Space

Iain Chambers - From: “The translated city”

To think of the modern city—Cairo, London, Istanbul, Lagos or Buenos Aires—is to experience a perpetual translating machine. Economical, cultural and historical forces are here locally configured and acquire form, substance and sense. These days much attention is given to how global flows become local realities in the multiple realisations of ‘globalisation’, but the archive that the city proposes actually represents an altogether deeper set of sedimentations. Cities as the sites of cultural encounters—from fifth century Athens with its Greeks, Persians and Egyptians, to present-day multi-cultured Los Angeles—are precisely where the outside world pushes into our interiors to propose immediate proximities. In this context, differences may also be accentuated: think of the ghettoes and ethnic areas and communities of many a modern Euro-American city.Cultural and historical overspills, most immediately registered in culinary, musical and cultural taste, do not automatically lead to physical convivalities and friendship. Nevertheless, even if we cling to familiar accents, the grammar of the city undergoes transformation. This occurs without our consent. We inevitably find ourselves speaking in the vicinity of other histories and cultures,in the vicinity of others who may refuse our terms of translation, who insist on opacity and refuse to be represented in our reason. As a translating and translated space, the language of the city is never merely a linguistic matter. For what is being ‘spoken’ in a mixture of asymmetrical powers is precisely the intricate accumulation of historical encounters established in the conjunctural syntax of a particular urban cultural formation. As the concentrated locality of such processes, and their augmented velocity, the city continually proposes the urgency of considering life, both ours, and that of others, in the transit proposed by translation.



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Reviews
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Paschalis Nikolaou

How does one reflect on translation? For Susan Bassnett, one of the world’s foremost thinkers in translation studies – it is a field she helped into being, no less – this is a question answered incrementally, and over time. Her Reflections on Translation collects critical pieces that appeared, for the most part, in the ITI Bulletin; their significance immediately connects to the author’s name, but the usefulness of – and often, sheer enjoyment in – reading them owes also to an adopted style and approach to communicating what’s really important. 

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