Hybridization, what is it called?
CADREMPLOI: You have been conducting research for more than ten years on this idea of hybridization, how do you define it?
Gabrielle Halpern: This is THE unlikely marriage. Hybridization is putting together things, trades, skills, materials, sectors which, a priori, have little to do together but which create something new once put together. To hybridize is neither to merge, nor to coexist without seeing or confronting each other, but it is to combine in order to transform and fertilize one another without threatening the singularity of each.
Hybridization is neither fusion nor juxtaposition, it is a reciprocal metamorphosis.
Do you have observable examples of hybridization around us?
There are many. For example, the shopping centers which also become places of leisure, the “third places” which jostle our categories of the workplace. In cities, vegetable gardens or urban farms where urban planning and nature come together.
And in business?
Everyone can observe it: many professions that operated in silos now intersect. This is not new, but the health crisis has accelerated the phenomenon. Never have an HRD and a property manager worked so much together. From now on, their perimeters intersect and give rise to new skills. Same observation between the financial director and the CSR director who hybridize under the pressure of extra-financial evaluation. On the job market, we see it in the offers: employers are looking for talents with several hats who have previously come under separate professions. The combination of specialized skills transforms these professions and this is only the beginning…
Everything is out of the box somehow…
Yes, we are witnessing the emergence of new hybrid realities that we will have to learn to think. Which also come out of the legal categories, so the law will have to adapt.
The hybrid is scary
Is this hybridization of the world well accepted by our contemporaries?
We have a complicated relationship with what is “hybrid”. The word comes from the Latin “hibrida” which means “bastard, of mixed blood”, therefore connoted very negatively. This is the whole meaning of my research work: to understand the uneasiness faced with what is hybrid or those who are hybrid. These are people or things that don’t fit in the boxes while we humans love to stick a label. It’s a bad habit we’ve given our brains. A bias that we have forged, culturally, over time.
How is this a problem in the 21st century?
This bias prevents us from understanding our times. Before, our good old rationality was very useful for understanding the world around us. It has stiffened a little over the centuries until it has transformed our brain into a factory for the massive production of “boxes”. Most people reject the hybrid because of the angst it engenders. What is hybrid is unpredictable, without identity or with too much identity, it is a transgression.
Why do you use the figure of the centaur?
Human above the belt and horse below, it is the symbol of the hybrid par excellence. And it’s an interesting myth for a lot of reasons. In the texts of Antiquity or in painting, sculpture in particular, the centaur is almost always represented as an evil or monstrous being. He has a bow with an arrow as if he wants to harm us. By extension, the centaur represents the uncertain because we don’t know in which box to put it: man or horse?
Doesn’t this “centaur” character look a bit like you?
Just a little (laughs). You don’t do years of research on the question of the hybrid if you don’t feel a little bit concerned by the subject. I grew up in a somewhat hybrid family, I juggled between different worlds. So I learned to become a sort of centaur and I made it a way of life: I hybridized my training (philosophy, cognitive sciences, economics, theology, etc.), hybridized my professional experiences (academic research, jobs in ministerial offices, co-direction of a start-up incubator, conferences, consulting, etc.). Yes, I feel like a centaur with one foot in several worlds. What is interesting is to create bridges between these worlds. Otherwise, if we stay in a single profession, a single sector, a single world of thought, the world shrinks quite quickly.
It could be feared that the 21st century will be that of the fight between thoroughbreds and centaurs. The former not supporting the latter.
All centaurs, Gabrielle Halpern, Edition du Pommier (2020), extract page 168.
A hybrid comic
This is the purpose of the comic strip that you co-sign with an entrepreneur, Didier Petetin, “La fable du centaure” (HumenSciences, 2022). Why a comic?
The duty of the researcher is to make his ideas accessible. After writing a clumsily written 500-page thesis, I first gave it a 180-page essay. But that wasn’t enough. I needed to share with a larger audience. Comics allow me to address a younger audience, from 12 or 13 years old, who at this age are asking themselves many questions of identity. But adults also find inspiration there! In addition, comics are a hybrid object in essence – text and drawing. And then, it’s the result of a hybridization between a philosopher – I wrote the screenplay – and a business manager – Didier Petetin did the drawings. Talking about hybridization in a hybrid support designed by hybrids is consistent!
Would you be satisfied if the reader retained what from this story?
That being a centaur is a superpower, not a liability. The centaur is a ferryman, a crossbreeder. Having one foot in several worlds allows them to dialogue, provided they master the codes. Hybridization is a real wealth. Make the pedagogy of the hybrid. Is more difficult than defending identity, self-segregation, consanguinity. I would be satisfied if the reader remembered that we should not be afraid of the hybrid. On the contrary.
Your comic also shows that you don’t lose your identity when you’re a centaur…
No, because we spend our time juggling between identities in perpetual metamorphosis. “Identity” comes from the Latin identitas, “who is the same”. It’s reassuring to tell yourself that despite the years, you remain unchanged, except that it’s an illusion. Better to consider life as a permanent metamorphosis. Let’s stop clinging to the notion of identity which is illusory, rather let’s go towards this idea of permanent metamorphosis, which is not an infidelity in relation to the past, but rather a fidelity in relation to the future.
To all the bastards, all the half-breeds, all the centaurs, all the mermaids, to all the variegated, heterogeneous, variegated, crossed and mixed beings, who have always been told that they did not have or had too much identity (s), it is high time to make sure that you have the right to exist.
Excerpt from Tous centaures!, Gabrielle Halpern (Edition du Pommier, 2020)
The “next world” is already hybrid
Do you think companies can change the world too?
Yes, but it won’t happen spontaneously. The “next world” that everyone was talking about during the pandemic is being built, and you have to get to work. In the organizations that I observe, whether in the private or public sector, there is, on the one hand, traditional functioning, on the other, new ways of working. Hybridization may be the next big trend in the world and companies will probably need centaurs if they want to avoid “the eternal shrinkage of life” in the words of the thinker Elias Canetti. To escape it, you have to constantly ask yourself how to transform it, how to improve it. So adopting a hybridization strategy is the best way for a company to create value. Nature does it all the time: it spends its time re-combining and therefore hybridizing.
Creative diversity – Conference Leaders in Pays d’Avignon 2022 – Speech by Gabrielle Hapern and Saïd Hammouche, animation by Frédéric Ferrer. Excerpt from the 13th edition of the Colloque des Dirigeants en Pays d’Avignon, recorded on Friday July 8, 2022 at the Lambert Collection.