I think of translation as a young plant that is still growing and taking shape, with short roots and some small flowers already blooming. Being young gives us a certain freedom: the journal’s future is not yet fixed, many decisions are yet to be taken and we are not limited by traditions, conventions, or expectations.
This issue therefore represents new elements not present in the earlier editions, differences I discuss at the end of this introduction. Despite the journal’s young age, we can already glimpse certain continuities that I hope to maintain, such as the inclusion of an interview. An interview represents a meeting between two or more individuals. It is by definition dialogical and therefore it embodies more than one thought, more than one perspective.
Together with the intimate quality that an interview provides, I find this dialogical emergence of ideas a positive step. We get closer to the interviewee, to the person and his or her more spontaneous thoughts. These qualities are all present in the interview that follows in this second issue: Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak meets translation’s Edwin Gentzler and Siri Nergaard in New York City during the Nida School of Translation Studies 2011 Research Symposium. (The video of the interview is posted on the NSTS website http://nsts.fusp.it/about-nsts/videos/research-symposium-2011/interviewwith-professor-gayatri-chakravorty-spivak).
In addition to the image of a growing plant, I would like to think of our journal as a community composed by a variety of participants, always growing and ever changing. The participants have different roles - authors, readers, editors, reviewers, commentators, interviewers, and creators—and the roles are interchangeable, fluid. Some participants are more active than others; some are more visible. In this idea of community, certain contributors will be present in the journal more than once, and as such I consider them as special colleagues of the journal, helping us in shaping, evolving, and improving its identity, or, better put, personality.
My wish is that our colleagues’ participations shall be numerous and varied: coming from different cultural, geographic, scholarly and linguistic backgrounds, and offering different perspectives. Thanks to her continuous presence, both as a contributor and as a member of the advisory board, I would like to consider Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak among the journal’s first special intimate colleagues.
In Issue 1 (summer 2012), we published her lecture presented at the 2011Research Symposium; here we publish the informal talk translation had with her during the lunch at the same symposium. Spivak’s presence was further continued by her serving as this year’s Nida School of Translation Studies professor, together with Sherry Simon, in Misano Adriatico in May. Simon, as a new contributor, together with Federico Montanari, has agreed to serve as one of translation’s future guest editors of a special issue on Spaces and Places.
Naoki Sakai is another of those whom translation considers a close colleague: in this issue we publish a revised version of the paper he presented at the Nida School in May 2012. During that same period, he gave me the opportunity to interview him, and the video of our conversation is posted on the journal’s online version (http://translation.fusp.it/interviews/interview-with-naoki-sakai). Sakai’s collaboration with the journal also has a bright future: our first special issue on Translation and Politics, to be published in 2014, will be guest edited by Naoki Sakai and his Italian colleague Sandro Mezzadra.
Staying among collaborators, Musa Dube is also one: we are honored to publish a revised version of one of the lectures she gave at the Nida School last year as one of that session’s Nida professors. New acquaintances spur new impulses and fresh input: Christine Gutman, Reza Pishghadam and Nasrin Ashrafi, and Liu Xiaoqing are four young scholars I am very pleased to include in this issue.
From the inception of the journal, the aspect that we have declared as distinctive is the transdisciplinary nature of the field; translation hopes to provide an open space where a variety of approaches, theories, ideas, and practices meet and transform each other. We are also convinced that the topic that brings us together – translation - gives us a privileged opportunity to meet and discuss in a transdiscursive way: we are able to speak to each other in a transdisciplinary manner, since we translate ourselves and each other through our differing languages, ideas, concepts, and world views. This “transidentity” also includes geography: in our journal we want the world to meet and transform itself, since we are convinced that real transdisciplinarity cannot be achieved by people coming from only one hemisphere.
This issue is a demonstration that we are succeeding in our transgeographic goal: the authors in this issue have their origins in Botswana, China, India, Iran, Japan, the United States, and Vietnam. Transdisciplinarity can also entail the emergence of differences and conflicts: when people do not share disciplinary and cultural backgrounds, conflict emerges more easily; the challenge to meet around common ideas and perspectives suddenly becomes more complicated. But let us welcome the differences - translation is always an encounter with difference, in difference - and let us try to discuss and exchange ideas between and among these differences, not above or despite them. For as the Russian semiotician of culture Jurij Lotman says, tension and explosion are at the heart of the mechanisms of translation that lead to cultural change.
During this journal’s short life we have already experienced how differences in perspectives and approaches might lead us to different, even conflicting, conclusions: in the introduction to the inaugural issue that I wrote with board member Stefano Arduini, we lamented an epistemological crisis in translation studies and announced the necessity of going beyond traditional schemes and borders. We did not realize how much those ideas were the fruit of narrow Western cultural and disciplinary notions—for instance, a strong emphasis on the written word and text-bound conceptions—before Babli Moitra Saraf commented on that pronouncement from another cultural and geographic position in translation issue 1 (summer 2012).
From her position, geographically and culturally located in India, Moitra Saraf reminded us that “there has been little reflection in translation studies on how pre-literacy, pre-printcultural crossovers may have taken place, especially within geographical areas of great linguistic diversity” (Moitra Saraf 2012, 108). While we stated that we need to go “beyond disciplinary borders, and specifically beyond the bounds of translation studies” (Arduini and Nergaard 2011,8), Moitra Saraf answered that it is difficult for us in South Asia to find ourselves in an intellectual cul-de-sac just yet with translation. In India, there are 22 officially recognized languages, Ethnologue: Languages of the World 2011 lists 438 living ones. The linguistic diversity and cultural geography make for a potent combination that impacts the process of creation and the preservation of knowledge and its narration (Moitra Saraf 2012, 108–9).
We agree on the necessity of rethinking our own positions and on the need for a shift in the approaches to translation, but this process may need to be much more radical than what we thought and expressed in that introduction, as we still represent that scholarship “conditioned by the cultures of teleology and linearity within Judeo-Christian worldviews” (Moitra Saraf 2012, 107).
The idea of translation as a linear operation, for instance, needs to be interrogated, as well as the very notion of “translation” that recognizes only interlingual practices as “translation proper.” Another notion Moitra Saraf found to be conditioned by Western Judeo-Christian perspectives is that of an “original” being “inextricably linked to the idea of ownership” (2012, 108).
This last fact “creates particular problems in cultures of memory where ownership is indeterminate and texts are produced in their articulation” (2012, 108).Keeping Moitra Saraf ’s challenging observations in mind, let me briefly present some of the more interesting themes the authors in this issue discuss, many of them outlining paths toward the fundamental shifts we anticipated.
The notion of heterolingual address developed by Naoki Sakai in his “Transnationality in Translation” seems certainly to be relevant to one of the matters that urgently needs to be challenged with regard to translation, namely, “the conventional comprehension of translation that depends on the trope of translation as bridging or transferring between two separate languages.” Sakai simply reverses this convention—rather convincingly - by stating that “translation comes prior to the determination of language unities”: “Before the postulation of a national or ethnic language, there is translation.”
Actually, “the idea of the unity of language as the schema for ethnic and national communality must also be a recent invention.” With this reversed perspective—seeing translation as prior to the determination of language unities - Sakai proposes translation as a form of political labor to create continuity at the elusive point of discontinuity in the social, rather than a “tool” to create equivalence and exchange. There are parallels to Sakai’s idea of the heterolingual as previous to translation in Loc Pham’s raising questions about whether the narratives of translation should be seen as bridging. In fact, both authors challenge the frequently used trope in discourse on translation of “the bridge” as limited and limiting. The bridge both unites and separates distinct parts, representing the only means to put the parts into contact. The bridge metaphor excludes the contact zone, the in-between space where languages move, change, and merge without clear borders. To free himself from the simplified image of translation as bridging, Pham draws upon a concept referred to by Spivak (1988) and suggests that translators remain open to that unlearning process that precedes learning. Through such a process, Pham views bridging as “not always the end of cultural encounters” but rather a site of “cultural and material exchanges that affect lives in significant ways,” where the translator emerges “as an active participant in cultural and material justice.”
But bridging fails if “the translator views herself merely as a bridging agent who has the ambition of understanding the other without the necessary unlearning of her knowledge,” since “hegemonic translation of the cultural into the material and the lack of rematerialization may constitute a form of injustice in the very process of justice.”
The relation Pham creates between translation and justice is interesting and new, and definitely closely related to a perspective held by Nancy Fraser, who sees representation as an important dimension of justice. Translation, argues Pham, “constitutes the very means whereby ethnic subjects of justice speak and are spoken to.”
In “Translation Industry in the Light of Complexity Science: A Case of Iranian Context,” Reza Pishghadam and Nasrin Ashrafi seek to apply the major principles of chaos/complexity theory to translation studies. Central concepts in complexity science, such as openness and dynamicity, feedback sensitivity, self-organization and emergence, adaptability, nonlinearity and unpredictability, and strange attractors are explained and connected to translation as an answer to what the authors see as a necessity. Pishghadam and Ashrafi write, “We need an analytical tool not only to describe the complex interrelations but also to propose a research framework that focuses on the dynamism of inter- and intrarelations”.
Emphasizing the idea that translation must concentrate on local realities, the authors look at Iran’s translational network through the lens of chaos/complexity science and show how all the phases of a translation process are affected by the country’s governmental authority expressed through censorship policies. Interestingly, the complex adaptive system of translation industry that Pishghadam and Ashrafilook at “encompasses various elements, such as publishers, translators, readers, critics, ethics, and values, as well as other related actants, such as economic, cultural, and political elements,” and is not limited to the traditional binary opposition translator-author or translation-original.
In Musa Dube’s “The Bible in the Bush: The First ‘Literate’ Batswana Bible Readers” we are introduced to a different aspect of censorship. This time we are not dealing with a receiving culture that is controlling what is introduced to it but, on the contrary, a source culture that is controlling the introduction of what is translated and imported into a receiving culture. Dube illustrates the dramatic complexities of translating the Bible into colonized cultures, consisting in assimilation and muting the receptive cultures. Through the example of the Tiv people, who take the story the anthropologist Bohannan told them of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and relate it back to Bohannan a new by “telling it in their own way” so that she could not recognize the original play any longer, Dube questions how translations of the Bible could have been retold by culturally empowered translators more involved with intra and intercultural activities.
Comparing the two models of translation, Dube sees an alternative solution in which a translation can be “a public hearing,” target cultures can be “as sacred as the stories we bring from other cultures,” and the target communities “not the subjugated Other.” In her article Dube shows the earliest Batswana Bible readers’ efforts to reclaim the Setswana culture by resisting colonizing translations and how this resistance concretely took place through a subversive form of “reading the Bible with and through Batswana oral cultures.” It is fascinating to see how exactly the discriminated-against oral tradition becomes a means of resistance.
Finally, Dube connects the Western tradition of Bible translation with globalization, concluding that it is timely to question how “biblical translations [are] embedded in the cultural and political systems and history that lead us to the current form of globalization,” how they are tainted by globalization’s power relations, and how “the current form of globalization inform[s] the functions of biblical translation in history and until now.”
The notions of resistance and subversion central in Dube’s article also emerge as central in the two case studies presented, respectively, by Christine Gutman and Liu Xiaoqing. Both present interesting challenges again to the very definition of translation - this time through the “textual migrations” of the works of two important exiled authors, Isaac Bashevis Singer and Bertolt Brecht. Christine Gutman explores “subversive use of translation as a means of navigating” one’s own hybrid identity in the work of Bashevis Singerand discusses “the complexities of translating out of a hybrid language.” Looking at Yiddish hybridity - lehavdl loshn, or “differentiating language”- Gutman illustrates how that language tradition might illuminate translation’s fundamental role in decentering, empowerment, and enlargement. Again, as a thread through all the articles collected here, translation goes beyond discrete and clearly separated languages, identifying instead with hybrid, decentering, and enlarging forces.
Another interesting question that arises regarding Singer’s translations is the absence of originals, introducing the “questions about the extent to which Singer’s practice of self-translation into English eventually became one of writing in English.” Here we see yet another example of the relevance of questioning the one-to-one relation usually posited between original and translation. The many purposes for translating extend far beyond that of rendering an original in another language and might, as here, represent a means for survival of languages, of literatures, and of identities.
I am sure the discussions around “the lack” of an original will return in this journal, as it comprises, as emphasized by Moitra Sarafabove, an inevitable break with traditional and Western definitions and delimitations of translation. With many parallels to Gutman’s exposition of Singer’s writing translating, Liu Xiaoqing states in her article on Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle that “in both the actual and metaphorical senses, Brecht acted as a translator in his writing of The Caucasian Chalk Circle. Writing was his way of translating.”
In such a form of translation, “the translator forms a dynamic relationship with the source and target systems in performing his creativity.” Brecht’s work is an interesting example of metonymic translation in that he “adopted elements from both the source (Chinese) and target (American) systems and made them into his own,” in a rewriting both of the plot as well as of the value system in regard with law and justice.
Finally, there are further parallels between the articles by Gutman and Liu regarding their discussions around the conditions of exiled authors; in their working on the edges of different and even conflicting languages, traditions, poetics, and politics, translation is inevitably connected to dialectics of assimilation and adaptation, of resistance and surrender, that cannot but result in new hybrid rewritten discourses and identities.
translation’s interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak concludes the issue. In a personal and informal conversation she explains what she intends with translation: she calls herself a “literalist” and explains that her formula is “very careful literalism.” She discusses the connections between creolization and translation as a question of class mobility and tells why “translation is the most intimate act of reading”.
Cognizant of ongoing changes and open to innovation, translation has big projects in the works: on the content level we are planning several special issues that will further explore some of the themes that we believe are strategic in the transformation of the thinking and research on translation. translation invests much in its thematic issues because they represent a unique opportunity to realize the transdisciplinarity upon which we so strongly insist. In fact, every one of these issues will hold contributions by scholars who locate their work outside the usual domain of translation studies.
The first of these special themes is Politics, mentioned above regarding Naoki Sakai’s work. I very much look forward to the collection of articles co-edited by guest editors Naoki Sakai and Sandro Mezzadra, in that it will present and discuss the many and different facets of the political implications of translation.
Another special issue for which I have high expectations is that on Memory, co-edited by guest editors Bella Brodzki (a member of the journal’s advisory board) and Cristina Demaria. All forms of translation are in themselves articulations of memories, but what are the multiple repercussions of this form of articulation?
With the special issue Spaces and Places guest edited by Sherry Simon and Federico Montanari we want to explore the different processes of translation that occur in the continuous negotiation of and in spaces and places. The initial idea is that all translation takes place in spaces and is both conditioned by space and able to promote or provoke changes in the perception and the use of spaces. A call for papers for this special issue can be found on the last pages of this issue; please visit our website to read a more extended explanations of the goals and guidelines for the issue.
If the special issues represent the innovations at the content level of translation’s textual future, the forthcoming transformation of our website represents innovations and options at the formal and visual level.
A revised website will shortly introduce new multimedia elements that will put into practice a transdisciplinary and transsemiotic presence. translation will thus transform itself by offering a space where visual and acoustic translations also can find their natural expression. More details on the revised website will be posted soon.
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading the articles that follow!
References: Arduini, Stefano, and Siri Nergaard. 2011. Translation: A New Paradigm. translation inaugural issue:8–17.
Saraf, Babli Moitra. 2012. Translation-Transdiscipline? translation 1:107–15.
Spivak, Gayatri. 1988. Can the Subaltern Speak? Pages 280–311 in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. Edited by Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
by Naoki Sakai
by Reza Pishghadam and Nasrin Ashrafi
by Christine Gutman
by Siri Nergaard