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  The term was originally employed by Latin American sociologists, ethnographers and literary critics to refer to the creative appropriation by colonized or subaltern groups of cultural material and forms received from dominant or imperial cultures (cf. colonialism). The term was used in an attempt to supplant the overly reductive concept of acculturation (see assimilation). The term is also associated with Mary Louise Pratt\'s (1992) analysis of the contact zone of colonial encounter in which subordinated groups selected and transformed European knowledge and modes of representation (see also Morin, 1998). While imperial relations of power and knowledge are largely asymmetrical, disruption, destabilization and mutations of various modes of representation can sometimes be successful as forms of resistance.

The concept of transculturation depends upon a recognition of heterogeneous reception and the impossibility of authorial control over reception of cultural material. It is closely allied to those of hybridity and mimicry (Bhabha, 1994) in that it is formulated to escape from unitary identities and binary oppositions of colonized and colonizer. Examples of transculturation offered by Pratt (1992, ch. 8) include selective uses by Creole élites of von Humboldt\'s aestheticized descriptions of primal America (Views of Nature and Views of the Cordilleras and Monuments of the Indigenous Peoples of the America). Humboldtian tropes are reformulated as sites of resistance and improvised self-invention directed towards Latin American independence and nation building.

Transculturation as a form of undermining imperial hegemony is not nearly as pessimistic a concept as Spivak\'s notion of the epistemic violence of colonial discourse whereby a passive native is effectively silenced (Spivak, 1988). Transculturation instead posits a process whereby the colonial or post-colonial subaltern can interrogate and \'answer back\' if only within the circumscribed spaces of various dominant modes of representation. The emphasis on modes of representation such as transculturation are characteristic of the \'discursive turn\' in geography, anthropology and other social sciences. This emphasis can underplay the economic and political structures and geographies within which such discursive and cultural practices occur (Mitchell, 1997). However, calls for the grounding of discursive approaches in material or institutional \'realities\' can equally underplay the role discursive forms play in constituting transnational Identity (Fanon, 1967). (JSD)

References Bhabha, Homi K. 1994: The location of culture. London: Routledge. Fanon, F. 1967: Black skin, white masks. New York: Grove. Mitchell, K. 1997: Different diasporas and the hype of hybridity. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 15: 533-53. Morin, K.M. 1998: British women travellers and constructions of racial difference across the nineteenth century American west. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 23: 311-30. Pratt, M.L. 1992: Imperial eyes: travel writing and transculturation. London: Routledge. Spivak, G. 1988: Can the subaltern speak?. In C. Nelson and L. Grossberg, eds, Marxism and the interpretation of culture. London: Macmillan, 217-313.



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