Essentialism, hybridism and cultural critique

Birgitta Frello

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference abstract in proceedingsResearch


In my paper, I suggest that we sharpen our attention towards the complexities of the work of power in transgressions as well as in constructions of essentialist identities. Criticising essentialism is vital for fighting group-based exclusionism. However, criticising essentialism and celebrating hybridity do not always work to the advance of the excluded. Neither essentialism, nor anti-essentialism has self-evident affiliations with specific political projects. We need to move beyond the limitations of both identity politics and the critique of essentialism without loosing sight of the commitment to social and cultural critique. Through a critical discussion of the concept of hybridity, I argue that rather than expecting to find definite emancipating or suppressing capacities connected to constructions of the ‘hybrid' and the ‘pure', we should focus on how these two poles are invested with meaning and related to power. Hence, while insisting on Cultural Studies' commitment to social and cultural critique, I argue that this critique would benefit from an analytical sensitivity towards the uses and abuses of the discursive power to designate meaningful and legitimate subject positions, rather than assuming that certain social forms carry a critical, emancipating or suppressing potential per se.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCultural Studies Now : Conference Journal
Number of pages1
PublisherUniversity of East London
Publication date2007
Publication statusPublished - 2007
EventCultural Studies Now - London, United Kingdom
Duration: 19 Jul 200722 Jul 2007


ConferenceCultural Studies Now
CountryUnited Kingdom


  • cultural identity
  • hybridity
  • cultural critique

Cite this

Frello, B. (2007). Essentialism, hybridism and cultural critique. In Cultural Studies Now: Conference Journal University of East London.