In Mary Louise Pratt s Arts of the Contact Zone , she discusses the association of a less powerful civilization, the Andean s, and a powerful, dominant civilization, the Spanish. The Spaniards lack of knowledge of the Andean civilization prevented them from realizing their true culture and made them assume that the Andean s were an ignorant people. Poma s learning of the Spanish culture enabled him to act as a messenger between the two civilizations and thus gain more power in relating information between them. The Spanish had much power, but they did not know much about the Andean s, whereas Poma knew more about both cultures. In a sense, Poma had more power from his knowledge than the Spanish had knowledge from their dominant power. Therefore, knowledge is power, but knowledge does not always come with power.
Guaman Poma s letter to King Philip III shows that even though the Andeans were not as powerful as the Spanish, they were still able to develop the knowledge to communicate with people from another culture or who speak a different language. Without the ability to communicate, we feel we are lost and alone. The Spanish had no interest in learning the language of the Andeans; therefore, Poma was forced to learn Spanish. In learning about the Spanish and their language, Poma gains some power. He wanted to show King Philip III that the Andeans are not as ignorant as The Spanish thought them to be. Instead of writing a letter to the King in Spanish, he adapted it along Andean lines to express Andean interests and aspirations. (Pratt 532) The main purpose of this letter was to express that the Andeans were not as ignorant as the Spanish thought them to be.
The people or things we learn from either keep us ignorant or actually teach us and let us gain some power through what we learn. Everything we learn is presented to us in an educational package. Unfortunately, A student who has the desire to get at a dogfish or a Shakespeare sonnet may have the greatest difficulty in salvaging the creature itself from the educational package in which it is presented. (Percy 519) What we learn depends on the media in which the information is transmitted to us. The educators are the ones that choose what and how we are going to learn something. The educators are the ones who hold all of the power in this case. The students are the ones who are struggling to gain power through knowledge. Without this knowledge, we are nothing. The ignorant, or presumed ignorant are the people we enslave or take advantage of.
Usually, when the enslaved people understand what these other people are trying to do, such as the Andeans, they write an autoethnographic text to explain whom they are and what they stand for. They try to disinherit what other people think they are like. Basically, the letter that Poma wrote to King Philip III can be used as an example of an autoethnographic text. This letter proves that the Andeans were not as ignorant as they were first thought to be. Poma included a scene from the bible, Adam and Eve. Through this scene alone, Poma shows the King that he has read the bible and is able to understand the difference between the social status of men and women.
Even between men and women there is a contact zone .(Pratt 530) A contact zone is used to refer to social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other. (Pratt 530) Women are held on a lower level than men. Men are usually seen as having power and being dominant. You can compare the relation between men and women with that of Spain and the Andeans respectively. The King of Spain felt that since the Andeans were not the same, they did not act the same or worship the same things, they were a people that needed some kind of leadership. Right here we can see the potential for the two to clash. If only the King would have taken the time to learn about the Andeans, he would know that they are far more intelligent than one would think at first glance.
The King did not even see the Andeans for himself. Instead he sent a few men to look at the place and find out about the Andeans for him. When this information is given to the King, it is what the men saw and not what the King himself has seen. The relaying of information forms a symbolic complex for the King. Though he may have been a good King or not, he still has a preconceived notion of what the Andeans are like. Do to the lack of power the Andeans hold, it is not worth the time for the King to find out what these people are really like. Since the King is the one with the power, he chooses not to know about them.
Power dictates how much we need to learn. If you are people with little or no power, such as the Andeans, you are forced to learn about other cultures. The Spanish on the other hand, have more power and therefore feel they do not need to know about the Andeans. By learning about the Spanish, they slowly gain more and more power. Even though they do not have as much power as the Spanish, they continue to learn more about them in order to communicate and live with the Spanish without the Spanish looking down on and using them. Through power we become overconfident sometimes. Sometimes, as with the English and Scottish, the people that are being repressed gain enough knowledge of their opponents that they are able to overcome the power that was above them. True power is knowledge, but when we have the power we seem to stop learning or caring as much.