Edward Said’s “States” employs arts of the contact zone through a recollection of the writer’s life as a Palestinian exile. Mary Louise Pratt in “Arts of the Contact Zone” describes the idea of a contact zone as, “social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power” (Pratt, 487) meaning a clash between two different powers.
Pratt also talks about autoethnographic texts as, “a text in which people undertake to describe themselves in ways that engage with representations others have made of them” (487) which is a cultures response to the perception another culture has of them. These autoethnographic texts are often much harder to read than regular essays. Readers have to realize that in order to comprehend an autoethnographic text they have to read through it differently. The reason being because with autoethnographic texts, “often addressed to both metropolitan audiences and the speaker’s own community” (Pratt 488). Autoethnographic texts can be difficult to understand meaning you need to be prepared in order to read it.
Said writes this text as if it is a memoir, a historic document, and also as an argument. He does so by giving the reader examples of his past along with specific dates and details to some of the more significant events in Palestinian history. The reason he writes some of it as a memoir to show us that he has some truth to his words because he lived it. By including the more historical side to this essay he allows the reader to see the downfall of Palestine and what Palestinians have to go through now. All this being said proves why this text is a prime example of a clash of the contact zone and an autoethnographic text. Said’s text is an autoethnographic text because he uses the way the world sees Palestinians, mainstream America especially, and combines them. This allows his essay to be more widely understood due to the fact that both Palestinians and mainstream America may better interpret it. He really challenges the views from both communities and in a way it really pushes you as a reader to change your own views.
In the beginning of States by Edward Said, he talks about a photograph of a wedding between a Palestinian man and woman. The contents of the photo, including what lies in the background, shows some importance of the Palestinian culture. One of the things in the background of the photo is a Mercedes. Said goes on to describe this car as, “the paradox of mobility and insecurity. Wherever we Palestinians are; we are not in our Palestine, which no longer exists” (542) showing us how these people are without a place of origin. This culture no longer has a place to say the come from or their homeland. Keeping this in mind when we take a look at the wedding party within the photo, because now you can see why they look uncomfortable in the photo. No matter where Palestinians go or live, they are considered outsiders or refugees.