Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Juxtaposition and Contact Zones

Hummingbird's picture

"Juxtaposition... [is] an attempt to get viewers and readers to make associations across categorical, discursive, historical, and stylistic boundaries." – Elizabeth Ellsworth

My first reaction to reading Ellsworth was excitement. Here was someone looking at the very things I find most interesting – intersections within the classroom. When we spoke in groups yesterday, I found I was writing more questions about intersections than I was writing answers. The term I focused on was "contact zone," (from Pratt's piece) and when I first looked at it, Michaela and I really focused on the result of two cultures meeting. What happens when the dominating culture appropriates aspects of the subordinate culture? What happens when there is "forced culturalization" of the subordinate culture by the dominating one? Does one need permission to take up aspects of another culture – especially for purposes of art? 

My family is from New Zealand, so I've really been able to see the affect of colonizers on a culture. New Zealand itself is certainly a large scale contact zone – between the Maori and the English, between the English and the Polynesians, between the Dutch and the English, and more reccently between the white New Zealanders and the Asian New Zealanders. These cultural clashes happen on a societal level, but also on a smaller scale within the classroom. The english language is prioritized, for example, which sets up a power structure that rewards native English speakers and disenfranchises those who speak virtually any other language. At the same time, the juxtaposition of these cultures within New Zealand have created an incedibly unique new culture which mixes appropriation and assimilation.

Going back to Ellsworth, I agree with Michaela's sentiments that yesterdays class was particularly exciting because of range of experience we got to learn from. Each person I spoke to yesterday approached her term with a personal story or question that resonated with her identity. And these juxtapositions of experience gave us such an amzing opportunity to learn from one another because we were constantly making connections.

(Image from Selling the Dream )