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Arts of the Contact Zone

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The Arts of The Contact Zone is an essay by Mary Louise Pratt. She is a member of the Modern Language Association. In this article, she provides a direct relation of the challenges that face politics and the fundamental concept of a social space. A social space in this case means a region where cultures meet, and clash. These regions where cultures meet and clash are what she terms as contact zones. They depict points of contact between cultures. In these points of contact, there are certain dynamics that are evident. These include power imbalances between the two cultures. Practical examples can be seen in world politics today. We read it in the news that there were clashes between a tribe and another over power sharing. This is common in the developing countries. In the American politics, the Democrats and Republicans represent two cultures. The two always experience power imbalances at one point or another, especially during campaigns.

The constant and dramatic interplay between various cultures results into a “deal” that is more crucial than life. This explains why people fight in the world over power. The members of the culture invest heavily in ideological sets that bring differences. They do this so as to take care of their image, which is quite crucial if they have to get elected. Self deception is also as a result of members of individual cultures feeling that their culture is more superior than the other culture. This brings the idea of imagined communities. Self deception causes all this.

Louise Pratt describes presents the issue of “imagined communities” as an illusionary boundary that people draw and where they form unity clusters. This results in a case where members of the “imagined community” can meet in illusion and talk about issues, yet they are different. This forces people to believe that unity can only exist among members of the same community.  This has a disastrous effect on the community. For one, they will never meet to discuss any progress. The notion is in their minds. This is the same concept with a monoculture. Members of such a culture live inside a bubble. People start to identify with these communes that comprise of individuals whom members may never meet or interact. The idea of a monoculture is relatively the same concept, where essentially the members of such a culture live inside a bubble. The culture is homogenous since every member is relatively similar.

Democratic and Republic parties depict themselves as monocultures. In this case, the opposing party holds no value at all. Each of the parties holds thinks it is more legitimate than the other. People join the party, not to take part in it actively, but just to become a part of the imagined community. The funny thing in this is that if a Christian republican meets a Senator belonging to the Republican Party, he will most likely feel disturbed. On the other hand, if a democrat meets a guy who represents the party and supports abortion or gay rights, he or she may also feel disturbed. This implies that it is easy for identifications and imagery structures to deceive people. These imagery structures appear larger than individuals, and life itself.

The two parties have evolved historically to what they are now. They have grown to house more membership than was the case previously. Moreover, history shows that tremendous transformations have taken place within the parties. Over time, we see members of the less dominant culture joining hands with members of the dominant culture. This mainly happens when one party is subordinate to the other. The metropolitan culture releases materials that other. Their history shows that, at each time, there is one party that is dominant over the other. This is the case when one party reigns over the presidency. Pratt states, “While subordinate peoples do not usually control what emanates from the dominant culture, they do determine to varying extents what gets absorbed into their own and what it gets used for.” (Dimensions of native America: the contact zone p. 55) This implies that the marginalized group or culture does not have a say in decision making. However, the marginalized culture attains a level of power that helps it to propagate its ideologies.

When George Bush was president of the United States, he made some errors in grammar when delivering a speech. The democrat members used this to show their sophistication party identity.  

The result of this was the indulgence of the Republicans to emphasize their Christian ‘moral character.” They emphasized that they were steadfast and committed to upholding ethical principles as a government. They also insisted that individuals should be guided by moral principles. Both cases show the occurrence of trans-culture.   It yielded more refinement of the ideals and images of the parties. The terms Republican and Liberal have also changed over time.  During the civil war in America, people used the term republican to refer to an individual who was socially liberal. Currently, the Democratic Party emphasizes this outlook more than the Republican Party characteristic of the Democratic Party. Initially, a liberal person meant a person who subscribed to laissez-faire economics and social welfare. Its characteristic is limited government participation. However, this outlook has changed. A liberal view puts emphasis on neoliberalism. It is a characteristic of supporters of powerful governments. This shift of gears will be evident as long as the contact zone is still present. Power structure is also likely to reverse, either once or many times in the life cycle of the contact zone. Philosophies have become the order of the day. According to Pratt, propagation of transcultures is mutual and constant. The Republican Vice President in 2008, Sarah Palin used a memoir titled: Going Rogue: An American life. Palin made use of the mental images that the society portrays about her in this memoir. She uses them to define herself and her character.

In addition, Republican and Democratic Parties of America have shown a tendency to become larger than the members, the society and life.  The imagined members of monocultures become a force to reckon within themselves. The United States law does not recognize the presence of a two party system. However, it continues to be so. This means that the two parties have taken up people’s minds. They have tied them to think within their rules and ideologies. If such a tradition of a two party system can exist in a State for so long, a State where people are future oriented and have obtained education, what would happen in countries that are less civilized than USA? This stresses the issue of contact zones even further. The two parties are a monoculture that ties people’s reasoning. The monoculture has had so much influence that no other parties can succeed amidst them. The USA is a democratic state.

To be successful in politics requires zeal, hard work and commitment. Supporting the Democrats requires that one is zealous and committed too. One has to show that they are loyal to that party. The same case applies to the democrats. If one is on their side, it requires that they show high levels of loyalty and support for them. If one fails to commit, then this becomes risky as it is a sure way of losing. For a candidate in elections, being a member of either parties means enjoying such privileges as party support and funding. If one joins his or her side party, he or she will most likely have to reconsider this option because only few people will come out in their support. This is self deception. This is not democracy. It is a pure lie to the members. They hang on, offer support, and contribute funds, only to end up just being normal voters. They cannot have their way because political culture has become part of them, deeply engrossed in their minds. This is evil at its best.

This means that no development can occur. This is just a form of euphoria that sweeps across the country, taking away people’s minds. Citizens cannot be mobilized to search for common goals and have common ground. Their representation is just a theory. They do not make decisions that affect the party. This explains why even after a change of power for many years, no party has handled the issues that affect people the way they should be handled. The same problems continue to affect them. Poverty, unemployment, inflation, insecurity are some of them.

What is this “solidarity for”, Why do people have to engage in politics and support if leaders just because they belong to a certain party. The answer is clear in mind. Monocultures have continued to destroy the society. They do not give hope to the hopeless. They only peddle party politics and propaganda with the intention to fight the opponent party.

It is not a case of individuals and their policies any longer. It is a question of which party carries the moment of the day. Every day we hear heated arguments and pointless debates. These debates are just a show of might. They are a show of ability to speak and articulate issues. The fact is, people cannot survive through mere debates. However, how do we get to see action if what traverses across the diverse population of Americans is cheap populist politics that parties use against each other? There is no mobilization of people to contribute towards party decisions. Parties do not mobilize them to speak about issues that affect them. This explains why almost parties do not do anything to clinch top positions in government and the legislature. The only thing that erupts after all this is chaos that brings problems to the same citizens whom monocultures. The Parties, which are major beneficiaries escape unhurt. It then appears that these lines of politics use individuals and later “dump” them. American politics remain sin steadfast on opposing beliefs. This takes away time that ought to be used in addressing real issues that affect people and the nation. If a bishop stands tall and speaks about serious issues affecting people, people will politicize it. Members of different parties will stand up and say that the bishop does not have a right to discuss. Others will criticize the politician for not standing firmly to defend ethics, just like the bishop. In a nut shell, monocultures only encourage self interest.

I must highlight that the contact zone is a region where people meet. Their minds have similar opinions and ideologies. The result of a contact zone should be positive progress and development. However, what we see is recurring efforts to undermine this beauty.  It is the right time people stood up and said no to divisiveness. They must take advantage of the contact zone to address issues that affect them. It is the right time for people to open their eyes. People ought to see that by being illusionary members of a culture, this cannot help them. It only takes them far apart. It makes them waste time on issues that will come back to them. For instance, if conflicts arise, it is the members of the illusionary cocoons that suffer draw backs and disillusionment. People should stand up for change. It begins now.

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