In Search of Hybridity: Inculturation, Interculturation and Transculturation in Contemporary Religious Art in Britain

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This essay explores contemporary religious art in Britain through the lens of Homi K. Bhabha’s concept of hybridity. While he leaves it rather ‘ambivalent’, this essay suggests that in visual representations, various forms of hybridity can be distinguished: inculturation, interculturation and transculturation. These three types, hijacked from religious dialogue discourses, show a variety of power relations in representation and context; while incultural elements are based on a dominant versus subordinate role, intercultural ones form a dialogue; both expand iconographic vocabularies. Transcultural symbols refer to those which are existing parts of a variety of iconographies; these thus ‘merge’ visually different cultural heritages; their interpretation is, in the true sense of Bhabha, hybrid. The essay concludes by referring to the limits of transcultural symbols, which accept losses, blurs and shifts. The entire analysis is based on Hindu and Christian iconographies exploited by Caroline Mackenzie in her four wooden panels located for the Catholic Church in St. Helen in Caerphilly (Wales), commissioned in 1999.

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