Hybridity (Literary Theory)

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Many academicians perceive “hybridity” as a concept interrelated in the era of post-colonialism. Accordingly, scholars of the 19th century are influenced by the ideas justifying colonialism; interrelating multicultural concepts as a result of interrelationship between the colonist and the colonized in a colony.

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On the other hand, literary theory on hybridity exposes the effects of colonialism depicting on the complexities of way of life, such as attitudes, beliefs and even family values. The multiculturalists’ theories are somehow used as a methodical approach in the deconstruction or reconstruction of cultural systems, like the Western, Eastern, Oriental and Asian cultures.

Literary as an art of fictional writing is found as the “common platform” or hybridity of cultural, economic and political life, wherein a literary of multiculturalism is sometime described in a subjective portrayal. Thus, the contemporary critique in literalism seeks and aims to distinguish the objective standpoint of a literature with the reason to rectify the purpose of literary theory effective of truthful cultural representation.

This paper will discuss and examine how two different authors visualize hybridity in their literary works, relating the contrasting ideas and interpretation in the portrayal of cultures. The methodology of this paper mainly composes of literature review that will compare and contrast the works of George Lipsitz (1990 and 2001) and Gloria Anzaldua (2007).

Literature Review


As an overview, it is important first to explain what “hybridity” is. As defined by Dr. Leon Litvack in ‘Key Concepts in Postcolonial Studies’ which was published by School of English at the Queens University of Belfast in 2006, the term hybridity is most appropriate for a biological meaning of “mixed breeding” which was consequently used and applied as a terminology in the study of language and literature. In view of that, the racial theory of the 19th century uses the term “hybridity” pertaining to the “mixing of races” which is a literary theory that describes or defines cultural identities (1). In layman’s explanation, hybridity represents, illustrates and describes races and cultures in the literary art.

            Reflective of the brief explanation above, hybridity as a literary theory can be perceived as an empirical ethics, wherein the ideology of right or wrong can be acknowledged by an individual or a social group based on the classification of values central to morality and tolerable conduct. As implied by Litvack (2006), hybridity theory for instance are the prejudice or favoritism, standpoint and observation in the literary that relates the “cultural effect of globalization”, in which experiential norms is applied.

            Literary theories

            In George Lipsitz ‘Time Passages: A Collective Memory and American Popular Culture’ which was published by the University of Minnesota Press in 1990 cites the literary on post-modernism and popular music in East Los Angeles (130). Lipsitz (1990) literary has portrayed the main character of Mexican writer Octavio Paz who visited Los Angeles.

Octavio Paz explored Los Angeles with his excitement to wander in the Anglo-American metropolitan area, searching the cultural origination of the city prior it became part of the United States which was once a civilization of Olmec, Maya, Toltec, Aztec, Spanish and the Mexicans (131).

As cited, Lipsitz described Octavio Paz’ finding that it is only the Mexican identity that occupies the traces of cultural heritage, if not much dominating among other cultures but a gloom and vanishing, with the description as follows:

“Both old and young Mexican-American migrants to Los Angeles face distinctive troubles of cultural identity and adaptation. The torment of invisibleness that Paz found was just a marginal tribal community which can be also found throughout the world. The cultural dominance of urban elite displaces the essential part of the early civilization, wherein failed adaptation to dominant culture can exclude the ethnic minority from major economic and political possessions, however, to assimilate or adapt can eradicate valued ethnicity of individuals and collective cultural identities” (133-134).

Such a description of Lipsitz expresses the hybridity theory that the “assimilating cultures” of Mexican-Americans have apparently the trouble that have consequently displaced the ethnicity of Mexican migrants who are obliged to adapt the “dominating cultural identity” as to being Americans. Therefore, hybridity promulgates the dominant culture that has been established from generation to generations, while ethnic essentials have changed and eventually lost.

A similar literary exposition of George Lipsitz on hybridity can be found in his ‘American Studies in a Moment of Danger’ which was published in 2001 by the University of Minnesota Press. In Chapter 7 of the book with topical discussions “not just another social movement” is a critical analysis that exposes the relevance of customary rules and tradition in the work of art. As quoted from the book, “altering the rules of art is not only an artistic problem because it inquires the cultural configuration and the elements of the artistic world that must relate the customs and beliefs” (169).

Central to Lipsitz’ critical analysis relates the exhibition of paintings or murals as a medium of cultural expression, depicting the socio-cultural-economic-political life of the contemporary Mexican-American youths who organizes and mobilizes the Chicano Movement (169-171). The Chicano Movement represents the continued search of the Mexican-American youths for their ancestors that have nurtured the Chicano race long before the colonizers.

According to Lipsitz, the artwork of the murals depicting various expressions or images of characters does not only symbolize a social movement but the “thirst” from cultural struggle, in which described as follows:

 “An art of a Chicano artist who states neocolonialism in a rural life setting, who expresses fear over contemporary racially prejudiced policies, who recognize on the disparate distribution of American economy, is most surely going to be unrewarded and may be awarded only to politically and socially intimidating artist” (183).

In perception, Lipsitz (2001) correlates the “progressive work of art” of an artist that situates the socio-cultural character and role of the Chicano Movement, interrelating hybridity theory in interpretation of the artwork.

            Gloria Anzaldua’s book, entitled: ‘Borderlands/La Frontera, Third Edition: New Mestiza’ which was published by Aunt Lute Books Publishing in 2007 has explored, described and exhibited the life experiences in simultaneous circumstance, such as places, cultures, languages and realities. Anzaldua (2007) probed on the sensitivity of genders in the characterization of lesbian Chicana (a girl of Mexican descent) working in the United States.            The “borderlands” that separates between two cultures of Mexican and the US’ Western civilization exemplify the barrier or boundary marker, wherein immigrants may rather seek refuge or be denied of entry. In one of the anecdotal passages, Anzaldua strikingly expressed the situation of the Chicana who has been psychosocially anxious, as quoted, “she feared for she has no name, that she has many names, but she does not know her name” (65). Thus, Anzaldua posed the question of cultural-racial identity, wherein she further depicted the “protagonist race” in extreme life-search, like self-questioning of “who am I Or where do I belong”.

            Portraying the “Mestiza consciousness” or cultural breeding that survive at the borderlands equates the grim determination and endurance. As cited, surviving “Mestiza consciousness” depend on the capability of adapting and transforming oneself, referring on how the Chicana must flexibly integrate into herself the English and Mexican cultures (216).

In summary, “la frontera” pertains to the “frontline of the last frontier” in the borderlands where two cultures and races assimilate in the individual self, in which only self-determination can still retain the cultural identity, but cannot be found in the borderlands that is the “crossroad” of meeting bad or good cultures, strange race and even enemies (217).

Comparison and contrast

            This section of the paper will compare and contrast the works of Lipsitz and Anzaldua.

As a general comparison, Lipsitz and Anzaldua have their common understanding on the effects of colonialism as mainly attributing the cultural influence in one country, like Mexico which is a neighboring country of the US. The literary theory of Lipsitz interrelates hybridity as a result of cultural assimilation, in which also acknowledged by the work of Anzaldua that implied the “borderlands” as the last frontier or frontline of the converging and emerging cultures.

Apparently, the basis of Anzaldua’s concept of “mestizaje” with Lipsitz’s theory of “hybrid cultural productions” can be critically considered to portray the clashes of races in search of cultural identity. In which case, it can be exemplified by Lipsitz’ citation that “cultural dominance of urban elite displaces the essential part of the early civilization, wherein failed adaptation to dominant culture can exclude the ethnic minority from major economic and political possessions”. On the contrary, Anzaldua stated that surviving “Mestiza consciousness” depends on the capability of adapting and transforming oneself, referring on how the Chicana must flexibly integrate into herself the English and Mexican cultures.

In contrast, it can be capsulated that Lipsitz theorized hybridity as a result of colonial powers and the decadence of culture that was assimilated in the cultural, economic and political life of the colony. While Anzaldua implied that concept of hybridity is due to immigration in another country, from which the borderlands was portrayed as the converging and emerging point of two cultures. Therefore, it can be synthesized that the two literary theories have their varied interpretation on hybridity although they have their “commonalities” in conceptualizing the diversity of cultures.


The concept of hybridity in literary theories is found to vary on the interpretation of Authors (like Lipsitz and Anzaldua) as they may compete in the battle of ideas on how multiculturalism must depict in their literary works, wherein the art of characterization must portray the life-experiences. With the two literary works reviewed in this paper, the common ideas has been presented in search of cultural identities, but an adjunct to complexities of identifying, learning, assimilating the cultural belongingness of the readers. In conclusion, literary work must be further developed not only as an art of language and literature but as a fundamental “breeding” of all races, wherein the present generation must discern and outlive their cultural origins in harmony with the global cultures.

Works Cited

Anzaldua, G. “Borderlands/La Frontera, Third Edition: New Mestiza”. 2007. Aunt Lute

Books Publishing, ISBN: 9781879960749. 09 March 2009

Lipsitz, G.  “Time Passages: A Collective Memory and American Popular Culture”. 1990.

University of Minnesota Press. 09 March 2009

Lipsitz, G. “American Studies in a Moment of Danger”. 2001. University of Minnesota Press.

09 March 2009

Litvack, L. “Key Concepts in Postcolonial Studies”. 2006. School of English, Queens

University of Belfast. 09 March 2009

< http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/SchoolofEnglish/imperial/key-concepts/Hybridity.htm>


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