African Thresholds: Hybridity through
the Looking Glass;
1. The poisoned gift of the looking glass
The narratives of early exchanges between Africans and Europeans inform us that the European missionaries who travelled to meet 'unknown' African populations whom they wanted to convert and 'civilize', would bring them gifts to construct a social relationship. Such gifts, as Marcel Mauss explains, acted as a vehicle for the self, and were the bearers of a particular kind of selfhood which the Africans had to accept. As the poet Roscoe says in The Wrongs of Africa,
Thou to their dazzled sight disclosest wide
Thy magazine of wonders, [...] pointing out
Wants they before knew not; mirrors bright,
Reflecting to their quick and curious eye
Their sable features... (Roscoe 1787:8-9).
These mirrors mentioned by Roscoe were not just one more trinket to be added to glass beads and tobacco leaves. As has been shown by Jean and John Comaroff with regard to the Tswana populations of South Africa (Comaroff 1991), the looking glass was an ubiquitous presence in these exchanges, and was taken to be the window into a new way of seeing and being. The missionaries seem to have held it up with the specific intention of embodying evangelical values and purposes, as may be inferred from a passage by Robert Moffat:
Once or twice during every week day I illustrate and apply a portion of scripture. I cannot complain for want of attention: but alas! How many see their face as in a glass and straightway forget! (Comaroff:187).
The looking glass was thus an instrument offered to the Africans so that they could see their own self revealed through the power of a captivating lens - they were to see an 'otherized' self, captured in the net of the colonial vision. This process was the core of conversion: the European gaze would then include this new 'other' by making him wear the aspect of the colonized object and take up the role of the object.
It seems that at first, the African's reaction to the looking glass was ambivalent. In a report dated 1824, the missionary Hodgson writes:
We offered [a chief] a gift of beads, tinderbox and looking glass. He refused to take the looking glass, because if it remained with him, he and his people could not remove from their present residence (Comaroff:188).
It was the Europeans who retold these early encounters, giving the master narrative, while the Tswana speak through the text of others. Yet even the first accounts allow us to hear a "counter-discourse which may be illuminated by playing it off other cultural materials that give insight into contemporary symbols and meanings, relations and categories" (Comaroff:189).
Such counter-discourse, however, be it linguistic, visual or literary, bears the mark of hybridity. It had to go through the awful threshold of the looking glass, be enticed by the gaze and play its own performance in the symbolic domain decreed by the looking glass itself. Hybridity is at the core of the encounter between the European colonizer and the African colonized, for it is the mode of conversation between them and the mark of their reciprocal acceptance.
Two such examples of hybridity may be offered here, one literary, the other visual. Both come from the southern African region and from cultures and circumstances linked in different ways to the original gift of the looking glass.
2. The land in two early African novels
The novels Chaka, written by Mofolo in the Sesotho language and published in 1925, and Mhudi, written in English by Solomon Plaatje (himself a Tswana) and published in 1930, were among the first to appear on the continent and constitute the pillars of the new tradition of African fiction. Structured in the form of fiction, they represent a complex reply to the total colonization of African space completed in the first two decades of the nineteenth century. The two authors use their own cultural imaginations in order to re-design a history and geography of the land, a counter-narrative to offset the colonial master narrative.
Mofolo opens with an ethnographic incipit, a sort of great map drawn in Western geographical style, but instead of giving European toponymy in the spaces, he inserts the names of the nations:
South Africa is a large headland situated between two oceans, one to the east and one to the west. The nations that inhabit it [...] easily divide themselves into three large groups: the nations settled along the western seaboard are of a yellow complexion. They are the San and the Khoi. The ones in the centre are the Batswana and the Basotho. Those to the east are the Bakone or the Matebele. The boundaries between them are prominent and visible; they are boundaries created by God, not man, because the nations to the west are separated from the ones in the centre by great sandy waterless deserts, and those in the centre are separated from those to the east by a massive mountain range of towering peaks rising in the Cape Colony and running parallel to the sea, yet far, far away from it (Mofolo:1).
Soon after, however, the reader is naturally led into an African geography based on naming places after men and their genealogies:
When one travels downward between the sea and the Maloti, coming from the direction of Delagoa Bay, in the north, the first Bakone one comes upon are the Swazi nation. Across the Mfolozi-Mnyama River were settled the Ndwandwe people who were ruled by Zwide. Between the Mfolozi-Mnyama and the Mfolozi-Mhlophe, all the way to the sea, were the Bathethwa who were ruled by Jobe; or perhaps we may more fittingly mention the name of his son, Dingiswayo, who became more renowned than his father (Mofolo:3).
The list/genealogy of nations lengthens out, as happens in Zulu and Sotho praise poetry:
Near to the Fenu-Iwenja were the Mangwane led by Matiwane, who once invaded Thaba-Bosiu. There were also the Maqwabe, the Mafuze, the Bathembu, the Makhuze, the Mahlubi, the Bakwamachibisa, the Mathuli (Mofolo:3).
Using historical distance and differentiation, Mofolo organizes a coherent chronotope where places are named and defined in the African style. But he does not forget to offer general indications (rivers, but also cardinal points, contemporary cities) which superimpose on the ancient map - conceptual and ethnographic - the present, descriptive-geographic one, linked to colonial definitions and references and therefore resting on the prime meridian. Mofolo offers a European grid for his territory, but below it he organizes those elements of African cultural value and meaning which may allow any individual African reader to identify with the general history about to be told. Proceeding in this way, Mofolo acknowledges the fact that he is an accultured child of the empire, but at the same time exhibits his awareness of being an heir to the African conceptual discourse.
Plaatje's novel Mhudi, written shortly after Chaka, is also set in the 19th century and during the hegemony of the Zulu empire, but at a later stage, after Chaka's death. Its incipit is brusque and powerful:
Two centuries ago the Bechuana tribes inhabited the extensive areas between Central Transvaal and the Kalahari Desert. Their entire world lay in the geography covered by the story in these pages (Plaatje:25).
Plaatje gives a general statement on his aims, indicating the geographic implications of his fiction and almost confessing to a geographic inspiration which focuses on a land and puts it at the centre of the story. What immediately follows is a detailed ethnographic presentation of African peoples as they were at the time, concluding with a meaningful remark:
Those peasants [Barolong of Kunana] were content to live their monotonous lives, and thought nothing of their oversea kinsmen who were making history on the plantations and harbours of Virginia and Mississippi at that time; nor did they know or care about the relations of the Hottentots and the Boers at Cape Town nearer home. The topography of the Cape Peninsula would have had no interest for them; and had anyone mentioned the beauty spots of the Cape and the glory of the silver-trees on their own subcontinent, they would have felt disappointed on hearing that they bore no edible fruit.
To them the limit of the world was Monomotapa - a whiteman's country - which they had no ambition to see (Plaatje:27).
Unexpectedly, the author plays on an intercontinental map and links the condition of his fellow Africans to that of African American slaves, hence showing how blind are the Barolong who could not 'see' how all around them the Europeans had enslaved Africans, from the Cape (Boers against Khoisan) to the remote Americas. Geography, history and sociopolitical analysis blend together on a grid which offers a bold insight into European colonial expansionism and opens the way to a fictional plot where African stories interweave with the itineraries of Boer ox wagons trekking to the north east.
The same passage suggests another observation of a more generally conceptual nature. These hints on social class ('peasants'), race ('Barolong'), economic connotations ('edible fruit') and aesthetic fruition ('beauty spots', 'the glory of the silver trees') seem a conscious allusion to the idea of landscape typical of late 19th century Britain. In fact, in 1870 John Ruskin wrote that
A true peasant cannot see the beauty of cattle; but only the qualities expressive of their serviceableness [...]. [...] Landscape can only be enjoyed by cultivated persons; and it is only by music, literature and painting that cultivation can be given. Also, the faculties which are thus received are hereditary; so that the child of an educated race has an innate instinct for beauty, derived from arts practiced hundreds of years before its birth (Ruskin 1905,XX:36).
If compared with Ruskin, Plaatje's text takes on an even more ironical turn and a strongly subversive understatement, which is very much in his style, and more generally in the African approach to the colonial world.
As in Chaka, so in Mhudi the aesthetics of nomination enters the text. When Plaatje discusses the Matabele/Ndebele and their chief Mzilikazi, he starts by explaining that
At length the Matabele established as their capital the city of Inzwinyani in Barhurutshe territory; the Bechuana inhabitants were permitted to remain on condition that their chiefs should pay tribute to Mzilikazi.[...]The Matabele enforced taxation first upon one and then another of the surrounding Bechuana clans, including the Barolong at Kunana, whose chief at the time was Tauana (Plaatje:28).
Like Mofolo, Plaatje too uses the reference points provided by western maps, but he enters such maps with a political discourse. He does not go as far as to deconstruct the colonial discourse - on the contrary he makes use of it, considering it a part of his inheritance as an educated person - but he does so in order to enlighten his fellow Africans and inform them of the dangers impending on them and the conflicts and rifts dividing them, using a technique of subtle irony rooted in the hybridized approach. Here hybridity is the result of the act of appropriating the looking glass and using it to magnify conceptual differences. In fact, while the western map is based on visual elements and symbols, the African map derives its nature from concepts. Such a piece of literature constitutes an excellent example of intentional hybrid in the sense indicated by Michail Bachtin, an internally dialogical element played out by a deft trickster to create a 'signifying' performance.
3. From the looking glass to the lens: the narrative of the self in the photographs by Alf Kumalo
The colonial encounter shows that "both the transfixing mirror and the captivating lens" (Comaroff:188) created at first a reaction of fear among the Tswana because in these instruments they saw the power to grasp a person's essence, or very life. In fact, early anthropological photography did treat its objects as if they were dead, and represented them as such. One may well say that 19th century anthropological photography reified its object entirely, and made it a total other, as if the camera were moved by an "unspoken desire to control mute objects in its macabre museum of vanishing races and little-known facts" (Pinney:78).
But there came a moment when the former object - in our case, the African - appropriated the lens and used it as a camera eye to represent his own world and culture, his own place in society, and to construct a narrative of his own, different from the master narrative offered by the colonial gaze. Here hybridity is obvious both in the choice of the instrument, which is so central to the discourse of colonialism, and in the purpose of the enterprise. The purpose is in fact derived from the original decree of the missionary - 'thou shalt see your face in the mirror' - and rooted in the scriptures, but turned inside out, and ironically applied to see the self outside the conceptual and political frame imposed by colonialism. The result of such revelation is revolution.
In apartheid South Africa a young man of twenty, Alfred Mangaliso Kumalo, decided he wanted to tell stories using a camera. He managed to become a news reporter for the glorious Drum magazine, and went on to work for the group of The Golden Post : He started his work in the 1950's, and is still active. His photos (Vivan 1998) are an interesting example of hybridity through the looking glass, but they also show the inevitable ambiguity of the colonial and postcolonial encounter creating a double gaze and a double meaning. Such ambiguity was even more inevitable in the context of apartheid, where the artist/photographer had to hide his meanings under the cover of some superficial, and innocuous, message.
I shall discuss these assumptions by analyzing some of his pictures.
Picture 1
In Picture 1 (Vivan:53) a group of Sotho girls, during initiation, with an irresistible gesture draw us imperiously into their enigmatic circle, calling us to walk through the lens and across bounds. The invitation is to cross the threshold, span the measureless distance and enter the ritual. It is dawn in the dry veld and the masked figures have a riveting, unheimlich power of expression and attraction.
Picture 2
Picture 2 (Vivan:52). Male initiation. The geometric partition of the field of vision excludes the outer world and draws the gaze to the circumcized penis at the centre. The ritual is pictured with participating gravity and awe.
Picture 3
Picture 3 (Vivan :50). We are watching the inauguration of King Mswati III of Swaziland in 1986. The young prince at the centre, tall and handsome in his radiating headgear, seems to be leading an army of countless warriors, for the sticks of the few warriors present in the picture merge with the naked branches of the trees in the background: the whole of Africa is up in arms, facing the rising sun. The photo is divided into three horizontal bands - the shields in the foreground, the warriors' bodies in the middle ground, and the sticks/trees in the background - and narrates a story of epic and harmonious revolution.

Picture 4

Picture 5

Picture 4 and 5 (Vivan:60). The colonial encounter in Lesotho in the 60s. The two white ladies, with their exotic hats (couldn't we call them 'headgear'?), enter the ceremonial stage as icons of whiteness and supremacy. In Picture 4, the lowered head of the white lady is framed, American style, by the shiny chrome of a prestigious car, symbol of power. In Picture 5, the cortege of black persons accompanying the white lady opens up into two wings as if to introduce and exhibit their icon whose dark-gloved hand rises in a gracious salute. Both pictures are subtly ironic representations of colonial scenes, but the latter picture offers a double irony, since the white lady portrayed in the picture is the wife of prince Kama of Botswana. The couple suffered exclusion and persecution from the apartheid regime of South Africa because of their mixed marriage, and so her gesture takes up a meaning of defiance and scorn.
Picture 6
Picture 6 (Vivan:78). The seemingly naïve pretext - a soccer match - gives the photographer the opportunity to picture the world of apartheid, with black people behind the fence, and a black policeman, looking puzzled and clumsy in his uniform, a showy ring on his finger. No one could ever accuse the photographer... he is just featuring a sport event, but the looking glass becomes a weapon in his hands, and an instrument to create irony and also compassion.
Picture 7
Picture 7 (Vivan:94). This is an absolutely delightful scene shot in a Johannesburg street in the 60s, and at first might be taken for a harmless and even 'funny' vignette. But again, a gentle yet firm irony hides in the double meaning and compels us to go through the looking glass and see the predicament of the black man playing his small African instrument to a crowd of white mannequins. His head is hidden in a shiny box, the bizarre and humourous mask of a new urban ritual, creating a performance in apartheid times.
Picture 8
Picture 8 (Vivan:66). A mass political meeting at Maseru, Lesotho, during the 1970 election campaign, is portrayed with emphasis and grandeur. These Africans are reading newspapers and waiting calmly: who could doubt their ability to settle the issues of their time in a civilised, democratic manner?
Picture 9
Picture 9 (Vivan:64). Soldiers of the Lesotho police at the ready, the scorching African sun on their helmets. This picture reminds us of Robert Capa's style.
Picture 10
Picture 10 (Vivan:65). The hybridity of power in Africa, where a shiny Mercedes Benz is being escorted by mounted Lesotho men wearing their conic hats and traditional blankets. The postcolonial situation is depicted with fine irony - politicians holding the insignia of power, common people following in a faceless, anonymous group.
Picture 11
Picture 11 (Vivan:105). Robert Kennedy, like a god dropped in during the ritual ceremony of a cargo cult, salutes the people of Soweto in 1966. The figure of the young hero is outlined against a dramatic sky and reflected on the hood of the huge car. We are being told about utopic expectations and hero worship in times of colonial oppression, but this meaning is hidden in the glory of the scene celebrating a most popular historical figure.
Picture 12
Picture 12 (Vivan:126). Chris Hani, the ANC leader murdered in 1993, is portrayed Christ-like, with open arms - his gesture emphasized by the double perspective on both sides - and open mouth, as if he had been interrupted while delivering a speech. A telling portrait, enshrining history and destiny.
Picture 13
Picture 13 (Vivan:109). The universe of black people living in urban areas - the township - is foregrounded in this stark scene. A family is being evicted. Only objects, arranged in a pyramid topped by the stump of a tree, comment on the event, and even they seem to turn their back on the observer who is invited to enter the looking glass to see life as it really is. The frame is divided in two parts by a tree stump, bare and lonely, representing the distorted geometry of apartheid, its pitiless taxonometry.
Picture 14
Picture 14 (Vivan:122). Police charging with dogs, a self-explanatory picture. But there is a story inside the main story, a subtext below the main text: while everybody is running away from the police, a little man right in the centre walks straight towards the snarling dogs and the helmeted policemen. He is well dressed, composed, determined, indifferent to the bedlam around him: isn't he the hero of some short story, or maybe even a novel? Has that novel been written yet?
Picture 15
Picture 15 (Vivan:133). This is one of the pictures which made history: a road made of coffins ondulating in the midst of an immense crowd of blacks, overpowering. It is 1985, the funeral of the people killed by the police in Uitenhage during another funeral: the history of South Africa is made of funerals.
Picture 16
Picture 16 (Vivan:141). The person who is being interred here was a woman who died because of apartheid. Yet the picture tells also another story - just death, a black hole, a path which takes you away from the living. A human, African threshold.
Picture 17
Picture 17 (Vivan: 143). Again, a road paved with coffins. The apartheid regime killed people in Lesotho, and Oliver Tambo pays homage to the dead. A picture telling a story of pride and defiance hidden behind the mere documentary target. One should also be reminded that at the time in South Africa it was strictly forbidden to mention, photograph or publish anyone who was imprisoned or banned by the regime (as was the case with Tambo).
Going back to Picture 1, we see now that the Sotho girls salute us ritually and acknowledge our presence on the colonial and postcolonial stage where a huge drama is taking place and has to be recorded. The looking glass, the photographer's lens, is the medium for this crossing of African thresholds.
4. The contemporary landscape of hybridity
In the cultural discourse of our time, hybridity is an omnipresent and relevant phenomenon both in theoretical debate and in general practice.
Arts and literature, linguistics and anthropology, sociology and religion, as well as natural sciences, reveal its emergence and increasing influence. Of course the phenomenon as such is anything but new, for hybridization is a process common to all human cultures - in fact, it is at the very foundation and origin of cultural life - and was originally focused in connection with organic life, both animal and vegetal. From natural sciences and genetics, the term was then extended to concepts regarding race and language. Now it covers a wide range of combinations born out of human invention, and has therefore become identified with the man-made world.
Hybridity should be distinguished (as different) from sincretism - resulting in a harmonic fusion, under the sign of order - as well as from contamination, originally referring to the spreading of a disease or plague, but also (in Latin) to the mixing of different classes or categories of literary style; from creolization, indicating a specific racial, cultural and linguistic offspring, as well as from eclecticism, intended as a juxtaposition of diverse elements where each element loses its identity without bringing forth an original whole (the term is used mostly in philosophy and religion). Hybridity has - or, rather, used to have - a denotative undertone, meaning an incongruous mélange, born under the sign of disorder. In fact, the process of hybridization crosses and therefore re-discusses binary oppositions hitherto considered compact and distinct, such as native/alien, centre/periphery, east/west, western world/third world, black/white, art/commercial production, man/woman, etc. It also implies a hitherto questionable element of ambiguity, almost a secret flaw.
It is a discourse rooted in the liminality of encounter, originating from the double threshold of change.
5. Views of hybridity
Ever-present in the contemporary debate on the nature of culture and literature, and on aesthetics, hybridity was originally introduced in the discourse on culture by Michail Bachtin (and his exegete Tzvetan Todorov), and further analyzed, among others, by Edward Said, Stuart Hall, Homi Bhabha, Paul Gilroy, Benita Parry, Ahmad Aijaz, Gayatri Spivak and Nestor Garcia Canclini. There is, however, a holy trinity on hybridity, composed of Said, Spivak and Bhabha who has in fact centered his theories on a new vision of hybridity.
Michail Bachtin draws a fundamental distinction between unconscious, 'organic' hybridity, and conscious, intentional hybridity, referring to the linguistic phenomenon. Conscious hybridity lays the foundations for aesthetic hybridity, whose products are meant to shock, change, revitalize: "intentional hybrids create an ironic double consciousness, a collision between differing points of view on the world" (Ahmad 1995:360, and also Young 1995:21-5, and Werbner 1997:5-7). "Such artistic interventions - unlike organic hybrids - are internally dialogical, fusing the unfusable" (Werbner 1997:5). So the doubleness of hybrid voices is created "not through the integration of differences but via a series of dialogical counterpoints, each set against the other, allowing the language to be both the same and different" (Papastergiadis 1997:267).
All the critics of hybridity acknowledge that "western cultural history at least since the sixteenth century is unanalysable without reference to colonialism" (During 1998:31). So the component of the colonial/postcolonial encounter is a fundamental element in the vision of hybridity. Hybridity was presented as a danger in the colonial situation, but at the same time it took up a positive, exotically 'attractive' and aesthetically valuable character, which enhanced white power as well as white desire. The political economy of miscegenation created a world of hybridity from which ambiguity developed.
But the postcolonial critic subverted the sense of this relationship. Stuart Hall discovered the multiple others in the self - or, rather, "the understanding that the history of the self is composed always across the silence of the other" (Hall 1991:49). Homi Bhabha is a typical example of this subversion, and a voice which has found vast echo in the present debate on hybridity. For Bhabha, hybridity is a challenge to the 'purity' of 'tradition', then a 'poetic of re-inscription'. As Werbner writes,
by grafting the Bachtinian notion of the subversive and dialogical force of hybridity on to the ambivalence in the colonial encounter, Bhabha gives a new twist to the meaning of hybridity. Hybridity is the process by which the discourse of colonial authority attempts to translate the identity of the Other within a singular category, but then fails and produces something else. [...] a third space emerges which can effect forms of political change that go beyond antagonistic binarisms between rulers and ruled (Werbner 1997:279).
6. Hybridity, aesthetics and ethics in postcoloniality
If hybridity used to be not only negative but an absolute monstrosity; if the intervention of desire has developed a cultural policy of difference leading to multiculturalism, so that at present we acknowledge that hybrid is beautiful and hybrid is also good, for it is part of the morality of anti-racism, what is the aesthetics of all this?
Culture seems to be in search of a new setting to place the demand for aesthetics coming from contemporary culture and society. The connection of hybridity with aesthetics is probably stronger than with other fields of human culture, because cultural sincretism takes place in a context of aestheticization of daily life, of spectacularization of difference, of aesthetic fruition of plurality.
For many postcolonial writers there is an obvious intention to attract the audience with a polisemic language endowed with many layers of meaning, and, at the same time, to remain on the threshold, in the position of a trickster enjoying an ambiguous role and belonging to a universe of liminality.
Hybridity comes with postcoloniality as a result of both conscious and unconscious reactions against the hegemony of colonialism. It is an assertion of difference, where the Other poses itself as a subject: but the Other cannot see itself as other, and therefore will not mark the difference by 'becoming' subject. There is here an interesting slippage between the discourse on alterity - "the postmodern scramble for alterity", as the novelist Zoë Wicomb defines it, seen as a predictable "outcome of the process of commodification triggered by colonialism" (Wicomb 1997:407-8) - and its rejection by many postcolonial critics and artists. It is widely felt that an aestheticised discussion of the minoritarian, as is the case with Deleuze and Guattari, who position the minoritarian "within a metaphor of territory and link it with a process of becoming, deftly blends the colonial and psychoanalytic other. Alterity is conceived as a process of growth that is not bound to territory, indeed is deterritorialized" (Ibidem).
The construction of otherization - a process - should be analyzed, as Toni Morrison suggests, by focusing on "the impact of racism on those who perpetuate it". Toni Morrison has practiced her theories in the very context of her fiction. Her attitude toward history and her rescue of oral history, considered as a primary text, constitute a powerful move in the direction of a renewal of canons, where aesthetics cannot be separated from ethics, for the concept of aesthetics also changes according to cultures.
7. Europe and its others
Europe has never seen itself as hybrid. This consideration, accompanied by the present conscientization concerning hybridity coming from certain voices in Europe (Young 1995) suggests a revision of the code of racial and cultural 'purity' which has been at the very foundation of modern imperial history. On the other hand, we are witnessing also the rise of a huge and violent wave of rejection of hybridity in areas and cultures where such hybridity had a longer history and seemed most accepted and consolidated, such as the Balcans and especially former Yugoslavia.
Europe will in any case be compelled to accept an awareness of hybridity now that the giant diaspora of immigration is visibly changing its face, beginning with former colonial subjects coming to inhabit what used to be the centre of the empires.
One might say that lately globalism has superseded postcolonialism (During 1998), or at least it is in the process of superseding it. I personally believe globalism is a response to postcolonialism, and a harsh one for that reason. Globalism was born in economic circles and is grounded in economics, while postcolonialism, born as a term in political milieus (Ahmad 1992), has since become a label for the contemporary debate on cultural matters - values, problems, principles. Globalization seems one more way to assert the priority of profit and capital over all other elements in human civilizations, while its cultural aspects are concerned with the consumption and marketing of resources. Its uses of hybridity are therefore functional to a commercialization of culture and, in my opinion, are masking the actual entrenchment of forces and powers aimed to neutralize the revolutionary efforts of postcolonial thought. In short, globalization appears as a counter revolutionary stage in the ongoing cultural war - a stage where economics will help and support one side of the battle.
The present stage of cultural history, moving toward globalization in every part of the world, presents aspects which are in fact quite attractive also aesthetically and culturally, and hybridity is one of them.
Is hybridity an actual aesthetic and political value in contemporary culture, or is its celebration on the global market an attractive mask to hide the backlash of cultural conservatism, where fragmentation dictates its law and annihilates difference? Where do our societies stand with the politics of anti-racism, or, rather, with the deconstruction of the concept of race? Is the hybridity celebrated in postcolonial literatures a path open to the future (a better future), or is it rather a defensive move to protect long established hegemonies in the cultural war of our time, and through that, in the economic war marking the end of the millennium?