Mary Louise Pratt, "Arts of the Contact Zone"
- What does Pratt mean by an "unreadable text" (34)?
- What does Pratt mean by a "contact zone" (34)?
- What are quipus?
- What is an "autoethnographic text" (35)?
- What is an "autochthonous text" (35)?
- Explain: "Guaman Poma mirrors back to the Spanish
(in their language, which is alien to him) an image of
themselves that they often suppress, and will therefore surely
- What is transculturation? How does Poma engage in it?
- Explain the significance of the spatial symbolism of the
three figures in the text.
- What does Pratt mean by "imagined communities" (37)?
- Explain: "In keeping with autonomous, fraternal
models of community, analyses of language use commonly assume
that principles of cooperation and shared understanding are
normally in effect" (38).
- Explain: "Internal social groups with histories and
lifeways different from the official ones began insisting on
those histories and lifeways as part of their citizenship,
as the very mode of their membership in the national
- What does Pratt mean by "safe houses" (40)?
Group Discussion Questions:
- What is the significance of the story about Pratt's son
and his baseball card collection? How does it illustrate
the points she makes in the rest of the essay? Refer to
specific statements in your response.
- What are "the sociocultural complexities produced by
conquest and empire" (34)? How does Guaman Poma
exemplify those complexities? What other examples of
writers who do so can you identify?
- Explain: "If one thinks of cultures, or
literatures, as discrete, coherently structured, monolingual
edifices, Guaman Poma's text, and indeed any autoethnographic
work, appears anomalous or chaotic. . . . If one does not
think of cultures this way, Guaman Poma's text is simply
- Explain: "Modern views of language as code and
competence assume a unified and homogeneous social world in
which language exists as a shared patrimony--as a device,
precisely, for imagining community" (38). Look
especially at "code," "competence," and "shared patrimony."
- Explain: "If a classroom is analyzed as a social
world unified and homogenized with respect to the teacher,
whatever students do other than what the teacher specifies is
invisible or anomalous to the analysis" (38). How do the
sentiments in this quote relate to the rest of the
essay? How do power relations influence his situation?
- In what ways can Morgan be identified as a "contact
zone"? In what way is it a "safe house"? Explain. Refer
to specific parts of Pratt's essay in your response.