The Arts of the Contact Zone
Mary Louise Pratt served on the faculty at Stanford University and recently joined
the staff at New York University. While teaching at Stanford, she was asked to lecture at
a Modern Language Association Literacy conference. The lecture then turned into an
essay called “The Arts of the Contact Zone”. Pratt believes that transculturation and
autoethnography play a large role in the interaction of individuals and the formation of
history. Pratt successfully uses the contact zone to convey her beliefs in her essay.
In fact, Pratt describes the contact zone 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” (Pratt 519). The contact zone describes individuals clashing because of their different languages, values, and beliefs. For example, evidence of the contact zone emerged in Pratt’s diverse Cultures, Ideas, Values course. The class was made up of many different backgrounds and customs. The students learned how others viewed their culture and beliefs. Pratt considered this class to be one of the most exciting classes she ever taught. Pratt states, “The very nature of the course put ideas and identities on the line” (Pratt 529). This class was like no other class she ever taught. The students became involved in the teaching process because everyone was allowed to voice their own opinion. The class was an example of a contact zone where everyone was able to learn from one another even though they had different opinions, beliefs or languages. The students became conscious of other peoples views and attitudes. Pratt is writing in the contact zone when she describes her classroom experience.
For instance, Mary Louise Pratt is writing in the contact zone because she is telling her story to different audiences. Pratt explains, “ The...