Arts Of The Contact Zone Essay Research

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Arts Of The Contact Zone Essay, Research Paper When first reading Mary Louise Pratt s essay, Arts of the Contact Zone, one may feel overwhelmed by the level of writing and philosophy it is composed of. She uses terms and phrases such as autoethnography, imagined community, and safe house in this work to help demonstrate the reasoning of her thoughts and feelings about historical and actual events she speaks about. In her essay Mary Louise Pratt talks about transculturation and ethnography. She speaks about imaginary spaces where differences and inequalities are sensed, and even recognized. These imaginary spaces are called the contact zones, and many people encounter the contact zones to teach, learn or even contradict the ideas and theories that are under scrutiny and

objection today. In the first few paragraphs of this essay, the reader is introduced to a term coined and repeated by Pratt throughout the piece, contact zones. She uses this term to refer to 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 (Pratt 584). A contact zone can be positive, for example a classroom where students are from different backgrounds. This gives people a way to talk and discuss certain aspects of history. It provides an opportunity for identifying with the ideas, interests and even history of others. This requires correspondence and interaction between people. On the other

hand, a contact zone can be negative, such as colonialism. A country taking over another native community is oppression, rather than an exchange of ideas. This is what the Andeans, specifically Guaman Poma, tried to explain to their conquerors, the Spanish. Both of these situations will be discussed later in this essay. Pratt s essay opens in speaking about her son s admiration for collecting and trading baseball cards. She emphasizes how her son s entertaining and simple hobby gave him the opportunity to learn so many of life s lessons. For example, trading the cards gave him a sense of fairness and trust. He learned about exchange and arithmetic, and patterns and order by arranging the cards. Following the anecdote about her son, Pratt introduces the reader to a discussion

about Guaman Poma. Guaman Poma, an Adean, wrote a letter to King Philip III of Spain in1613 that was some twelve hundred pages long. This text contained information about Inca history, customs, laws, public offices, dynasties and their leaders. The letter by Poma is divided into two parts. The first part, Nueva Coronica, was the main writing apparatus through which the Spanish presented their American conquests to themselves (Pratt 585). Mary Louise Pratt refers to Poma s first part of the letter as an autoethnographic text. The basic purpose behind this type of text is to challenge a dominant belief system and the writers use the framework of the system to their advantage, using the language of the dominant civilization or the conqueror. Poma did that successfully, however his

efforts to change the mind of King Philip III were useless, because the letter never reached him. The second part of the letter, Bien gobierno y justicia, states that good government and justice can only be achieved through collaboration between the Inca and the Spanish. Guaman Poma s text is created with the language of his invaders, the Spanish. It is important to point out that he does not simply imitate or reproduce it; he selects and adapts it along Andean lines to express Andean interests and aspirations (Pratt 589). This process is called transculturation, where devices are pulled from the language or part of another person to get a point across. Towards the end of the essay, Pratt speaks of a course at Stanford University on different cultures, ideas and values. This