Beyond the Regime of Fidelity

by Boris Buden

Abstract: The case of NSA leaker Edward Snowden, accused of treason by the United States, reveals its true political meaning in the context of a problem with which the traditional theory of translation is so obsessively concerned the quasi dialectics between fidelity and betrayal. To put it more simply: to betray in translation always means to break a contract in which modern society and its political container, the nation–state, is ideologically grounded, namely the so-called social contract. It is because the commonsense concept of translation, whose meaning Naoki Sakai epitomized in the notion of homolingual address, not only conceptually parallels the social contract theory, but is, even in its most recent versions (Rawls, Habermas), directly involved in the construction of the bourgeois political sphere and the modern liberal democratic state. For the same reason, an abandoning of the regime of homolinguality—that is, traditional understanding of translation with its crude binarism and its obsession with the question of fidelity cannot be reduced to a simple shift in the paradigm within translation theory. It implies an agonistic and therefore genuinely political act of challenging the very mode of sociality that is reproduced by the modern liberal democratic state. In short, it implies the traumatic betrayal of the very regime of fidelity on which it is based.



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