Friday 27th January 2017, 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Room 315, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2HT
Media, Arts and Hybrid Spaces: Experience and Meaning in the Contact Zone
Study Day organised by Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media (CREAM) in collaboration with HOMELandS
Mary Louise Pratt introduced the concept of ‘the contact zone’ in 1991, using this term ‘to refer to 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’. She goes on to introduce the concept of ‘transculturation’, which is expanded upon in her later book Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (1992), which describes ‘processes whereby members of subordinated or marginal groups select and invent from materials transmitted by a dominant or metropolitan culture’.
The ‘contact zone’ is a site of artistic production but it can also be a site of negotiation of meanings, a context of experience. In her paper, Pratt expands on the notion of the contact zone beyond the interpretation of colonial encounters and deals with difference and conflict in the classroom. She writes, ‘All the students in the class had the experience … of having their cultures discussed and objectified in ways that horrified them; all the students experienced face-to-face the ignorance and incomprehension, and occasionally the hostility of others … Along with rage, incomprehension, and pain, there were exhilarating moments of wonder and revelation, mutual understanding, and new wisdom—the joys of the contact zone’. How might we broaden Pratt’s notion of the ‘the contact zone’? What is its significance in the contemporary sphere and how might it be a useful site for further investigation?
The Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture
University of Westminster Department of English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies
32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW. United Kingdom.