Arts of the Contact Zone

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Arts of the Contact Zone
For the twelfth grade English curriculum, we had to read and learn about the Arts of the Contact Zone by Mary Louise Pratt. This essay opened up a whole new concept for us. The new term "contact zone" appeared and Pratt defined it as "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." The idea of the contact zone is intended in part to contrast with ideas of community that trigger much of the thinking about language, communication, and culture.

According to Pratt, the two distinctive phenomenon of the contact zone are autoethnographic text and transculturation. One of the characteristics of autoethnographic text is that it usually involves some extensive collaborating process by people of different social and intellectual classes. Writing classes might have some significance with the contact zone because of this group effort process. During this process every marginalized and hidden voice can be heard, not to mention every individual member can learn how to form and negotiate an opinion in the outbreak of all the conflicting opinions of group members of different cultural background. In addition, transculturation is defined as "processes whereby members of subordinated or marginal groups select and invent from materials transmitted by a dominated culture". An example would be that they adopt some characteristics of the dominant culture as their own.

In order to teach people of subordinated groups to write academic communication, we need to understand their histories and particularly their history of language. It would not be fair or effective to simply teach students from diverse backgrounds how to write in the language of power while ignoring their culture and the fact that there is a language of power. It is important for writing...
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