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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Transculturation and the Power of the Writer!

Pratt has done a fantastic job in shedding a new light for me through her work "Arts of the Contact Zone"! However, through reading it, I come to find it difficult,in a positive way, to define what culture means.All my life in school and during discussions on culture you hear the same story.Cultures are what make people unique,they serve as a basis in which people share things in common, they promote diversity and shape our values,beliefs and our knowledge.

I personally am not sure that cultures are limited to your nationality or your parent's nationality because not everyone is raised into their "natural culture",if you will. I say this primarily because I am not a product of deeply rooted Hispanic culture because I do not know about that heritage since I have not been taught about it; I myself born in Illinois.I just go with the flow.Can that be culture; just being a part of something and following the rules and adhering to some kind or routine? Is there such a thing as losing culture? Is there such a thing as modifying it? Can one just develop a less complex way to carry on certain traditions? How does such a thing happen? Perhaps ancient practices are not emphasized as much because of changing times or the generation gaps in families have a role in diminishing "culture"? Maybe members in the family have grown out of the "traditional way" because of the negativity connected to it or disinterest (may it seem obligatory?).

I believe culture and its discourse is very different than the common dictionary definition. Upon reading Arts of the Contact Zone, Pratt makes a very bold argument about HOW cultures attempt to engage in 'contact zones'. She uses the example of Pietschmann finding a letter addressed to King Phillip III of Spain written by Poma who is Andean.Two people from two different cultures = (non established in this case) contact zone.Pietschmann prepares a paper in which he tries to explain his findings and realizes that people are confused. When people finally find a way of reading this letter, the profoundness of it became so obvious. That is the beauty of the whole story! Having this literacy made it possible to appreciate the letter.

The more intriguing part about this is the letter itself! On page 505, Pratt describes the lined drawings as European ( a form of discourse), but the drawings helped Poma express his own culture. Another instance where this is done? Persepolis! Satrapi uses a comic styled format that is usually seen as "Western" to explain her values and her culture to us since we are not a part of her culture. This IS a contact zone!! Another way to describe what is being done here is: Transculturation. Transculturation in simpler terms is a minor culture taking some ideas from particular parts of a dominant culture to push forward values,beliefs,and knowledge of their own. Its helps a contact zone arise.This is the chance where people get to exchange ideas about culture.Even so, WHY contact zones? Transculturation is similar to the discussion we had in class about the discourse communities project. Who has more power? As the writer, we have more power because we choose how much what we are told will influence what we write.In this case, Poma was the one in power.

In the end,in my opinion, there still does not seem to be a proper definition for culture.

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