Debates around postcolonial theory often arise from misunderstandings owing to translation from one disciplinary context to another. This article acknowledges real material limits to text centred theory and critiques the uninspected use of hybridity as a concept/textual practice of subversion. The term has a range of meanings and does different work in different situations. Using examples from modern writing in the Pacific region, a situated dynamic of juxtaposed elements defined as 'syneretic counterpoint' is argued for. This conflietual mix resists both hybrid amalgamation and irony, permitting an assertion of indigenous difference that simultaneously allows for modern globalised complexity.