Review: “Cultural Hybridity and International Communication” by Marwan M. Kraidy
Here’s the link to the article I review in this post.
If you’ve been reading my posts, you’ll be just as excited as I am to know that all of my academic interests are finally beginning to converge! I’ve spent a decent amount of time exploring the natures of identity, geopolitics, culture, and why the development of communication technology is so important, throughout this blog. The fruits of my labor appeared in front of me as plain as day when I discovered a scholar who beat me to the conceptual crossroads: Marwan M. Kraidy. The work he’s been doing over the last few decades creates an intersection between everything my intellect has been working towards. If you couldn’t tell already, I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot right now! And I’m eager to explore the entire collection of work he’s published. So, without further ado, let’s jump right in!
I decided the best place for me to start in Kraidy’s work is with his book first published in 2005, entitled Hybridity: Or the Cultural Logic of Globalization. I decided to keep myself from falling down this huge rabbit hole, as I already know I will lose all sense of time reading if I’m not careful. If that were the case, I would forget to make this post! So I decided to start small, and work big. One chapter. That’s all. Think you can do it? Let’s do this.
Kraidy opens his essay by demonstrating how useful a conceptual framework of hybridity is to many academic disciplines and why it transcends most frameworks offered up before it. It’s usefulness lies in its ability to capture culture but also “retain residiual meanings related to the three interconnected realms of race, language, and ethnicity” (Kraidy 1). Basically, there are other terms such as syncretism and creolization which refer to mixtures, but they only apply to specific phenomena in religion or language for example. Kraidy wants the reader to realize that the hybridity framework overcomes those limitations and works in broader applications.
I especially appreciate Kraidy’s mention of a fact often overlooked: “… cross-cultural encounters are historically pervasive” (3). What he means to say is that seemingly separate cultures, such as “Chinese culture” or “Turkish culture,” have been mixing and transmitting ideas as far as the written record goes (perhaps not these two specifically, but you get the point). Kraidy begins with this idea, developed from the work of a U.S. historian named Jerry Bentley, as a framework for his book. The focus of Hybridity: Or the Cultural Logic of Globalization, heavily relies on the relationship between hybridity and power.
Now, you might remember from my previous post where I explore the concepts of power and identity (check it out if you haven’t already by clicking here!). Almost all the phenomena I’ve explored in this blog can in some way be attributed to power imbalance. The internet, and especially its ability to shape identities beyond the level of a nation-state, is now the setting for understanding the moves of people or entities with large amounts of power. With this new communication tool, it is much easier for us to see information from multiple points of view (although not in all countries or places). Scholars are beginning to understand the strategies in which the ruling class operates.
What does this have to do with hybridity? Well, Kraidy argues that power, embeddedness, and invisible structures all give contextualization to the development of this theory called “hybridity.” Interestingly enough, since this class is a pop culture class, pop cultural media is an avenue for analysis. Media, more specifically “cross-cultural,” hybrid media forms, seem to occur in relation to the different imbalances of geopolitical power that make up our world. Kraidy acknowledges that economic integration does not lead to equal development between multiple cultures. He supports this statement by using an example provided by Mosco and Schiller’s analysis of the North American Free Trade Agreement, otherwise known as NAFTA (9). Instantly, I thought back to Seth Holmes’ Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies, which I mentioned in several other blog posts, in which he explores the health effects of migration on rural Triqui people in Mexico which are directly caused by this trade policy.
Since the first chapter in a book generally lays the groundwork for the rest of the book, I want to end on my most intriguing take-away from this article, and, what you can expect in my future posts. Kraidy mentions that in a later chapter, he offers up an alternative framework for understanding the broad concerns of “cultural imperialism” regarding power and cultural change, which he calls “critical transculturalism.” Based on the other topics touched on in this chapter, it seems to me that the foundation of this framework assumes the position that “all cultures are inherently mixed” (Kraidy 14). It seems like Kraidy beat me to the punch, because over the past few weeks I’ve found myself arriving at this very idea. Luckily for me, now I have the groundwork already laid out for me, waiting to be applied to everything else I’m learning. Perhaps within the contexts of this framework, I will be able to draw new connections between other concepts I’ve learned about recently such as Leve’s “identity machine” (which I wrote about here).
I’m excited to explore this new framework especially because it is just the kind of thing I needed for my final creative essay in this class. Stay tuned!
As the nature of knowledge goes, every question answered always leads to more questions. Yet, each question I answer always gives me the sense that I am getting somewhere. Shaping my world view into a new perspective. I may never know THE answer, but maybe someday, the work being done at this moment in time will help someone else figure it out. And that’s what keeps me going.
Kraidy, Marwan M. “Cultural Hybridity and International Communication.” Hybridity: Or the Cultural Logic of Globalization, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 2005, pp. 1–14. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1bw1k8m.5.