta­bility, non-belonging, of people in a cease­less search for roots. On the other hand, these works trust them­selves to the pos­si­bil­i­ties of mixing and syn­cretism which loom large for hybrid iden­ti­ties, as it is mir­rored through third-world sol­i­darity and alliances as well the chal­lenges to homo­geneity and the bina­rist sym­me­tries between East and West, col­o­nizer and col­o­nized.

Claudine Armand: “Forms and prac­tices of hybridiza­tion in Fred Wilson’s visual art”

Fred Wilson is a New-York based con­cep­tual African-American artist (born in New York in 1954) whose mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary work draws from var­ious sources, such as art his­tory, archi­tec­ture, and anthro­pology. Through his nomadic prac­tices, he appro­pri­ates and explores hetero­ge­neous spaces, be they indoors or out­doors, which are always his­tor­i­cally-charged. As an artist, he also likes to take up dif­ferent roles (as curator, col­lector, guide, docent, or spec­tator). His approach par­takes of a post­mod­ernist and post­colo­nial reflec­tion on the tra­di­tional bound­aries of genres that he decom­part­men­tal­izes and a ques­tioning of public places and insti­tu­tions, like museums whose rhetoric and lan­guage he appro­pri­ates so as to unveil their gaps, inad­e­qua­cies, and intri­ca­cies. This paper aims at exploring the hybridiza­tion pro­cess – generic, formal, func­tional – that under­lies Fred Wilson’s art prac­tice. It will there­fore be based on an anal­ysis of the artist’s appro­pri­a­tion strate­gies and var­ious forms of hybridity that are inex­tri­cably linked to issues related to iden­tity and rep­re­sen­ta­tion. It will also show how Wilson builds a pro­tean art and an aes­thetics of cross­breeding through instal­la­tions, his favourite medium. His instal­la­tions are open and fluid spaces, sites of inter­ac­tion and over­lap­ping of mul­tiple ges­tures.

Markus Arnold: “Cos­mopolitan visions and odysseys of memory: iden­tity twists in the writing of Mauritian author Amal Sewtohul”

For a couple of years a young gen­er­a­tion of writers has been enriching the lit­erary field of Mauritius Island with esthet­i­cally inno­va­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tions of anti-essen­tial iden­ti­ties. Diverging from better known ‘cre­olizing’ cur­rents in the Antillean and in Reunion, those com­mitted lit­erary voices (A. Devi, N. Appanah, S. Patel, etc.) are opposing to the hege­mony of a fixed mul­ti­cul­tur­alism such as it can be found in Mauritian offi­cial dis­course and tra­di­tion­alist view­points. Aiming at an interethnic dia­logue, those authors trans­gress inter­com­munal bar­riers and sub­vert the ideas of iden­tity purity and homo­geneity through dif­ferent ways of rep­re­senting cre­oliza­tion. The pre­sent paper will ana­lyze how the novels of Amal Sewtohul – Histoire d’Ashok (2001) and Les voy­ages et aven­tures de Sanjay (2009) equally por­tray such an esthetics of the hybrid. But we’ll then see to what degree their inno­va­tive poetics diverge from the cur­rent lit­erary voices en vogue in Mauritius. Thus, Sewtohul’s hybrid visions can be con­sid­ered as propo­si­tions of a tran­scul­tural dia­logue. But do they not illus­trate at the same time the limits of polit­ical com­mit­ment? Do they not run the risk of an eli­tist cos­mopoli­tanism far away from the Mauritian real­i­ties?

Myriam Bellehigue: “Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine: a mixed-blood nar­ra­tive”

“One of the char­ac­ter­is­tics of being a mixed-blood is searching. You look back and say, ‘Where am I from?’ You must ques­tion. You must make cer­tain choices. You’re able to. And it’s a blessing and it’s a curse.” The con­tem­po­rary Native-American nov­elist and poet, Louise Erdrich, defines her­self as mixed-blood, and the quest for iden­tity related to these mixed ori­gins lies at the core of most of her nar­ra­tives. Love Medicine, first pub­lished in 1984, was reis­sued in a revised and expanded ver­sion in 1993. It is the first novel Erdrich has devoted to the Chippewa com­mu­nity she orig­i­nates from. Several other novels have com­pleted this fic­tional family saga set in North Dakota’s Turtle Mountain Reservation. Love Medicine is a short story cycle that focuses on sev­eral mem­bers of the com­mu­nity over a period of 50 years. Erdrich draws from a dense his­tor­ical, polit­ical and social back­ground to explore the per­va­sive the­matics of cul­tural, lin­guistic and reli­gious métis­sage. But hybridity is also a key motif in the very aes­thetics she has chosen for her first book, approaching the issues of inter­mixing from the edge: “I am on the edge, have always been on the edge, flourish on the edge, and I don’t think I belong any­where else”. She resorts to var­ious inter­tex­tual strate­gies bor­rowing from the Indian oral tra­di­tion of sto­ry­telling and from other Native-American writers, but also from American pre­de­ces­sors like William Faulkner or Flannery O’Connor. She is also influ­enced by European fairy-tales or Greek mythology. As a short story cycle, the nar­ra­tive is marked by its own tex­tual pol­li­na­tion: kalei­do­scopic con­struc­tion, polyphony, echoes, rep­e­ti­tions and vari­a­tions. The dis­con­ti­nuity inherent to this hybrid genre is coun­ter­bal­anced by var­ious forms of porosity and cir­cu­la­tion. Through mul­tiple recon­fig­u­ra­tions, Erdrich man­ages to blur limits and to para­dox­i­cally per­pet­uate memory and her­itage: “In the light of enor­mous loss, Native American writers must tell the sto­ries of con­tem­po­rary sur­vivors while pro­tecting and cel­e­brating the cores of cul­tures left in the wake of the catas­trophe.”

Salhia Ben-Messahel: “Hy­bridity as the site of dif­fer­ence in Nicholas Jose’s The Red Thread and Gail Jones’s Dreams of Speaking”

Recent Australian fic­tion shows a marked interest for cul­tural issues and the need for Australia to rec­on­cile dif­ferent cul­tures and sto­ries: Indigenous and non-Indigenous his­to­ries in a post­colo­nial and global envi­ron­ment. Nicholas Jose and Gail Jones’s novels tackle inter­cul­tural and tran­scul­tural rela­tions and design an in-between space that becomes a site of dif­fer­ence. The issue of iden­tity and oth­er­ness, from the per­spec­tive of a mul­ti­cul­tural nation in the Asia-pacific, sur­faces through an inter­tex­tual con­struct that trans­gresses the scope of time and space. Time and space merge to design a hybrid text resting upon inter­po­la­tion and dial­o­gism, extending the bound­aries of genre and dis­course. A fea­ture of post­colo­nial dis­course, hybridity trans­lates as an assump­tion that the centre is a decen­tred reality, replaces a tem­poral lin­eality with a spa­tial plu­rality and con­structs post­colo­niality by playing with tex­tu­ality. The inter­tex­tual nature of Jose and Jones’s works, which can also be inter­preted as part of a post­modern approach, is a means to nego­tiate (between mul­ti­cul­tural) iden­tity and dis­place­ment, to refute Eurocentric views about the world, to examine cross-cul­tural issues and address the text as an arte­fact that oper­ates as the real in a dis­lo­cated global envi­ron­ment.

Elisabeth Bouzonviller: “Cracks and ‘bri­co­lage’ in Louise Erdrich’s The Antilope Wife or the Art of Hybridity” Louise Erdrich is from mixed ori­gins and most of her novels are set in North Dakota in, or close to, an imag­i­nary Ojibwa reser­va­tion. Repeatedly, her fic­tion cel­e­brates an America of mul­ti­plicity through her char­ac­ters, plots and lit­erary tech­nique but it also calls for con­stant remem­bering so as not to forget Native cul­ture and cer­tain trou­bled aspects of national his­tory. The Antilope Wife takes place mainly in Minneapolis but the nar­ra­tive estab­lishes links with the land of ori­gins some­where in the West, where some ini­tial crack brought para­dox­i­cally three White, Ojibwa and mixed-blood fam­i­lies together. Our paper will study the way Erdrich man­ages, through her writing, and this novel in par­tic­ular, to refuse rigid frame­works, a return to iden­tity and sec­tar­i­anism and finally con­veys a hybrid reading of America. Unlike Silko or Momaday, who are per­ceived as more polit­i­cally com­mitted artists and who favor a return to tra­di­tions in their fic­tion, Erdrich offers a hybrid writing which mixes geo­graph­ical, human and lit­erary ori­gins, a writing which, like Lévi-Strauss’s « bri­coleur », makes good use of all avail­able ele­ments to pro­duce a new whole res­onating with modern America.

Marilyne Brun: “Ra­cial and Literary Hybridity in Brian Castro’s Shanghai Dancing

The nine novels of con­tem­po­rary Australian writer Brian Castro are par­tic­u­larly inter­esting in rela­tion to hybridity. Most of Castro’s heroes are mixed-race, and their racial iden­tity is often deeply ambiguous. What is unique about Castro’s fic­tion is that he sug­gests, in his crit­ical work, that he also mobilises hybridity as a lit­erary trope. In this sense, it is cru­cial to under­stand how Castro employs hybridity both the­mat­i­cally and poet­i­cally in his novels, and what rela­tion can be estab­lished between the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of mul­tira­ciality and hybrid poetics. This paper deals specif­i­cally with Castro’s sev­enth novel, Shanghai Dancing (2003), which fol­lows the quest of Antonio Castro. While the novel play­fully rep­re­sents racial hybridity as ambiguous, its nar­ra­tive can also be described as fun­da­men­tally hybrid thanks to its mix­ture of genres and inter­tex­tual com­plexity. Elaborating on Salman Rushdie’s cel­e­bra­tion of “mon­greli­sa­tion” and Fred Wah’s “half-bred poetics”, I argue that Shanghai Dancing tightly asso­ci­ates racial and lit­erary hybridity, and thereby high­lights not simply the pres­ence of racist forms in lan­guage, but also the desire for homo­geneity that exists in canon­ical lit­er­a­ture.

Simona Corso: “Robinson’s Adventures in a Hybrid World”

In his 2003 Nobel Lecture, enti­tled “He and His Man”, J.M. Coetzee evokes the figure of an old and sullen Robinson Crusoe, who grasps the pen but does not find the right words. “His man”, on the other hand, dines with him but spends his days in the streets of England, hunting for sto­ries, and filling page after page with his “re­ports” – scenes of everyday life, tragic, endearing or funny. Reading and re-reading these reports, Robinson under­stands that they are fig­ures of his own life, events that occurred to him many years ago on his island. Since he is lost for words, his man’s elo­quence irri­tates him, just as he was once annoyed by the many imi­ta­tors, who, like can­ni­bals, fed off his “is­land his­tory”, “that is to say, his life”. But Robinson con­soles him­self: “there are but a handful of sto­ries in the world; and if the young are to be for­bidden to prey upon the old then they must sit for ever in silence”. While he is being cel­e­brated as one of the world’s greatest living writers, Coetzee, unsur­pris­ingly, turns to Crusoe. The story of Robinson – one of the most pow­erful myths in English cul­ture – haunts the imag­i­na­tion of post­colo­nial writers. It is a direct source of inspi­ra­tion for Coetzee’s Foe (1986), Derek Walcott’s Pantomime (1978), but it also proves a pow­erful influ­ence for many nar­ra­tives or episodes cen­tered on the master-ser­vant rela­tion­ship – from V. S. Naipaul’s short story “One out of Many” (1971) to Moses’ rela­tion­ship with his “right hand man” in Sam Selvon’s Moses Ascending (1975). Coetzee and Walcott, Selvon and Naipaul unravel English cul­ture from its pre­sumed mar­gins; by re-writing, some­times painfully some other times humor­ously, the story of Robinson and Friday, these authors spec­u­late about the vio­lence that under­lies every form of cul­tural hege­mony, the status of his­tor­ical truth, the priv­i­lege of having a voice, but also the rich poten­tials of irony and satire avail­able in any reversal or hybridiza­tion of well estab­lished lit­erary myths. Drawing exam­ples from J. M. Coetzee, Derek Walcott, Sam Selvon, and V. S. Naipaul I wish to explore the semantic com­plexity of Robinson’s story and its rel­e­vance to post­colo­nial fic­tion, not only as the nar­ra­tive core of a modern mythog­raphy of colo­nialism and its tragic con­se­quences, but also as a great lab­o­ra­tory for hybridiza­tion and satire.

Sophie Dannenmüller: “ ‘Café Mestizo: a grind so fine you give in to the plea­sure’: The use of the medium to crit­i­cize society in David Avalos’ hybrid sculp­tures”

The con­cept of hybridity is intrinsic to the Chicano (Mexican-American) cul­ture and iden­tity. In 1989, the California Chicano artist David Avalos (1947-) cre­ated the Café Mestizo instal­la­tion in order to uphold the notion of mix­ture and denounce the neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tion of the term ‘half-breed’. The ‘menu’ of Café Mestizo fea­tured var­ious Combination Platters in the form of hybrid con­struc­tions col­lec­tively enti­tled Hubcap Milagros. ‘Milagros’ (mir­a­cles) are small tra­di­tional devo­tional ex-votos char­ac­ter­istic of Mexican Catholicism, while ‘Hubcap’ sug­gests the cus­tomized Chicano lowriders. These sculp­tures were all made of objects loaded with meaning: barbed wire, revolver, tom­a­hawk, hubcap, chili pep­pers, cactus, Sacred heart, vagina den­tata…. For instance, Junípero Serra’s Next Miracle: Turning Blood into Thunderbird Wine jux­ta­poses sym­bolic objects to chal­lenge the myth of an ide­al­istic col­o­niza­tion and to con­test the Franciscan mis­sionary’s can­on­iza­tion in 1989; The Straight-Razor Taco rep­re­sents the con­fronta­tion of indige­nous and European civ­i­liza­tions through a rereading of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, which insid­i­ously pro­scribed mis­ce­gena­tion. This paper will examine the con­nec­tion between medium and polit­ical con­tent in Avalos’ com­posite sculp­tures, which blend and con­front Anglo and Mexican cul­tures, high and low art, the pro­fane and the sacred, myths and his­tor­ical facts, to expose the cur­rent Chicano con­di­tion.

Anne Dromart: “Hy­bridity, Legitimacy and Identity in the Writings of Daniel Defoe”

By calling the English a hybrid people – « a mon­grel half-bred race » — in The True-Born Englishman (1700) as an answer to Tutchin’s Foreigners pub­lished a few months before, Daniel Defoe dis­misses the idea that nation­alism can be based on ethnic purity and prof­fers a new con­struc­tion of Englishness through a ree­val­u­a­tion of the notions of legit­i­macy and indi­vidual iden­tity. What he does here for moral and polit­ical pur­poses is also to be found in his other fic­tional or non-fic­tional writ­ings in which he coun­ters the tra­di­tional asso­ci­a­tion of mixed blood with Satanic or sub­ver­sive forces, in order to show that an indi­vidual’s true iden­tity does not lie in his direct genealog­ical line. In the wake of the Glorious Revolution in 1688 the related themes of legit­i­macy in pol­i­tics and bas­tardy in lit­er­a­ture par­take of the same reflexion on both inner worth and social value in a way that legit­i­mates social mobility.

Corinne Duboin: “Black Atlantic Literature: Aesthetics, Hybridity and Globality”

In the pre­sent con­text, post­colo­niality seems to dis­ap­pear grad­u­ally for the ben­efit of glob­al­ized tran­scul­tur­ality. Writers them­selves have become “global souls,” nomadic, cos­mopolitan fig­ures “in the modern, post­na­tional globe” (A. Pico, Global Soul). Thus, one may wonder about the evo­lu­tion and the place of migrant and dias­poric lit­er­a­tures in the future. The new mobil­i­ties of the black Diaspora not only pro­duce more diver­sity within the Diaspora itself, but also new hybridi­ties and inter­cul­tural con­nec­tions that com­bine ten­sion with fusion. Those pro­cesses should be exam­ined from a new per­spec­tive that revises the post­colo­nial approach by focusing not only on “ver­tical” binary rela­tions, but on “lat­eral” rela­tions as well (F. Lionnet & S. Shih, Minor Transnationalism). I pro­pose to show through a transversal reading how African American and Caribbean writers scat­tered throughout the Black Atlantic inscribe their works within a tex­tual “third space” that reflects an onto­log­ical lim­i­nality. These writers build their own canons through a pro­cess of tex­tual hybridiza­tion, a nego­ti­a­tion of new codes that com­bine same­ness with dif­fer­ence in an inter­ac­tive way, ini­ti­ating both a plu­ral­istic decen­tering of writing and a new world order.

Françoise Dupeyron-Lafay: “De­na­turing, con­tam­i­na­tion and hybridity in Thomas de Quincey’s auto­bi­o­graph­ical works (1821-1853)”

Towards the end of his life, Thomas De Quincey was evoking a form of preda­tory self-tor­ture: “It is like being a vam­pire who sucks his own blood, for the man who is cursed with a good memory is ‘a fiery heau­ton­ti­moroumenos (or self-tor­mentor)’ ”. The role of hybridiza­tion in his life and works clearly appears though this recourse to ancient Greek and, above all, through the novel image of the vam­pire, the alien from the East, decades before S. Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872) and Stoker’s Dracula (1897). Indeed, the title of Conan Doyle’s short story, “The Sussex Vampire” (1924) sounds like a paradox in a nation­alist per­spec­tive, empha­sizing the seem­ingly out­landish nature of vam­pirism in the very heart of England. How did De Quincey come to this, through what slow and painful meta­mor­phosis did he become other and turn into a hybrid crea­ture formed of hetero­ge­neous French, Turkish, Malaysian, or Chinese ele­ments? These were the very threats he had erected the pre­scrip­tive and nor­ma­tive stronghold of Englishness against, at the start of his lit­erary career. As a matter of fact, in his 1821 Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, shortly after the Napoleonic wars and within the con­text of colo­nial expan­sion in the East, he had vig­or­ously and repeat­edly claimed (t)his English « purity », from a lit­erary, moral, intel­lec­tual and phys­ical point of view. This paper will there­fore focus on the ori­gins, modal­i­ties and con­se­quences of this hybridiza­tion through a corpus including the Confessions (1821), “The Apparition of the Brocken” in Suspiria de Profundis (1845), The English Mail-Coach (1849) and Autobiographic Sketches (1853). Cannon Schmitt’s Alien Nation. Nineteenth-Century Gothic Fictions and English Nationalities (1997) will also be used as a sec­ondary source.

Blossom Ngum Fondo: “Metaphors of ‘Twoness’: Constructing a Double Heritage in Michelle Cliff’s Abeng”

Caribbean writ­ings like most post­colo­nial writing are involved amongst other things with the ways in which the colo­nial expe­ri­ence affected the lives of the col­o­nized. The Caribbeans espe­cially find them­selves in a unique sit­u­a­tion where they are phys­i­cally and psy­cho­log­i­cally placed at the nexus of two dis­sim­ilar worlds. Jamaican writer Michelle Cliff in her novel Abeng is inter­ested in pre­senting the double her­itage of the Caribbean focusing on char­ac­ters who are descen­dants of both the slaves and slave mas­ters. In doing this, she engages a series of metaphors which high­light this double and con­flicting her­itage of the Caribbean. This paper intends to bring out this rich reper­toire of metaphors of ‘twoness’ in Abeng showing the ways in which her nar­ra­tive tech­nique, char­ac­ter­i­za­tion, land­scape, sex­u­ality, naming, descrip­tive strate­gies inter alia all go to show how the Caribbean is a cit­izen of two inescapable worlds and must there­fore con­fi­dently carry the load of these two worlds and rec­on­cile the var­ious con­flicts and dif­fer­ences.

Jean-Michel Ganteau: “Mon­gre­liza­tion and Assimilation: The Hybridity of Englishness”

This paper will address Peter Ackroyd’s crit­ical and polem­ical def­i­ni­tion of Englishness, as exem­pli­fied in his oeuvre, and more espe­cially in the texts that he has pub­lished over the last three decades. Such a def­i­ni­tion is based on a vision of English cul­ture as assim­i­la­tion and hybridiza­tion, according to the prin­ci­ples of mon­gre­liza­tion and lin­guistic hybridiza­tion encap­su­lated in the figure of the “mony­polylin­guist”. Such an explo­ration chooses impu­rity as one of its most pow­erful fea­tures and echoes what T.S. Eliot has defined as the “me­toikos” so as to sub­vert the canon of Englishness (or English Music, in Ackroyd’s terms) and pro­mote a latent counter-canon, which is either denied of repressed. It con­sti­tutes the symptom of the cul­tural trauma of the Reformation which makes the fig­ures of the cul­tural and reli­gious other sur­face in the pre­sent under the guise of Catholic, Mediterranean cul­ture and pro­mote the work­ings of hauntology. By so doing, Ackroyd pro­poses a new eth­ical posi­tioning for a vision of national cul­ture.

Laure Gardelle: “The con­tri­bu­tion of pronom­inal gender to the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a hybrid lin­guistic iden­tity”

In the United States, the War of Independence trig­gered a search for a truly American lin­guistic iden­tity. Noah Webster, in par­tic­ular, advo­cated a lan­guage that would reflect the “soul of the American people”. Hence his edi­tion of the first American dic­tionary, which con­tained many spelling and gram­mat­ical reforms. He viewed American lin­guistic iden­tity as a move­ment away from an existing lan­guage stan­dard which he con­strued as a hybrid British / American blend. In the course of the 19th and early 20th cen­turies, many writers fur­thered the search for American lin­guistic iden­tity by rep­re­senting in their works what was regarded as the authentic speech of the people. This time, American lin­guistic iden­tity was pre­sented as irrec­on­cil­ably hybrid: beside the stan­dard lan­guage, one found sub­stan­dard English, with a dif­ferent use of the lan­guage, espe­cially in what came to be called the Old Southwest. While pro­nun­ci­a­tion and lex­ical dif­fer­ences have been widely doc­u­mented, the pre­sent study looks into one gram­mat­ical aspect of hybridity that has been little studied: the use of gram­mat­ical gender, more specif­i­cally the increased use of she in sub­stan­dard English. It seeks to deter­mine how gender use con­tributes to an author’s hybrid dis­course, with spe­cial ref­er­ence to Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

Teresa Gibert: “Thomas King and the Paradoxes of Hybridity”

Thomas King’s self-defined posi­tion between two coun­tries and his belonging to more than one eth­nicity has pro­vided him with a van­tage point from which to deal with the para­doxes of hybridity and the dif­fi­cul­ties in occu­pying what he calls “ra­cial shadow zones.” In sev­eral inter­views, as well as in his cre­ative writ­ings, he has explic­itly or implic­itly revealed his per­sonal atti­tude toward the United States, his birth country, and Canada, the country that he has called home for many years now. King has also com­mented on his mixed ancestry and his desire to recon­nect with his Native her­itage: “Greek was the assumed, the given iden­tity. Indian was the mys­tery, the unknown self” (1999). Furthermore, he has often addressed the sen­si­tive issues of authen­ticity and legit­i­macy on the part of mixed-bloods whose degree of “In­di­an­ness” is ques­tioned in spite of their firm deter­mi­na­tion to be seen as Natives. Considering roots a matter of choice to some extent, he has explained why he dis­tanced him­self from the Cherokee from Oklahoma, to whom he is genealog­i­cally linked, and felt more affinity with the Blackfoot, who con­sti­tute the major source of mate­rial that frames the real­istic com­po­nent of his novels and short sto­ries.

Lise Guilhamon: “English ‘made as India’: the lan­guage of Salman Rushdie’s fic­tion between lin­guistic hetero­geneity and poetic hybridity”

Critics and post­colo­nial scholars have often dubbed Salman Rushdie’s exu­berant and pro­lif­er­ating style “Masala English” and acclaimed its hybridity, the way it mixes English with innu­mer­able Hindi or Anglo-Indian expres­sions, with nonce words, malapropisms and mul­ti­lin­gual port­man­teau words, all of which dis­tort and dis­place English in order to Indianize it. But one won­ders if these devices of lin­guistic cross­breeding, which are at work in Midnight’s Children, The Satanic Verses and The Moor’s Last Sigh for instance, should really be described as the result of a pro­cess of hybri­da­tion as defined by Homi Bhabha, that is to say, an inter­lin­guistic pro­cess of poetic cre­ativity. Wouldn’t most of these instances of lan­guage blending be more aptly described as the result of the hetero­geneity of the lan­guage of these novels, the coex­is­tence, within the text, of sev­eral idioms, lan­guages and idi­olects? To dis­tin­guish hetero­geneity from hybridity, I will ana­lyze the lan­guage of Rushdie’s fic­tion as English “made as India” (Midnight’s Children), i.e. a lit­erary tongue which is grounded in mul­ti­lin­gualism in order to per­form a meta­mor­phosis of lan­guage through a pro­cess of poetic cre­ativity.

Christian Gutleben: “Hy­bridity as oxy­moron: An inter­pre­ta­tion of the dual nature of neo-Victorian fic­tion”

In this paper I would like to con­sider neo-Victorian fic­tion as an example of post­mod­ernism which sys­tem­at­i­cally hybridises the tra­di­tions, genres or works of the past with the con­tem­po­rary aes­thetic and ide­o­log­ical per­spec­tive. Starting with Charles Jencks’ def­i­ni­tion of post­mod­ernism “as double coding – the com­bi­na­tion of modern tech­niques with some­thing else” (1986, 10), I intend to define neo-Victorianism as a form of double-coding which grafts the modern onto the Victorian and thus pro­duces a new, quintessen­tially hybrid, nov­el­istic species. In its endeavour to asso­ciate the new and the Victorian, to com­bine the opposed tra­di­tions of Victorianism and mod­ernism, and to simul­ta­ne­ously high­light incredulity and faith, the familiar and the for­eign, the same and the other, neo-Victorian fic­tion’s hybridity turns out to be oxy­moronic. An oxy­moron is not only the com­bi­na­tion of two opposed con­cepts, it is also a new syn­thesis and neo-Victorian fic­tion does indeed pre­sent unex­pected modal and tonal con­fla­tions. But to bracket together con­trary ideas can also create ide­o­log­ical ambi­guity: how can neo-Victorian fic­tion be con­ser­va­tive and sub­ver­sive at the same time? What does it mean to under­take an oper­a­tion of both mythol­o­gi­sa­tion and demythol­o­gi­sa­tion? To inter­pret the ide­o­log­ical ambi­gu­i­ties which stem from neo-Victorian fic­tion’s oxy­moronic hybridity will con­sti­tute the goal of this paper.

John Hutnyk: “Cre­ativity across bor­ders”

With so much already said about Hybridity, there is little more to add. Except that hybridity is per­haps best when it is con­stant addi­tion. This talk addresses the fate of the term when it meets the pol­i­tics of an inter­na­tional music fes­tival ded­i­cated to cre­ativity across bor­ders. A fes­tival that explic­itly and implic­itly, and some­times ambiva­lently, declares a chal­lenge to easy iden­tity, that is con­cerned to mix up the melo­dious global jukebox with the dis­cor­dant rhythms of the global sweatbox. Commercialization and oper­a­tional­iza­tion of ‘cul­ture’ is cri­tiqued, yet “Clan­des­tino!” remains one of the most inter­esting fes­ti­vals on the cir­cuit. Participation as an organ­iser and as a guest offer dif­ferent ways to access the com­plex­i­ties of public per­for­ma­tivity – and a the­o­riza­tion that is some­times a little behind the prac­tice and engage­ment of those more recently “added” to the cre­ative roster. What more can be said about hybridity will be risked again.

Madhu Krishnan: “Nar­ra­tive Hybridity and the Dynamism of the Postcolonial in Chris Abani’s GraceLand”

This paper will con­sider the use of hybridity in nar­ra­tive struc­ture by con­sid­ering the case of Chris Abani’s GraceLand. Throughout its nar­ra­tive, GraceLand fuses together ele­ments from Igbo mythico-reli­gious tra­di­tion with ele­ments from American pop­ular cul­ture and the con­tem­po­rary mythology of the American dream. Rather than pro­viding a case to sup­port either frame­work, GraceLand instead uses its nar­ra­tive struc­ture as a means of high­lighting the hybridity of post­colo­nial per­son­hood, while ques­tioning the legit­i­macy of purist con­cep­tions of cul­tural tra­di­tion and national pro­gress. As part of the so-called ‘third gen­er­a­tion’ of Nigerian lit­er­a­ture, Abani’s novel serves as an inter­ven­tion in fos­silized con­cep­tions of self and society through its unapolo­getic use of con­cep­tual blending, double-scoped nar­ra­tives and hybrid mytholo­gies and master plots, ulti­mately working as a state­ment on the dynamism of post­colo­nial exis­tences and the neces­sity of hybridity for any judi­cious and bal­anced imag­ining of the African con­ti­nent and its nations.

Joel Kuortti: “Hy­bridity as a ‘Disease’ in Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence”

In Salman Rushdie’s work, one of the most striking and recur­ring fea­tures is the adamant refusal of sin­gu­lar­i­ties, stable iden­ti­fi­ca­tions, or mono­log­ical rep­re­sen­ta­tions. Instead, aes­thetic, eth­ical, and polit­ical issues obtain their value in and through imag­i­na­tive plu­rality, hybrid for­ma­tions, and hetero­ge­neous dia­logue. Whether it is the Midnight’s Childrens’ Conference, the House of the Black Stone, or the Ocean of the Stream of Stories, mul­ti­plicity is valued over same­ness, nar­ra­tive over his­tory. In The Enchantress of Florence (2008), Rushdie plays with his­tory and com­bines Europe and Mughal India in an imag­i­na­tive way through the journey of the pro­tag­o­nist Niccolò Vespucci. In my paper, I look into the ways in which Vespucci’s appear­ance in Akbar’s Mughal court desta­bi­lizes accepted iden­ti­fi­ca­tions, and pos­sibly hybridizes the per­ceived his­to­ries of both Europe and India. For this, I start from the idea that Vespucci’s mul­ti­lin­gualism and -cul­tur­alism – “He could dream in seven lan­guages” (p. 10) – pose either a threat or an oppor­tu­nity to iden­tity. What sug­gests that this is not an unprob­lem­atic issue is his rela­tion­ship with these iden­ti­fi­ca­tional lan­guages: “He had picked up lan­guages the way most sailors picked up dis­eases” (ibid.). What kind of a ‘dis­ease’, then, is hybridity pre­sented?

Florence Labaune-Demeule: “Hy­bridity revis­ited: Anita Nair’s Mistress”

When Christopher Stewart, a young English jour­nalist and musi­cian, decides to travel to India in order to meet Koman, the great kathakali artist, hybridity is a cen­tral con­cept in his own quest for ori­gins: he wants to know if the old man could be his father and if he him­self could have been the fruit of the hybrid union between the kathakali dancer and his English mother. Thus the theme of “ge­netic” hybridity grad­u­ally suf­fuses the love-story which unites Chris and Radha, Koman’s niece, who is also Shyam’s unhappy wife. The novel ends on the announced birth of Radha’s adul­terine child, the hybrid embod­i­ment of his par­ents’ opposing cul­tures — the East and the West; India and England, Radha and Chris. This, there­fore, means that cul­tural hybridity is just as cen­tral: all the char­ac­ters in the novel are torn between their need for authen­ticity and their desires to share their cul­tural speci­fici­ties with others, often strangers, as hap­pens with Koman, who both tries to prac­tice the purest form of kathakali and who lets him­self be lured into becoming a very famous but poten­tially debased kathakali dancer in the West. The novel fore­grounds the themes of iden­tity and oth­er­ness, showing char­ac­ters who often try to find for them­selves a hybrid posi­tion, a form of in-between­ness which can only lead to some lack of sta­bility, entailing the sub­ver­sion of any ini­tial aes­thetic feeling. However, Anita Nair man­ages to create what can truly be called an aes­thetics of hybridity: the novel relies on the nine rasas to be found in kathakali, which is typ­ical of Indian cul­ture, while it is also based on sev­eral tra­di­tional char­ac­ter­is­tics of the Western genre, the novel. In Mistress Anita Nair cre­ates a verbal kathakali to which she slowly ini­ti­ates the reader, leading him into this dance of the senses, orches­trated by both chenda and cello.

Monica Latham: “Bringing Newness to the World: Lloyd Jones’ ‘Pacific ver­sion of Great Expectations’ ”

Mister Pip con­sti­tutes Lloyd Jones’ dia­logue with Charles Dickens, the title of his novel being a clear echo of Great Expectations. Dickens’ hypo­text becomes the back­drop of Jones’ novel. The author trans­poses his pre­de­cessor’s Victorian novel to a com­pletely dif­ferent cul­tural con­text, that is to say 20th-cen­tury Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. Mr Watts, the only white char­acter who chooses to stay on the island during the civil war, pro­claims him­self a teacher and starts reading chap­ters from Dickens’ novel in the class­room, thus giving the chil­dren “an­other piece of the world”, for them to forget the atroc­i­ties per­pet­u­ated around them. The vil­lagers also take the floor in the class­room and share their own sto­ries: the Victorian lit­erary story is thus par­al­leled by native, per­sonal, mytho­log­ical oral tales until they finally fuse in Mr Watts’ life story told in front of the rebels. If imposing for­eign sto­ries in a given cul­ture can amount to a pro­cess of coloni­sa­tion, putting a native imprint on the canon­ical text means responding to the colonising text, “writing back” at it to cel­e­brate “hy­bridity, impu­rity, inter­min­gling”, “new and unex­pected com­bi­na­tions of human beings, cul­tures, ideas” (Rushdie) and to bring “new­ness” to the old world.

Claude Le Fustec: “Magic realism: the poetics of hybridity in African American Literature”

At the junc­ture of two visions of the world usu­ally held to be anti­thetic (at least by western stan­dards), magic realism stands out as a nar­ra­tive mode par­tic­u­larly well suited to express hybridity. Alternately advo­cated in the 1940s by one of its major the­o­reti­cians, Alejo Carpentier, in the name of cul­tural hybridity, and denied nowa­days by quite a few writers, whom critics would deem “magic real­ists”, for its under­lying western rationalism, the con­cept has fuelled con­tro­versy and raised a number of ques­tions : close to such genres as the fan­tastic, the mar­vel­lous and even science fic­tion, magic realism ques­tions generic purity and fixity ; as a con­cep­tual tool, it high­lights the gap between crit­ical theory and lit­erary prac­tice ; a post­colo­nial, sub­ver­sive writing tech­nique turned global, it tes­ti­fies to the cul­tur­ally hege­monic ten­den­cies of our global world. Beyond the prob­lems raised by this mode, how­ever, this paper pro­poses to address the cre­ative poten­tial of magic realism as a crit­ical con­cept and writing prac­tice. Basing our anal­ysis on African American lit­er­a­ture, our aim will be to ana­lyze the way magic realism man­ages to achieve, in Wendy B. Faris’ words, a remys­ti­fi­ca­tion of con­tem­po­rary western fic­tion, by opening up western lit­erary imag­i­na­tion to a much more com­pre­hen­sive view of reality than that con­di­tioned by its sec­ular rationality, cre­ating a non con­flictual, truly hybrid imag­i­na­tive space.

Deborah Madsen: “Hy­bridity, hyphen­ation and mixed-race iden­ti­ties”

In 1993, Time magazine pub­lished what it called “The New Face of America,” a com­puter sim­u­la­tion of a mixed-race person who would be the result of decades of immi­gra­tion and inter­mar­riage. This issue of the magazine also ran sto­ries with titles like “The Global Village Finally Arrives” and “In­ter­mar­ried … With Children.” This issue of hybridity has also been taken up by Kip Fulbeck in his “Hapa Project,” which brought together photos and self-descrip­tions by people of com­plex mixed-race back­grounds. Despite such atten­tion from pop­ular media and schol­arly pub­li­ca­tions alike, the ethnic pro­file of the US con­tinues to be con­cep­tu­al­ized according to a model that I want to call “mono-hyphen­ation.” The pro­cess of hybridiza­tion or “Amer­i­can­iza­tion” is expressed rhetor­i­cally as an inte­gral part of the migra­tion expe­ri­ence every time an indi­vidual is referred to as “Asian-American” or “Irish-American” or even “African-American.” Yet indi­vid­uals, like the Hapas pho­tographed by Fulbeck, are increas­ingly iden­ti­fying them­selves as, for instance, “Asian-Irish-African-Americans” in a pro­cess not of mono- but of “multi-hyphen­ation.” The ques­tion I want to pose in this pre­sen­ta­tion is: why does the insti­tu­tion of lit­erary study con­tinue to pro­mote an increas­ingly unsus­tain­able, mono-hyphen­ated, under­standing of eth­nicity in the wake of large-scale immi­gra­tion? And, how can the con­ser­va­tive pref­er­ence for mono-hyphen­ated eth­nic­i­ties over com­plex mixed-race or “hapa” people be resisted? Are pan-ethnic cul­tural coali­tions pos­sible? How would such a coali­tional model trans­late into the terms of a transna­tional, post-ethnic, hemi­spheric American Studies?

Sarga Moussa: “Imag­i­nary Hybridities: the cross-fer­til­i­sa­tion of cul­tures, lan­guages and reli­gions in Victor Hugo’s Les Orientales”

Without ever having trav­elled across the Mediterranean Sea, Victor Hugo dreamed all at once of “the Orient” (meaning both what one calls nowa­days the Middle-East, and a mostly imag­i­nary ver­sion of the Orient, derived from The Arabian Nights) and of a new rela­tion between the Orient and the West. Moving bor­ders around, and dis­placing cen­tres, including cen­tres of con­scious­ness and posi­tions of enun­ci­a­tion, the poet, as soon as 1829, forced his readers to reflect on their own iden­ti­ties, by sug­gesting the dynamic, or rather mul­tiple nature of their iden­tity. In poems such as “La cap­tive” or “Adieux de l’hôtesse arabe”, Hugo stages a mutual, albeit prob­lem­atic seduc­tion between two seem­ingly antag­o­nistic cul­tural spaces, the Orient and the Western world. The ques­tion of lan­guages is also cen­tral in Les Orientales, where for­eign words and ori­en­talised rhythms abound, thus con­sti­tuting a defiant Romantic chal­lenge to clas­sical aes­thetics. Moreover, the rela­tion­ship between Islam and Christianity, a haunting sub­ject for many 19th cen­tury writers after Chateaubriand, is pro­gres­sively reassessed as the reader pro­gresses in Hugo’s col­lec­tion of poems: “Voile” (XI) stages a dark ver­sion of Islam, still very much indebted to the con­cept of “ori­ental despo­tism” gen­er­ated by the philoso­phers of the Enlightenment, whereas a poem like “Sultan Achmet” (XXIX), sig­nif­i­cantly included in the Spanish cycle of Les Orientales — Spain, from the very preface of the book, con­sti­tutes an in-between space — makes it pos­sible to con­ceive of a reli­gious rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, medi­ated by the love of a Muslim for a Christian woman, although of course the former first has to become a con­vert. What Hugo seems to be doing is not to deny or anni­hi­late dif­fer­ences, but rather to play with them so as to demon­strate that the “Orient” is within us. That is why the notion of hybridity, as the­o­rised in post­colo­nial studies, can help us to per­ceive the aston­ishing moder­nity of a col­lec­tion of poems that has far too long been wrongly con­sid­ered as the illus­tra­tion of a lazy and fash­ion­able exoti­cism.

Jopi Nyman: “A Carvery of Hybridity: Monica Ali’s In the Kitchen”

It is the aim of this paper to examine the role of hybridity in the recent novel In the Kitchen (2009) by the British Asian writer Monica Ali. I will argue that the novel is a fur­ther example of the attempt to hybridize Britishness and British iden­ti­ties in the con­text(s) of glob­al­iza­tion that char­ac­ter­izes Ali’s lit­erary nar­ra­tives. Whereas Brick Lane (2003) opens up hybrid spaces in East London and Alentejo Blue (2006) explores British iden­ti­ties in a Southern European con­text, In the Kitchen imag­ines a trans­forming Britain affected by con­tem­po­rary global flows and actors including multi­na­tional com­pa­nies, human traf­ficking, and illegal immi­grant work­force. In carving out a new hybrid sense of Britishness, the novel’s two set­tings, the mul­ti­cul­tural kitchen of the London Imperial Hotel and the post-indus­trial Lancashire home­town of its chef-pro­tag­o­nist Gabriel Lightfoot, appear to play a cen­tral role. While the novel con­trasts the vibrancy of the mul­ti­ethnic metropolis, a con­tact zone with the restau­rant kitchen as its micro­cosm, with the region­alism and tra­di­tion­alism asso­ci­ated with the North, nei­ther site is fully priv­i­leged or cel­e­brated. Subsequently the novel hybridizes Britishness as it both chal­lenges all attempts to fix it along internal binary divi­sions and places it in a transna­tional and global con­text.

Daniel-Henri Pageaux: “A crit­ical alter­na­tive to post­colo­nial hybridity: neo-baroque aes­thetics (Latin-American and Caribbean lit­er­a­tures)”

Within the per­spec­tives sug­gested by the call for papers of the con­fer­ence, I have deemed it rel­e­vant to set up a dif­ferent notional frame for the notion of hybridity, quite often asso­ci­ated with post­colo­nial crit­i­cism. Using texts by nov­el­ists such as Alejo Carpentier and Severo Sarduy, as well as orig­inal Hispanic crit­ical con­cepts such as tran­scul­turación, real mar­avil­loso, mes­ti­zaje cul­tural, the baroque and the neo-baroque, it is pos­sible to sketch new angles of approach and other read­ings of Francophone Caribbean Literature. Those con­cepts can also be found in the work of Edouard Glissant and they enable us to elab­o­rate new crit­ical pro­ce­dures in order to analyse and explain the new nov­el­istic aes­thetics of these Francophone authors, and, more specif­i­cally, “cre­ole­ness”. If the aim is to sug­gest new aes­thetic cat­e­gories or even to apply cer­tain con­cepts or generic fea­tures to lit­erary pro­duc­tions (as post-colo­nial crit­i­cism does), then the con­cept of the “neo-baroque” can offer not only an inter­esting, fer­tile approach, but a crit­ical alter­na­tive that has its advan­tages as well as its limits.

Yolaine Parisot : “Hy­bridity as an obstacle to post­colo­nial com­para­tist studies? The example of the Caribbean archipelago and the Indian Ocean”

The Caribbean archipelago and the Indian Ocean, as creole, cre­olized, cre­olo­phone spaces, impreg­nated with the mem­o­ries of slavery and of engagism as well as with a dias­poric imag­i­na­tion, gen­uine lab­o­ra­to­ries of plurilin­guism, areas of exchanges between post­colo­nial nations and admin­is­tra­tively sub­mitted ter­ri­to­ries, invite us to com­pare their lit­er­a­tures with each other. The illu­sive effect of the inter­na­tional media scene often con­ceals the his­tor­ical, cul­tural and aes­thet­ical dif­fer­ences in order to dis­miss ‘créolie’ and cre­olity as well as indi­anity and ‘cooli­tude’ back to back and to high­light the con­cept of hybridity as a global pat­tern. But, symp­tomat­i­cally, Homi K. Bhabha’s Location of cul­ture is sup­ported by a sig­nif­i­cant Caribbean hypo­text: the works of Stuart Hall, the essays of Wilson Harris and Frantz Fanon or the novels of V. S. Naipaul. Even if the def­i­ni­tion of the ‘ver­nac­ular cos­mopolitism’ pro­ceeds from the interest of the the­o­rist, a native of India, in the Indo-caribbean expe­ri­ence, among all the names of the post­colo­nial hybridity, Alejo Carpentier’s and Jacques Stephen Alexis’ Marvellous Realism, Edward Kamau Brathwaite’s and Édouard Glissant’s Creolization, the ‘lit­téra­ture-monde’ of a man­i­festo that only two writers from the Indian Ocean have signed, are the ones the critic must make use of and the ones the critic imposes, with some epis­te­mo­log­ical vio­lence, on the lit­erary corpus from the Indian Ocean. Consequently, to examine the con­cept of post­colo­nial hybridity through the lit­er­a­tures from the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean is to recall their mutual con­tri­bu­tion to its emer­gence as well as their diver­gence towards its devel­op­ment.

Sneharika Roy: “Hy­bridizing Homer: A Case of Epic Genes and Genre in Derek Walcott’s Omeros”

Hybridity, with its res­o­nances of cross-fer­til­iza­tion, has gained much cur­rency as a con­cep­tual tool in the post­colo­nial con­text. A case in point is the work of Derek Walcott, who stands at the con­flu­ence of the already hybrid Caribbean cul­ture, and the occi­dental poetic tra­di­tion. However, has this emphasis on cul­tural inter-mixing drawn away from the generic and inter­tex­tual orig­i­nality of Walcott’s œuvre, in par­tic­ular his neo-epic, Omeros? In fact, the fore­grounding of genetic mixing, inherent in the term “hy­brid”, becomes par­tic­u­larly appro­priate in the epic con­text of Omeros. Here, tra­di­tional epic genealo­gies of noble war­riors give way to a var­ie­gated poetic genealogy, evi­dent in the mul­ti­cul­tural man­i­fes­ta­tions of the figure of Homer including: the epony­mous Greek Omeros, a local fish­erman named Seven Seas, and Walcott’s own poetic per­sona, a self-pro­claimed hybrid Homer. A strong visual ele­ment is also inter­fused through allu­sions to the American artist Winslow Homer and the voice in the “vase of a girl’s throat” invoking “Omeros”. A hybrid oper­a­tive prin­ciple is at work here, one which dynam­i­cally engages with the epic form and bardic fig­ures, with generic and genetic make-up. Thus, by playing with notions of influ­ence, authors and (af)fil­i­a­tion, Walcott trans­plants the epic tra­di­tion in a con­text that is both Caribbean and global.

Ebrahim Salimikouchi: “The poly­phonic writing of the hybrid ‘I’ in the auto­bi­o­graph­ical work of Assia Djebar”

The writing of Assia Djebar who belongs to the first gen­er­a­tion of the founders of an Algerian and fran­co­phone lit­er­a­ture, is sit­u­ated in a cul­tural con­text of hybridity. Her writing swings between French as her lan­guage of edu­ca­tion, instruc­tion, intel­lec­tual for­ma­tion, and her Arabic-Islamic cul­ture as her “cul­ture of sen­si­bility” (Djebar, 1992, 26). From the per­spec­tive of post-colo­nialist studies on hybridity as a dis­tin­guished char­ac­ter­istic of lit­erary moder­nity, our research pro­poses to explore the work of Assia Djebar for a perusal of her writing of the hybrid “I”. We will focus in par­tic­ular on L’amour, la fan­tasia (1985) and Vaste est la prison (1995) for a the­matic and stylistic anal­ysis of the tex­tual and con­tex­tual struc­ture of the iden­tical con­struc­tion of Djebar’s hybrid “I”. We pro­pose to demon­strate the remark­able poly­phonic, human­izing, demo­cratic and dia­logic dimen­sion of her auto­bi­o­graph­ical work that may provide such lit­er­a­ture the oppor­tu­nity for greater respect, a better coex­is­tence and dia­logue in a world of cul­tural shocks.

Michaël Taugis: “There and Back: Cross-Cultural Journeys and Interweavings in Gary Shteyngart’s The Russian Debutante’s Handbook”

In the Russian Debutante’s Handbook, Vladimir Girshkin, the main char­acter, is a Russian-American Jew born in Leningrad in 1968. His expe­ri­ence is defined by two main jour­neys: his immi­gra­tion to the USA in 1980 and his round trip in 1993 from New York to the fic­tional city of Prava in the former Soviet bloc, and then back to America, to the sub­urbs of Cleveland, Ohio, where he set­tles down, mar­rying Morgan, an American stu­dent he met in Prava. My paper will show that these jour­neys gen­erate and reveal var­ious forms of hybridity induced by Vladimir’s encoun­ters, ambi­tions, and desires. These jour­neys rep­re­sent what the Haitian poet René Depestre calls a “métier à métisser”, a cross-cul­tural weaving loom whose to-and-fro motion inter­twines indi­vid­uals and forms of life that are some­times so dif­ferent that they are seem­ingly incom­pat­ible. Vladimir’s memory is the shuttle of this weaving loom, moving from his Soviet child­hood to his American ado­les­cence, and more gen­er­ally from the past to the pre­sent, because in the light of each rem­i­nis­cence the pre­sent is implic­itly con­nected with the past. This hybrid memory sug­gests that hybridity is not only a fact (for this Russian immi­grant) but also a cat­a­lyst. In addi­tion and above all, it is a weapon, a sur­vival strategy, and an instru­ment of sub­ver­sion.

Nicole Terrien: “The Neo-Victorian novel: Hybrid or Intertextual Mosaic?”

To study the Neo-Victorian novel, a genre (or sub-genre) that relies on the inter­crossing of two periods, on the inter­twining of var­ious forms of writing, the notion of hybrid seems par­tic­u­larly wel­come. We may con­sider Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) and Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969) as the two founding novels of a genre the critics first valued for its open recourse to inter­tex­tu­ality, before it became known as neo-Victorian. Forty years later, the focus on the inter­tex­tual ref­er­ences has not impaired the value of the pro­cess and this should invite us to look at it from a dif­ferent angle. The per­sis­tence of what cannot be reduced to a fad incites us to pay atten­tion to what has been achieved rather than to the mate­rials used in the pro­cess, to wonder at the very live­li­ness of such a pro­cess. The notion of the hybrid would allow us not to be pet­ri­fied by a ret­ro­spec­tive out­look, prob­ably staged by the authors them­selves to muffle the shock of a poten­tially sub­ver­sive con­fronta­tion. We will focus on the role of the all pow­erful text of ref­er­ence, accepting at first the homage paid to the canon that an explicit ref­er­ence may incur. We will see that although this homage involves the reader in the inter­pre­ta­tion of the con­stantly rein­ter­preted open work (Umberto Eco), it also allows the acknowl­edge­ment of texts now fallen into oblivion. The Neo-Victorian novel offers to its reader a con­stantly rein­vented past rather then a remem­brance of things past: it points at fic­tion as the true ele­ment of ref­er­ence in our under­standing of the past. Inviting us to ques­tion codes of rep­re­sen­ta­tion, this exile in time allows us to forge in the smithy of our souls our uncre­ated con­science, to copy Joyce’s words (“to forge in the smithy of my soul, the uncre­ated con­science of my race”). Considering such vital stakes, the notion of hybrid/hybridity seems fruitful. On a syn­tag­matic axis, it allows the con­fronta­tion of expe­ri­ences already trans­posed in lan­guage. On a paradig­matic axis, it uncovers a depth that reveals that past strata of expe­ri­ence may con­sti­tute a favourable ter­rain for the bud­ding of an indi­vidual form of con­scious­ness. It enables us to sug­gest, as an hypoth­esis for fur­ther study, that the neo-Victorian novel is not just an hybrid form of the novel, but also – and above all? – an hybrid form of the writing of History.

Elise Trogrlic: “In­sta­bility as praxis: the hybrid as a cross of failure and fer­tility in John Edgar Wideman’s treat­ment of Giacometti”

In his novel Two Cities, the African-American nov­elist John Edgar Wideman brings together an incon­gruous cul­tural meeting between Martin Mallory, an old ama­teur pho­tog­ra­pher living in Pittsburgh’s black ghetto, and the sculptor Alberto Giacometti. In let­ters addressed to Giacometti that Mallory never sends, Wideman artic­u­lates a con­cep­tion of hybridity char­ac­ter­istic of the esthetic pre­oc­cu­pa­tion of his nov­el­istic pro­ject. By com­bining a lit­erary reflec­tion with one on the visual arts, Wideman makes text and image meet at their breaking point. Wideman’s fas­ci­na­tion with Giacometti comes from the insta­bility of his art­work, as well as the sculptor’s admis­sion of how rep­re­sen­ta­tion is doomed to fail. Two Cities show­cases Wideman’s desire to cross artistic prac­tices and to ini­tiate a dia­logue between the arts: by dis­qual­i­fying all uni­vocal esthetic ide­olo­gies, the text becomes a fer­tile ground pro­ducing images, sounds, and mul­tiple voices, all of this some­times to the point of shape­less­ness. This insta­bility becomes a praxis of desta­bi­liza­tion that includes syntax, nar­ra­tive voice, and tem­poral struc­ture. Through this, Wideman uti­lizes hybridity to relaunch fic­tion writing and to explore the limits of rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

Héliane Ventura: “Unadul­ter­ated Violence: The Hermeneutics of Hybridity in Native and Non-Native Fiction”

This pre­sen­ta­tion will address the resur­gence of vio­lence in three widely diverging and appar­ently dis­parate con­texts. In Canadian lit­er­a­ture from the twen­tieth cen­tury, it will inves­ti­gate the motif of the Algonquin can­ni­bal­istic Wendigo, or ice-hearted mon­ster with eyes of blood from Eden Robinson’s “Dogs in Winter” (Traplines, 1996), as well as the figure of the famili­cidal killer from Alice Munro’s latest col­lec­tion of sto­ries, “Free Radicals” (Too Much Happiness,2009). In Scottish lit­er­a­ture from the nine­teenth cen­tury, it will bring into focus the frat­ri­cidal mur­derer from James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824). The pur­pose of the pre­sen­ta­tion is to look into strate­gies of rep­re­sen­ta­tion equally founded upon jour­neys from vul­ner­a­bility to destruc­tion in order to under­line the sol­i­darity between human pro­tag­o­nists and ani­mals and the com­plicit reversibility between destroying and being destroyed in three sets of sto­ries. Through the anal­ysis of the resur­gence of the visual into the tex­tual, it will sug­gest con­tact-zones in the lit­erary con­struc­tion of postin­dian, post­modern, and gothic, hybrid iden­ti­ties.

Jean-Marc Victor: “Forms and Figures of Hybridity in William Faulkner’s Sanctuary”

The fear of mis­ce­gena­tion is a haunting pres­ence in the whole of William Faulkner’s fic­tion as well as in a large por­tion of the lit­erary pro­duc­tion orig­i­nating from the South of the United States. Whether it is expe­ri­enced by char­ac­ters as a ques­tioning of their iden­tity or a sign of some intol­er­able decline in the reac­tionary and eugenic con­text of the South, this fear crops up in the die­gesis as one of many avatars of impu­rity in Faulkner’s vast nov­el­istic cycle. Although it is more cen­tral in other novels (notably in Light in August), its cryptic and euphem­ized nature in Sanctuary (1931) will be worth ana­lyzing here as it affects the novel’s dra­matic and aes­thetic con­cerns. Popeye, the cold-blooded impo­tent mur­derer and rapist, regard­less of his skin color but merely on account of the black suit he is con­stantly shown wearing, is insis­tently and sig­nif­i­cantly described as “that black man” both by Temple Drake whom he raped with a corncob and Horace Benbow who vainly tries to save an inno­cent man wrongly accused in Popeye’s place. Temple’s own (incom­plete) account of her rape during her (anti-)con­fes­sion to Horace will be closely exam­ined, thus revealing var­ious modes of hybridity devel­oping in Faulkner’s text as a reac­tion to silence and cen­sor­ship. By making up ret­ro­spec­tive ways of dodging the corncob rape and the sub­se­quent mon­strous hybridiza­tion between the human and the veg­etable, Temple con­ceives of her­self as other, thus turning herserlf into an unex­pected hybrid: she sees her­self as both man and child, the pro­duct of a grotesque cross between Lady Macbeth (as Faulkner rewrites Shakespeare’s famous “un­sexing” scene) and Alice in Wonderland (as Temple is made to embody a fake ingénue end­lessly meta­mor­phosed and thrown into a world of vio­lence where time and codes go berserk). In this inter­tex­tual exper­i­ment based on formal hybridity, the codes of ‘hard-boiled fic­tion’ are also deeply altered, as if desta­bi­lized by the unlikely encounter between the young white virgin and the little “black man”.

Kerry-Jane Wallart: “Im­pe­rial authority and Renaissance per­spec­tive in Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence”

“The text, a vehicle of impe­rial authority, sym­bol­ized and in some cases indeed per­formed the act of taking pos­ses­sion”, Elleke Boehmer writes in the opening pages of an impor­tant study about Migrant Metaphors that con­cerns itself with colo­nial and post­colo­nial writing. She goes on to analyse the way in which rhetoric has lit­er­ally cre­ated the British Empire, with a last chapter ded­i­cated to how con­tem­po­rary authors have of rein­ter­preting such a world-shaping con­cep­tion of lan­guage. Colonial lit­er­a­ture has long been thought of as a response, voiced from the oppo­site van­tage point, to this bulk of lit­er­a­ture. Salman Rushdie has, on the other hand, made a name for him­self as one who merges the two – or more – per­spec­tives in order to con­fuse any opinion, to dis­card any cer­tainty: the per­fect hybrid nov­elist. The first part of the paper will indeed be con­cerned with showing with what obses­sion he has been deemed “hy­brid”, and what this meant exactly. More gen­er­ally, this paper will dis­cuss this schol­arly text, Migrant Metaphors, pub­lished in 2005 in the light of Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence. In his latest work, Rushdie once more seems to have penned a state­ment of intent in favour of tran­scul­tur­alism, humanism, the absence of any fixed per­spec­tive, the perils of con­vic­tions and world­views. Vespucci and Akbar, the sym­bols of two dif­ferent, yet sim­ilar Renaissances, could be seen to com­pose a hybrid char­acter, a story-teller used to making East and West meet. Still, my con­tention will be that Rushdie rein­tro­duces a dis­tinct and dis­tinc­tive per­spec­tive, some­thing which, after all, was the great esthetic issue of the Renaissance. I shall argue that the encounter of cul­tures and the ensuing nar­ra­tives are placed, in Rushdie’s novel, under the sign of a hidden unity, that of the author. Be he reli­able or other­wise, he will impose his own voice over the entire novel; the paper shall attempt to pin­point the var­ious lin­guistic signs thereof. Hybridity, then, is no longer a com­bi­na­tion of per­spec­tives, but a mon­strous asso­ci­a­tion of the same nature as that which had pre­vailed during colo­nial times. It is one which tells of the other with one’s own words, and through one’s own screen. Such a vein will, inter alia, be scru­ti­nized through the pre­vailing inter­text of Calvino’s Invisible Cities, where an ongoing dis­course between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan pro­duces descrip­tions of cities looking, on the page, like those very places. In Step across the Line, Rushdie has praised Calvino’s “mul­ti­plicity”, but is is in the end his icono­graphic powers he even­tu­ally covets and steals, making his text resemble the world as the Italian writer had.

David Waterman: “The Contact Zone in Wartime: Hybridity’s Promise and Terror in Nadeem Aslam’s The Wasted Vigil”

Nadeem Aslam’s 2008 novel The Wasted Vigil is set in con­tem­po­rary war-torn Afghanistan, the English doctor’s house (formerly sur­gical clinic and per­fume fac­tory) having become the hub of a tran­scul­tural space in which many per­sonal mem­o­ries and col­lec­tive his­to­ries cat­alyze. While Afghans, Russians, a British doctor and Americans come together in this con­tact zone, it is by no means a safe-house, but often a zone of con­flict as cer­tain char­ac­ters resist the notion of an ambiva­lent iden­tity, hence the “promise and terror” of hybridity that Jopi Nyman (dis­cussing Homi Bhabha) refers to, and rep­re­sented fig­u­ra­tively in the novel by the statue of the Buddha and a land­mine, both buried in the yard. Certainly the author­i­ties prefer a fixed iden­tity – espe­cially during wartime – and in this case the Taliban and the CIA are both on hand to police ide­o­log­ical alle­giances and “place” people as friend or foe, fur­ther high­lighting the dif­fi­culty of claiming an iden­tity which does not respect dom­i­nant paradigms. This updated heart­break house func­tions as a micro­cosm of con­tem­po­rary Afghanistan, a time / space com­pres­sion of the var­ious geopo­lit­ical forces at work which threaten from without, as well as the indi­vidual sto­ries and trau­matic mem­o­ries of those whom cir­cum­stances bring together which threaten from within; the house, like Afghanistan itself, becomes the ground for imported bat­tles. In spite of many attempts, the promise of a hybrid iden­tity and mutual under­standing is often elu­sive as oppor­tu­ni­ties are missed, sub­sumed under the terror of sus­pi­cion and ghosts from the past.

Eileen Williams-Wanquet: “Lindsey Collen’s The Rape of Sita (1993): the Politics of Hybridity”

Lindsey Collen, a polit­ical activist, was born in South Africa in 1948. She lives in Mauritius and all her novels are rooted in Mauritian reality. Set in the con­text of the “turn to ethics of the 1990s” in lit­er­a­ture, The Rape of Sita (1993) para­dox­i­cally and typ­i­cally asso­ci­ates both his­toricity and metafic­tion­ality. The form of the novel is hybrid in more ways than one, and it is this hybrid form itself that con­fers a polit­ical and eth­ical dimen­sion on the novel, which re-thinks the sym­bolic sys­tems and power struc­tures that make up our psy­ches. The var­ious trans­tex­tual ref­er­ences blend both Indian and Western cul­tures and tra­di­tions: hyper­tex­tu­ality with the Indian epic Ramayana and Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece, serves to re-visit the more dif­fuse hypo­text that these “in­ter­pella­tive” texts transmit, i.e. the pop­ular mythology that women are in some way respon­sible for having been raped. The set­ting in his­tor­ical time and space com­bines both tra­di­tional real­istic con­ven­tions and the post­modern per­cep­tion of History as dis­course: the real­istic recon­tex­tu­al­i­sa­tion of the hypo­texts in the con­text of class strug­gles in the Mauritian society of the 1980s—the patri­ar­chal ide­ology of which is sig­nalled by inter­tex­tual ref­er­ences to T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land—serves to decon­struct the patri­ar­chal myth, revealing its secret vio­lence, rape becoming a metaphor for both public and pri­vate tyranny. The “anti-novel” nar­ra­tive strategy asso­ci­ates both novel form and oral tra­di­tion, which, com­bined with use of Hindu phi­los­ophy and of the recur­ring figure of the androgyne, offers a counter-dis­course to the patri­ar­chal grand nar­ra­tive, calling for a fun­da­mental change of the imag­i­nary domain.

Laetitia Zecchini: “A his­tor­ical hybridity and strangeness in con­tem­po­rary Indian poetry”

This pre­sen­ta­tion aims at exploring the ques­tion of hybridity through the his­tor­ical and metaphor­ical notion of exile, as it was the­o­rized by Edward Saïd. This his­tor­ical expe­ri­ence of dis­lo­ca­tion, which implies a “double vision”, a plu­rality of ways of seeing, lan­guages and tra­di­tions pre­vents from con­sid­ering one­self as the owner or pro­pri­etor of memory, of lan­guage and iden­tity. Exile also implies a rad­ical break or “un­heal­able rift” through which other worlds and oth­er­ness may be expe­ri­enced. Edward Saïd defines the “ex­ilic con­di­tion” as a shifting ground, an unre­solved dialec­tical ten­sion between dif­ferent belong­ings and inher­i­tances, which have to be held together, in an unrec­on­ciled com­plexity. Exile thus also has a crit­ical and trans­gres­sive sig­nif­i­cance that sub­verts all majori­tarian dis­courses, quest for ori­gins and homo­ge­neous lin­eages. It is pre­cisely the hetero­geneity and strangeness brought about by his­tory, which is poet­i­cally and polit­i­cally at stake today in India. Exploring the ques­tion of hybridity in the Indian con­text is all the more inter­esting that the porosity of lin­guistic fron­tiers, of cen­ters and periph­eries, but also of tra­di­tions, trans­la­tions and texts is one of the defining prin­ci­ples of Indian cul­ture. It is through lan­guage that this hybridity is per­formed and that Indian poets writing in English (Arun Kolatkar, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra and others), a dis­placed lan­guage, nego­tiate their own voice and space. They refuse to be cir­cum­scribed or defined in one lan­guage, one past, one iden­tity and claim a marginality which also stands, para­dox­i­cally, for hos­pi­tality. Through this poetics of hybridity and mul­ti­lin­gualism, the fecund inter­play with trans­la­tion that blurs the fron­tiers between lan­guages, authors, epochs, so-called orig­inal texts and their sub­se­quent retellings, it is the idea of “pro­priety” and “prop­erty” that is unset­tled. For a poetry hovering over boundary lines, the ques­tions of a proper lan­guage, a proper his­tory or of what would be “au­then­ti­cally” and “prop­erly” Indian are irrel­e­vant

Tania Zulli: “Iden­ti­ties in Transition: Hybridism in R. L. Stevenson’s Colonial Fiction”

On the Jubilee year (1887), Queen Victoria decided she would have an Indian atten­dant at court, “to bring the Empire into the dining room” (Richard Mullen and James Munson, Victoria. Portrait of a Queen, p. 111). The pres­ence of ori­ental faces and exotic per­fumes at Windsor Castle hid the wish to intro­duce the idea of an open, tol­erant country, whose views would include people from the colonies as an ordi­nary ele­ment of everyday life. However, the cul­tural fabric that lay beneath the image of a seem­ingly cos­mopolitan nation was com­plex, con­tro­ver­sial and still not well defined: a cru­cial point lied in the very per­cep­tion of natives as new enti­ties to be faced. English nine­teenth-cen­tury men of cul­ture did not con­sider the pres­ence of the ‘other’ as an admis­sible thing; con­fronta­tion caused a pro­found sense of bewil­der­ment that did not allow for renewed strength, but only fos­tered more ambi­guity empha­sizing the idea of hybridity as a form of moral cor­rup­tion that shook the empire in its epis­temic foun­da­tions. The con­tin­uous oscil­la­tion between the need to find com­plete­ness through the figure of ‘the other’ and the fear of an actual meeting with diver­sity was the leading – and often under­es­ti­mated – char­ac­ter­istic of the age. My paper intends to ana­lyze the idea of hybridity in Late Victorian colo­nial fic­tion as a the­o­ret­ical assump­tion based on and influ­enced by con­trasting ide­o­log­ical forces; by so doing, I will explore the value of inter­ra­cial encoun­ters in late nine­teenth-cen­tury colo­nial fic­tion in order to show the natives as “his­tor­ical palimpsest[s]” (Elleke Boehmer, Colonial and Postcolonial Literature, p. 79). By moving on the par­allel fields of cul­ture and lit­er­a­ture, I will argue that the impe­rial ‘other’ was, despite ide­o­log­ical and intel­lec­tual man­i­fes­ta­tions of intol­er­ance and repul­sion, an inte­gral part of domestic cul­ture, and rep­re­sented a fruitful oppo­si­tion to the well estab­lished, urban­ized, social self. To this end, R. L. Stevenson’s short story “The Beach of Falesà” (in South Sea Tales, 1893) will be ana­lyzed as a nar­ra­tive moving between the two axi­o­log­ical oppo­sites of assumed colo­nial authority and feared native degen­er­a­tion. In the story, the pro­tag­o­nist’s final status reflects a new white indi­vidual iden­tity appar­ently built on ide­o­log­ical immo­bility but actu­ally relying on cul­tural and intel­lec­tual dynamism, con­firming both the “im­pos­si­bility of essen­tialism” (Robert Young, 1995) and the neces­sity of cross-cul­tural sophis­ti­ca­tion.