Discovering ‘Hybridity’; Sceptical Notes in Advance of a Workshop

This afternoon I will make my way to Birmingham for a workshop on ‘Hybridity’ at the University’s Institute of Advanced Studies there. Hybridity is a concept that seems to have a lot of purchase in peace and development studies, and to advance on theories of post-colonialism. Some–especially Rosa Freedman–are trying to explore its purchase in legal scholarship now as well.

Concerned with power, hybridity seems to me to be a theory that tries diagnostically to describe, see and structure exercises and stratagems for the (re)appropriation, shifting and reshaping of power and of hegemonic structures or concepts. I am not well read into the theory, and I think I have been invited in order to offer some provocations from the counter-terrorism perspective, but it will be interesting to see whether or not the day fleshes the theory out for me any.

At the moment, and from what I have heard and read so far, it seems to be difficult to distinguish in terms of intellectual content from much of queer theory, some of feminist theory, and quite a lot of regulatory theory (especially around participation, constitutionalism and legitimacy) and in at least some contexts a large chunk of transitional justice work.

I will go with an open mind, and I’ll share my speaking notes and slides and some reflections after the workshop, but it is interesting already to see how different disciplines seem to ‘miss’ each other and to become convinced of the novelty of their own frameworks when–seen from another perspective–they seem so close to that which exists elsewhere. The answer perhaps might be that hybridity is much more concerned with the practice of ordering power than the theory, but who can say that feminism isn’t concerned with practice? Or regulatory theory which is deeply reflexive (in fact, that is for me at the source the really compelling thing about it)?

I am sure all of these questions will be raised and discussed tomorrow, and if nothing else it proves the value of inter disciplinary conversations and workshops and of having institutions such as the IAS at Birmingham–and indeed our own Institute of Advanced Study here in Durham–to facilitate and support these conversations.

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