Rebecca Ruth Gould and Kayvan Tahmasebian, “Introduction: Translation and Activism in the Time of the Now”
Co-authored by the volume’s editors, the introduction develops a conceptual framework for thinking about the intersection of translation and activism at the global level. We present four paradigms for translational activism introduced in this volume’s chapters: the translator as witness-bearer, as voice-giver, as vernacular mediator, and as revolutionary. Having introduced how our contributors understand the intersection of translation and activism, we then elaborate on our own conception of transnational activism, which operates in what Walter Benjamin terms jetztzeit, the time of the now.
Marta Natalia Wróblewska, “Translating Paradigms, Putting Theory into Practice: Gramsci’s Theory of Translation and Political Activism”
Antonio Gramsci is known first and foremost as a political and social theorist, author of seminal insights on the role of hegemony in structuring class conflict. Recent decades have brought a new interest in the philological strand of Gramsci’s work and in his pioneering role in theorising translation. Themes and concepts from the ‘Prison Notebooks’ have been also picked up by scholars working in the field of (critical) discourse analysis, and incorporated into theories that look at the construction of social issues in media, literature, and culture more generally. This chapter brings these different threads, scattered across Gramsci’s oeuvre, together to offer a reflection on the interconnections of translation and activism. While Gramsci does not explicitly cast translation as a form of social or political activism, I argue that this link follows from his observations on the relation between theory into practice, which he casts as a form of ‘translation’, combined with his concept of ‘historical bloc’. I discuss three different meanings of the term ‘translation’ in Gramsci’s work and show how each can be related to social activism. Beyond presenting Gramsci’s reflections on the concept of translation, this chapter also demonstrates how a Gramscian theory of translation can be used in analysing texts as activist acts. Namely, I show how the editions and translations of Gramsci’s prison notebooks in Italian, English and Polish reflect current political struggles, disrupting or reinforcing existing hegemonic structures of power. Finally, I examine what Gramsci’s theory of translation teaches us about current ideological struggles in contemporary Poland.
Michela Baldo, “Activist Translation, Alliances and Performativity: Translating Judith’s Butler Notes toward a Performative Theory of Assembly into Italian”
This chapter theorises a concept of activist translation, understood as a political, and often oppositional act, capable of producing social transformation (Baker 2013; Tymoczko 2010; Wolf 2012). It takes inspiration from the reception of the translation into Italian by Federico Zappino of Judith Butler’s Notes toward a Performative Theory of Assembly (2015) translated as L’Alleanza dei corpi (2017) [The Alliance of Bodies], a book that places particular emphasis on public protests. Firstly, by drawing on the idea of the performativity of bodies gathered in public demonstrations, I look at this translation’s performative aspect, that is at how the presentations of the translation mobilized Italian queer transfeminist groups who were resisting precarity, similarly to the groups discussed by Butler. I also look at the impact the debates raised around the translation have had on them. Secondly, this chapter considers the extent to which we can theorise translation in activist scenarios as an “alliance”, borrowing the term, which features in the title of the translation of Butler’s book. Understanding translation as an alliance reveals similarities with translation studies scholars’ theorisations of activist translation as an act that creates networks of solidarity (Baker 2015b; Tymoczko 2007) or alliances (Castro and Ergun 2017b) across languages and cultures. Concepts like “alliance” and “solidarity,” as in the use made by Butler, were, at times, criticized by the translator of L’alleanza dei corpi (2017), and by the Italian queer transfeminist groups and individuals who attended the presentations of the translation. According to them, Butler’s book rightly recognizes the importance of creating political alliances among various groups based on shared conditions of precarity, but does not stress enough how to challenge the power differentials based on concepts such as heteronormativity, dominant masculinity, whiteness, class, and ableism. This chapter uses this criticism to explore its applications for current understandings of activist translation, warning against ideas of solidarity and horizontality (Baker 2015a) which might not take sufficiently into account the power differentials among oppressed groups and countries.
Morad Farhadpour, “Thought/Translation”
Translated, adapted and introduced by Kayvan Tahmasebian and Rebecca Ruth Gould
This contribution is a prismatic rendering from the Persian of a selection of Iranian theorist Morad Farhadour’s Fragments of Thought (2009), with a critical introduction added by the translators. In this work, Farhadour argues that translation has been the only true form of thought within Iranian modernity, beginning with the Constitutional Revolution in the early 20th century, and continuing well into the present. He conceptualises translation as a tension between self and other. Iranians’ relation to European modernity is facilitated by translation, but Iranians, Farhadpour argues, must also learn to translate their traditions for themselves. Farhadpour calls for a Persian translation of tradition that goes beyond the project of religious reformism (roshanfekri dini) of Abdulkarim Soroush and political strands of reformism. Translation in his understanding becomes radical when it unveils an inner gap within an ideology that conceals the gaps and fills the void. Farhadpour’s seminal work explains the politicization of theory through translation in Iran during the late 1990s, which was a period of fervent reformist movements. During this period, translators’ indirect involvement with theoretical discourse often generated the beginnings of radical politics.
Manuel Yang “Translating Marx in Japan: Yoshimoto Taka’aki and Japanese Marxism”
In 1966 Yoshimoto Ryumei/Taka’aki published his seminal book on Karl Marx. His unique elaboration of Marx’s ideas and life stressed young Marx’s theory of alienation as a radical philosophy of nature. It echoed Yoshimoto’s own reformulation of Marx’s concept of “alienation” and labor theory of value for the analysis of literary linguistic expression in What is Beauty in Language (1965), which extended his argument – ongoing since the mid-1950s – with Japanese Marxism over questions of literature, politics, and culture. Yoshimoto extracted the concept of “communal illusion” from The German Ideology, foregrounding his second major theoretical work of the decade, Communal Illusion, which he started to serialize also in 1966 and completed in 1968. This seminal text formed a theoretical closure to the existential, political, and intellectual struggles for autonomy he had waged since the end of the Pacific War and paralleled the non-sectarian radical current developing in the movement. Karl Marx thus offers a microcosmic entryway into Yoshimoto at the height of his influence on the Japanese New Left; it forged an existentially committed, conceptually bold rereading of Karl Marx, independent from existing Marxist traditions and firmly grounded in the actuality of popular experience that Yoshimoto distilled from the three major defeats of his life: Japanese defeat in World War II in 1945, defeat of labor union struggle on the shop floor in 1953-54, and defeat of the anti-Anpo (U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty) movement in 1960.
Kobus Marais, “Okyeame Poma: Exploring the Multimodality of Translation in Precolonial African Contexts”
African contexts have not only been underrepresented in translation studies (Chibamba 2018); they have also largely been limited to postcolonial theoretical constructs (e.g. Bandia 2007; Meintjies & Inggs 2010; Kruger 2012; Naude 2017). It is only recently that African contexts have been receiving more attention – and from different conceptual angles, such as development studies (Delgado Luchner 2015; Footitt 2017; Marais 2014; Tesseur 2017). However, studies about pre-colonical translation practices in Africa are even more limited. Against this background, and taking into account Tymoczko’s (2006) arguments about internationalization translation studies, the need for studying precolonial translation practices becomes apparent. In this chapter, I present a case of such precolonial practices and link it to multimodal semiotic theory to argue that translation as an interlingual practice is a European theoretical construct that is deconstructed by data from precolonial practices. It provides a glimpse into the complexity of precolonial meaning-making practices, which were decidedly multimodal. Apart from a semiotic theory of translation to allow for the multimodal nature of precolonial translation practice, I present data from West Africa regarding the notion of ‘the linguist’ and ‘the linguist’s staff’ (okyeame poma), to present an argument regarding precolonial translation practice.
Sarah Irving, “Translator, Native Informant, Fixer: Activism and Translation in Mandate Palestine”
In colonial environments, figures such as the interpreter, dragoman, fixer and ‘native informant’ are rarely viewed as radical. On the contrary, they are more likely to be viewed with suspicion, as ‘collaborators’ or at least unwitting facilitators of the colonial project, passing on knowledge that can be appropriated for nefarious purposes. By exploring these issues through examples from the period of British rule in Palestine (1920-1948), under a League of Nations Mandate, and considering the shifting and contingent place of power in their workings, I consider how such roles might be understood as activist. Going beyond the sometimes uncritical perceptions of cross-cultural contact as inherently generating closeness and understanding, rather than as resistant or assertive, I instead suggest that in the activities of individuals such as Elias Nasrallah Haddad (1878-1959), Judy (Judeh) Farah Docmac (1904-after 1987) and Khalil Baydas (1874–1949), who negotiated many paths through colonial institutions and systems of knowledge, we instead find other ways of understanding the mediating work done by the interpreter. These range from the defence of diverse and non-elite forms of Arabic and the demand for precision in how these (and the peasant cultures along with them) were recorded, transmitted, and taught, to an insistence on visions of society which, whilst on one hand defying the colonial and Zionist projects, also diverged from mainstream Palestinian Arab nationalism of the Husayni faction. This chapter foregrounds the ability of the translator, amid even the most complex of colonial systems, to question, disrupt and fragment conventionally political understandings of power in society.
Malaka Shwaikh, “Translation in the War-Zone: The Gaza Strip as Case Study”
This chapter takes an indigenous approach to the use of language and translation in war-zone areas. I write as an indigenous woman, a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip. This is not only who I am but it is an identity I feel increasingly obliged to assert in these times, when the advance of research methodologies, translation work, and epistemologies on Palestine are rooted in the imperialism seemingly inherent in Orientalist academia, journalism, and activism. To examine how language and translation are used to oppress instead of represent in the Palestinian case, this chapter examines the knowledge-production discourse in the case of the Gaza Strip, since the other parts of Palestine are more widely accessed by scholars. It develops an alternative approach of knowledge production by indigenous people to better understand how to speak a different language in the war-zone. I also show how indigenous points of view continue to be marginalized by mainstream Orientalist discourse. The chapter also examines how the ongoing Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip contributes to the process of Orientalist knowledge production by allowing only a certain type of people to enter and leave the Strip, and by denying such mobility to others.
Eylaf Bader Eddin, “Translating Mourning Walls: Aleppo’s Last Words”
Translation in times of conflict is an especially difficult task. Translators often play the role of activists, exposing their viewpoints in their work, despite their best attempts at neutrality. In December 2016, for example, many online English newspapers and magazines reported on the displacement of civilians from Aleppo. After a bloody fight, which had raged since 2012, the armed Syrian opposition and regime forces signed a truce providing for a ceasefire. Upon hearing of this truce, civilians went into the streets, and sprayed the city’s walls with messages to the effect that they had been condemned to leave the city by force. Banned by Assad from covering the war, media outlets depended on social media and activist translators for information and data from Syria. In the absence of more, and better, translations concerning these events, photos and images took the place of words, creating a ‘non-translation, mistranslation and/or disputed translation,’ (Apter 2006: 14). In such cases, the preference for image over translation gives rise to less text, and more semantic ambiguity. Here, translation serves as a quotation – at best – or, less ideally, as a commentary lacking cultural weight and context. In this chapter, I argue that the use of images as translations omits rich layers of meaning, and confounds attempts ‘to bring back a cultural other as the same’ (Venuti 1995: 18). Such substitution invariably overlooks the essential meaning and intention of the writing, captions and images themselves, while preventing the original utterance from being recognised as a conscious act (Appiah 1993: 809). By combining Appiah’s ‘thick translation’ with Roland Barthes’ method of reading images, I aim to recover the complexity of the sprayed writing, in contradistinction to ‘graffiti’ as a term, while unpacking the cultural content that has been lost in the English translations of both journalists and activists, alike.
Hafida Mourad, “Marronage, Translation and Resistance: Paul Bowles as a Marron Translator”
This chapter situates the translations of the American novelist, music composer and translator Paul Bowles (1910-1999) within the framework of translation as activism in the light of Tymoczko’s (2010) definition of translation as both a form of resistance and engagement. I reveal the translator’s agency embodied in his choices and strategies, mainly his selective approach to Moroccan culture in his representation of the culture as well as in his selection of the oral stories of Tangier, a Moroccan port on the Strait of Gibraltar, for translation. I discuss how Bowles’s translations of the oral stories of Tangier communicate the translator’s resistance to mainstream representations of culture and literature both at home (US) and in exile (Morocco). In addition, the chapter discusses how these translations constitute a main tool used by the translator not only to communicate his dissatisfaction with the standards of modern life during a critical time in the history of both source (post-independence Morocco) and target (US post WWII) cultures. Concurrently, they enhance alternative modes of existence outside the post-war US celebrated in the oral stories that Paul Bowles encouraged and translated.
Mehrdad Rahimi-Moghaddam & Amanda Laugesen, “Translators as Organic Intellectuals: Translational Activism in Pre-Revolutionary Iran”
After the abdication of the Reza Shah in 1939 and the ensuing vacuum of power in Iran, the situation was ripe for the political activity of previously suppressed groups. Following this tense political moment in Iranian history, a surge of translations of leftist works began to appear. The rise of politically-oriented translations aligned with the political climate of the time, as the struggled to attain hegemony. This chapter examines the contribution of activist translators in Iran, drawing on the concept of organic intellectuals as developed by Gramsci. It is argued that the concept of organic intellectuals could be applied to this group of translators because of their political alignment with subordinate social classes, their politically informed translation work, and their counter-hegemonic discourse. In order to illustrate this argument, we examine the life and work of Iranian translator Mahmoud Etemadzadeh, also known as Behazin (1915-2006). The chapter also investigates attempts by the Shah’s regime, along with the US government, to neutralize leftist discourse through a translation project called Franklin Book Programs after the removal of Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953 by a coup d’état. Up to the beginning of the Franklin Book Programs, leftist translations had a strong presence in the Iranian book market. However, after the implementation of US translation programs in Iran largely driven by an anti-communist agenda, the proportion of books favoring American culture and its ideological values dramatically increased. Our research highlights the role of activist translations as an agent of political change, showing how they play a vital role both in challenging and strengthening the hegemony of a ruling regime.
Tania P. Hernández Hernández, “Translating for Le Monde diplomatique en español: Disciplinary Norms and Activist Agendas”
Le Monde diplomatique is a French monthly specialising in international politics. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, LMd’s editorial line began to acquire its distinctive militant and critical tone, particularly towards the role of mainstream media; and as part of this positioning strategy, its editors began to seek the participation of foreign contributors and to encourage the launch of foreign editions in European and Latin American countries. In 1990, with the appointment of Ignacio Ramonet as director, who openly embraced the Palestinian cause, the Zapatista movement, and Hugo Chávez’s regime in Venezuela, the editorial line of LMd entered its most radical and militant period since it was launched. More recently, Ramonet, along with other editors, translators and contributors of the Latin American editions of LMd was actively involved in the organisation and development of the World Social Fora, particularly in those that took place in Porto Alegre (2001, 2002 and 2003). Additionally, the editions of LMd have produced, translated and circulated articles covering the main issues and concerns addressed in this fora. This chapter focuses on the translators of the four editions of Le Monde diplomatique that have either been published or distributed in Mexico between 1979 and 2010. It analyses both the intersection between the trajectories, practices and cultural resources of the translators and their motivations to participate in the translation and production of the contents; as well as the impact of their involvement in some political events like the World Social Forum and the Zapatista movement. The data for this analysis was gathered through semi-structured interviews conducted with editors, chief editors, managing directors, and translators; as well as through documentary research conducted in libraries and the personal archive of the editors of the editions discussed in this chapter.
Ayşe Düzkan, “Written on the Heart, in Broken English”
This chapter is an autobiographical reflection on my life as an activist translator and writer. In 1971, when I was 12, I attended a British high school that was established in İstanbul in 1855. I became involved in left-wing activism at the age of 15. In 1980, a military coup brought about a suspension of democracy. At the age of 21, I was imprisoned for my activism. When I was released discovered feminism. Most of the books we could access were in English. At that time, only the privileged among us could speak or read any European language. Few of the women who founded the second wave of feminism in Turkey enjoyed this privilege. During the early 1990s I started to attend feminist conferences in Eastern Europe. In one of the pamphlets I came across a notice stating: “Official language: Broken English.” In perhaps unintended ways, these words seemed symptomatic of my condition. In the mid-1990s, I began to question the imperialistic modes of dominance in the realm of language, including the idea of English as the “norm” and “official language.” At the same time, I translated many books from English into Turkish; works like Valerie Solanas’ SCUM Manifesto (1967) Sarah Irving’s Leila Khaled: Icon of Palestinian Liberation (2012). The tension between my political convictions and my translational activism is the subject of this essay.
Yousif M. Qasmiyeh, “Host Writing: Translating the Origin(s) and the Fragmentary in Poetry”
Is translation in its transformative sense an act of rewriting or simply an alternative to a fragmentediness that is inherent in the origin and maintained in the form of “rewriting” in the hosting language. As I write, not knowing which language precedes which and which language follows which, but equally whether these two languages, in this context Arabic and English, or English and Arabic, will ever coexist benignly in the same corpus? Through fragments that exist both in Arabic and in English, and ones that are incomplete in either Arabic or English, in this chapter I, a Palestinian poet and scholar now based in the UK and writing in English, shed light on the impossibility of locating the origin in these encounters.
Brahim El Guabli, “Joint Authorship and Preface Writing Practices as Translation in post- ‘Years of Lead’ Morocco”
The Moroccan Years of Lead (1956-1999), a period of generalized political violence, have generated an impressive testimonial prison literature that recounts myriad experiences of forced disappearance at the hands of the state. Due to the unprecedented interest in this past in Moroccan social memory and the ensuing professionalization of testimonial writing, the period between 1998 and 2009 witnessed the emergence of joint writing and prefatory practices that shaped the testimonial prison literature subfield of Moroccan literature. Applying translation and testimony theory to the examination of this important body of work, I argue that these joint writing and prefatory practices are activist translations, which involve the translation of embodied experience into narrative or the rewriting of already-narrativized experiences into a more literary language. Moreover, in summarizing what is thought to be important about a testimonial text, prefaces translate concepts into a language or register that supposedly makes it more accessible to potential readers. Activist translators, who accept to write prefaces for former state victims’ testimonial works, engage in multiple levels of interpretation that include, but are not limited to, critique, historicisation, confirmation, and analysis of the experiences related. Beyond their involvement in the testimonial aspect of the literary works that they co-author or accept to preface, activist translators are conscious of their political and historiographical implications for democratic change. With only a few exceptions, activist translators are usually individuals with the social, moral and literary capital that endows them with the authority to advance the cause of human rights and democratization. In addition to theorizing joint authorship and preface writing practices as translation, this comparative study shows that the co-authors’ subjectivities play out in the final memoirs, raising crucial questions about testimony, truth, and collective memory as they relate to the very practice of translation of testimony.
Amanda Hopkinson & Hazel Marsh, “Activist Narratives: Latin American Testimonies in Translation”
This chapter focuses on Latin American activists and their mediation of symbols and experiences with a view to effecting political and social transformation. First, the chapter examines testimonial writing, a genre as definitive of the region as ‘magical realism’. Two texts are considered: Nunca Más (Never Again), Argentine novelist Ernesto Sábato’s introduction and presentation of the testimony of survivors from the 30,000 ‘disappeared’ under the military dictatorships (1976-83), and Yo, Rigoberta, (I, Rigoberta Menchú) the life story of a Guatemalan Quiché, describing the making of an indigenous activist under the violent military regimes of the 1960s-80s. The telling falls within the contentious – and contested – area of oral history, re-related as testimony by a foreign anthropologist (Elizabeth Burgos-Debray), reaching mass audiences when Menchú won the Nobel Prize for Peace through her activism in 1992. Second, the chapter looks at songs and how they translate both cognitive and non-cognitive modes of understanding the world into cultural resources that allow for a collective (re)interpretation of events. These processes are examined via two cases studies: the songs of Mexican singer/songwriter Judith Reyes (1924-88), which chronicled and circulated eye-witness accounts of the Tlatelolco massacre of 1968, and the songs of Venezuelan singer/songwriter Alí Primera (1942-85), which denounced the economic, cultural, political, racial and environmental impact of the oil industry on his country and which were reinterpreted in the Chávez period as precursors of Bolivarian political thought. We conclude by arguing that a focus on the translation of lived experiences across different modalities of expression – from experiences to words, and from symbols to songs – illuminates the unanticipated ways in which testimony and social activism intertwine.
Noelle Higgins, “The Right not to Have an Interpreter in Criminal Trials: The Irish Language as a Case Study”
Under Article 8 of the Irish Constitution (1937), Irish (Gaeilge) is the first official language of Ireland, and English is recognised as a second official language. This may lead one to conclude that the Irish language is the language of the majority. However, there are fewer than 50,000 native speakers of Irish out of a national population of 4.79 million, although many more have proficiency in the language as a result of compulsory Irish classes in the education system, or due to nationalist ideals. English, however, is the lingua franca of the vast majority of the population; the organs of the state operate, for the most part, through English, including the legal institutions. The Official Languages Act 2003 sets out a number of rights for speakers of both the official languages, including within the legal system, and the right to an interpreter in court cases has been recognised under Irish law. However, the standard of interpretation to and from Irish (and indeed, other languages) has been problematic, especially because there is no oversight of the quality of interpretation within the legal system. This situation invites a question: should there be a right to a bilingual judge and jury, without the need for an interpreter, in order to ensure a fair trial? The issue of a bilingual judge and jury has been raised in recent case in Irish courts, including in the case of Ó Maicín v Éire & Ors ( IESC 12). This chapter uses the case of Ó Maicín as a basis for inquiring into whether the right not to have an interpreter exists, or should exist, within a legal framework premised on the right to a fair trial.
Sahar Fathi, “The Right to Understand and to be Understood: Urban Activism and US Migrants’ Access to Interpreters”
In the United States, 85% of immigrants who appear in immigration court are limited English proficient and 63% do not have an attorney. Of those in detention, 86% do not have an attorney. Represented immigrants are four times more likely to be released from detention. Often the Courts provide inadequate interpreters –who lack basic skills or who speak a different dialect different from that of the asylum seeker. US attorneys have argued that the lack of standards for interpreters may violate the constitutional due process rights of non-English speakers.
This chapter traces language access policies in both local government and at the detention centres alongside the community-led solutions that inform them. It discusses the history of the US government, its interactions with Limited English Populations in detention centres, as well as the urban activism that has been taking place at the local level of government on the issue of interpretation and translation rights. In light of the Trump Administration’s stance on deportation and treatment of undocumented residents, some localities have responded swiftly with funding for non-profits to defend these residents in court. The chapter introduces a case study for the City of New York, and its work around “legal defence funds” in relation to several other local jurisdictions and similar programming.
Miriam Bak McKenna, “Feminism in Translation: The Discourse of Human Rights and International Law”
The production of unequal relations of gender power, and the marginalization of women’s rights and interests by the standards and conceptions of the human rights regime have long been a cause for concern for feminist human rights advocates. At the same time, the discourse of rights offers important opportunities for contestation and change. This chapter focuses on attempts by human rights activists, victims, policy makers and lawyers to translate human rights ‘on the ground’ in order to counter the (re)production of gender inequality and open up its emancipatory potential. Specifically, it examines the work of the activists of the Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) and Sisterhood is Global Institute (SIGI) groups. An analysis of these groups reveals the ways in which activists seek to translate women’s rights into Muslim contexts without either reinforcing gender and cultural stereotypes or falling back into well-worn and unhelpful binaries of us and them, here and there, universality and cultural relativism.
Mukoma Wa Ngugi, “Against a Single African Literary Translation Theory”
In this chapter, Ngugi calls for translation into and among African languages in order to facilitate a vision of a multilingual conversation across the region’s many cultures without collapsing into dependency on a single unifying language. Drawing on the example of the translation of a poem by African-American poet Langston Hughes into African languages, Ngugi proposes a mode of alternative indigenous knowledge production across a multiplicity of African languages, defying calls for a single African theory of translation, and instead revealing the rich theoretical resources of African literary cultures.
Moses Kilolo, “The Single Most Translated Short Story in the History of African Writing”
Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s fable, “The Upright Revolution, or Why Humans Walk Upright,” originally written for his daughter, made literary history when it became the single most translated short story in the history of African writing. Was this by luck or design? The translation project behind these translations holds the answer to this important question. My chapter reflects on that process, tracing the genesis of the story, to the earlier conceptual work that led to the publication of the translation issue by Jalada Africa and its post-publication popular and critical acclaim. The Jalada translation project focuses on African languages, but it is also open to translators from other parts of the world. More than 31 nations have been represented in the 71 translations so far published in platforms both online and in print. The synergy, coordination as well as planning necessary to bring all these people together to work on a single project that revitalises our mother tongues speaks well to the dreams of visionaries like Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. From practical effects on the translation work of those involved, the cooperative efforts in the translation process and resultant global conversations, the Jalada translation project has challenged many orthodoxies and initiated conversations among languages. As the conceiver and editorial co-ordinator for the project, I reflect on these issues in this chapter, examine the obstacles we had to overcome, and envision the future that is being paved by this work for the translation into and among African languages.
Khushmi Mehta, “The Dialectics of Dissent in Postcolonial India: Vrishchik (1969-73)”
Saddled with the cultural production of a newly postcolonial nation, Indian artists sought during the 1960s to redirect the linear narrative of movements of art and literature by depicting the multiplicity of Indian visual culture. Vrishchik, an artists’ periodical published in Baroda from 1969 to 1973, provided a platform for the same. Co-edited by Gulammohammed Sheikh and Bhupen Khakhar, with contributions from artists and writers such as Jeram Patel, Jyoti Bhatt, Vivan Sundaram and Geeta Kapur, Vrishchik served as a channel of communication between artists from disparate backgrounds across a multilingual country. Vrishchik featured writings in English, Hindi and Gujarati alongside texts ranging from folk songs to European short stories. Translation appeared as an overarching narrative and the very act of making visible the art from communities on the margins could be considered an act of dissent. This chapter develops a case study of regional Indian literatures published in Vrishchik to discuss the implications of English translations when disseminated in the context of a postcolonial society. I view cultural and linguistic multiplicities as a form of resistance to a totalising national culture developing in the face of the void created by decolonization. Calling for a democratization of the Lalit Kala Akademi (National Academy of Art) through its participation in the Artist’s Protest of 1971, Vrishchik further enabled artists to express their socio-political concerns in literary form. Although tethered to the development of a national culture, the discourse surrounding institutional critique in Vrishchik created a space for narratives that reached beyond the conventional nation-state model. This chapter examines the formation of dissent across linguistic, disciplinary and regional boundaries, discussing how acts of social reform can be translated to aesthetic and cultural production.
Bidisha Pal & Partha Bhattacharjee, “Bengali Dalit Discourse as Translational Activism: Studying a Dalit Autobiography”
Increasingly, translation has taken an ‘activist turn’ during the twenty-first century (Wolf 2005; Baker 2006). Dalit literature in India, articulated in non-canonical literary genres, has been impacted by this activist orientation. The sub-subaltern category of Bengali ‘Dalit’ literature focuses on the emancipation of the Bengali Dalit narrators. Often digressing from the conventional norms of autobiography, Itibritte Chandal Jiban (2012) by Manoranjan Byapari (trans. Interrogating My Chandal Life: The Autobiography of a Dalit (2018) by Sipra Mukherjee) is more a socio-political testimony than a mere record of ‘lived experience.’ While immersed in socio-political and cultural upheavals and revolutionary political ideologies, this text is engrossed by the micro-social layers of the history of Bengal and Bengali Dalits. Translation aids in resuscitating and resisting the marginality and marginal voices against the hegemonic mainstream narratives. This translation also takes the form of “translaboration” (Hrystiv 2017: p. 31) where the translator becomes a collaborator with the writer in the movement; together they act towards gaining social transformation and power switching. Translation, thereby becomes not only a literary and linguistic journey from source to target text, but becomes also a socio-political journey – ‘a catalyst for social change’ (Zhou 1996; Fang 2005).By comparing and analyzing both the original and the translated autobiographies this chapter examines how the writer and the translator transmit the Dalit discourse of Bengal and how translation becomes a significant socio-politico-ideological movement engaged in by marginalized people.
Aria Fani, “What Is Asylum? Translation, Trauma, and Institutional Visibility”
This chapter examines the reliance of the category of “asylum” on a transnational social-scientific vocabulary since its codification into international law in 1951. It makes a case for the use of a vernacular, non-imported lexicon in order to directly speak to the cultural-linguistic register of claimants who are unfamiliar with asylum’s legal jargon. This chapter draws on my experience as a Spanish-language interpreter and translator for the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant (EBSC), a non-profit organization that advocates for the rights of asylum-seekers and refugees in the San Francisco Bay Area. I situate the EBSC’s establishment within the broader context of the Sanctuary Movement in the early 1980s which mobilized human rights advocates in California and Arizona in response to US-supported atrocities in El Salvador and Guatemala and in defiance of US asylum practices. I analyze the cases of two Central American asylum-seekers with whom I worked at EBSC to demonstrate the extent to which a transnationally imported legal lexicon fails entirely to connect with their lived trauma. To make a credible and compelling asylum claim is to be made visible within a legal category. In that vein, I argue that the field of translation and interpretation can help bring asylum as a legal category into closer alignment with the cultural-linguistic register of asylum-seekers who come from such places as El Salvador and Guatemala.
Elena Fiddian-Qasmieh & Yousif M. Qasmiyeh, “Citation and Recitation: Linguistic Legacies and the Politics of Translation in the Sahrawi Refugee Context”
This chapter examines the roles of translation and transliterations in accounts of the protracted Sahrawi refugee camps in South West Algeria. Despite the limited nature of research conducted directly in Arabic, Arabic terms and their translations are nonetheless habitually used by non-Arabic speakers in accounts of the camps, even when little attention has been given to the precise meaning and linguistic functions of these words. Rather, external observers have typically relied on previous authors’ transliterations and translations of Arabic terms; these, in turn, have usually been provided by Sahrawi interpreters who are closely associated with the Sahrawi’s official political representatives, the Polisario Front. In part, this reflects the “citationary” nature of much research, not only of the Sahrawi context, but across many fields of study, and evidently fails to address the politics of translation and naming in such contested spaces. This chapter aims to demonstrate that, beyond the citationary nature of such research, many analysts have systematically and uncritically “re-cited” terminology and discursive representations presented by the Sahrawi refugees’ political leadership, resulting in what we refer to as the strategic activation of “travelling lexicons” which are cited and recited by Sahrawis and non-Sahrawis across time and space.
Veruska Cantelli & Bhakti Shringarpure, “Resistant Recipes: Food, Gender and Translation in Migrant and Refugee Narratives”
Migrant and refugee lives have been rendered precarious due to poor conditions in camps and detention centers, resettlement issues, and food allotment concerns. In fact, the media has fabricated dehumanized textual identities of migrants and refugees as culturally associated with starvation and scarcity. Four recent works (Dining in Refugee Camps: The Art of Sahrawi Cooking by Robin Kahn; The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey by Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt; Cum-panis: Storie di fuga, identità e memorie, in quattro ricette and Cooking a Home: A collection of the recipes and stories of Syrian refugees by Pilar Puig Cortada) counter these pernicious images and narratives, and illustrate that recipes can become texts of resistance. Indeed, translating such works firms up the interwoven nature of gender, culture, memory and activism. The recipes are accompanied by stories that bear witness to violent ruptures, honor communities established in such aftermaths, and give voice to women who are responsible for the labor of rebuilding. Historically, there exists a double gendering: food and recipes are stereotyped as the domain of women and have been consistently pushed out of the domain of feminist work. Furthermore, translation itself is represented as a gendered gesture – a reproduction or an adaptation, never original, never a source. We elaborate a feminist food translation studies framework to counter this double gendering of food studies as well as translation studies. Through this framework, we argue that the creative, caring and dynamic ways in which these recipes were gathered and translated prove that the translation of these recipes can facilitate the activist work of disseminating collective memory, offer a space to mourn displacement, and foster physical and virtual communities.
Kuan-yen Liu, “Late-Qing Translation (1840-1911) and Chinese Evolutionism: Enlightenment Project, Political Agenda and Patriotic Mobilization”
This chapter analyses the interconnectedness between the task of translation and the agendas of reform and revolution in Late-Qing (1840-1911) Chinese political and intellectual culture. The first section gives an overview of how ‘translation’ was connected with enlightenment projects and political agendas in each stage (1840-1860, 1860-1894 and 1894-1911) of Late-Qing China. The second section examines the translation in post-1894 China with an emphasis on the role of translation in the shaping of intellectual culture, the appropriation of translation for political actions, and the identity and self-assumed duty of the translator. The third section uses the ‘transformative translation’ of evolutionism in post-1894 China as a case study to reveal how political mobilization in nationalist, reformist and revolutionist agendas served as a filter through which Western ideas were selected and re-created. The fourth section aims to re-evaluate the strong implication of political activism in post-1894 translation and Chinese evolutionism in terms of Talal Asad’s theory of ‘cultural translation,’ Lydia H. Liu’s theory concerning the ‘agency’ of the host language, and Godfrey Lienhardt’s theory pertaining to the ‘further potentiality’ of the translator’s language and thought. By linking translation history, textual studies, intellectual history and political history, this chapter aims to contextualize and theorize the agency of the Chinese language to transform Western thought in the meaning-making process of ‘translation’ with a particular focus on the discursive formation of Chinese nationalist evolutionism.
Min Gao, “‘The Pen is Mightier than the Sword’: Exploring the ‘Warrior’ Lu Xun”
Lu Xun (1881-1936) is the pen name of Zhou Shuren, a leading figure in twentieth century Chinese literature. He is a writer as well as a translator. Lu Xun believed that the translation of foreign literature into Chinese helped promote social change and revolution in China. This chapter explores how Lu Xun, as a translator, uses his pen as a sword all the way through the late Qing Dynasty (1840-1912), the New Culture Movement (1915-1923), the transition period to the New Democratic Revolution (1919-1949) until the end of his life. In the 33 years from his first translated work, published in 1903 to his last work, published in 1936, Lu Xun translated 244 works from 110 writers from Japan, England, the Czech Republic, France, German, Spain, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Poland, the United States, Finland, the Soviet Union and Russia. Some of the translations were translations of a translation, done through intermediary languages. Lu Xun never engaged in translation for aesthetic reasons alone. He intended to awaken the Chinese people and to motivate the whole nation to seek social changes through cultural revolution. This chapter applies the narrative theory of Mona Baker to expound on Lu Xun’s translation activities and his concept of ‘hard translation (yingyi).’ Lu Xun’s legacy as an activist translator will be examined in order to understand his contribution to revolutionary politics.
Omid Mehrgan, “The Political Modes of Translation in Iran: National Words, Right Sentences, Class Paragraphs”
This chapter sets itself a double task. First, it lays out the manner in which translation became a problematic in Iran after 1979 Revolution. Second, it shows how this problematic with its forced double relation to European modernity and the Iranian context produced political-social questions revolving around the very practice of translating and its modes of operation beyond the politics of the translators themselves. Three distinct strategies will be discussed: translation as communication, as intervention, and as disruption and alienation. To do so, I look immanently at strategic and tactical decisions that at least two generations of Iranian translators in literature and theory adopted in their works. I next focus on some of the problems and positions during the first decade of the twentieth-first century. I argue that, because of the peculiar historical experience of Iran as a country neither fully colonized by the European powers nor entirely free of their influence, postcolonial approaches fail to capture the sensitive politics of translation in Iran.
Pin-ling Chang, “Civil Resistance through Online Activist Translation in Taiwan’s Sunflower Student Movement”
While researchers traverse geographies and temporalities to examine the ideological battles in translation, individuals are being empowered by the Internet technologies to work as activist translators against all forms of oppression. The activist translation activity during Taiwan’s Sunflower Student Movement in 2014 is one prominent example. During this movement, protesters communicated to the world through their translation and/or interpreting renditions of various source materials about the movement, such as video clips, news reports and photos, while a large activist translation group that emerged and receded along with the movement. Their common goal was to show the world their resistance against their own government and against China regarded Taiwan as part of its territory. During the movement, CNN iReport was the only foreign outlet where the voluntary renditions about the Sunflower Movement were massively gathered through reposting of full texts or links, thus becoming a suitable site for observing the dynamics of activist translation. By examining all the 552 posts on the CNN iReport platform between 18 March and 10 April 2014 and by comparing this activist translation activity with other international politicised translation communities and activist translation in other place-based protest movements, this chapter presents some distinct features of the activist renditions in question facilitated by the Internet technologies. I use this material alongside Bourdieu’s sociological perspectives to explain what caused the surge of the activist translation during the movement and why the activist translators achieved success.
Paul Bandia (abstract to come)