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The idea of nation is often based on naturalised myths of racial or cultural origin. Asserting such myths was a very important part of the imperial process and therefore an important feature of much imperial writing and indeed postcolonial writing. The need for commonality of thought to encourage resistance became a feature of many of the first postcolonial novels. Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart is an example of a novel dealing with the collective resistance to imperialism. More recently we have become aware of how problematic such accounts are. The simple binaries that made up imperial and postcolonial studies have in some way become redundant with regard to later literature. As Mudrooroo has said of the Aborigine's , they were a tribe like any other, susceptible to change and influence from outside forces. He says; “the Aboriginal writer is a Janus-type figure with a face turned to the past and the other to the future while existing in a postmodern, multi cultural Australia in which he or she must fight for cultural space”.  So in a sense Mudrooroo embraces his hybridised position not as a “badge of failure or denigration, but as a part of the contestational weave of cultures ”. 
One of the most disputed terms in postcolonial studies, ‘hybridity' commonly refers to “the creation of new transcultural forms within the contact zone produced by colonisation.”  Hybridisation takes many forms including cultural, political and linguistic. Pidgin and Creole are linguistic examples. Within languages there can also be evidence of ‘linguistic cross breeding' and the use of loan words from either the language of the coloniser or the colonised. Examples can be seen in Swahili, Aborigine and Irish. The coloniser's language cannot escape and one sees the many loan words in the English language today. In Ireland for example, there are many sayings and words in English that an English man or woman would not understand. For example the use of the word ‘amadan' meaning ‘fool'. Labeled Hiberno-English, it is a typical example of linguistic hybridisation.
Robert Young a widely written commentator on imperialism and postcolonialism, has remarked on the negativity sometimes associated with the term hybridity. He notes how it was influential in imperial and colonial discourse in giving damaging reports on the union of different races. Young would argue that at the turn of the century, ‘hybridity' had become part of a colonialist discourse of racism. In Jean Rhys ' Wide Sargasso Sea , to be a Creole or a ‘hybrid' was essentially negative. They were reported in the book as lazy and the dangers of such hybrids inevitably reverting to their ‘primitive' traditions is highlighted throughout the novel. In reading Young alongside Rhys, it becomes easy to see the negative connotations that the term once had.
the crossover inherent in the imperial experience is essentially a two-way
process. According to Ashcroft
most postcolonial writing has focused on the hybridised nature of
postcolonial culture as a strength rather than a weakness. It is not a
case of the oppressor obliterating the oppressed or the coloniser silencing
the colonised. In practice it stresses the mutuality of the process.
The clash of cultures can impact as much upon the coloniser as the colonised.
In reading Juanita
Carberry , the daughter of a settler in the White Valley region in
Kenya, one gets a taste of the hybridised nature of her childhood and
her life. Growing up a Swahili speaker and playing with the wild animals
against her father's wishes, her experience was essentially more African
than English.  It is proof that even under the most potent of oppression,
that distinctive aspects of the culture of the oppressed can survive and
become an integral part of the new formations which arise. Ashcroft says
how “hybridity and the power it releases may well be seen as the
characteristic feature and contribution of the post-colonial, allowing
a means of evading the replication of the binary categories of the past
and developing new anti-monolithic models of cultural exchange and growth”.
This page was written by Elizabeth Laragy. Email me with your comments.
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