Arts of the Contact Zone

Here, from “Arts of the Contact Zone,” is Mary Louise Pratt on the autoethnographic text:

Guaman Poma’s New Chronicle is an instance of what I have proposed to call an autoethnographic text, by which I mean a text in which people undertake to describe themselves in ways that engage with representations others have made of them.  Thus if ethnographic texts are those in which European metropolitan subjects represent to themselves their others (usually their conquered others), autoethnographic texts are representations that the so-defined others construct in response to or in dialogue with those texts….[T]hey involve selective collaboration with  and  appropriation of idioms of the metropolis or the conqueror.  These are merged or infiltrated to varying degrees with indigenous idioms to create self-representations intended to intervene in metropolitan modes of understanding….Such texts are often constitute a marginalized group’s point of entry into the dominant circuits of print culture.  It is interesting to think, for example, of American slave autobiography in its autoethnographic dimensions, which in some respects distinguish it from Euramerican autobiographical tradition (487-88).

John Edgar Wideman’s “Our Time” could serve as a twentieth-century counterpart to the New Chronicle.  Reread it with “Arts of the Contact Zone” in mind.  Write an essay that presents “Our Time” as an example of autoethnographic and/or transculturation text.  You should imagine that you are working to put Pratt’s ideas to the test (does it do what she says such texts must do?), but also add to what you have to say concerning this text as a literate effort to be present in the context of difference.

The minimum expectations for the assignment are as follows:
•    Demonstrate an understanding of and coherent engagement with the assignment.
•    Formulate and articulate a stance through and in your writing.
•    Demonstrate ability to construct an essay: a prose discussion structured in the service of ideas.
•    Demonstrate comprehension of and critical engagement with the assigned reading(s) in your writing.
•    Effectively use and appropriately cite sources in your writing.
•    Use multiple forms of evidence to support your claims, ideas, and arguments, with an emphasis on incorporating quotations.
•    Demonstrate understanding of and facility in the conventions of standard written English.

Format requirements for printed work:
•    MLA Manuscript Format
•    Works Cited page (titled as such, and as a separate page at the end of your essay)
•    Acknowledgements pages (appears after your Works Cited and titled as Acknowledgements.  Acknowledgements need only be presented on the final paper.

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