Interview with Vicente Rafael

Siri Nergaard met Vicente Rafael in May 2013 at the NSTS - Nida School of Translation Studies - in Misano Adriatico, Italy, where he gave a lecture entitled "The War of Translation: Colonial Education, American English and Tagalog Slang, 1920s -1970s"

Rafael explains how he, as a historian, became interested in translation and how he discovered the deep connection between translation, colonisation and conversion in his study of colonisation of the Philippines. He sees language as a historical agent of colonisation and explains the role played by translation.

“Translation is always at war”, Rafael says, reminding us that translation has very much to do with a struggle to maintain control over linguistic plurality. But on the other hand, translation also means playing with the potential of undoing and reconfiguring as an emancipatory project.
The conversation ends with considerations on translation in connection to colonial language education and the persistence of accents; accents reveal the existence of another language, accents mark identity.

Vicente L. Rafael is Professor of History at the University of Washington in Seattle. Much of his work has focused on such topics as comparative colonialism and nationalism, translation, language and power, and the cultural histories of analog and digital media especially in the context of Southeast Asia, the Philippines, and the United States. His books include Contracting Colonialism: Translation and Christian Conversion in Tagalog Society Under Early Spanish Rule (1993); White Love and Other Events in Filipino Histories (2000), and The Promise of the Foreign: Nationalism and the Technics of Translation in the Spanish Philippines (2005).

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