Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Contact zone

Sammy at the wedding
I’ll be using the idea of ‘the imagined classroom community’ in my seminar on virtual worlds tomorrow. The idea is inspired by “Arts of the Contact Zone”. Mary Louise Pratt’s essay “Arts of the Contact Zone” is often described as a classic amongst linguists and cultural critics. It contains some fascinating takes on literacy. I’m particularly interested in her suggestion that we idealize discourse communities, turning them into linguistic utopias. But it’s where she describes our imagined classrooms that the essay really hits home for me. She asks “What is the place of unsolicited oppositional discourse, parody, resistance, critique in the imagined classroom community? Are teachers supposed to feel that their teaching has been most successful when they have eliminated such things and unified the social world, probably in their own image? Who wins when we do that? Who loses?” I’ve been thinking a lot about this ideal imagined classroom in which no-one knows any swear words, where everyone is polite, where it’s nice….and there’s no bullying; and where everyone shares…a common cultural experience and a language to express it (no dialect/slang/txt)…and how that’s a total fiction!


Joolz said...

Yes and I guess this is where our jokes come from .... 'a lot of people in here are being very SILLY...' This assumption about middle class norms is easy to parody. The ideal being, of course, a middle class utopia.

Guy Merchant said...

Yes, spot on!! So that white middle class thing gets so easily reproduced, because it's a cultural script...maybe that's where critical pedagogy really kicks in.