Imperial and Anti-imperial Translation in Native American Literature

by Edwin Gentzler

In this paper I trace a brief history of translation of Native Americantexts, looking at both imperial and anti-imperial practices and strategies. Theopening section discusses a series of omissions and false substitutions by imperialistictranslators, whose goals may have been directed more at conversion anddomestication than translation proper. I then focus on ethnographic and ethnopoetictranslation strategies practiced by anthropologists and literary translatorsthat were less imperial and more open to inclusion and diversity. Finally, I turnto Arnold Krupat’s conception of “anti-imperial translation” that allows NativeAmerican terms, sounds, and structures to co-exist in the English language,thereby enlarging the both English and Native American cultures and pointingto a new way of thinking about translation in a (post)translation fashion.

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