Theory, Culture and Society 22 (4):39-64 (2005)

Today the movement of ideas, capital and people is faster and wilder than at any point in history. Globalization has made the world more interconnected. The flows of traffic in this new network have not only accelerated to new levels, but the directions of movement have multiplied and abandoned the well-worn paths. The cultural dynamics of globalization have presented new challenges to the existing models for explaining the forms of belonging and the patterns of exchange that are occurring in the world. Culture is no longer understood as the discrete and unique expression of activities and ideas that occur in particular places. No culture can exist in isolation. The process of hybridization in the deterritorialization of cultures and peoples demands new theories of flow and resistance and is compelling artists and intellectuals to rethink their methods. Cultural critics and curators are also in need of new conceptual frameworks. There is an urgent need for a new vocabulary in art discourse that is able to make sense of the complex forms of representation that are incorporating images from different locations and that simultaneously activate signs that contain within them a multiplicity of other signs, each embodying a series of contrary or competing codes. To do justice to both the complexity of the artwork and the intellectual potential of these new conceptual headings we need to develop frameworks that can address both these signs of difference and the process by which signs are made out of the plays with difference. The concept of translation can serve as a tool that can both make sense of the broader dynamic of cultural exchange and explain specific forms of cultural representation. I am particularly concerned with the ways in which contemporary artists and art writing deal with issues of mobility and attachment. What sort of place does art connote if it is constantly evoking the shuttling between places? In what language can the artist articulate the recognition that translations fail as often as they succeed? How does a bi-lingual or a bi-cultural person speak their mother-tongue and see the world, which operates in a different or hybrid language? These questions push the available conceptual frameworks for cross-cultural exchanges to the limits. In this article I re-examine the conceptual viability of the term hybridity in light of the new debates on creolization and globalization.
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DOI 10.1177/0263276405054990
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