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Interdisciplinary Thoughts / Notes For a Web Event

joni sky's picture

Today in class, Liz and I spent time looking at the word interdisciplinary. We looked up several definitions 


When Donna Haraway writes about contact zones in When Species Meet, she describes places where two things meet and simultaneously change each other.


art as a contact zone 


art history


PDF icon PrattContactZone.pdf607.39 KB


Anne Dalke's picture

I'd love to hear you write out how your art history class seems to be (or presents an analysis of?) a contact zone. If you want to learn more about the concept--not just via Haraway--look @ the attached essay: Mary Louise Pratt's "Arts of the Contact Zone." You might find that her formulation is even more directly linked to work in art history....?

Ariel Skye's picture

To form a contact zone, one must acknowledge their own individuality and their own place and context within the world. When Joni posted about art as a contact zone, that made me ask myself, what is required to build a contact zone? What are its identifying components? And the first thing I thought of was the individual. An individual needs to approach a contact zone, and bring their lived experiences, biases, history, and identity to the table. But if you think about it, acknowledging someone else’s individuality (and even your own) is a fairly recent phenomena. I think that humans used to operate much more on the community level, where individuality wasn’t as highly valued as it is today (or sometimes, discouraged). So when did the concept of the individual arise? In Raymond Williams’ piece Introduction from Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, he claims that ““The modern sense of individual is then a result of the development of a certain phase of scientific thought and of a phase of political and economic thought”(385). This makes me wonder, are contact zones harder to find because of our modern allegiance to individuality? Or is it that these contact zones are all the more meaningful and genuine because we now try to validate one’s individual identity?


Just some food for thought...


Anne Dalke's picture

Last semester, one of my first-semester students wrote described each self as a contact zone. She first wrote about her own resistance to her "Korean culture, in being a high achieving individual who brought honor to her family," and then observed, "In Mary Louise Pratt’s Arts of a Contact Zone, she defines a contact zone as 'social spaces where disparate cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other'. She assumes that individuals from each culture will be able to represent their culture to another, which will create the contact zone. I disagree. While Pratt’s idea of a contact zone is great, she fails to realize and acknowledge that individuals within a culture are also undergoing their own struggle of either fitting into their culture or breaking out of the mold their culture enforces. It is idealistic and naïve of her to infer that every individual from each culture has already found his or her place within the culture...."