Mary Louise Pratt's "Art's of the Contact Zone"

Essay by blaircarstensUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, March 2004

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Baker is saying that those who attempted to write of their experiences as a slave faced the daunting task of not offending the white culture or risk not being heard. This was the basic conclusion that I came to when I first read this text, but it was not until later that I came to understand this societal pressure to write in a certain way is still just another form of oppression.

To define this type of oppression, I reference this section from Mary Louise Pratt's "Art's of the Contact Zone": "....in order to lay out some thoughts about writing and literacy in what I LIKE TO CALL CONTACT ZONES. I use this term to refer to social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power..." Using this idea of the contact zone puts Jacobs' efforts in a new light.

Jacobs undertook her endeavor with the understanding she was coming form an inferior position and trying to gain the respect and response from those perceived to be superior to her. In addition to this, I believe that Jacobs presented her narrative in an auto ethnographic way. Pratt defines auto ethnographic text as follows: "... by which I mean a text in which people undertake to describe themselves in ways that engage with representations others have made of them," Keeping this in mind, it helps explain the seemingly redundant homage Jacobs pays the white woman reader. Since Jacobs was trying to conform to what the reader's comfort level towards sexuality and female virtue was, she had to leave out the violence and degradation that slaves were forced to endure. Try to put yourself in Jacobs' shoes, describing horrible acts either that were done to her or that she witnessed,