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Contact Zones Are Universal Essay

864 words - 3 pages

In Mary Louise Pratt’s “Arts of the Contact Zone”, Pratt establishes her definition of a contact zone, which is useful in understanding similar situations found in Richard Rodriguez’s “The Achievement of Desire”. In Pratt’s “Arts of the Contact Zone”, the idea of the contact zone is implemented so as to trigger off ideas on how to relate multifaceted concepts, such as language, communication and culture. In “The Achievement of Desire”, an autobiographical text of a young first-generation Mexican boy, Rodriguez feels a constant struggle between his family and education. I find that there are more similarities than differences between the ideas portrayed in these two texts, and I plan on pointing out these similarities and elaborating on how they contribute towards the same idea. By understanding contact zones and how to successfully handle them, one can effectively bridge the gap between cultures, and move towards the common goal of understanding and thereby become more complete.
Throughout Rodriguez’s narration in “The Achievement of Desire”, one cannot help but draw parallels between his story and Pratt’s concept of contact zones: “a social space[s] where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power” (Pratt 501). Rodriguez frequently refers to a struggle; he feels that his parents’ lack of education limits him. Thus his concept of education, as a guiding light, and his parents’ culture “meet, clash and grapple” (Pratt 501) with each other, and Rodriguez feels that his parents’ traditions and culture ultimately overbear and control him. Pratt talks of a similar struggle of Guaman Poma, who wrote a letter to the King of Spain to try to resolve the conflict between the Andeans and the Spanish conquerors, which ultimately did not get delivered. As Rodriguez distances himself from his family to become further educated, the Andeans also are further distanced from the Spanish conquerors. The Andeans are in a similar position to Rodriguez here, and eventually misunderstandings between the Poma’s groups caused their needs to become neglected. Rodriguez’s need for encouragement and support from his parents is stunted, and the Guaman Poma’s efforts went to waste.
Pratt talks of phenomena that occur in contact zones: “autoethnographic text[s]” and “transculturation” (Pratt 508). She refers to authoethnographic texts as those that “undertake to describe themselves in ways that engage with representations others have made of them” (Pratt 508). Pratt also talks of “transculturation”, as a “process whereby members of subordinated or marginal groups select and invent from materials transmitted by a dominant or metropolitan culture” (Pratt 508). Rodriguez’s “The...

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