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From Austin, Texas to Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala and Back Again

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Chapter Summary

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 unforeseen trajectories, involving displacement, slippage and unpredictable actions. 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 transcultural 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.



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