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Project Proposal

The topic of our project is about how could two people from two distinct “contact zones”, as raised by Mary Louis Pratt, get along with each other and balance their relationship in order not to make either side think about breaking off the bond in between.

Since a contact zone is a place where “cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other” (Pratt, 34), the communication between people from different cultures, which generally could mean any kind of background, including religion, degree of education, and place where growing up etc., will inevitably meet with some cracks that ideas from one side do not match with the other.  We will be specifically looking at different social groups and friend groups.

How do people view these “cracks” and how do they deal with them?


I (Irene) am curious about the immediate reaction and psychological processing of people when divergences appear while people are talking with their friends. We know that in this world, no one is duplicated from another one. Especially the experiences of one person cannot be completely the same with the experiences of any one. As personal experiences can shape a living being, no one in this world is actually from the exact same “contact zone”. If they are not from the same contact zone, two cultures brought by them will, in some sense, “meet, clash, and grapple” with each other, and the situation they got involved in will make up a new contact zone.

I would like to put this conception into a metaphor of making strawberry banana smoothies. The strawberries and bananas are two objects and the blender is the media for those two. As we freely know, the strawberries used are picked from a strawberry garden, and bananas are from a banana garden. When both of them are put into the blender with milk, a new flavor is born. It is not merely plain strawberry flavor or plain banana flavor, but the combination of two flavors.

In this successful case of contact zone-strawberry banana smoothie, bananas provide a fudge, gooey, and creamy taste, and strawberries provide their secret recipient on the balance of sweetness and acidity. They are selected to brighten the advantages since we already know their specific advantages. But we do not see people comprehensively like fruits. How does each side make decisions about which disadvantages they are going to hide or rub off, and which advantages they choose to show?

However, a strawberry banana smoothie is only a simple model in which the amount of each side –which we can refer to a variety of opinions in a contact zone -is controlled by humans. But what if we amplify the model in regard to us humans in a macro-world? When we are chatting and allowing the thoughts to flow and talking about what we just think up or notice around us, the next seashore where our minds are going to land is unknown. We also don’t know whether the inevitable and unknown “wind” will lead the ship of conversation.  Maybe to a joyful and relaxing atmosphere or a risky area of hidden reefs.

I (Becca) am interested in learning more about how and why different social groups are formed and how they interact with each other because I have always had many different friends groups.  This is specifically prominent in my life when I think about the friends that I have from my swim team and my friends that are just from school.  I would always either hang out with athletes or nonathletes.  I also found it awkward when those two groups collided.  This is because my swimming friends know me as a different person than my school friends.  I believe that if I had only known my swim friends from school, they probably wouldn’t have even been my friends.  I am predicting that these social group interactions are also very prominent in college life.  I have already begun to see a divide between the athletes and the nonathletes and I would like to learn more about this.  There are also many colliding ideas between different people that I would like to explore further.

In pursuing this project, our main source of information is going to come from interviews.  We will mainly be interviewing other people our age, including our friends and peers.  We believe that this will give us the inside scoop on how these friend groups are made.  We can also bring our own experiences into our data.  Outside research can also be done to find out more information that may back up the ideas we are coming across.  We will be able to apply knowledge from research about social groups to our interviews, enabling us to have more support.  Outside research may also give us a deeper meaning to some of the things we learn through our interviews.  We will also explore people’s backgrounds to understand if the contact zones that they are from, influence their current views and ideas.


Work Cited

Mary Louise Pratt, Arts of the Contact Zone. Profession (1991)


jccohen's picture

Becca and Irene,

So is your key question about how your peers at Bryn Mawr encounter and deal with “cracks” or differences between them, whether from “divergences that appear while people are talking with their friends” or social groups formed around different interests/contexts?

I see how your orientations are both interrelated and distinct, and I’m curious about how you’ll handle this:  will you each pursue your particular interest area here, or will you work on both together?

Interviews sound key.  So some questions to consider about this methodology:  How will you select your interviewees?  Will all your interviews be one on one or might you want to do a focus group or two?  How will you document what you hear during the interviews?  And of course, you’ll need to think about questions…  Anne and I will be talking with you about these questions!