Isn’t Every Po-Co Novel about hybridity in the end?

With hundreds more on my shelf waiting to be read and hundreds already behind me, I find myself asking the above question more and more often.  I feel like the trope of searching for identity, while really in all books, comes through almost every time I use my po-co theory lens and sit with a novel or short story from most places in the world (most recently Moshin Hamid’s short story “The Third Born” in this week’s New Yorker).  I feel like I am bestowing not a curse, maybe a burden or at least a responsibility on your shoulders as we delve deeper into our studies, that you may never be able to look at a text in the same way again.  While that thrills me, I also know that there is something of an innocence lost, an inability to just read a book for the sake of reading it, which while it would be nice, also feels like a shirking of responsibility as a global citizen.  Anyway, enough of my pining and navel gazing, mainly inspired by Jordan’s post from last week….throw your rotten tomatoes at him.

This week we continue working with Nervous Conditions.  I am thrilled to hear about your sneaking the book into work breaks and back corners.  I think you are seeing why we are reading this novel along with our study of mimicry and now hybridity.  The novel begs to be paired with these concepts, and I think makes these concepts clearer for you.  I hope.  We spend some more time with Walcott.  I hope you enjoyed the poem from last week.  It gets better every time I read it.

In this week’s original blog post, just keep up the good work.  You are responding well to the texts. I like to see those direct quotes and analysis.  Refreshing change from my other grading.  I am responding and running the class as I would in a traditional classroom.  I find the less I say, the more you say.  If you need/want more response, just let me know.  I would also be happy to chat over Skype or in my office.

I leave you with this short discussion of hybridity in various academic fields.  I am not sure why we need pictures of people running on a treadmill, but I think the conversation is interesting.



  1. Hey there. I have a quick question about “syncretism.”

    PCS has it that syncretism is a way of escaping the problems of “hybridity” wherein the old binaries are reconstructed (white/hybrid). Are “hybridity” and “syncretism” synonyms, essentially, except that the former has been challenged by critics where the latter hasn’t been quite yet? If they are, why wouldn’t we just go with using syncretism–describing the synergy of multiple forces combining to construct poco cultures–which seems less ideologically shaky? If they are synonyms, why make the distinction in the first place? Couldn’t we just accept that the presumably monolithic “colonizer” is himself a product of hybridity-syncretism? And, as your blog post title suggests, how could we see controversy in either of these terms once we realize that no moment of the cultural experience can be boiled down to a single term, like the “white” or “black” experience? I guess I would have to read Robert Young’s criticism to really find out what he means.

    Oops, I guess I actually had several questions…Oh well!

    1. First, I appreciate all of the questions. They are important ones that I haven’t thought about for a long time. Honestly, I use them interchangeably, even though I am starting to wonder if I should stop using the term “hybrid.” I can see what it has a ring of negativity to it, whereas “syncretism” doesn’t have that sense of finality and acknowledges the dynamic nature of identity. I will have to think even more about this. Second, I feel like this is a cop out, but I am going to send you to Ella Shohat’s article, specifically pages 108 and after. Now that I reread this in thinking about your questions, I cannot believe I didn’t assign it for this class. But I guess that is the problem with trying to cram a theory and its literature into fourteen weeks.

  2. I actually wondered what the difference between hybridity and syncretism was when I read these terms on Monday evening as well. It seems to me like syncretism is being used in place of hybridity because the term hybridity apparently asserts “a shared post-colonial condition” (Post-Colonial 109) when the conquering group is still de facto privileged. Syncretism is more about the fusion of two distinct traditions into a “distinctive whole” (Post-Colonial 210). Maybe it’s more acceptable because there is the implication of true cross cultural mixing while hybridity was used to describe post-colonial cultural mixing where the colonizer’s cultural values were ascendant, and the hybrids were all natives who had adopted the language and cultural ways of the colonizer. Under hybridity, it was rare for a colonizer to adopt native culture and then they were written off as having “gone native.” I hope I am on the right track and that this helps. : )

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