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Arts of the Contact Zone

Author(s): Mary Louise Pratt


Source: Profession, ofession (1991), pp. 33-40
Published by: Modern Language Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25595469
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learned the meaning of corn

what itmeans for


modified labor,
one's body and talents to be
Arts of the Contact Zone owned and dispensed by another.
?
He knows about
something
Japan, Taiwan, Cuba, and Cen

Mary Louise Pratt


tral America and how men and

_ boys do things there.Through


the history and experience of

Whenever the subject of literacy comes up, what often baseball stadiumshe thoughtabout architecture,light,
pops first intomy mind is a conversation I overheard wind, topography,meteorology, thedynamics of public
eightyearsago betweenmy
son Sam and his best friend, space.He learned themeaning of expertise,of knowing
Willie, aged six and seven, respectively:"Why don't you about
something
well
enough that you can start a conver

trade me Many Trails for Carl Yats . . .Yesits . . .Ya sationwith a strangerand feel sureof holding your own.
strum-scrum." "That's not how it's Even with an with an adult.
you say it, dummy, adult?especially Through
Carl Yes... Yes.. . oh, I don't know." Sam and Willie out his baseball was Sam's
preadolescent years, history
had justdiscoveredbaseball cards.Many Trailswas their luminous point of contact with grown-ups, his lifeline to

decoding,with thehelp of first-grade


English phonics, of
of course, all this time he was also
caring. And, playing
thenameManny Trillo.The name they were quite rightly hisway throughthestagesof the local
baseball, struggling
on was Carl Yastremski. That was the first time Little League system,luckyenough to be a prettygood
stumped
I rememberedseeing themput theirincipientliteracyto player, loving thegame and coming to know deeply his
their own use, and Iwas of course thrilled. and weaknesses.
strengths
Sam andWillie learneda lot about phonics thatyear Literacybegan forSam with thenewlypronounceable
names on the picture cards and brought him what has
by tryingto decipher surnameson baseball cards, and a
most varied, most
lot about cities, states,heights,weights, places of birth, been easily the broadest, enduring,
and
most integratedexperienceof his thirteen-year life.Like
stagesof life.In theyears,thatfollowed, Iwatched Sam
Iwas to see
applyhis arithmeticskillstoworking out battingaverages many parents, delighted schoolinggive Sam
and retirement from rookie I the toolswith which to find and open all thesedoors.At
subtracting years years;
watched him develop sensesof patterningand order by the same timeI found itunforgivablethatschooling itself

arranging
and rearranging his cards for hours
on end, and gave him nothing remotelyasmeaningful todo, letalone
aestheticjudgmentby comparingdifferent
photos,differ anythingthatwould actually takehim beyond the refer
ent series, schemes. American ential,masculinist ethosof baseball and itslore.
layouts, and color geogra
However, I was not invited here to as a parent,
phy and historytook shape inhismind throughbaseball speak
nor as an expert on I was asked to speak as an
cards.Much of his social life revolved around trading literacy.
MLA member working in the elite academy. In that
them, and he learned about
exchange, fairness, trust, the

importance of processes as to results, what it capacitymy contributionisundoubtedly supposed to be


opposed
abstract, irrelevant, and anchored outside the real world. I
means to cheated, taken of, even robbed.
get advantage
wouldn't dream of anyone. I propose
Baseball cards were the medium of his economic life too. disappointing
to head back several centuries to a text that
Nowhere better to learn the power and arbitrariness of immediately
has a few points in common with baseball cards and raises
money, the absolute divorce between use value and
about what Tony Sarmiento, in his comments
value, notions of and short-term invest thoughts
exchange long-
to the conference, called new visions of literacy. In 1908 a
ment, the possibility of
personal values that are indepen
Peruvianist named Richard Pietschmann was in
dent of market values. exploring
theDanish Royal Archive in Copenhagen and came
Baseball cards meant baseball card shows, where there
was much to be learnedabout adultworlds aswell. And
baseball cardsopened thedoor to baseball books, shelves
and shelves of encyclopedias, The author isProfessor ofSpanish and Comparative Literature and
magazines, histories, biogra
Director of theProgram inModern Thought and Literature at Stan
even
phies, novels, books of jokes, anecdotes, cartoons,
was
ford University. This paper presented as the keynoteaddress at the
Sam learned the
poems. history of American racism and
Responsibilitiesfor Literacy conferenceinPittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in
the struggleagainst itthroughbaseball;he saw thedepres
September 1990.
sion and two world wars from behind home plate. He

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34 Arts of theContact Zone

across a
manuscript. Itwas dated in the city of Cuzco in his halfbrother,amestizowhose Spanish fatherhad given
Peru, in theyear 1613, some fortyyearsafterthefinal fall him access to
religious
education.

of the Inca empire to the Spanish and signedwith an Guaman Pomas letterto theking iswritten in two lan

unmistakablyAndean indigenousname: Felipe Guaman guages (Spanish andQuechua) and twoparts.The firstis
Poma de Ayala. Written in a mixture ofQuechua and called theNueva coronica 'New Chronicle/ The title is
the manuscript was a important. The chronicle of course was the main
ungrammatical, expressive Spanish, writing
letteraddressed by an unknown but apparently literate apparatus throughwhich the Spanish representedtheir
American to themselves. It constituted one of
Andean to King Philip III of Spain. What stunned conquests
the main official discourses. In a "new chronicle,"
Pietschmann was that the letterwas twelve hundred writing
pages
Guaman Poma tookover theofficialSpanish genreforhis
long.There were almost eighthundred pages ofwritten
own ends. Those ends were, to construct a new
textand fourhundred of captioned linedrawings. Itwas roughly,

titledThe FirstNew Chronicleand Good Government. No picture of theworld, a pictureof a Christianworld with
Andean ratherthan European at the center of
one knew (or knows) how themanuscript got to the peoples
it?Cuzco, not Jerusalem. In theNew Chronicle Guaman
libraryinCopenhagen or how long ithad been there. No
Poma begins by rewritingtheChristian history of the
one, itappeared, had everbothered to read itor figured
world fromAdam and Eve (fig. 1), incorporating the
out how. was not of as a written lan
Quechua thought Amerindians into it as offspringof one of the sons of
guage in 1908, nor Andean culture as a literate culture.
Noah. He identifies fiveages ofChristian historythathe
Pietschmann prepared a paper on his find,which he
links in parallelwith the fiveages of canonical Andean
presented inLondon in 1912, a year afterthe rediscovery
history?separate but equal trajectoriesthatdivergewith
ofMachu Picchu byHiram Bingham. Reception, by an Noah and reintersect notwith Columbus butwith Saint
international of Americanists, was
congress apparently Bartholomew, claimed tohave precededColumbus in the
confused. It took twenty-five years fora facsimileedition Americas. In a couple of hundred pages,Guaman Poma
of thework to appear, in Paris. Itwas not till the late constructs a veritable
encyclopedia
of Inca and pre-Inca
1970s, as positivistreadinghabitsgaveway to interpretive
studiesand colonial elitisms to postcolonial pluralisms,
-
Western scholars foundways of readingGuaman
that
Pomas New Chronicle and Good Government as the
EtPPiMERMWOO
intercultural tour de force that itwas. The
extraordinary
too late, a miracle
WEVA
letter got there, only 350 years and a

terrible
tragedy.
I propose to say a few more words about this erstwhile

unreadable text, in order to out some about


lay thoughts

writingand literacyinwhat I like to call the contactzones.


I use this term to refer to social spaces where cultures

meet, clash, and with each other, often in con


grapple
textsof highly asymmetricalrelationsof power, such as
colonialism, or their aftermaths as are lived
slavery, they
out inmany parts of theworld today.Eventually Iwill
use the term to reconsider the models of community that

many of us rely on in and and that are


teaching theorizing
a little more
under challenge today. But first about Gua
man Pomas giant letterto Philip III.
Insofar as is known about him at all, Guaman
anything
Poma exemplified the sociocultural complexities pro
duced and He was an
by conquest empire. indigenous
Andean who claimed noble Inca descent and who had
adopted (at least in some sense) Christianity.He may
haveworked in theSpanish colonial administrationas an
or assistant to a tax collector?
interpreter, scribe, Spanish I--^-J
as a mediator, in short. He he learned to write from
says Fig. 1.Adam and Eve.

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Mary Louise Pratt 35

history, customs, laws, social forms, public offices, and both


metropolitan audiences and the speakers own com

dynastic leaders.The depictions resembleEuropeanman munity. Their reception is thus highly indeterminate.
ners and customs
description, but also reproduce the Such textsoftenconstituteamarginalizedgroups point of
meticulous detailwith which knowledge in Inca society entry into the dominant circuits of print culture. It is
was stored on in the oral memories of elders. to think, for of American slave auto
quipusznd interesting example,
Guaman PomasNew Chronicle isan instanceofwhat I
biography in itsautoethnographicdimensions,which in
have proposed to call an autoethnographic
text,bywhich I some it from Euramerican autobio
respects distinguish
mean a textinwhich people undertake todescribe them
graphical tradition.
The conceptmight help explainwhy
selves in ways that engage with others some of the earliestpublished
representations writing byChicanas took
havemade of them.Thus ifethnographictextsare those the form of folkloricmanners and customs sketches
in which to written inEnglish and published in English-language
European metropolitan subjects represent
themselvestheirothers (usually theirconquered others),
newspapers or folkloremagazines (seeTreviiio). Auto
texts are that the so
autoethnographic representations often involves concrete
ethnographic representation
definedothersconstructin responsetoor indialoguewith collaborations between as between literate ex
people,
those texts. texts are not, then, what
Autoethnographic slavesand abolitionist intellectuals,or betweenGuaman
are of as autochthonous forms of expres
usually thought Poma and the Inca elders who were his informants.
sion or (as the Andean
self-representation quipus were). Often, as in Guaman Poma, it involves more than one
Rather they involve a selective collaboration with and In recent decades
language. autoethnography, critique,
of idioms of the or the con
appropriation metropolis and resistance have reconnected with in a con
writing
queror.These aremerged or infiltrated
tovarying
degrees creation of the contact zone, the testimonio.
temporary
with idioms to create
indigenous self-representations Guaman PomasNew Chronicleendswith a revisionist
intended to intervene in modes of under
metropolitan account of the which, he
Spanish conquest, argues,
works are often addressed to
standing. Autoethnographic shouldhave been a peaceful encounterof equalswith the
potential forbenefitingboth, but for themindless greed
of the Spanish. He parodies Spanish history.Following
contact with the Incas, he writes, "In all Castille, there
was a great commotion. All day and at
night in their
dreams the were 'Yndias, oro,
Spaniards saying yndias,

kite plata, oro, platadel Piru'" ("Indies, Indies, gold, silver,


gold, silverfromPeru") (fig.2). The Spanish, he writes,
brought nothing of value to sharewith theAndeans,
"but armor and guns con la codicia de oro, plata,
nothing
oro y plata, yndias, a lasYndias, Piru" ("with the lustfor
gold, silver,gold and silver, Indies, the Indies, Peru")
(372). I quote thesewords as an example of a conquered
the conquerors to construct a
subject using language
parodic, oppositional representation of the conquerors
own speech.Guaman Poma mirrorsback to the
Spanish
(in their language,which is alien to him) an image of
themselves that theyoften suppress and will therefore
Such are the
surely recognize. dynamics of language, writ
and in contact zones.
ing, representation
The second halfof the epistlecontinues thecritique. It
is titledBuen gobiernoy justicia 'Good Government and
Justice'and combines a descriptionof colonial society in
theAndean regionwith a passionate denunciation of
Spanish exploitation and abuse. (These, at the timehe
was writing,were
decimating thepopulation of the j^ndes
at a genocidal rate. In fact,the
Fig. 2. Conquista. Meeting of Spaniard and Inca. The Inca says potential lossof the labor
inQuechua, "You eat this gold?" Spaniard replies in force became a main cause for reform of the
Spanish, system.)
"We eat this gold." Guaman Pomas most implacablehostility is invokedby

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36 Arts of theContact Zone

the clergy,followed by thedreaded corregidorest or colo not simplyimitateor reproduceit;he selectsand


adapts it
nial overseers(fig.3). He also praises good works, Chris Andean lines to mind
express (bilingually,
along you)
tianhabits, and justmen where he finds them,and offers Andean interestsand aspirations. Ethnographers have
at views as to what
length his constitutes
"good govern used the term transculturation to describe
processes
ment and justice." The Indies, he argues, should be
wherebymembers of subordinated ormarginal groups
administeredthrougha collaborationof Inca and Spanish selectand inventfrommaterials transmittedby a domi
elites.The epistle endswith an imaginaryquestion-and nant or culture. The term, originally coined
metropolitan
answer session inwhich, in a reversalof
hierarchy,the byCuban sociologistFernandoOrtiz in the 1940s, aimed
is
king depicted asking Guaman Poma questions about to reductive
replace overly concepts of acculturation and
how to reform the empire?a across assimilation to characterize
dialogue imagined used culture under conquest.
themany lines thatdivide theAndean scribe from the While subordinatepeoples do not usually controlwhat
monarch, and inwhich the subordinatedsubject
imperial emanatesfrom thedominant culture,
theydo determine
single-handedlygives himselfauthorityin the colonizers to
varying
extents what
gets absorbed into their own and
and verbal In a way, itworked?this
language repertoire. what itgetsused for.Transculturation,likeautoethnogra
extraordinarytextdid getwritten?but in a way itdid
phy,
is a
phenomenon of the contact zone.
not, for the letter never reached its addressee.
As scholarshave realized only relativelyrecently,the
To grasp the importofGuaman Pomas project, one transcultural text is intri
character of Guaman Pomas
needs to keep inmind that the Incas had no systemof
catelyapparent in itsvisual aswell as itswritten compo
writing.Their huge empire is said to be theonly known nent. The genre of the four hundred line
drawings is
instanceof a full-blownbureaucratic state societybuilt seems to have been no tradition of rep
European?there
and administered without Guaman Poma con
writing. resentational the Incas?but in their exe
drawing among
structshis textby appropriatingand
adapting pieces of cution theydeploy specifically
Andean systemsof spatial
the representationalrepertoireof the invaders.He does
symbolism that express Andean values and aspirations.1
In figure1, for instance,Adam is
depicted on the left
hand side below the sun,while Eve ison the right-hand
side below themoon, and slighdylowerthanAdam. The
two are divided by the
diagonal ofAdams digging stick.
InAndean spatial symbolism, thediagonal
descending
from the sunmarks thebasic lineof power and authority
dividing upper from lower, male from female,dominant
from subordinate. In figure2, the Inca appears in the
same position asAdam, with theSpaniard
opposite, and
the two at the sameheight. In figure3, depictingSpanish
abuses of power, the symbolicpattern is reversed.The
Spaniard is in a high position indicatingdominance, but
on the "wrong"
(right-hand)side.The diagonals of his
lance and thatof the servantdoing the flogging mark out
a line of real, power. The Andean
illegitimate,though
figures continue to occupy the left-hand side of thepic
ture, but clearly as victims. Guaman Poma wrote that the

Spanish conquest had produced "unmundo al reves" 'a


world in reverse/
In sum, Guaman Pomas text is a
truly product of the
contact zone. If one thinks of cultures, or literatures, as dis

crete, coherently structured, monolingual edifices, Gua


man Pomas text, and indeed any work,
autoethnographic
appearsanomalous or chaotic?as itapparendydid to the
European scholarsPietschmann spoke to in 1912. Ifone
does not thinkof culturesthisway, thenGuaman Pomas
text is simply
Fig. 3. Corregidor de minas. Catalog of Spanish abuses of heterogeneous, as theAndean regionwas
indigenous labor force. itselfand remains today.Such a text isheterogeneouson

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Mary Louise Pratt 37

the reception end as well as the end: itwill read visible, more and, like Guaman Poma's text,
production pressing,
topeople indifferent
verydifferently positions in thecon more
decipherable
to those who once would have
ignored
tact zone. Because it and Andean sys them in defense of a stable, centered sense of
deploys European knowledge
tems of the letter necessarily means and
meaning making, reality.
to bilingualSpanish-Quechua speakersand to
differently
monolingual speakers in either language; thedrawings
mean
differently
to monocultural readers, Spanish or Contact and Community
Andean, and to bicultural readers responding to the

Andean structures embodied in The idea of the contact zone is intended in part to con
symbolic European genres.
In theAndes in the early 1600s thereexisteda literate trast with ideas of community that underlie much of the

with considerable intercultural competence and thinking about communication, and culture
public language,
of
Unfortunately, such a commu that gets done in the
academy.
A
couple of years ago,
degrees bilingualism.
nitydid not exist in theSpanish courtwith which Gua thinkingabout the linguistictheories I knew, I tried to
man Poma was to make contact. It is to make sense of a Utopian that often seemed to
trying interesting quality
note that in the same year Guaman Poma sent off his let characterize social of
analyses language by the academy.
ter, a text by another Peruvian was in official cir were seen as in communities,"
adopted Languages living "speech
cles in Spain as the canonical Christian mediation and thesetended to be theorizedas discrete,self-defined,
between the Spanish conquest and Inca history. Itwas coherent entities, held together by
a
homogeneous
com

anotherhuge encyclopedicwork, titled theRoyal Com petence


or
grammar shared identically and equally among
mentaries the Incas, written, a mestizo, Inca all the members. This abstract idea of the speech commu
of tellingly, by
Garcilaso de laVega. Like themestizo half brotherwho nity seemed
to reflect, among other
things, the Utopian
Guaman Poma to read and write, Inca Garcilaso modern nations conceive of themselves as what
taught way
was the son of an Inca and a Benedict In a
Spanish official, and
princess Anderson calls communities."3
"imagined
had lived in Spain since he was seventeen. he too book of that title, Anderson observes that with the possi
Though
spoke Quechua, his book iswritten in standard ble of what he calls
eloquent, exception "primordial villages,"
Spanish, without illustrations. While Guaman Poma's human communities exist as entitles inwhich
imagined
life'swork sat somewhere the "will never know most of their fellow-members,
unread, Royal Commentaries people
was edited and reedited in Spain and theNew World, a meet them or even hear of them,
yet in the minds of each
mediation that coded the Andean past and present in lives the of their communion." "Communities
image
to colonial The are he goes on to say, "not
ways thought unthreatening hierarchy.2 distinguished," by their fal
textual
hierarchy persists: the
Royal
Commentaries today but by thestyleinwhich theyare imag
sity/genuineness,
remainsa staple itemon PhD reading lists in Spanish, ined" (15; emphasis mine). Anderson proposes three
while theNew Chronicle and Good Government,despite features that characterize the style inwhich the modern
the ready availability of several fine editions, is not. How nation is imagined. First, it is imagined as limited,by
ever, though Guaman Poma's text did not reach its desti "finite, if elastic, boundaries"; second, it is as
imagined
nation, the transcultural currents of expression it it is as "a
sovereign-, and, third, imagined fraternal, deep,
exemplifies continued to evolve in the Andes, as
they still horizontalcomradeship"forwhich millions of people are
do, less inwriting than in storytelling, ritual, song, dance prepared "not somuch tokill aswillingly todie" (15).As
drama, painting and sculpture, dress, textile art, forms of the image suggests, the is embodied
nation-community
governance, religious belief, and many other vernacular
metonymically in thefinite,sovereign,fraternal
figureof
art forms. All the effects of contact and the citizen-soldier.
express long-term
intractable, conflict. Anderson that European were dis
unequal argues bourgeoisies
Autoethnography, transculturation, critique, collabora
tinguishedby theirability to "achieve solidarityon an
tion, bilingualism, mediation, parody, denunciation, essentiallyimaginedbasis" (74) on a scale fargreaterthan
imaginary dialogue, vernacular expression?these
are thatof elitesof other timesand places.Writing and liter
some of the literate arts of the contact zone.
Miscompre acy play a central role in this argument. Anderson main
hension, incomprehension, dead letters, unread master tains, as have others, that the main instrument that made

pieces, absolute of are was


heterogeneity meaning?these bourgeois nation-building projects possible print cap
some of the in contact zone.
perils of writing the
They all italism. The commercial circulation of books in the vari
live among us in the transnationalized ous vernaculars, he was what first
today metropolis European argues,
of theUnited States and are becoming more widely created the invisible networks that would
eventually

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38 Arts of theContact Zone

constitute the literate elites and those ruled as started out in. A few days into the term, we asked him
they
nations. (Estimatesare that 180million bookswere put what it was like at the new school. "Well," he said,
into circulation inEurope between theyears 1500 and "they're
a lot nicer, and they have
a lot less rules. But

1600 alone.) know why they're nicer?" "Why?" I asked. "So you'll obey
Now obviously this style of imagining of modern all the rules theydon't have," he replied.This is a very
as Anderson describes it, is strongly and explana
nations, Utopian, coherent analysis with considerable
elegance
embodyingvalues likeequality,fraternity, which
liberty, tory power, but probably not the one his teacher would
often profess but systematically fail to realize.
the societies have given.

When linguistic(or literate)interactionisdescribed in


The prototype of the modern nation as com
imagined
it seemed to me, mirrored in or
munity was, ways people terms of orderliness, games, moves, scripts, usually
about and the speech community. moves are named as part of the
thought language only legitimate actually
system,where legitimacy isdefined from the point of
commentators have pointed out how modern
Many
views of as code and competence assume a view of the party in of what other
language authority?regardless
unifiedand homogeneous socialworld inwhich language parties might
see themselves as lan
doing. Teacher-pupil

guage, forexample, tends to be described almost entirely


exists as a shared a device, for
patrimony?as precisely,
An a shared
imagining community. image of universally from the point of view of the teacher and
teaching,
not

literacy is also part of the picture. The prototypical


mani from thepoint of view of pupils and pupiling (theword
festationof language isgenerallytakento be the speechof doesn't even exist, the If a
though thing certainly does).
individual adult native
speakers
face-to-face (as in Saus classroom is analyzed as a social world unified and
sure's famous in even monodialec
diagram) monolingual, with respect to the teacher, whatever stu
homogenized
tal situations?in short, the most case
homogeneous dents do other than what the teacher specifies is invisible
same goes forwritten com
linguistically socially. The
and or anomalous to the
analysis. This
can be true in
practice
munication. Now one could a
certainly imagine theory as well. On several occasions my the one
fourth
grader,
that assumed different for instance, all the rules didn't was writ
things?that argued, busy obeying they have, given
that the most revealing speech
situation for understand that took the form of answering a series
ing assignments
was one a of people each
ing language involving gathering of questions to build up a These
paragraph. questions
of whom two and understood a third
spoke languages oftenasked him to identify of those in
with the interests
and held only one language in commonwith any of the over doctors,
power him?parents, teachers, public
others. It depends on what of language you
workings authorities. He to resist or subvert
invariably sought ways
want to see or want to see first, on what you choose to
these assignments. One for instance, called
assignment,
define as normative.
for imagining "a helpful invention." The students were
In with autonomous, fraternal models of com
keeping asked to write single-sentence to the
responses following
of use assume that
munity, analyses language commonly
questions:
of cooperation and shared understanding are
principles What kind of invention
would help you?
in effect. Descriptions of interactions between
normally How would ithelp you?
in conversation, classrooms, medical and bureau
people
Why would you need it?
cratic settings, readily take it for granted that the situation
What would it look like?
a set of rules or norms shared
is
governed by single by all Would otherpeople be able to use italso?
The analysis focuses then on how those rules
participants. What would be an inventiontohelp your teacher?
or fail to an
produce produce orderly, coherent exchange. What would be an invention to
help your parents?
Models and moves are often used to
involving games Manuel's read as follows:
reply
describe interactions. Despite whatever conflicts or sys

might be inplay, it isassumed


tematic social differences A grate adventchin
that all participants are in the same game and
engaged
that the game is the same for all players. Often it is. But Some inventchinsareGRATE!!!!!!!!!!! My inventchinwould be a

of course it often is not, as, for example, when shot thatwould put every thingyou learnat school inyour brain.
speakers
me
Itwould help me by letting
are from different classes or cultures, or one party is exer graduate rightnow!! Iwould need
itbecause itwould letme play with my freinds,go on vacachin
and another is to it or ques
cising authority submitting and, do fun a lotmore. Itwould look like a regular shot.Ather
it. Last year one of my children moved to a new
use to.This inventchinwould help my teacherpar
tioning peaple would
elementary school that had more open classrooms and ents get away from a lot ofwork. I think a shot like thiswould
more flexible curricula than the conventional school he be GRATE!

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Mary Louise Pratt 39

Despite the
spelling,
the assignment received the usual Americas and themultiple culturalhistories (including
starto indicatethe taskhad been fulfilledinan acceptable European ones) that have intersected here. As you can

No was of the the course attracted a


way. recognition available, however, imagine, very diverse
student body.

humor, the attempt to be critical or contestatory, to par The classroom functioned not a
like homogeneous com

the structures of authority. On that score, Manuel's or a horizontal alliance but like a contact zone.
ody munity
luck was only slightly better than Guaman Poma's. What Every
text we read stood in historical rela
single specific
is the place of unsolicited discourse, parody, to the students in the class, but the range and
oppositional tionships
in the classroom commu were enormous.
resistance, critique imagined variety of historical relationships
in
play
nity?Are teacherssupposed to feel thattheirteachinghas Everybodyhad a stake innearlyeverything we read,but
been most successful when they have eliminated such the rangeand kind of stakesvariedwidely.
thingsand unified the socialworld, probably in theirown It wasthe most
exciting teaching
we had ever done,

Who wins when we do that?


image? Who loses? and also the hardest. We were struck, for
example,
at how

Such questions may be hypothetical, because in the anomalous the formal lecture became in a contact zone

United States in the 1990s,many teachersfind them (who can


forget
Ata

selves less and less able to do that even if


they
want to. down
huallpa throwing
The composition of thenational collectivityis changing the Bible because it
and so are the as Anderson would not speak to
Are teachers
styles, put it, in which it is

being imagined.
In the 1980s in many nation-states, him?). The lecturer's supposedtofeel that
imaginednational synthesesthathad retainedhegemonic traditional (imagined) their teaching has
force to dissolve. Internal social groups with histo the
began
riesand lifewaysdifferentfrom theofficialones began
task?unifying
been most successful
world in the class's

insisting
on those histories and lifeways
as
part of
their cit eyes by
means of a when theyhave

unifiedthesocial
as the in the
izenship, very mode of their
membership monologue that
rings
national collectivity.In theirdialogues with dominant equally coherent, reveal
a rhetoric of true for all,
world,probably in
institutions, many groups began asserting ing, and
belonging thatmade demands beyond thoseof represen an ad hoc com their own image?
forging
tation and basic from above. In universities
rights granted munity, homogeneous
we started to hear, "I don't want you to let me be with to one's
just respect
here, Iwant tobelonghere; thisinstitutionshouldbelong own words?this task became not
only impossible but
to me as much as it does to anyone else." Institutions anomalous and Instead, one had to work
unimaginable.
have with, among other rhetorics of in the that whatever one said was to be
responded things, knowledge going
and multiculturalism whose at this received in
diversity import systematically radically heterogeneous ways
moment is up for across the that we were neither able nor entitled to
grabs ideological spectrum. prescribe.
These shiftsare being livedout by everyone
working in The very nature of the course put ideas and identities
education on
today, and everyone is
challenged by them in the line. All the students in the class had the experi
one way or another. Those of us committed to educa ence, for example, of their culture discussed and
hearing
objectified inways thathorrifiedthem; all the students
tional are as that
democracy particularly challenged
notion finds itselfbesieged on thepublic agenda.Many saw theirroots tracedback to
legaciesof both gloryand
of those who us their interest in a shame; all the students face-to-face the
govern display, openly, experienced igno
electorate. Even as an rance and and the hostil
quiescent, ignorant, manipulable incomprehension, occasionally
the conceptof an seems to
ideal, enlightened citizenry ity,of others. In the absence of community values and the
have from the national A cou of itwas easy to the the
disappeared imagination. hope synthesis, forget positives;
ple of yearsago theuniversity
where Iworkwent through fact, for instance, that kinds of
marginalization
once
an intense and debate over a defined taken for were
wrenching narrowly granted gone. Virtually every student was

having theexperienceof seeing theworld describedwith


Western-culture that had been instituted
requirement
therein 1980. Itkept boiling down to a debate over the him or her in it. with rage, and
Along incomprehension,
ideas of national cultural and there were moments of wonder and
patrimony, citizenship, pain, exhilarating
In the end, the requirement was revelation, mutual and new wisdom?the
imagined community. understanding,
transformedinto a much more broadly defined course joys of the
contact zone. The and revelations
sufferings
called Cultures, Ideas, Values.4 In the context of the were, at different moments to be sure,
experienced by
a new course was that centered on the
change, designed every student. No one was excluded, and no one was safe.

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40 Arts of theContact Zone

The fact that no one was safe made all of us involved in


Notes
the course the importance of what we came to
appreciate
call "safe houses." We used the term to refer to social and 'For an introduction in English to these and other aspects of
intellectual can constitute Guaman Pomas work, see Rolena Adorno. Adorno and Mercedes
spaces where groups themselves
as horizontal,
homogeneous, sovereign
communities with Lopez-Baralt pioneered the study ofAndean symbolic systems inGua
man Poma.
of trust, shared understandings, temporary
high degrees
2It is farfromclear that theRoyal Commentarieswas as benign as the
from of oppression. This iswhy, as we
protection legacies a
curricula should not seek to replace Spanish seemed to assume. The book certainly played role inmain
realized, multicultural
taining the identityand aspirations of indigenous elites in theAndes. In
ethnic or women's studies, for example. Where there are
themid-eighteenth century, a new edition of theRoyal Commentaries
legaciesof subordination,groups need places forhealing was
suppressed by Spanish authorities because itspreface included
a
and mutual safe houses inwhich to construct Sir
Walter that the would invade Peru and
recognition, prophecy by Raleigh English
shared claims on the world restorethe Incamonarchy.
understandings, knowledges,
that they can then bring into the contact zone. 3The discussion of community here is summarized frommy essay

Meanwhile, our in the Americas course remains to "LinguisticUtopias."


job
out how to make that crossroads the best site for "For information about this program and the contents of courses
figure
are lookingforthepedagogical taught in it,write Program inCultures, Ideas, Values (CIV), Stanford
learningthatitcan be.We
Univ., Stanford,CA 94305.
arts of the contact zone. These will include, we are sure,

and in identifying
exercisesin storytelling with the ideas,
interests, histories, and attitudes of others; in
experiments
Works
transculturation and collaborative work and in the arts of Cited_
critique, parody, and comparison (including unseemly Adorno, Rolena. Guaman Poma de Ayala: Writing and Resistance in
between elite and vernacular cultural forms); Colonial Peru. Austin: U ofTexas P, 1986.
comparisons
the of the oral; ways for people to engage Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflectionson theOrigins
redemption
with suppressedaspects of history (including theirown and Spread ofNationalism. London: Verso, 1984.

to move out of Garcilaso de laVega, El Inca. Royal Commentaries of theIncas. 1613.


histories), ways into and
0/rhetorics
Austin: U ofTexas P, 1966.
rules for communication across lines
authenticity; ground Guaman Poma de Ayala, Felipe. El primer nueva coronica y buen
of differenceand hierarchythatgo beyond politenessbut
Murra and Rolena Adorno. Mex
a to the all gobierno.Manuscript. Ed. John
maintain mutual respect; systematic approach ico: Siglo XXI, 1980.
of cultural mediation. These arts were
important concept Pratt,Mary Louise. "Linguistic Utopias." The Linguistics ofWriting.
in in every room at the extraordinary Pittsburgh con Ed. Nigel Fabb et al.Manchester: Manchester UP, 1987. 48-66.
play
ference on literacy. I learned a lot about them there, and I Trevino, Gloria. "Cultural Ambivalence in Early Chicano Prose Fic
am thankful. tion."Diss. StanfordU, 1985.

This content downloaded from 146.231.223.239 on Mon, 07 Dec 2015 15:18:12 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions