Revolution Lullabye

June 9, 2009

Pratt, Arts of the Contact Zone

Pratt, Mary Louise. “Arts of the Contact Zone.” In Ways of Reading. 5th ed. Eds. Bartholomae and Petroksky. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1999.

This essay, originally published in 1991, problematizes the notion of the homogenous, coherent, utopian, and limited community (especially as imagined in and of the classroom) by introducing the idea of the contact zone, the places where cultures meet and engage. Pratt explains what she terms as the literate arts of the contact zone – things like authethnography, transculturation, critique, collaboration, bilingualism, parody, and vernacular expression – which are ways people throughout history have used language to express the clash of cultures to both a dominant and an oppressed culture. Pratt calls for the creation of “pedagogical arts of the contact zone,” strategies and techniques teachers can use to teach about diversity, culture, and power,  and how writing and literacy play a part in creating communities and contact zones.

Quotable Quotes

Contact zones: “social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power, such as colonialism, slavery, or their aftermaths as they are lived out in many parts of the world today”

Autoethnographic text: “text in which people undertake to describe themselves in ways that engage with representations others have made of them.”

Notable Notes

uses the autoethnographic text written by Andean Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala in 1613 (not widely circulated or taken up til the 1970s) to King Philip II of Spain, written and illustrated, both Spanish and Quechua languages

her course – Cultures, Ideas, Values – that took up the concept of the contact zone. Lectures were impossible, everyone had a stake, a different viewpoint: “No one eas excluded, and no one was safe”

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