Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Magic of Hybridity

If my head were to explode write now, words and thoughts and ideas will fill the space surrounded by the four well known blue walls. The space known as my bedroom. Oh man, this talk about SPACE has just reminded me that spaces also play a significant role in most of the text - but I shall not digress. I shall not digress solely because the very thought that is sitting right on top of the piles of words, thoughts and ideas right now. And if you realize, I'm beginning to "talk" instead of write.

I left out the concept of "Transgression of Boundaries" in Garcia Marquez's Of Love and Other Demons from my previous entry because of my ability to think of any as I write. However, as I set out to write on my next plan, I realized the following:

HYBRIDITY can actually be interpreted as a transgression of stable boundaries. 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” (Ashcroft,Griffiths and Tiffin, 2003). Syncretism on the other hand, is the reshaping, union or attempted fusion of different systems, beliefs, thoughts and practices through cultural accommodation so that "they consciously or unconsciously blend with those of the dominant culture"(Rheenan, 2003). In both these concepts, the blurring of boundaries between different worlds and categories contributes to magical aspect in Of Love and Other Demons.

Hybridization takes many forms in the book. Hybridization is taken literally as illustrated in several instances. A slave named Judas was referred to as "a minotaur" - part man, part bull. In addition, when the Marquis mentioned his fear of horses, Abrenuncio suggested that "if we broke down the barriers, we could produce the centaur" - a creature that is part man, part horse. We later learn that "Sierva MarĂ­a's hair coiled with a life of its own, like the serpents of Medusa" - who part woman, part snake. References to hybrid mythological creatures were probably made to blur the distinction between the hybridity that took place in myths and the ones that are taking place in reality. It is also interesting to note that the creatures were those from Greek myths thus, making the book a hybrid in itself - a hybrid of European literary realism and the magic of Latin American reality.

Racial and religious hybridity is one that occurs in the real world setting of the text. For example, Marquez's protagonist Sierva Maria is the daughter of a mestizo woman and a Spanish marquis. Father Aquino was a priest of African decent who could converse in Yoruban, Congolese and Mandingo. In addition, "(the Church) had constructed sumptuous cathedrals to hide the pagan pyramids, not realizing that the natives came to Mass because their sanctuaries still lived beneath the silver altars" - this illustrated the religious hybridization of Christianity and paganism. We also read of the "chaotic mixing of blood that had gone on since the conquest: Spanish blood with Indian blood, and both of these with blacks of every sort, even Mandingo Muslims"- this went further to show how the initial hybrid of racial bloodlines can eventually lead to the hybrid of religion.

In the text, hybridization was seen as polluting when the bishop "asked himself whether such miscegenation had a place in the Kingdom of God". In this case, Marquez uses hybridity to allow readers to imagine and feel the plight of the indigenous. The Church's main objective was to establish the dominance of Christianity by assimilating the indigineous into Spanish culture and colonial order. Hybridization was seen as a (threatening) ‘contamination’ of Spanish blood. Hybridity and multiculturalism was interpreted as a gradual dilution of the exclusiveness of the Spanish colony. It was viewed as a threat when boundaries between races, ideologies and beliefs began to blur. And for this reason, the exorcism on Sierva Maria and the Inquisition can be seen as a repressive means to silence the colonized.

Through the concept of hybridity, Gabriel Garcia Marquez gave readers a feel of what life was like during and post-colonialism for the colonizer and well as the colonized. It also brings to light the negativity that is seems to be associated with the term hybridity and forces us to ask the question whether hybridity is a form of contamination or a form of creative transgression.

Writer's note: As I decide to end this looping piece of writing prematurely, I smile and am thankful that I'm in the engineering field. Writing essays after essays will definitely drain my love for writing and I definitely do not want that to happen. My heartfelt sympathy to those majoring in Literature.

Writer's latest note: I'm writing this a day after my paper. I wrote something during the exam that I found interesting. Week's ago, I wondered why the African priest Father Aquino died a mysterious death. While writing my paper, I found a possible answer: Father Aquino embodies the hybrid of race and religion. Perhaps, Marquez wanted to put across the idea that even this was unacceptable in the eyes of the Church.

I wrote that the Inquisition and the exorcism was the Church's way to silence the colonized - as represented by the 'hybrid' Sierva Maria. It was their way of showing the authority they had over the colonized and to some extent, their hatred for the indigenous. Perhaps then, one could imply that Father Aquino didnt die a mysterious death after all. Interesting. This thought of mine (as crazy as it may sound) was the perfect way to end my paper. Hope I get a decent grade for it.


cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Wow, this was so interesting! I'm really into colonialism and post-colonialism, so I loved reading this. M'A.

marzuki said...

Thanks! It wasnt as fluent as I hoped for it to be. But Im so glad I did write it coz it was similar to the question that came out! So I merely recalled and rewrote what i wrote. yup I recall seeing something about u liking colonialism, post colonialism .... and feminism. Mind me asking why the fascination? Sthg to do with what ure currently learning in sch?

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Well I grew up in Zambia so colonialism was always a big issue. I became very interested in it when I started university, because I realized most of the problems Zambia has today stem from colonialism, yet Zambia is the one being blamed instead of the British.
Then I lived in Egypt where I was also exposed to the problems of a post-colonial society.

I haven't read much on it lately, except for a book about Robert Mugabe, but it is such an interesting (and painful) issue.

marzuki said...

Interesting coz colonialism seems like an alien term to me personally - despite the fact that Singapore used to be under the British colonial rule a couple of decades or so ago. We seem to not feel any effect from colonialism(if this concept applies to my country) so perhaps, the way a country responds to life post colonialism is crucial? Hence probably why Zambia's being blamed.

But i guess for every one finger someone points at Zambia, one could point the remaining four fingers to the British. Nevet thought anyone today would care about the history of one's own country.