Translation and national sovereignty. The fragility and bias of theory

by Rada Ivekovic

Abstract: The author starts by describing her own relationship to language and translation, which is the result of her growing up between languages and among several. She proceeds to explain why she uses elements of “Indian” philosophies to highlight her point about language and translation, just as she uses elements of “continental” philosophy, with the advantage that exposing “our” problems to that “elsewhere” sheds unexpected light on them. She then explains difficulties in language, translation, and understanding as a result of the division between “theory” and “practice,” and gives examples (such as those from ancient Indian languages and writings) of cultures where that division was avoided. The divide takes sharper contours in the relation between the “west” and the “rest.” Assumptions of superiority are based on the tacit cognitive precondition of separating theory from practice by an insurmountable wall. Historically located polities have each a general corresponding cognitive order and translation regime. Which means that whole genealogies of knowledge have remained invisible to European languages, untranslated, apparently untranslatable to the hegemonic gaze. The conclusion points to the disaster of national subjectivation in Yugoslavia, in the post-Yugoslav states, and elsewhere.

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