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Arts of the Contact Zone Essay

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Mary Louise Pratt wrote the essay “Arts of the Contact Zone” with the purpose of explaining that society would benefit if people were exposed to and understood the concept of “contact zones”. She refers to contact zones as social spaces where cultures meet and clash with each other, usually with one culture being dominant over the other. A person living in a contact zone is exposed to two different cultures, two different languages, and as a result is presented with a struggle in each culture to maintain themselves. From being surrounded by several different cultures, people begin to integrate the concept of transculturation—a process in which subordinate cultures evolve by taking things from dominant, more advanced cultures, and make it…show more content…
Within a single culture there are differences based on religion, politics, nationality, race, and ideology that go largely unassumed by its members. This leads to people defining others in ways that are entirely inaccurate. Members of these imagined communities who live without their identities being recognized by the larger majority are very similar to the subordinate, more “primitive” cultures that exist in the world in the sense that most of the time, they go unacknowledged by larger, more advanced powers. When these subsidiary entities are unable to make themselves known, they simply become easily influenced by higher powers since they tend to become “a quiescent, ignorant, manipulable electorate” (Pratt, 510). It is vital that these marginalized peoples learn to make themselves heard, for there are many principles and ideas that can be learnt from them. Another relationship Pratt says exists between cultures is the concept of transculturation. Transculturation, she states, is a process in which “members of subordinated or marginal groups select and invent from materials transmitted by a dominant or metropolitan culture” and transform it to fir their own principles by giving it a cultural makeover (Pratt, 505). But why is it necessary for transculturation to be performed by secondary, inferior cultures? It can be argued that different types of people can learn and adapt things from each other even if the distribution of power between them is unequal. Larger
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