Pratt, Arts of the Contact Zone

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Understanding Pratt
After talking to students in classroom who were assigned to do a project on Pratt, getting a frequent response “I didn’t read it, it’s too hard to comprehend” was an ordinary thing. Therefore, writing a response to Pratt’s essay in a language that is comprehendible by regular people can be very helpful to those struggling students. In "Arts of the Contact Zone" Pratt discusses the mix of two different cultures in one area. Where one person is born and lives in a "contact zone" he/she is surrounded by two different conflicting cultures, and there are two different languages. She also introduces us with a new word "autoethnography", which means the way in which subordinate peoples present themselves in ways that their dominants have represented them. Therefore, autoethnography is not self-representation, but a collaboration of mixed ideas and values form both the dominant and subordinate cultures. Pratt provides many examples of autoethnography throughout her essay, including two texts by Guaman Poma and her son, Manuel. Although very different in setting, ideas, and time periods, they both accomplish the difficult goal of cross-cultural communication. When two cultures collide in the same area often if not always a conflict occurs. The conflict is that one of the cultures is dominant and the other subordinate, where one holds power over the other. And in which the oppressive culture defines what is legit and lawful. Pratt argues that these factors are only imaginary, and these factors only remove them from the conception of the actual living community. She defines transculturation as "to describe processes whereby members of subordinated or marginal groups select and invent from materials transmitted by a dominant of metropolitan culture" (pg. 505), Pratt is also trying to define that it is an error to assume that all people in a community must share the same language, motives and beliefs. These are the beliefs of the culture that is...
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