Hybridity on the ground in peacebuilding and development
‘Hybridity’ has become a prominent notion in international peacebuilding and development circles in recent years, attracting both enthusiastic supporters and vociferous critics. As a concept it has a long and varied lineage. The term ‘hybrid’ was used originally in the biological and zoological sciences to refer to the product of mixing different elements. Since then, the concept has travelled across various social sciences in discussions around identity, culture, and aspects of political and economic order, particularly in colonial and postcolonial settings. Postcolonial scholars used hybridity to examine interactions between colonisers and colonised subjects. Their studies sought to counter monolithic depictions of colonial domination by emphasising active agency and resistance on the part of colonial subjects.
As a way of denoting the processes and outcomes of interactions between different social, political, and institutional orders, hybridity is a notion that has long informed various fields of research and policy engagement, even where the term itself has not been used. For example, the sub-field of legal pluralism focuses on the transformative effects of encounters between different socio-legal orders. This has included the interplay between ‘customary’ or ‘traditional’ forms of authority and those of introduced state-based orders in colonial and post-colonial settings. Navigating the complexities of normative and regulatory pluralism in today’s rapidly globalising world remains a key challenge for governments, international donors, NGOs and others with an interest in law and justice reform. Australia faces these issues in its aid programs in the Southwest Pacific and Timor-Leste, as well as in relation to its own indigenous communities.
The notion of hybridity has been deployed by its proponents to unsettle entrenched state-centric perspectives and draw attention to the important role of informal institutions and non-state actors in many parts of the global south. In this context, the concept has also been used to critique the continuing …read more