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

You are here

Towards Day 2 (Thurs, 9/4): In the Contact Zone

Anne Dalke's picture

I. welcome back! (did everyone come back? let's find out!
our avatars are much more oblique/evocative “representations” of ourselves,
not what you will see in the class photos on BiONic, for example,
and worth exploring for a few minutes, so...

Go ‘round and play “picture bingo”—
identify your classmates by their avatars...
what are you learning about them thereby?
take a moment to get (@ least some! of) the stories behind the pictures

settle down as a full group for a few minutes:
what did you learn? any surprises?
was everyone recognizable?
(needing back stories, more explanations?
you can read about one another in our course forum, fill in some of these details...)

also take a moment to look over the images as a group,
and "going up one level of abstraction," again,
think about how you might categorize them:
What sorts of pictures have we used?
How many are photographs of selves? How “whole”/partial?
In what environments? How present is the environment in our self-representations?
What is the relation between the organism and the environment?
How “ecological” are these images? How much “connection” do you see?
Or: what do they say (what are we saying?!) about how we see ourselves in the world?

II. coursekeeping:
checking in re: setting up your Serendip accounts--how'd it go?
did everyone sign up/in?  and was able to post?
who needs a hand up w/ this process?
any feedback on it...? questions/obstacles/successes to report?
did you see the "private" option, before the text box?

couple more details:
if you need to miss class, please let me know ahead of time;
when you miss class, please review the class notes that I've posted, and do an
extra posting of  "what you might have said, had you been there...."

any extra thoughts, re: our talking together, course requirements, etc?
(I realized that another *kind of category* we didn't use was year and major--
why not, in an interdisciplinary course?)

your weekend plans:
we will spend next week reading Eli Clare's memoir, Exile and Pride
[have you been able to get hold of copies...? be in touch w/ one another, to share....]
both in this class and Kristen's (focusing on different dimensions of what is a profoundly "intersectional" text--
as he says in the epigram to the cluster, “.. .gender reaches into disability; disability wraps around class;
class strains against abuse; abuse snarls into sexuality; sexuality folds on top of race. . .
everything finally piling into a single human body"; as Dean Spade says in his afterward
(did some of you hear Dean Spade, when he came to speak last year?)
"this book exposes the violence of categories...."

By classtime on Tues, read Part I, "Home";
on Thursday we'll continue discussing the text, with a focus on Part II, on bodies...
Think about what username he might select on Serendip (as you'll find out, he renamed himself),
and also what avatar he might select to represent himself here. How present would the
environment be in his representation of self?

By 5 p.m. Mon, 9/8: create post on Serendip, answering this question:
what name, what image, would you select to represent what you are learning about who Eli is/how he is in the world.
Do this by logging in, going to "create content" in the left hand side bar, and selecting "webby post"
--which will enable you to place the name and image you select  in relationship to the names and images your classmates pick,
that others have put up before you; it will invite you to think about the "argument" that your image is making.
Rebecca: explain a little more what a "webby post" is?

The "webby post" is an experimental form we developed this summer--
in the language of Ann Dixon, Serendip's webmaster--
1) to provide training wheels/tools to model e-discussions so that they are more like in-person classroom discussions, and
2) be able to have a meta-level discussion about discussions, by making concepts (types like clarifying) explicit, and
3) in the process, have more equality among posters, rather than post/comments, and
4) have fun :-)
We're curious to see if this format will help you
1) be more engaged with each other's posts
2) if/how meta-level thinking affects our discussion in specific ways
3) how well the concepts/types fit
4) how well the navigational tools --graph, table, date-sorted list of posts on the group page--help particular ones of us
5) what suggestions you all have for improvements ...

IV. Today's texts: June Jordan's "Report from the Bahamas," and Mary Louise Pratt's "Arts of the Contact Zone"

I asked you to come to class having read them both, underlined passages that had some sort of energy for you--
told you the truth/raised some question/nudged you in some way...
I asked you, second, to think about how this essay speaks to your experience,
whether your own experience affirms-or-questions what she says;
and I asked you, third, to write out what you think Jordan's  and Pratt's arguments were.
Take a moment to review what you've done, to assemble these three things...

So: what we're going to focus on today:
first--what the text says;
second--how it "fits" (or fails to...) w/ what we know;
third--what it "argues."

Let's go around, first reading just the passage from Jordan that has some "energy" for you.
This is called a "text rendering": no explanation, no commentary--
just read the passage straight from the text--and listen really hard
to what we are saying, collectively: what dimensions of the essay are we foregrounding?

What did you hear?

How do these passages intersect with your own experiences?
Do they describe what you know?
Do you have experiences that back up or challenge Jordan's claims?

Let's go around again, reading the passage from the text,
or your own sentence,  stating what Jordan's argument is.
What is her claim?

Discuss: where/how/why do our summaries diverge?

Repeat with Pratt (or do this less systematically?)

Anne's reading notes from Jordan's essay:
Neither this…nor the…nor the...nor the...belong here, of course.

this is my consciousness of class…
This is my consciousness of race and class and gender identity…
his job: pretending himself a servile ancillary
humble themselves to our careless games
harmlessly killing time
I notice the fixed relations….we are parties to a transaction designed to set us against each other.
Whose rights? Whose freedom? Whose desire?
and why should she give a shit about mine unless I do something, for real, about hers?
For these reasons of difference, the students and I had moved away from each other, even while we continued to talk.
she even has the luxury to deny the power of the privileges that paralyze her life…
most of the women of the world persist far from the heart of the usual Women’s Studies syllabus.
Similarly, the typical Black History course will slide by the majority experience it pretends to represent.
I can’t think how I should lessen the offense of my appetite.
How would "Olive" rate me7
the skin on my body has changed and so has my mind
the usual race and class concepts of connection, or gender assumptions of unity, do not apply very well. I doubt that they ever did.
race and class and gender remain as real as the weather. But what they must mean about the contact between two individuals is less obvious and, like the weather, not predictable,…
partnership in misery does not necessarily provide for partnership for change: When we get the monsters off our backs all of us may want to run in very different directions.
I am reaching for the words to describe the difference between a common identity that has been imposed and the individual identity any one of us will choose, once she gains that chance.
What happens beyond the idea of that enemy and beyond the consequences of that enemy?
It is… what we can do for each other that will determine the connection
One quandary I have set myself to explore with my students is the one of taking responsibility without power,
I must make the connection real between me and these strangers everywhere….

Reading Notes from Pratt, "Arts of the Contact Zone":
the contact zone…I use this term to refer to social spaces where cultures meet, cloth, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power…Eventually I will use the term to reconsider the models of community that many of us rely on in teaching and theorizing and that are under challenge today.
Guzman Poma's New Chronicle…an autoethnographic text…in which people undertake to describe themselves in ways that engage with representations others have made of them…in response to or in dialogue…. they involve a selective collaboration with and appropriation of idioms of the metropolis or the conqueror…merged or infiltrated to varying degrees with indigenous idioms to create self-representations intended to intervene in metropolitan modes of understanding
Guzman Poma mirrors back to the Spanish (in their language, which is alien to him) an image of themselves that they often suppress and will therefore recogniz
transculturation to describe processes whereby members ofs ubordinated or marginal groups select and invent fi'om materials transmitted by a dominant or metropolitan culture.
The idea of the contact zone is intended in part to contrast with ideas of community that underlie much of the thinking about language, communication, and culture that gets done in the academy.
Languages were seen as living in "speech communities"…theorized as discrete, self-defined, coherent entities, held together by a homogeneous competence or grammar shared identically and equally among all the members.
Modern views of language as code and competence assume a unified and homogeneous social word in which language exists as a shared patrimon
Descriptions of interactions between people in…classrooms…readily take it for granted that the situation is governed by a single set of rules or norms shared by all participants.
it is assumed that all participants are engaged in the same game and that the game is the same for all players. Often it is. But of course as often it is not
“know why they’re nicer?...So you'll obey all the rules they don't have"
pupiling (the word doesn’t even exist, though the thing certainly does)
What is the place of unsolicited oppositional discourse, parody,resistance, critique in the imagined classroom community?
The classroom functioned not like a homogeneous community or a horizontal alliance but like a contact zone.
Every single text we read stood in specific historical relationships to the students in the class, but the range and variety of historical relationships in play were enormous. Everybody had a stake in nearly everything
The lecturer's traditional (imagined) task--unifying the world in the class's eyes by means of a monologue that rings equally coherent, revealing, and true for all, forging an ad hoc community, homogeneous with respect to one's own words--this task became not only impossible but anomalous and unimaginable.
whatever one said was going to be systematically received in radically heterogeneous ways that we were neither able nor entitled to prescribe.
No one was excluded, and no one was safe.
Where there are legacies of subordination, groups need places for healing and mutual recognition, safe houses.
Meanwhile, our job…remains to figure out how to make that crossroads the best site for learning that it can be. We are looking for the pedagogical arts of the contact zone…. a systematic approach to the all important concept of cultural mediation.