|Sometimes the reasons for so-called misunderstandings
with regard to a certain term are found in the weaknesses
of the term itself. This becomes obvious, at the latest,
when even leading theorists in the very area, in which
a term has attained central significance, are misled by
these "misunderstandings" or even generate them
The term hybridity is a good example of this. Having
become a key concept within postcolonial studies and
since then taken over in the broad field of diverse
political and cultural activisms, it sometimes seems
to express a single major misunderstanding; for instance,
when Edward W. Said, author of several standard works
of postcolonial studies, looking at migrants of Asian
or African origins living in Europe, says: "I think
it would be a grotesque misunderstanding of cultural
development, if this new area of European/non-European
culture were to be excluded for reasons of race or ethnicity.
All cultures are hybrid, none is pure, none is identical
with a racially pure population, no culture is homogeneous."
Statements of this kind - to the extent that they are
limited to the observation that "cultures"
are never inherently homogeneous - at first appear to
be purely and simply banal. The situation becomes more
complicated, however, as soon as the question is posed
as to what "cultures" is actually supposed
to mean here: namely if "all cultures" are
hybrid, then how can these cultures be identified as
such, or more specifically as certain cultural totalities?
Every statement of the type "this culture is hybrid"
ultimately presupposes that "this culture"
has been identified as this hybrid culture (and
not as another). At the same time, however, this identification
cannot be tied to an identity of the intended culture
with itself, because it is, in fact, hybrid.
The statement thus spans a discursive field that ranges
from a pole of hybridity on the one side to a pole of
identification on the other. The attempt to resolve
it in the direction of hybridity ultimately leads to
the platitude: "all social community is heterogeneous",
with which virtually all political and social questions
are opened up, but hardly any are answered. Although
the assumption of a predetermined identity is precluded
at the other pole (as figures of identification can
be analyzed as historical narratives or ideological
constructions), it still leaves open the problem of
operations of identification, as they are still in effect
in the statement itself.
All of this is hardly surprising, not only in light
of the dubious history of the concept of hybridity,
which implicates botany, zoology and, somewhat later,
theories of race from the 18th and 19th century ,
and thus an affiliation with ideas and practices of
breeding, crossbreeding and social technologies, to
which the opposition of "retaining purity"
and "mixing" was just as central as a systematic
identification intention, which did not, in fact, exclude
the "hybrid". Nor is it a coincidence that
the concept of hybridity - which is used in more recent
theorizing specifically against racist proscriptions
- has developed primarily in discourses about "culture".
It has often been noted that discourses about culture(s)
refer less to given - somehow natural - identities,
but instead posit a schematism of identity (identities),
which ultimately leaves the determination of collective
identity void, but only to focus almost obsessively
on figures of cultural identification - in fact, even
to generate these.
Specifically for this reason, however, the rhetoric
of hybridity not only remains peculiarly ineffectual
in the confrontation with neo-racist culturalisms of
a theoretical or political nature, but even occasionally
finds itself directly at their service: about two years
ago, for instance, the FPÖ - the Austrian right-wing,
so-called "Freedom Party" - advanced the notion
that migrants from countries formerly belonging to the
Austro-Hungarian Empire were already felt to be "Austrians"
- clearly unlike the "non-European Muslims".
The success of the murdered Dutch right-wing populist
Pim Fortuyn is based on a similar phenomenon: he claimed
to have no problem with the migrants of different generations
that mould the society of the Netherlands (following
their election success, the Fortuyn List even called
for a campaign to regularize the sans-papiers, which
was to precede drastically tightening migration laws),
but the time had come - since all social problems were
tied to migration - to put a stop to it, and aside from
that, according to this line of thinking, Islam is allegedly
a "backward culture".
Contrary to Edward Said's suggestive formulation, in
other words, the acceptance of "hybridity"
- this hybridity, which is purportedly affirmed
in the respective case - may be excellently combined
with a rigorous policy of exclusion. The main reason
for this is that the negotiation of this or that identity,
of this or that hybridity, only serves to disguise another
mechanism of exclusion, which is not of a cultural nature,
but rather a political-legal one: the constitutive legal
exclusion of non-citizens from the nation state - with
all the consequences that are more highly visible today
than ever before (if we think of the refugee camps,
the boat-people, the forms of the economic inclusion
of migrant workers, who are nevertheless subject to
precisely the same constitutive legal exclusion, the
resultant compulsion to clandestine existence, but also
the progressive militarization of border patrols).
The sociologist Nora Räthzel states the problem succinctly,
when she writes: "Thus the answer to the question
of which cultures (ethnicities) a nation
is composed of, is not an answer to the question of
how to prevent exclusion processes. On the contrary,
the answer that this is hybridity only affirms the framework
that produces the exclusion processes by leaving it
intact and only defining its contents differently."
In light of all this, how is "hybrid resistance"
even imaginable? A somewhat provocative initial response
is: not at all. At least, not as long as potentials
of resistance (against right-wing extremism, racism,
current globalization politics, etc.) are presumed in
the mere fact of various groupings of agents. This kind
of resistance builds on the conditions of its own impotence;
it is in jeopardy of turning abstract heterogeneity
into an end in itself that is not further questioned,
and of being ultimately crushed by mutually exclusive
identifications. The expansion of the concept of hybridity
beyond questions of "cultural belonging" in
order to cover various types of terrain transgressions
between art and politics, theory and activist practice,
citizenship and non-citizenship, etc. usually does little
to change this situation, even just on the basis of
existing structural constraints.
Another perspective is opened up, though, by an analysis
of "processes of hybridization" as provided
by the postcolonialism theorist Homi K. Bhabha :
"hybridity", according to Bhabha, developed
in the colonial context primarily because the colonial
powers needed their subjects to take over their symbols
and discourses of authority, in order to establish their
rule. This repetition of domination relationships
in the act of subjection, however, is different from
its mere representation. Through repetition or through
the estrangement created therein, it introduces a difference
into the given social conditions, which does not leave
either the colonial authority or the oppressed society
untouched, but rather "hybridizes" them and
simultaneously temporalizes and destabilizes the existing
power; according to Bhabha, it estranges and transforms
the symbols of authority into signs of
The potentials of resistance consequently draw from
the essence of power itself, which must continuously
newly reproduce itself, in order to maintain itself
as power: as Judith Butler writes, "The reiteration
not only temporalizes the conditions of subordination,
but shows these conditions to be, not static structures,
but temporalized - active and productive. The temporalization
performed by reiteration traces the route by which powers'
appearance shifts and reverses." 
Resistance that forms in this way, however, has a price:
it is forced to articulate itself in the framework of
a certain complicity with the power it opposes. Or as
Butler states, "(...) in the act of opposing subordination,
the subject reiterates its subjection." 
- yet it is nevertheless an act of opposition.
A good example of this is found in the Wiener Wahl
Partie (Viennese Election Party), a platform that
intervened in the Viennese City Council elections in
spring 2001. The central point of the campaign was a
call for voting rights for non-naturalized migrants,
the central point of attack was accordingly the deliberative
fiction of a comprehensive balance of interests in society
that effectively excludes the migrant portion of society.
Elections thus turn out to be a dispositive allowing
for a certain democratic control of state power, but
establishing and repeating a mechanism of exclusion
that can hardly be challenged within the election itself.
The Wiener Wahl Partie reacted to this by not
constituting itself as a political party (in German:
Partei), but rather - in a gesture of estrangement
- as a Partie (in Viennese: a congenial gathering,
a group sharing interests and activities), thus subverting
the mechanism of exclusion and enabling a constitutive
collaboration between migrant and non-migrant groups.
By applying classic election campaign methods (publicity,
campaigning at Viennese markets, etc.) and specific
strategies (e.g. distributing flyers in Turkish and
Serbo-Croatian), they not only campaigned for voting
rights, but also encouraged naturalized migrants (especially
of the so-called second generation) to participate in
the elections, as their below-average participation
can be understood as a secondary effect of social exclusion.
Despite their extreme care to avoid complicity with
power, even the Wiener Wahl Partie was not able
to completely elude this complicity: to begin with,
an election campaign, whose agents are not eligible
for election themselves, naturally already subordinates
itself to existing regulations through a kind of self-exclusion.
Also, in more general terms, difficulties are already
preconditioned, when the different political situations
and dependencies of the activists limit and codetermine
the options for agency. Finally, the notorious "voluntariness"
of activist work, which may itself be decoded as complicity
with predominant valuations, is not capable of avoiding
dependencies, but is merely redirected into individual
exhaustion and economic balancing acts.
What these kinds of experiences evince - apart from
the personal discouragement that they partly produce
- is primarily the inevitable repetition of existing
power relations, in which political activist agency
is involved. However, they also indicate the question
of how this inevitability can be dealt with,
in other words, which interlocking of political contents,
strategies for action and the production of concrete
alliances is actually suitable for effecting a certain
"displacement and reversal of the appearance of
power" (Butler). In short, they indicate the question
of political organization.
In light of this question, the answer "hybridity"
proves to be an empty formula: even where it goes beyond
merely ascertaining heterogeneity, as with Homi Bhabha,
to indicate the conditions for the emergence of resistance
potentials, it usually falls short of indicating the
concrete political potential for change inherent
to this resistance. In the end, the hybridity discourse
significantly seeps back into where it came from: a
nebulous "culture", that is now no longer
to be understood as "the source of conflicts",
but rather as the "effect of discriminatory
practices" and the "production of cultural
differentiation as a sign of authority" ,
- a culture, however, to which all hopes may be entrusted.
Even though there is hardly any doubt that markings
of power will be created through this, it is not at
all certain that these markings will be anything other
than symptoms of a society that can find no escape
from its problems.
The classic Marxist left-wing claimed to recognize the
social subject of change in the proletariat and promised
a good and just post-revolutionary society. The left-wing
of today that answers "culture", before even
posing the question of political organization (and thus
of the concrete perspectives for agency of the old and
new political alliances), often only promises that the
social subject is itself in the process of change and
that potentials of resistance and emancipation will
somehow be formed in the course of this change. This
might perhaps be comforting, if the political and social
repudiations of the societies, in which we live, were
not at the same time becoming increasingly bigger and
Oh yes, and since parliamentary elections are scheduled
for next year in Austria: it is time to found Wahl
Translated by Aileen Derieg
 Edward W. Said,
"Kultur, Identität und Geschichte", in: G. Schröder
/ H. Breuninger (Ed.), Kulturtheorien der Gegenwart.
Ansätze und Positionen, Frankfurt/M.: Campus 2001,
p. 53 f.
 Cf. Annie E. Coombes
/ Avtar Brah, "Introduction: the conundrum of 'mixing'",
in: A. Brah / A. E. Coombes (Ed.), Hybridity and its
Discontents. Politics, Science, Culture, London /
New York: Routledge 2000, p. 3.
 Nora Räthzel, "Hybridität
ist die Antwort, aber was war noch mal die Frage?",
in: Brigitte Kossek (Ed.), Gegen-Rassismen. Konstruktionen,
Interaktionen, Interventionen, Hamburg/Berlin: Argument-Verlag
1999, p. 207.
 Homi K. Bhabha,
The Location of Culture, London / New York: Routledge
1994, p. 102-122.
 Judith Butler,
The Psychic Life of Power: Theories of Subjection.
Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1997, p.
 ibid., p. 11
 H. Bhabha, op.cit.,