From Austin Texas…

This paper examines places of cultural exchange in relation to architecture and language. It does so with reference to three particular moments that took place on a journey from the United States of America to Guatemala, and back again. Each encounter concerns a misunderstanding that occurred as a result of the author’s desire to communicate. These three moments hold in common the creation of unpredictable trajectories, involving displacement and slippage. In each encounter, the desire to understand through dialogue and conversation turned out, through a combination of assumption, translation and imagination, to produce unexpected results. Each trans-cultural exchange is located within a specific architectural space and speculative connections are made between the spatial configuration and social meaning of these physical sites and their linguistic, material and physic equivalents. The paper argues that misunderstandings might be the starting point for cultural encounters that ‘return’ the subject to him/herself through transformation rather than repetition.

This paper was published as ‘From Austin, Texas to Santiago Atitlan, and back again’, Felipe Herandez (ed.), Architecture and Transculturation, Special Issue of Journal of Romance Studies in Latin America, (2003).

Images: Jane Rendell
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