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Delavary 1

Aaron Delavary

Professor Zuleima Ugalde

English 114B

14 May 2018

Clash of the Cultures

Contact zone refers to human interaction and communication where “disparate cultures

meet” and fight where one group is more “dominant” than the other (Ashcroft, Griffiths, Tiffin

48). The term first originated and was used by Pratt as a method of describing multiple cultures,

coming and working together, in an exercise to influence students to better understand their class

in “transcultural negotiation and confrontation” (Ashcroft, Griffiths, Tiffin 48). However, Pratt

continues with the term he developed and says that not everyone thinks the same way therefore

their ideal world is different, not similar and therefore should respect each other’s words as one

community (Ashcroft, Griffiths, Tiffin 48). However, it is unfortunate that this dream can never

become reality. What we encounter is that everyone lives in a reality where people have very

different perspectives and work within boundaries and rules that they live by whether we like

them or not. It was only until later on that Pratt updated or slightly changed the meaning of the

term he developed. Pratt (1992:4) then defined it as “Social spaces where ‘disparate cultures

meet, clash and grapple with each other, often in highly asymmetrical relations of dominance and

subordination like colonialism, slavery, or their aftermaths as they are lived out across the globe

today’” (Ashcroft, Griffiths, Tiffin 48). An example of this is during the protest of

Charlottesville, where a man swiftly drove his car into the crowd of protesters. This

demonstrates how one culture, or group of people are marching the streets voicing their beliefs

where they are met with the wreckless man who represents the opposing culture or group of
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those ideologies that “clash and grapple” (Ashcroft, Griffiths, Tiffin 48). Thereafter, the man is

arrested and charged. This act and arrest symbolized how the protesters, the dominant culture,

became victorious in the confrontation against the opposing minority group. Another example is

during the presidential elections, many of different communities, and cultures met together to

vote for the candidate of their choice. However, before they voted, the different cultures

continuously argued leading to some illegal actions such as taking down Trump’s election signs

off other people's properties.

Later on, the term evolved so it is usable to describe many different situations from an

important meeting between global superpowers to an assembly of multicultural friends. An

example cited by the author Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin (49) talks about a study about relations

between indigenous and non-indigenous societies. This study was the result of collaborations

between these two groups namely settlers and native people. These groups met in a contact zone

and engaged while grappling with the obvious and felt inequalities that existed. As a result of

them working together, the study was produced. The new and improved meaning for contact

zone as for many “complex engagements” between multicultural people and communities makes

for a broader use for it.

Work Cited
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Anzaldua, Gloria, “How to Tame a Wild Tongue.” Border Crossings, edited by Catherine

Cucinella, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016, pp. 143-156.

Ashcroft, Bill, et al. Post-Colonial Studies: the Key Concepts. Routledge, 2007.