2 - BRIAN STROSS The Hybrid Metaphor: From Biology To...

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Unformatted text preview: BRIAN STROSS The Hybrid Metaphor: From Biology To Culture ABSTRACT: This paper introduces and briefly discusses a few conceptual considerations common to biological and cultural hybridity and examines the biological concept of hybrid vigor as it can be applied to the cultural realm of hybridity, illustrating this with a hybrid form of communication in cyberspace. The notion of a hybridity cycle is introduced, along with stages in the cycle whereby a hybrid form becomes a purebreed and then parent of another hybrid. [Biology/Culture, Classification, Hybrid Vigor, Hybridity Cycle] Brian Stross is Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Texas, Austin, TX 78712 1 Introduction The special fabric is strong and ultra-soft. If cotton and suede had a baby, this would be it! So says a recent newspaper advertisement for sportswear. Whoever wrote the ad mated a biological with a cultural notion of hybridity to create and describe the hybrid cloth. This cultural hybrid between cotton and suede has no name yet, but one day it might. It may have neither cotton nor suede in its composition, but it has implicitly been given these purebred parents, and it has been perceived as a hybrid form by someone, Perhaps, once named, it will one day become the purebred nomenclatural parent of another hybrid. The word hybrid is generally used today to refer to several kinds of things, all of which are abstractly heterogeneous in origin or composition. Our word 'hybrid' with its somewhat abstract meanings has rather concrete origins. In Latin the hibrida was the offspring of a (female) domestic sow and a (male) wild boar. The semantic range of the word 'hybrid' expanded in more recent times to include the offspring of mating by any two unlike animals or plants. The cultural hybrid is a metaphorical broadening of this biological definition. It can be a a person who represents the blending of traits from diverse cultures or traditions, or even more more broadly it can be a culture, or element of culture, derived from unlike sources; that is, something heterogeneous in origin or composition. While some pejorative connotations still cling to the word 'hybrid', as can be seen in such descriptive terms as half-breed, half-caste, mutt, mongrel, and so on, the concept is here considered in just the opposite light. I will introduce and briefly discuss a few of the paradigmatic conceptual considerations common to biological and cultural hybridity, and then examine one of the relationships linking biological to cultural notions of hybrid. Specifically, I ask whether the biological concept of hybrid vigor (heterosis) can be applied to the cultural realm of hybridity. The answer provided is that it can, establishing the relevance of classification and context (or environment) to the hybrid, and this answer is given concrete realization through an example of hybridity in 2 cyberspace. Finally, the importance of classification is implicitly reiterated by a consideration...
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2 - BRIAN STROSS The Hybrid Metaphor: From Biology To...

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