Hybrid Identities

by Flocel Sabaté (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 296 Pages


This book dissiminates a selected collection of research texts from the Congress Hybrid Identities, held in 2011 in the Institute for Research into Identities and Society (University of Lleida, Catalonia, Spain). Outstanding researchers from Social and Humanities fields adapted the hybridization of society such as a new perspective in order to study and understand the evolution of conviviality from the Middle Ages to current days throughout a comparative space and time. Taking the concept from the anthropology, the hybridization became a new approach for social studies and Humanities. Hybridization offers a historical perspective in order to renew perspectives for study different societies during all historical periods since Middle Ages to current days. At the same time, hybridization appears as a tool for analysing social realities in the different continents of the word. In any case, it is a new way in order to understand how the societies reaches its respective cohesions throughout mixted identities.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editor
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Hybrid Identities
  • Histories and Identities
  • The Lineage of Hybrid Identity
  • Hybridization, Transculturation, and Translation. Europe through the Lens of Latin America
  • Hybrid Identities: the Case of Medieval Spain
  • Outer Appearance and the Construction of Identities
  • Quivi hanno refugio tutte le nationi come commune domicilio del mondo (Here all the Nations have Refuge as Shared Home of the World). The Cosmopolitan Identity of Rome between the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries
  • Plurilingualism and Identity in Sardinia (XVI–XVII centuries): Some Thoughts
  • Identities in Exile from the War of the Spanish Succession (1713–1747): Some Notes
  • Hybridité ou les femmes en littérature
  • Hybrides et Surgeons : Naissance des Genres Populaires
  • The Rule of Osha in Cuba. A Hybrid Identity?
  • Hybrid Identities in Contexts of Minorisation of Citizens: Thinking about the Indigenous Peoples of Latin America
  • Global Ecumene, Electroacustic Music and “Other” Music
  • The Role of the Significant Other in the Construction of National Identities
  • Hybrid Memories: Building the Present in Southern Pakistan
  • Hybridity and Catalonia’s Linguistic Borders: the Case of Najat El Hachmi
  • Identities. An interdisciplinary approach to the roots of present

← 6 | 7 → Hybrid Identities


Universitat de Lleida

When, towards the end of the 20th century, the world was clearly moving towards a network society,1 linked by the information networks,2 the notions of identity also adapted themselves to this new reality.3 Not only was there a growth in communications and exchanges, but also a new framework of reference and understanding arose: from Universal History we moved to Global History, with all the conceptual and experiential implications that this implies.4

Faced with these changes, some fear the loss of the traditional references that they hold dear. This is not only about the fear of the new homogeneity derived from globalisation and dominated by the powerful5 silencing the minor and weaker voices,6 especially given the unequal effects that this globalisation on markets, social stratification and world governance.7 Besides these effects, in the same global context, complaints from members of solidly consolidated groups have arisen, fearful that ← 7 | 8 → the new miscegenation will damage or even annihilate their own identity. Thus, there have been calls to reinforce the cohesion of specific groups, especially of a national nature. Some countries are said to lose their memory and, thus, renounce their own history,8 while trying to preserve the anchorage referring to a past as a unique guarantee to maintain an identity in the future.9 With the same concern but aiming to avoid remaining merely stopped in these complaints, other groups seek to restructure their national patriotic values to bind together those who share identity.10

One way and another, it is possible to perceive the fear of losing the essence that define one’s own society and, inherently, a distrust of otherness, a return to the fear of the barbarians,11 an approach not far removed from the conviction that otherness should be interpreted as confrontation.12 Nevertheless, faced with the same problem, other authors accept that the mixture shapes society however messily. Beyond the secular calls for the goodness of mixing and combination of identities,13 one perceives reality as the result, in itself, of a mixture, which could not be any different given the speed with which populations, ideas and reference points have drawn closer and mixed in all aspects over recent decades.14 In fact, this has been no sudden change, given that the roots of the present globalisation run very deep, and time ago scenarios appeared like the one perceived by Georges Trésor when reflecting about the identity of the island of Guadalupe: tout est mêlé. Ce n’est pas inextricable, mais c’est un tissage où on ne sait quel fil prendre qui soit le bon. La situation des Antilles aujourd’hui est ce tissage là.15

← 8 | 9 → In 1872, when taking stock of his life, Jules Michelet wrote that everything in the world had accelerated: Un des faits les plus graves, et les moins remarqués c’est que l’allure du temps a tout à fait changé. Il a doublé le pas d’une manière étrange16. In 1947, Daniel Hálevy published a book with a very explicit title: Essai sur l’accélération de l’Histoire;17 and in 1973 Manuel Lloris stated that la sociedad humana tiene ahora una base cultural común más amplia que nunca, which facilitated the movement hacia una sociedad planetaria18. Thus, this did not suddenly appear in society at the end of the 20th century, when the concept of multicultural citizenship arose,19 which would transform the whole range of collective identities, be these ethnic, religious or national.20 If everything has come so close, a mixture will result that cannot be anything but strange for human understanding, because individual identity, as psychiatry and psychology show, is no more than the result of an unequal and complex, not very predictable, sum of influences.21 It should not be difficult to prolong the malleability to adaptation, not only individual but also social, of humans beings. In fact, given this proximity, the antidote to the shock that would result from identities imagined as insoluble can be nothing other than la mixité of the same identities, as Gilles Kepel reflects.22

Mixing dilutes the density of identity. This, in its pure state, was well weighed up by the leading character of Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran, to the point that lightening load this meant getting rid of the books that serve the function of memory and that linked him to a costly and rigid Jewish identity: à chaque fois que je vendais un livre, je me sentais plus livre.23 A lighter and more permeable content would avoid the unbearable ← 9 | 10 → weight of identity and, at the same time, the demand for confrontation with the otherness.24 However, one cannot dispense with identity, but rather seek another more adequate one, as Amin Maalouf stated:

What makes a Muslim from Yugoslavia one day stop calling himself Yugoslav to call himself firstly a Muslim? And what makes a Jewish worker in Russia who has considered himself first and foremost a member of the proletariat all his life start to perceive himself as more than anything a Jew? How can one explain that arrogant claims of belonging to a religion, which would until recently have seemed inconvenient, nowadays seem natural and legitimate, and in so many countries at the same time?25.

Thus, identity is always needed. In the 12th century, Chrétien de Troyes explained that the Knight of the Lion wandered around the forests like a crazy wild man, living like an animal, while he had lost his identity.26 In all cases, the essential personal and social identity requires more or less secure fixing points, but always as references to the past. Thus, in our ever-changing world, rebuilding a new historical memory adapted to defining global identity documents which fit the social setting.27

This being so, the importance of identity is not only taxonomic and descriptive: its characteristics are the basis for interpretation the world. Its contents condition the way and forms with which to take on the surroundings, the neighbourhood and the otherness. That is, the ability to grasp reality and to coexist. Significantly, un sistema epistemològic més relacional que substancial (“an epistemological system more relational than substantial”) reflects and, at the same time, facilitates, identities clearly aimed at coexistence, more than at adjustment to certain essences:

La innovació de la filosofia contemporània passà, de fet, d’una filosofia de la “substància” (que assumia que la veritat de l’ésser existia amb independència de les seves relacions amb d’altres éssers) a la moderna filosofia de la “relació” (que postulà que la veritat de l’ésser era constituïda, més que per si mateixa, “en” o “mitjançant” d’altres éssers).

Innovation in contemporary philosophy became in fact a philosophy of ‘substance’ (which assumed the truth of the being existed regardless of its relationship with other ← 10 | 11 → beings) to modern philosophy ‘relationship’ (which postulated that the truth was being made, but by itself ‘in’ or ‘through’ other beings).28

In this context of thought, the interaction of cultures in contact that frames the present facilitates a relational and porous model of identity, with the consequences that derive from this contact.29

The contact is even the succession of cultures does not generate displacements but rather different degrees of mixing, that can be taken as hybridity, to use the term with which Néstor García Canclini successfully referred to culture in Latin America.30 Seen as a daring transfer of biology to culture and perhaps even endowed with a specific ideological weight,31 the expression had considerable impact, especially among the social sciences in Latin America, as its promoter recognised on taking stock and seeing it used successfully en los estudios antropológicos, sociológicos, comunicacionales, de artes y de literatura (“in anthropological, sociological and communication studies, in arts and literature”).32

Certainly, one can appreciate an urge to find the right label for the social mixture observed at the end of the 20th century and that continues into the this century.33 However, the specificity of hybridity would not be defined so much as an interpretative method but rather as an image of the reality of the formative process over time and across societies. Accepting this definition of hybridity, rather than as a palimpsest, in which each stage overlaps the ← 11 | 12 → previous one, the path of humanity should be seen as a sum of strata that, instead of being clearly separated, contaminate each other, adopting a specific identity, which we term hybrid identity. Therefore, hybridity does not refer to a mere mixture or heterogeneity and also differs from a miscegenation, because it is actually a specific item, impure in its essence given its nature,34 that requires cultural translations of the progressive registrations. Seen like this, as Mario Erdheim noted, all cultures are hybrids in origin35 and, faced with multiculturalism of the diversity of cultures, hybridity does not lead to a more or less balanced fit of diversity but rather to the creation of a specific articulation.36 Thus, the sequence can be chronological and also sectorial and spatial, combining the global stimuli with the local reality.37

Under these parameters, the results of many researches have generated significant glimpses of the social sciences and humanities from hybridity. It is present in the study of literary work38 and historical sources,39 fitting in different conceptual influences;40 it is used in different aspects of linguistics;41 it has contributed to renewing the geographical analysis of the territory;42 and the framework for delving into the evolution and cohesion of societies,43 while using the concept to seek views of long chronological and ← 12 | 13 → historical sequences.44 In fact, society, in itself, becomes a very receptive field for the concept, and this shows deep-seated roots: back in 1928, Robert Park viewed immigrants as hybrids in their cultural identity.45

Researching into society as a compound hybrid requires consistency in adopting the right analytical tools. We must assume a clearly multidisciplinary approach, in the most traditional sense, in other words, yuxtaponer disciplinas distintas para el estudio de un fenómeno concreto (“juxtapose different disciplines for the study of a particular phenomenon”).46 The working method must also be coherent. If we assume a reality that we call hybrid as the subject of study, to grasp it, we must apply the research method through an adequate hybridity. This should gathers together questions and answers from all the aspects that make up the framework of human development and that seek the respective point of combination, while facilitating a transfer of contents and meanings in the analysis. As in the approach, this is not a set of more or less concordant aspects, but more a single subject of research, namely human society, in its specific spatial and chronological scenarios.

Rather than concerning ourselves with the working method, we must go deeper, from the respective areas of research, about societies that we assume to furnish identities that, one way or another, we accept as hybrid. These tasks have been taken up for the Institute for Research in Identities and Society at the University of Lleida, which is devoted, precisely, to questioning society through the humanities and social sciences. Consequently, during 2011, reflection in this field culminated in November of the same year in a scientific meeting that brought together researchers from very diverse fields with the aim of comparing and debating research into hybrid identities from different, but at the same time complementary, perspectives. The participants were Josep Fontana (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona), Andrew Vincent (Cardiff University), Christiane Stallaert (Catholic University of Leuven and University College of Antwerp), ← 13 | 14 → Martine Reid (Université Charles de Gaulle – Lille III), Gerhard Jaritz (Central European University, Budapest), Anna Maria Oliva (Istituto di Storia dell’Europa Mediterranea, Roma), Daniel Compère (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris III), Maria Eugenia Cadeddu (Istituto per il Lessico Intellettuale Europeo e Storia delle Idee, Roma), Agustí Alcoberro (Universitat de Barcelona and Museu d’Història de Barcelona), Kathryn Crameri (University of Sydney), Josep Maria Terricabras (Universitat de Girona), Adeline Rucquoi (Centre de Recherches Historiques, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris), Sosthène Onomo Abena (Université de Yaoundé II), Ndèye Anna Gaye (Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar), Fulvia Caruso (Università degli Studi di Pavia), Joan Josep Pujadas (Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona), Ugo Fabietti (Università degli Studi di Milano “Bicocca”), Graciela Spector Bitan (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and Nasr Hajj (Université Mohammed V, Rabat).

This plurality of voices, diversity of disciplines and variety of centres and research traditions ensures the meeting and discussions are rich. All of them, apart from exceptional cases (Nasr Hajj, Sosthène Onomo Abena and Josep Maria Terricabras), have culminated these reflections in the texts included here, all aiming to continue the reflection about social identities in an interdisciplinary view of social mobility.


1Manuel Castells, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. The Rise of the Network Society (Cambridge (Mass.): Blackwell Publishers Inc., 1996), vol. 1.

2Manuel Castells, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. The Power of Identity (Cambridge (Mass.): Blackwell Publishers Inc., 1997), vol. 2.

3Manuel Castells, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. End of Millennium (Cambridge (Mass.): Blackwell Publishers Inc., 1996), vol. 3.

4Bruce Mazlish, Ralph Buultjens, eds., Conceptualizing Global History (Oxford-San Francisco: Westview, Boulder, 1993).

5Brad Roberts, ed., Order and Disorder after the Cold War (Cambridge (Mass.): The MIT Press, 1995); Joaquín Estefanía, El poder en el mundo (Barcelona: Plaza & Janés Editores, 2000).

6Susan George, Nous, peuples d’Europe (Paris: Librairie Arthème Fayard, 2005); Alcira Argumedo, Los Silencios y las Voces en América Latina. Notas sobre el pensamiento nacional y popular (Buenos Aires: Ediciones del Pensamiento Nacional, 2006); Partha Chatterjee, La nación en tiempo heterogéneo y otros estudios subalternos (Buenos Aires: Siglo Veintiuno editores–Clacso coediciones, 2008).

7Luciano Gallino, Globalizzazione e disuguaglianze (Roma-Bari: Editori Laterza, 2000).

8Jean-Pierre Rioux, La France perd la mémoire. Comment un pays démissionne de son histoire (Paris: Editions Perrin, 2006).

9José Ribeiro e Castro, Una Pátria com memória e com futuro. 1 de dezembro. Dia de Portugal (Parede: Princípia Editora, 2012), p. 5.

10Eric Liu, Nick Hanauer, The True Patriot. A pamphlet (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 2007).

11Tzvetan Todorov, La peur des barbares. Au-delà du choc des civilisations (Paris: Robert Laffont, 2008).

12Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of Word Order (New York: Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, 1996).

13Laurent Ferri, De Sénèque à Lévi-Strauss. Ils raccontent la mondialisation (Paris: Éditions Saint-Simon, 2005).

14Zygmunt Bauman, Dentro la globalizzazione. Le conseguenze sulle persone, (Roma-Bari: Editori Laterza, 2006).

15Georges Trésor, Guadeloupe: l’enfermement identitaire? (Petit-Bourg: Dérades, 2009), p. 9.

16Judith Wulf, “Rythmes sémantiques (‘Richelieu et la Fronde’)”, Michelet, rythme de la prose, rythme ed l’histoire, Paule Petitier, ed. (Villeneuve d’Ascq: Presses Universitaires de Septentrion, 2010), p. 30.

17Daniel Halévy, Essai sur l’accélération de l’histoire (Paris: Éditions Self, 1948).

18Manuel Lloris, El siglo XXI (Barcelona: Salvat Editores, 1973), pp. 135–138.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (July)
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 296 pp.

Biographical notes

Flocel Sabaté (Volume editor)

Flocel Sabaté is professor in Medieval History and head of Institute for Research into Identities and Society (University of Lleida, Catalonia, Spain). He led international research projects from European institutions; participate in scientific boards in research centres in Europe and America, belong to different boards for scientific journals and series and has written many research works.


Title: Hybrid Identities