Cultural Hybridity Reconsidered: Religious Visual Culture and the Dutch Republic
Els Stronks, Utrecht University. Journal of Dutch Literature 3.2 (2012).
In the last decades, historians such as Willem Frijhoff, Peter Burke and Benjamin Kaplan have focused on interconfessional encounters in friendships, marriage and trade in the Dutch Republic. They have argued that these encounters were stimulated by the freedom that emerged because the principle of freedom of con- science – understood as freedom of thought – emerged as a positive ideology during the Dutch Revolt. An extraordinary equilibrium was established because Calvinism was the dominant religion but never became the (official) state reli- [5 els stronks] gion.1 This resulted in a relatively tolerant society that even served as a refuge to migrants from surrounding countries. Newly developed and shared cultural practices have been highlighted as a form of accommodation of these interconfessional encounters. The absence of a domi- nant religion generated the sort of climate in which different confessional tradi- tions appeared to intermingle and influence each other with little friction, provid- ing an ideal setting for the integration of Catholic and Protestant religious subcultures and practices. The cultural responses to the word-image controversy between Protestants and Catholics in particular have proven to offer a key oppor- tunity to explore when, why and to what extent people were willing to reconcile theological differences to combine elements from their own religious cultural practices with those of another, to create new practices.(4-5)
The concept of ‘cultural hybridity’ was introduced by Homi Bhabha to focus the attention on the cross-fertilisation of distinct cultural practices. In Bhabha’s view, the mutual intermingling of cultures results in the development of something new (a ‘third space’) out of the existing subcultures and in the sharing of values, conventions and norms.11 Ever since Bhabha introduced the concept in postcolo- nial theory, it has been widely used. In his Cultural Hybridity, Burke inventoried the four strategies found in approaches toward the mutual intermingling of cultures, being rejection and segregation (leading to conflicts and stagnation) versus adap- tation and acceptance (leading to reconciliation and progress). Burke also signals the tendency to see cultural hybridity as a progressive force – he even admits to cultural hybridity reconsidered 7 els stronks having such a preference himself, even though he acknowledges that progressive- ness is not inherent to Bhabha’s original notion of cultural hybridity.12 This tendency is indeed found in many studies based on the conceptual frame- work of cultural hybridity, even if it is frequently seriously discussed. (6-7)