The Importance of Hybridity
Patchwork Identity as the Foundation and the Future of the European Union
Miša Glišič, January 25. 2022
Anthropology – Social Sciences
The European Union of today is the result of a process that began over half a century ago. I personally understand »union« as a word that includes and connects diverse cultural mindsets. The EU as a community should serve the people and their diversity since hybridity overall is essential in every aspect of life. What creates the framework of our existence? It is hard to find a proper answer to this question. However, we must be aware that we belong to a common cultural and social space that structure our living environment. In today’s time of cultural change and migration flows, cultural awareness has an important role to play. Nowadays, the tolerance and coexistence of different cultures is a hot topic. But, the following question remains: To what extent is the individual willing to accept ‘foreignness’?
Individually and socially speaking, the human is a being of culture. With cultural evolution, we formed cultural abilities and our sense of a cultural belonging. Culture is thus tied to mankind. As social beings we strive to connect with other beings:
“Externally, contemporary cultures are conceivably connected and intertwined with one another. The forms of life no longer end at the boundaries of the individual cultures of yore (the alleged national cultures) but transcend them and can also be found in other cultures” (Welsch, 2009, p. 3).
The goal of these connections is the creation of a community. The philosopher Wolfgang Welsch (1999) pointed out that today’s cultures are transgressive and are exceeding borders, so we should be talking about transculturality and the patchwork identity. In this sense, we can also understand the EU as a transcultural construction, whose cultures derive from one another and form a unique union. According to Welsch, every individual has a so-called “patchwork identity”, which is shaped by several cultural patterns and contains different cultural elements. An individual whose identity is determined by several cultural patterns has several opportunities to locate himself in the social environment (cited in Welsch, 2009, p. 5-6). In this sense, patchwork identity can be understood as our own cultural transgression.
Transculturalisation is a cultural intertwining, enabling us to overcome cultural barriers and to understand basic issues and views of human rights. The relational notions of ‘the self’ and ‘the foreign’ as components of transculturality are closely interconnected and at the same time complement each other in an interspace. In this interspace, the self, and the foreign merge into a so-called ‘third’, which is not a subject to the laws of dichotomy. A so-called intermediate sphere emerges, which, according to the post-colonial theorist Homi K. Bhabha, can be understood as a “Third Space”. This space is an in-between temporality and can also be interpreted as a transition zone (cited in Bhabha, 1994, p. 53). Among other things, this space also provides a new version of cultures and an open discourse.
The hybrid identity and cultural awareness are constructed in this space. The Third Space is a spatially well-founded idea of a contact area, a mixing area, an in-between and overlapping area of border zones and borderline situations. It is a place of debate within and between cultures, in which demarcations (e.g., between what is one’s own and what is foreign) can be destabilized. This space consists of overlapping contradicting and different layers of culture (cited in Bachmann-Medick, 2014, p. 205). The intertwining of ‘own’ and ‘foreign’ enables the emergence of complex transcultural projections of society, which enrich our community. Only with a transcultural perspective we can truly understand ourselves and the diversity of cultures.
True comprehension of humankind cannot be separated from own aesthetic experience of the world. Henceforward, everything is aesthetic and in substance transculturally determined as “cultures today are in general characterized by hybridization. For every culture, all other cultures have tendentially come to be inner-content or satellites” (Welsch 1999, p. 5).
As a European Community, we must be aware that foreignness has always been an integral part of our own cultural identity. Therefore, we should continue to foster cultural diversity and strive for an open dialogue, as we must not forget that cultural pluralism is an advantage of our identity. Europe supports the transcultural nature of our society and represents a rich community of different cultures. Diversity that is a part of our Hybridity makes us as Europeans special, which is why the validity of Hybridity must be thematized and justified in the future. Its use, if properly defined, would however, clarify thinking as well as facilitate a successful intercultural communication on a global scale. Nevertheless, Europe must continue to maintain its common identity and promote the interests of its people equally.
Disclaimer: The views, information and opinions in the written publications are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect those shared by the Eutopia Student Think Tank (EUSTT) nor the EUTOPIA Alliance.
Welsch, Wolfgang (1999): Transculturality - the Puzzling Form of Cultures Today. In: Spaces of Culture: City, Nation, World, edited by Mike Featherstone and Scott Lash, London: Sage, p. 194-213.
Welsch, Wolfgang (2009): Was ist eigentlich Transkulturalität? In: Hochschule als transkultureller Raum? Beiträge zu Kultur, Bildung und Differenz, published by Lucyna Darowska und Claudia Machold, Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag.
Bachmann-Medick, Doris (2014): Cultural Turns. Neuorientierungen in den Kulturwissenschaften, 5. Edition, Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowolth Taschenbuch Verlag.
Bhabha, Homi K. (1994): The Location of Culture, London/New York: Routledge Classics.
Student Representative of the University of Ljubljana for the EUTOPIA Student Think Tank. She has a Master in German Studies and is a PhD Student of Literary Studies at the Department of German, Dutch and Swedish at the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana. Research curiosity has always led her to the field of interculturalism, where she intends to continue her research work.