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The Pocket Oxford Dictionary (2000, p. 430) gives the meaning of 'hybrid' as '1 offspring of two plants or animals of different species or varieties. 2 thing composed of diverse elements, e.g. a word with parts taken from different languages.' The root of the term 'hybrid' is the Latin hybrida.

According to the Wolters' Latin-Dutch dictionary hybrida means: 'bastard, Child of a Roman and a foreigner, or of a free person and a slave.' The Grote van Dale dictionary also first cites this original meaning, and then adds: 'something that comprises heterogeneous elements.'

'Hybridisation' according to the same van Dale is a common notion in biochemistry (relating to the merging of different types of DNA). And in the social sciences and philosophy the concepts of 'hybrid' and 'hybridity' crop up. In 'Krisis - tijdschrift voor filosophe' hybridity is described as 'the mixture of elements which are different and which are generally separate from each other.'

It is interesting that the concept of hybridity is here introduced alongside authenticity, within the framework of a study into the relationship between these two concepts. On the basis of a study carried out into the development of Mexican culture it is stated that this culture, as a melting together of different 'authentic' cultures, is a typical example of a hybrid culture - but that at the same time it is highly authentic. Authenticity and hybridity are not opposites but are natural extensions of each other. Hybridity produces new forms of authenticity and is inherent in processes of social and cultural dynamics in which various cultures confront each other (Europan 6, 2001).

Within the concept of hybridity then are the multifarious properties of genetics, genetic distortion and impurity, the crossing of plant lines and heterogeneity. There is an element of unique authenticity, and geo-political spatiality is also relevant. The geo-political tone is enhanced under a consideration of the 'city' as the authors of the above go on to say:

The development of the city by definition involves the development of hybrid ideas, i.e. where once border zones formed between two more or less distinct spatial systems… The border zones are sometimes a 'problem,' but they are often precisely the areas in which the greatest urban vitality develops. They are no longer merely a melting together of two different systems; they have become a new system with a logic and dynamism.

Elaborating on the critique of authenticity, they write

…hybrids commonly allude to an intrinsic quality which can no longer be traced back to a specific function… but have a chameleon-like quality… that can accommodate all kinds of different functions…

Heterogeneity, again, in another sense of the word.

Authority and colonising power consistently repudiated hybrid culture:

What distinguished twentieth century French colonialism and its hybrids from earlier precedents were the pseudo-scientific, social Darwinian discourse that accompanied the interdiction against cross-breeding, and the violence and fear with which hybridity was resisted (O'Connell n.d., citing Morton).

Hybrid culture was a bastard in the colonial view. The way to suppress hybridity was to deny, to hush, to keep from sight and to insist on hybrids adopting the vision of the master culture.

Cultural hybridity could not be seen in the mirrors of the colonisers, who

…refused to see how the houses they resided in were hybrid concoctions, a hybridity that went well beyond stylistic ambivalence….hybridity did not simply reside in the foreign body and the native town: rather hybridity was a troubling presence in the form of their own identity, an ambivalent space that they occupied and whose impact they deeply felt (O'Connell n.d., citing Chattopadhay).

The hybrida appeared as a Frankenstein of cultures, an image too dangerous to behold, a challenging of identity. The boundaries of culture and the dwelling places of the identity were blurred:

There were no locks or bolts on the doors, indicating too plainly that Indian doors were not supposed to be shut. Without the possibility of closing off rooms, the boundary between the house and the outside world became ineffective. This blurring of boundaries, and the consequent lack of interiority, became one of the more disturbing aspects of colonial life, reminding the colonizers that the locus of a hybrid culture was in their midst…The service areas were inextricably linked to the served spaces… (O'Connell n.d., citing Chattopadhay).

Hybridity disturbs traditions, and replaces tradition with novel solutions. The solution is one that fits the locale. The speaker's chair of the Papua New Guinea parliament, for example, is a cross between the one in the British House of Commons and a traditional orator stool, 'analogous to the kind of hybrid political system being molded' (O'Connell n.d., citing Vale). The topology of hybrid locales is not one of being a simple child of two cultures, but rather, a 'third' independent space with it's own self decided parameters.

In what house though, does the personality of the realised cultural hybrid reside? Homi Bhabha (1994, p. 2) writes of 'an ongoing negotiation that seeks to authorize cultural hybridities that emerge in moments of historical transformation.' Whilst this passage of historical transformation is perhaps a reference to the transformation of cultures at shared boundaries in cities, it is applicable to Pitcairn-Norfolk cultural heritage, where the transformation was simply explosive in the first instance.

A trace of this type of transformation is mapped in the District of Leistavia project. Locating the installed component in the threshold between two spaces, follows contentions around zones of transition being suitable to hybridisation processes.

1. The above is mostly taken from my MA thesis Hybrid culture, nonlinearity and creative practice submitted in partial fulfillment of the MA Art and Design at Auckland University of Technology.
2. Bhabha, H.K. (1994). The location of culture. London: Routledge.
3. Europan, (2001). Europan 6. Available: accessed 8/10/02.
4. O'Connell. (n.d.). Architecture and Identity. Available accessed 15/5/02.