As Homi Bhabha (1994:21) articulates there is a disproportionate influence of the west as a cultural forum, this alludes to the significant unequal power manifestations of unequal exchange practices. Moreover, we cannot ignore the tremendous impact of global political and economic power structures that influence the hybrid formations that further create unbalanced cultural relations. This notion is further reinforced by Spivak (1999:361), “…hybridist post-colonial talk, celebrating globalizations as Americanisation.”, again here see the trend of western cultures being exchanged for global cultures due to western nations interference in many nations of the ‘global south’ leading to more economic and thus cultural influence across the globe. This approach can be seen as another form of cultural colonialism; better called neo colonialism, further expressed by Spivak (2003:361) she apprises of the ‘self-declared hybridity of the post-colonial’ as being associated to neo-colonialism in the implications of such power dynamics at play.
As we live in a world growing smaller characterised by diasporic groups, transcultural migration and expanding global contact, there is a tendency to superficially celebrate syncretic hybridity: under the guise of multi-culturalism as mentioned earlier, however, this banal celebration of multi-culturalism not only re-essentialized racialized discourse, it also creates several taxing implications. Cultural hybridity also is complicit with international capitalism in the process of producing new identities favourable for mass consumer behaviour. Thus cultural hybridity also serves as becoming corporate multi-culturalism as it commodifies the dominant narratives surrounding the minority groups, the ‘unique differences’ of said minority culture becomes enticing for the consumer market. As Bell Hooks (1992: 21) perfectly expresses, mass cultures find great joy in the consumption and acknowledgement of racial difference with the commodification of this difference always being successful. This further proves my point that although we are all culturally hybrid minority groups within a hegemonic mainstream society are continuously exploited under the white supremacist’s capitalist patriarchy whose markers and rituals are reduced to commodified objects ready for the consumption of the dominant. This commodification process also transforms into acts of cultural appropriation; this being a dominant culture taking parts of another culture out of its context, Linda Martin (1998: 6-10) sees this as different from cultural exchange as there exists an imbalance of power due to elements of colonialism.
We see this in sweeps of fashionable trends that ‘white’ majorities find exciting to devour, an example of a British context is the trend of wearing the Bindi to festivals or for alternative trendy looks whilst many people of South Asian diasporic groups adorn for significant religious or (and) cultural reasons. The same would also be the use box braids and various braided styles traditionally worn by many black women. There have been many occasions in high fashion shows using only white models, where they have used hairstyles worn majority by black women as a ‘fashionable aesthetic’ where in real life there exist cases of black women being discriminated from job opportunities due to the same thing, originally theirs.
Moreover, to emphasise the destructive nature of syncretic hybridity when it falls to disruptive operations of power, it becomes a political tool in the displacement of entire groups of people, in the words of Edward Said (1985: 22), ‘which serves to disguise and distort the real thing”, providing a manipulated image of people is another form of suppression, especially with the current political climate the west’s constructed image of the east but more importantly the middle east has done enormous wrong doings, with distorted images leading to complete wars and years of instability in certain regions. Although we are all culturally hybrid we need to understand the representation of the ‘other’ has its roots in imperial regimes that still manifest into our discussions of suppressed groups to this present day. Edward Said is aware of the imperial conflations that cultural hybridity is associated with, putting across the notion that our histories and cultural experiences are oddly hybrid as well as surpassing national boundaries. (1994:15). Although Said’s ideas of Orientalism in a paradox of itself, it reinforces the ideas of us and ‘other’ in a truly global era ‘others’ live everywhere, across national lines. As stated by Hardt & Negri (2000); Sharma (2006) with trans-national communication technologies, borders are becoming increasingly blurred, consequently the ‘others’ have become a daily occurrence and part of differential inclusion.
These racialized images of the middles east specifically Muslims have countered liberal imaginations of a celebrated multiculturalism, and have in anything, fuelled further right-wing popularity in many western European and American governments. The discourse of Orientalism as an identity production tool not only fixes the boundaries of the ‘other’ but also the boundaries of ‘us’, we are now able to maintain and create our borders in opposition to theirs. So here goes the imagery of; multi-cultural hybrid post-colonial cities, as we now know the very images of the ‘other’ are still very deeply entangled in the colonial web of the west. These manufactured representations of Muslims as ‘barbaric’, ‘backwards’ and ‘dangerous’ can be viewed to be a cultural racism, expressed by (Sharma, Sharma, 2003; 2) as a racialized working of the power/knowledge dichotomy based on the difference. These image constructions have proven to have harmful impacts on the subjects of the discourse with growing persecution and treatment likened to criminals. With the legislation of programmes like Prevent and increased surveillance and profiling of Muslims, we can see the violence impact of the; us/them binary. As Frantz Fanon (1986) clearly enunciated, the obsession and regulation of the other is a site of anxiety for the white west. Again this reinforces the reality of the unequal power dynamics within cultural hybridity for anyone who falls outside of the mainstream narratives of hegemonic culture.
Although throughout this essay I’ve been pessimistic and critical of cultural hybridity in its formation of identities, cultural hybridity can at the same time under the right discourses operating produce identities that act as sites of resistance. Cultural emergence (liminality) highlights the power relations involved in the liminal space of identity constructions. Dominant cultural identities occur as a product of struggles of representations in the site of boundaries, this also has operations of power that also fuel racialized ideas. These power relations are trying to fix identities into narrow categories, whereas Cultural emergence indicates we are more fluid and mixed. The term liminality showcases that within that space of boundaries and in that tension with power transformation of culture, new expansive identities are formed. Homi K. Bhabha (1994:56 ) theories that liminality acts as a ‘third space’ for the cultural enunciation of inherently uncanny alien territory, this space also permits for new discursive identities and also allows for subversion in established spaces to occur. It is in this space we see resistance occur in forms of new culturally hybrid identities.
Homi K. Bhabha analyses of hybridity differentiate from various other theorist, as there is an alternative narrative encompassing the term hybridity in colonial discourse, which is focused on the race aspect and of people with mixed origins. However, Bhabha celebrates new cultural emergence due to its uniqueness of being in between, original and creative; more importantly its ability in negotiating difference. Within this site of creativity, new cultural identities emerge, with certain power operations producing identities as spaces that directly resist racialized discourses that seek to determine how identities become known and represented.