Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Ethics of Translation

The Translation/Transnation series put out by Princeton University Press focuses on the interrelation of language, literature and nation in global--or "transnational"--age. All of these texts are worth a close reading. The most recent publication in this series, Nation, Language, and the Ethics of Translation, edited by Sandra Bermann and Michael Wood (both of whom are at Princeton), explores the status and role of translation in more global cultural markets, touching on the impact of new technologies on translation and the move of translation from its "home" in the humanities to more interdisciplinary, academic contexts. The following passage from the introduction provides an apt summary of this project:
[If] language and translation have become increasingly important in national and international relations, and in the processes of "globalization" more generally, their role as cultural as well as linguistic entities is only beginning to be theorized. The social sciences, that have so well described our political, economic, military, and information networks, have, for the most part, ignored these issues or considered them simply a necessary interface. This is most likely because, in their very texture, these linguistic matters belong so fully to what we traditionally think of as the humanities. Yet closely considered, language and translation in fact open up the unavoidable complexities, the historically ingrained problems and prejudices, and the intense day-to-day negotiations that occupy our interwoven global communities, setting into stark relief the difficult suturing of global networks and the over-stressed joints of the international body politic. They tend to raise questions about linguistic power and the dissemination of texts in various media; they bring to the fore issues of human rights as well as intellectual property; they also illuminate disparities among states, nations, and local traditions, and the often tragic problems of linguistic and cultural diasporas; they reveal complex multiplicities in the shadow of apparent unity.
I haven't made my way through all of these essays so I can't provide a balanced review of this collection, but I think that it raises important questions for the future of translation studies in academia. Translation in most academic programs is still relegated to a humanities pursuit, but I would be interested to know of programs that address translation issues within interdisciplinary frameworks and how this this kind of approach is accomplished.


Liz said...

Do you mean political science? Anthropology? Computer science? What kind of non-humanities interdisciplinariness? Now you have me wondering too.

Adriana said...

I think I mean everything. Once I've read most of this compilation I'll be able to be more specific--and more informed--about this.

Susan Bernofsky said...

I've just written a review of this book for MLN (comparative literature issue), which should be out early in 2006. Can't preempt the published review, but I'll say in general that the book is definitely worth getting your hands on, many excellent essays in it (though, like most anthologies, it also contains some that aren't so interesting).