In "Arts of the Contact Zone," Mary Louise Pratt introduces a term very unfamiliar to many people. This term, autoethnography, means the way in which subordinate peoples present themselves in ways that their dominants have represented them. Therefore, autoethnography is not self-representation, but a collaboration of mixed ideas and values form both the dominant and subordinate cultures. They are meant to address the speaker's own community as well as the conqueror's. Pratt provides many examples of autoethnography throughout her piece, including two texts by Guaman Poma and her son, Manuel. Although very different in setting, ideas, and time periods, they accomplish the difficult goal of cross-cultural communication.
Guaman Poma, an Andean who claimed noble Inca descent, wrote a twelve hundred page long letter in 1613 to King Philip III of Spain. This manuscript was particularly unique because it was written in two languages, Spanish and Quechua, the native language of the Andeans. "Quechua was not thought of as a written language . . . ., nor Andean culture as a literate culture" (584). This letter proved the theory wrong. Somehow, Poma interacted with the Spanish in a "contact zone", which is a "social space where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other" (584). This communication forced him to learn the Spanish culture and use it to his advantage. With his new found knowledge, he presented to the world a piece of work that incorporated Andean customs and values with European manners and ideas, exemplifying the idea of cross-cultural communication. The only flaw in his piece was that it never reached its intended recipient and therefore, did not get recognized until it was three hundred fifty years too late.
Poma combines his Andean knowledge with his Spanish knowledge. He "constructs his text by appropriating and adapting pieces of the representational repertoire of the invaders" (589...