n Mousaion - Hybridity, third spaces and identities in Ursula Le Guin's voice

Volume 33, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0027-2639



This article explores ideas of identity in relation to a young adult fantasy novel, Voices (2006), the second novel in Ursula Le Guin's Annals of the Western Shore series. Voices is set in a university city, Ansul, which has been invaded by the Alds. Nine-year old Memer Galva is an Ansul citizen who results from her mother being raped by an Ald soldier. She thus has a hybrid identity, since she is neither fully Ansulian nor Ald, and must learn to integrate with the Alds. Memer's identity is examined in relation to Bhabha's (1994) concept of hybridity and the third space in his post-colonial work. Hybridity is the adaptation of identity to an individual's social/political environment by either combining or rejecting elements of the cultures which constitute it. A third space is one occupied by an oppressed/colonised people which is neither central to their culture nor to their oppressors'/colonisers' culture, but which aids them to negotiate the two. By negotiating various 'spaces' in their respective environments, the Ansuls are able to 'hybridise' themselves, and ultimately 'outwit' or overcome the Alds. Annals of the Western Shore is aimed at adolescent readers who occupy a 'hybrid' or liminal identity, being neither children nor adults. They must learn to adapt to and integrate with society as they become adults. Concepts of integration and identity are also relevant to South Africa, where there has been a need for hybridisation and movements into third spaces in order for its inhabitants to better adapt to the socio-political changes experienced in the country.

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