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 instructors to teach students from the dominant community why their language is considered “legitimate” and why the dialects or languages of other communities are not. In doing this, the instructor can break down the barrier of the “imagined community. ” If the instructor does not address the issue of power in language, they run the risk of silencing their students who are not from the dominant culture and be responsible for the students that are from the dominant culture.
First of all, the contact zone class can be applied mainly to the extent of developing one’s thoughts and ideas because of its focus on conversation’ or speech. A writing process is much more than just to put what a writer intends to say into words. In addition, Pratt pointed out the utopian quality and abstract idea of the speech community. However, it is also true that in some contexts like academic setting that kind of uniform idea of speech community has functioned well to give necessary order and stability for the development of the community.
In a contact zone classroom, we are encouraged to turn ourselves to the outside world that is full of glitches and conflicts and expand ourselves by confronting all the different cultural perspectives. This is how it relates to the twelfth English curriculum because this is our last year in high school and when we go out to the real world, we need to know how it is. This essay was very educational and basically Pratt was trying to say we need to not go beyond politeness but maintain mutual respect; a systernatic approach to the all-important concept of cultural mediation.