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The Catharsis Of The Contact Zone

1235 words - 5 pages

The Catharsis of the Contact Zone

In a Judeo-Christian society, people would respect their neighbor's sacrosanct beliefs, values, and interpretation of "reality." Yet, society doesn't follow the guidelines of the Judeo-Christian moral code. The ideologies of corporate America have become part of the official religion in which language (written and spoken) indisputably separates superior from inferior. Clearly, words are power. History shows that language has the power to influence, change, and even kill. Mary Louise Pratt's "Arts of the Contact Zone" and Leslie Marman Silko's "Books: Notes on Maya and Mixtec Screenfolds" discuss the many forms of literacy and the various forces that retard our understanding of different people's culture. Using the events of the past to understand the misunderstandings of the present, both authors present a catharsis that permits us to grapple with the contact zone.
Silko and Pratt emphasize that the dominant culture will use literacy as its source of power to preserve a certain viewpoint. Whether it's from the point of view of the Pueblo Indians or Incas, the dominant culture uses its authority and language to dehumanize the "savage" culture in order to maintain the status quo. Truly, no perfect status quo exists, but the control of the language and "print capitalism", and thus the thought, creates a false sense of equal coexistence within the dominant culture. It's their way of controlling the line of communication by not allowing members of their society to gain insight into the lives of others who hold different "truths" than themselves.
Amidst this cultural contact zone, literacy serves as a mark of civilization and a power capable of influencing and threatening the dominant culture. The threat felt by the influential society is what disrupts the potential of open communication between cultures, and thus, a catharsis. Silko shows that the burning of the libraries was a radical action the Europeans took to preserve a certain reality. The American Government's placement of Indians into American boarding schools also shows the suppression of cultural identity to preserve "homogeneity." It seems that having power doesn't make a culture confident because it will go to extremes to preserve one thought, thus killing any opportunity for open communication. Thus, it is the imperialists that are the antagonists of the catharsis theory by maintaining the intercultural gap.
Both authors stress that, through literacy, the subjugated can voice their opinion in retaliation of the dominant power of a culture. The minorities are vulnerable to the majority group because they have no free and open communication with the major power to express their thoughts and points of view. Thus, their interpretations of reality is often lost, forgotten, or suppressed. Yet, what Silko and Pratt are stressing is that everyone has the ability and right to use the power of language despite status. Poma parodied Spanish history...

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