Translation: ethics, ideology, action

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №1 - 2010

Dabaghi Azizollah, University of Isfahan, Iran
Meiramova Saltanat, Eurasian National University in honor of L. Gumilyov, Kazakhstan

The writings in this paper on "Translation as Resistance" examine key translations and translation movements from various parts of the world that were instrumental in changing their societies. They participated in ideological dialogue and even struggle in their respective contexts. In "The Resistant Political Translations of Monteiro Lobato", J. Milton shows how the translations of J.B. Monteiro Lobato promoted the modernization of Brazil and resisted the policies of the Getulio Vargas dictatorship in the 1930s and 1940s. Beginning with the same period and continuing into the second half of the twentieth century, translation of Western literary classics into Russian was used as a counter discourse to some of the most culturally repressive policies of the former Soviet Union, as B.J. Baer demonstrates in "Literary Translation and the Construction of a Soviet Intelligentsia". By contrast, Nitsa Ben-Ari illustrates in "Suppression of the Erotic: Puritan Translations in Israel 1930-1980" how a variety of translation types, ranging from pornography to medical manuals, insured that the erotic would have a vocabulary and be validated in Israeli culture, countering the puritanical ethos of dominant Israeli cultural nationalism as the state of Israel was taking shape. Finally, in "Translation and Activism: Emerging Patterns of Narrative Community", M. Baker discusses contemporary associations of translators who translate documents silenced by Western news sources and who interpret for non-profit voluntary associations that oppose dominant multinational, globalizing, and military interests, so as to further a more balanced exchange of ideas in the world at large; Baker offers as well a theoretical framework for understanding all such activist translation movements.

How have we arrived at a position where translations are read and discussed in this way, as records of cultural contestations and ideological struggles, rather than as simple linguistic transpositions or literary creations? How have scholars come to explore translations as means of fighting censorship, coercion, repression, and political dominance? In these essays translations are recognized as central elements in cultural systems rather than as derivative and peripheral ones. Translation is seen as an ethical, political, and ideological activity rather than as a mechanical linguistic exercise. Even when the literary art of translation is recognized as fundamental, the ideological implications of literary creativity and innovation are also sounded. Traditionally, in Western culture translation has been conceived of as a process of intercultural transference, essentially a communicative process in which material is transmitted from one language to another. This conceptualization is reified in the English word translation, which comes from Latin roots meaning 'to carry across'; the English word, as well as Latin translatio, was used originally in the concrete sense of moving things through space, including objects such as the relics of saints and cultural phenomena such as learning and power. Its meaning was extended lately, during the 13th and 14th centuries, and applied to the activity of interlingual translation [14].

Translation was seen by Cicero, for example, as a process by which Greek oratory and its rhetorical devices might be transferred to and communicated in Latin, thus enriching the Latin language and Roman culture. Similarly, the sacred scriptures of Christianity could be conveyed through translation to those who did not speak Greek, first into Latin and then gradually into the many vernaculars of the world, communicating the good news to humanity. The preservation of Greek science and its transfer to the rest of the world was likewise posited as a process in which the content was carried across language boundaries and thus preserved from oblivion. For almost two thousand years, western writing about translation based on such assumptions about communication and transference took the form of normative and prescriptive statements about the process and products of translating. World War II challenged these views, introducing new complexities and diverse perspectives from many parts of the world. Theory and practice of translation were equally affected, and the emergence of the modern international discipline of translation studies dates from the postwar period.

A central factor in the new thinking about translation was the necessity of negotiating more linguistic and cultural boundaries than ever before because of the global reach of the conflict. Beyond the obvious fact of having to accommodate more types of cultural and linguistic difference, however, two major preoccupations shaped thinking about translation during the war: first, the imperatives of "cracking" the codes of both enemies and allies; and second, the construction of cultural products that would mold public opinion in the many cultures of the world. In short, many people with interests in translation were involved in gathering intelligence, negotiating cultural differences, and producing propaganda. It is not surprising, therefore, that the early schools of translation studies after World War II stressed linguistic and functionalist aspects of translation, as well as machine translation; these schools attempted to make intelligence gathering a cost-effective process, to reduce the ambiguous linguistic and cultural aspects of translation to manageable and reliable protocols, and to enhance the social impact of a translated text. Within a decade, however, as translation studies were consolidating into an academic discipline, approaches began to expand significantly, steadily widening the purview of the field.

Beginning with questions about language, codes, and strategies for achieving specific functions, inquiry expanded to consider philosophical questions, sociological considerations, sociolinguistic questions, systems analyses of translated texts, literary questions about the nature and role of translated literature, and issues pertaining to politics and power. These expansions in the field have traced a trajectory away from technical questions about how to translate per se toward larger ethical perspectives on translating as an activity, the role of translation products in cultures, and the nature and function of specific translations. Implicit in many of these discourses are questions of ideology, including the constructivist aspects of translation, the role of representation, and the transculturation of cultural forms and values. Translation studies have demonstrated that translation is more than intercultural transfer as well; interest has shifted in many investigations to the intracultural functions of the products and processes of translation. These approaches have converged on the ethics, politics, and ideology of translation, not unlike the focus on ideology in contemporary literary studies and other fields as well. Post-positivist views of knowledge in translation studies, as in other fields, have moved inquiry away from simple questions of how to translate "correctly" to larger questions involving the perception of and self-reflexivity about differences related to the nature and role of translation in diverse cultural contexts. These shifts and expansions have not been the fruits of scholarly investigations alone. In many cases the insights of scholarship have coalesced with the values and programmatics of actual translation practices that have been ethically engaged and ideologically motivated in shaping societies, struggling with asymmetrical power relations, and participating in resistance movements. Within literary domains the activity of modernist translators such as Ezra Pound and his followers constitutes such a practice that was articulated, well-defended, and integrated with other literary projects promoted and promulgated by those prestigious literary figures. The translations by such writers and their views on translation contributed significantly to redirecting literary practices from the 1920s onward. Other notable practices that have been influential in reconceptualizing the role of translation and the modes of textual transposition emerged in other parts of the world. Canada offers important examples. There are major cultural figures such as Michel Tremblay contributed to cultural nationalism in Quebec, furthering separatist discourses and shaping identity politics through translation. Similarly, an empowered feminist group, including Nicole Brossard and Susanne de Lotbiniere-Harwood, has emerged in Canada, using the mode of translation within a bicultural and bilingual society to advance feminist critiques and feminist cultural projects that ramify into other artistic, intellectual, and political domains.

A significant step in rethinking the nature of translation was the development in the 1970s and 1980s of descriptive translation studies, a movement that attempts to describe actual translation products and practices in relation to their cultural and political contexts. A main branch of descriptive studies has used systems of theory to analyze the role that translations play within larger literary and cultural systems. Theorists such as Itamar Even-Zohar [4, p.67] have shown that literary systems include components of translated literature, whose functions should be recognized as such. Much of what "we" consider "our" literature is in fact, a translated literature: in European and American cultures, for example, people think of the Bible and Greek literature as part of their literary system, even though, very few people read in Hebrew or Greek. Within social systems, translation functions as an invisible means of cultural grounding and cultural appropriation, serving to construct identities and affiliations. Moreover, the role of translation across systems is far from uniform: it is correlated with dominance and power. Thus, in dominant cultures such as the United States, translations play a smaller role and constitute a smaller percentage of the total field of publication than is the case in cultures such as Italy or Norway. This reconceptualization of literary systems within translation studies presents a challenge to all branches of literary studies as they are conceived in university settings: all disciplines must begin to include in their concept of a particular literary system the texts that have been translated into the language(s) of the system and that have played a significant role in its shaping. This becomes ever more imperative as media translation inserts quantities of material from dominant societies into the social space of cultural systems across the globe. What has become apparent from descriptive studies - in some cases shockingly apparent - is how many shifts in translated texts are attested in the historical record: many more shifts and more radical ones than can be explained simply by linguistic anisomorphisms and cultural asymmetries. Descriptive studies have correlated translation choices and strategies with the larger historical and geopolitical context, revealing artistic and ideological constraints on the translator's choices as well as initiatives undertaken by the translator, demonstrating clearly that translation is not a simple matter of communication and transfer. In turn, as interest in and presumptions about linguistic fidelity and the communicative values of translation have given way to a deeper understanding of how translations work within cultural systems and how they are shaped by sociopolitical and historical frameworks, the role of translators as active figures in history, art, politics, ideology, and belief systems has become ever more manifest.

Interventions of translators can be traced through the shifts they introduce into the texts they produce, including shifts in content, literary forms, politics, and ideology. What is not translated in a particular context is often as revealing as what is. Thus, gaps in specific translated texts or the non-translation of particular texts (zero translation) are significant in assessing the politics of translation in a particular cultural system. Through such analyses, descriptive studies have documented how translation has been used to change social systems and social structures, as well as how translation is limited by constraints within specific contexts. For more than a quarter century, it has been generally agreed that translation is a text about a text or, to put it another way, a form of metatext. If we look at the ideological implications of this seemingly innocuous observation, then we must recognize that the ideology of translation is quite complex. First, a translation's ideology is determined by the content of the source text, but only partially so. This is true even when the content—the subject and the representation of the subject—is itself overtly political and enormously forceful, with locutionary, illocutionary, and perlocutionary aspects of the source text all contributing to the ideological effect in the source context. In translation the ideological value of the source text is further complicated and complemented by the fact that translation is a metastatement, a statement about the source text and its content that constitutes an interpretation of the source text. This is true even when that metastatement is seemingly only a form of reported speech [6, p.233] or quotation uttered in a new context. In quoting a source text, a translator actually creates a text that is a representation with its own proper locutionary, illocutionary, and perlocutionary forces that are determined by factors in the receptor context. Even in a simplified model, therefore, the ideology of a translation will be an amalgam of (1) the subject of the source text and the source text's representation of that subject, (2) the various speech acts instantiated in the source text relevant to the original context, (3) layered together with the translator s representation of the source text, (4) its purported relevance to the receptor audience, (5) the various speech acts of the translation itself addressing the target audience, and (6) resonances and discrepancies between these two "utterances" [21].

As we said, the ideology of a translation is complex. Descriptive studies have investigated the relationship between translations and other forms of metatexts, particularly textual refractions. Increasingly translation studies has recognized the continuity between translation and the many other text types that represent source texts, including editions, anthologies, literary criticism, summaries, retellings (such as retellings for children and other specialized audiences), and film versions [7]. Such investigations demonstrate the one-to-many nature of translation, as texts are adapted to new contexts, audiences, technologies, media, and so forth. Within such a framework the distinction between translations, versions, and imitations becomes elided, for they all are amenable to similar analyses of the representation and manipulation of source texts. Such distinctions have also been effaced by other types of descriptive studies demonstrating the wide variety of translation types attested in the historical record in the West and elsewhere, as well as the multiplicity of functions in translations that go beyond transfer and communication. One culture s translation is another culture's version or imitation, and vice versa. As a consequence of the trajectory outlined above, translation studies in the postwar period have moved steadily away from prescriptive stances. The skepticism in the field about normative approaches to translation processes and products has also been underscored by the increasing internationalization of the field. With English emerging as the dominant language for commerce and international affairs, translation has become a major enterprise across the globe. The result has been the inverse of the experience during World War II, when the dominant centers associated with Axis and Allied forces reached out toward other areas of the world, interfacing with many cultures and languages and gathering data about translation in the process.

In the current wave of internationalism spurred by globalization, schools of translators and teachers of translation around the world are interrogating the Eurocentric development of the discipline and making correctives. Other cultures have seen translation in very different ways from intercultural communication and transfer. These perspectives are signaled by the words used for the process of translation in different languages. For example, the Arabic word for translation is tarjama, originally meaning 'biography', connected perhaps with the focus of Syriac Christian translators on the Bible, patristic texts, and lives of saints in the third to fifth centuries of the Common Era. The association of the word for 'translation' with a narrative genre, biography, indicates that the role of the translator was seen as related to that of a narrator; in turn this suggests the powerful potential of the translator's agency as one who "tells" and hence frames the material "told". The early Syriac translators eventually turned to other subjects, becoming major conduits of Greek science and philosophy to their contemporaries; this learned movement underlies the later great tradition of translation into Arabic, initiated and patronized by the Abbasid caliphate, as well as the subsequent flowering of mathematical and scientific texts and translations in Arabic. There is a broader range of translation that is perhaps related to a second meaning of tarjama which is 'definition'. This second meaning is relevant to the later involvement of Syriac translators with Greek learned texts, especially scientific and mathematical ones, as well as the flowering of Arabic translations of these subjects, for such texts are heavily involved in defining, analyzing, and explaining elements of the natural and conceptual worlds. In this light, it is also important to understand Syriac and Arabic practices, for translators who did not merely convey Greek learned texts unchanged. When scientific and mathematical knowledge had progressed, translators augmented the Greek texts with their own culture's supplementary frameworks and advances, merging and recasting the Greek material so that the subject matter became better articulated and better defined in the translations than in the source texts [10, p.61-137]. Other words used for translation stress its importance as a form of storytelling. In the Nigerian language Igbo, the words for translation are tapia and kowa. Tapia comes from the roots ta, 'tell, narrate', and pia, 'destruction, break [it] up', with the overall sense of 'deconstruct it and tell it (in a different form)'. Kowa has a similar meaning, deriving from ko, 'narrate, talk about' and wa, 'break in pieces'. In Igbo therefore translation is an activity that stresses the viability of the communication as narration, allowing for decomposition and a change in form rather than one-to-one reconstruction. The freedom of translation in this paradigm is illustrated by the domestication in Nigerian tradition of the narrative about Adam and Eve as a story in which Adam becomes a great farmer in African style.

Still another conceptualization is indicated by the most common Chinese phrase for translation, fan yi, which means 'turning over', represented using the character for fan, which means 'turning a leaf of a book' but also 'somersault, flip', and the character for yi, which means 'interpretation', a homonym of the word meaning 'exchange'. The concept of fan yi is linked to the image of embroidery: if the source text is the front side of an embroidered work, the target text can be thought of as the back side of the same piece. Like the reverse of an embroidery—which typically in modern Chinese handwork has hanging threads, loose ends, and even variations in patterning from the front—a translation in this conceptualization is viewed as different from the original and is not expected to be equivalent in all respects. At the same time, of course, the "working side" of embroidery teaches much about its construction. Both images—embroidery and turning a page—suggest that in China text and translation are related as front and back of the same object, or perhaps as positive and negative of the same picture if the embroidery technique produces a similar pattern with reversed colors on the back. These examples imply that the words for translation in languages throughout the world are not actually synonyms of translation. They have a wide range of semiotic associations that diverge radically from those of the English word and indeed words for 'translation' in all the Indo-European languages of Western Europe. These distinctions are very difficult to signal with scholarly textual conventions, for ironically, if we accept the idea that meaning is strictly speaking language specific, as most post-positivist thinkers believe, then the Chinese term fan yi or the Arabic tarjama cannot simply mean 'translation': they do not have the same Western European associations for translation as a process of transference or carrying across, not to mention the specific historical association with moving relics or the migration of power.

Any theoretical formulation of the concept translation in a cross-cultural study must be able to accommodate the varied semiosis and wide-ranging set of meanings of all the words used internationally for practices and products of translation. Internationalism in translation studies is, thus, detaching the field from presuppositions about the concept translation associated with and limited by the meanings of specific Western words. In the 1990s, partly in connection with the convergence of translation studies and cultural studies, partly in response to the achievements of various translators such as the feminists and nationalists in Quebec, partly in recognition of the cultural interventions of translators throughout history documented by descriptive studies, and partly as an outgrowth of the growing interest in ideology and power in translation studies, there were calls for translators to become activist agents of social change. The work of Antoine Berman [1992], Philip Lewis [1985], and especially Lawrence Venuti [1992, 1995, 1998a, 1998b], among others, is notable for these calls to action. The result has been a lively discussion of strategies that are appropriate and effective in activist translation practices. Venuti called for translators to become "visible", eschewing what he saw as the presumptive invisibility of the translator in dominant Western literary and commercial practices. The essays in this volume are part of the ongoing conversation about power, ideology, and agency in translation. Borrowing the term "resistance" from the clandestine movements that opposed Fascism and the occupying forces of Germany and Japan during World War II, Venuti also based his notion of activist translation on the concept of literature engage, widely promoted by twentieth-century writers such as Jean-Paul Sartre. There is a problem with the terms resistance and resistant when applied to translation, however. During World War II and similar agonistic conflicts, the enemies of resistance movements were and still are obvious. In the case of translation, by contrast, there is no obvious opponent or ideological target to which resistance in general can be presumed to refer. Case studies generated by Venuti and others often discuss resistance as if the antagonist were obvious, but in fact, the object of resistance is highly variable: colonialism, capitalism, neoimperialism, Western domination, specific regimes, specific oppressive social conditions, the patriarchy, bourgeois norms, Christianity, dominant discourses, dominant literary conventions, linguistic norms, and many others. No prima facie agreement exists among translators (or scholars) as to what should be resisted; resistance as it pertains to translation seems to be an open-ended enterprise without a defined target. Because of the potential open-endedness of a translator's agenda, cultures have tried in various ways to control translators, whether through official appointment (as in the case of the latimers in England and later Ireland after the Norman Conquest), censorship (as in many dictatorships, for example), credentialing processes (such as those common in Europe at present), state oversight of translation (for example, in the former Soviet Union in official publishing houses), or effacement or enforcement of cultural ideologies through official translation protocols (for example, in the group translation processes of the People's Republic of China before the opening of the country at the end of the 1970s or the group protocols of contemporary Bible translators).

The necessity of controlling translators and an indication of their cultural power are equally summed up in an Italian aphorism equating the translator with the traitor: traduttore, traditore. Translators must make choices: they cannot capture all aspects of a source text, and their choices establish a place of enunciation, as well as a context of affiliation. Because of anisomor-phisms of language and asymmetries of culture, because meaning is both open and over determined, because texts make contradictory demands that cannot all be simultaneously satisfied (say, the demands of complex content and spare form), and because the information load associated with a source text is excessive, among other reasons, translators must set priorities for their translations. They must make choices about what to translate and what to silence. Translation is thus a metonymic process. Similarly resistance is a metonymic process: a person cannot effectively resist everything objectionable in any culture. Activists set priorities, make choices, choose strategies, and pick their fights. Resistance in translation stands at the intersection of two metonymic systems: the normal metonymies of translation and the metonymies of resistance. Resistance in translation is thus complex, and it involves complex textual and ideological constructions. Translators must choose what (if anything) to resist in situations where the social antagonist is not predefined. Moreover, translators' strategies for accomplishing their social or ideological goals are legion, highly localized in time and space, shifting as culture shifts. Translators and interpreters shape their words to the needs of the moment. To a large extent the partisanship of the translator results from partiality in translation, an inescapable aspect of the task of the translator and the metonymic process of translating. Not all calls for resistance in translation have recognized these complexities. Some have assumed that the object of resistance was a given and have prescribed specific strategies to be privileged in resistant translations. Venuti, for example, promotes a strategy that he calls "foreignization", which disrupts target-language cultural codes and registers the linguistic and cultural differences of the foreign text [23, p.42, 81]. Foreignization may be appropriate for dominant cultures such as the United States, but it is not suited to subaltern cultures that are already flooded with foreign materials and foreign language impositions. Foreignization has also been rightly criticized as a potentially elitist strategy, more appropriate to a highly educated audience than a broad readership. One of the most important factors in current readings of translation, contributing particularly to the understanding of activist translations, has come from post-colonial theory. Some studies have identified mechanisms by which colonizers used translation as means of imperial control and expropriation [3, 13], but others have shown how activist translators in colonized nations have effectively pursued cultural nationalism (including the creation of national literatures), self-determination of their peoples, and national independence. As with resistance during World War II, the oppositions and polarized struggles of postcolonial cultures are generally sufficiently clear to make the object of resistance manifest and even self-evident. Postcolonial translation studies are particularly interesting because of the centrality of ideology and ethics, activism and resistance in these contexts. Postcolonial situations involve asymmetrical power relations and are thus, pertinent to the mechanisms of both censorship and self-censorship that circumscribe resistance in translation. They set in relief the material constraints exerted by colonizers (and other powers) over translation. They also exemplify in rather clear ways the oppressive and coercive aspects of discursive formations and the temptations of collusive involvement in discursive fields that can disrupt resistance and result in self-censorship. Nonetheless, the historical record of translation in postcolonial contexts reveals the manifold possibilities for creative resistance.

Sustained exploration has illuminated activist practices and resistance in translation, challenging many received conceptions about translation. Postcolonial studies make it clear that translation does not usually take place between two equal cultures as a means of free exchange or transfer of information, and they show that translation is not simply or even primarily a question of communication. Dominant models assume that a translator must "know" the two languages and cultures involved. Postcolonial contexts challenge this view, showing that translation has a fundamental epistemological dimension: it does not merely reflect existing knowledge, it can also precede knowledge. It can be a mode of discovery used to create or amass knowledge, and in this role it can have marked political and ideological dimensions, becoming a mode of spying or intelligence gathering used for the purposes of domination, or, by contrast, a mode of counterespionage, resistance, and rebellion. Postcolonial situations also set in high relief the fact that translations are not uniform and consistent. Postcolonial translations cannot normally be usefully defined in terms of the descriptive binaries that translation studies has depended upon - literal vs. free, formal-equivalence vs. dynamic-equivalence, adequate vs. acceptable, or domesticating vs. foreignizing - and they do not generally fall on a continuum between such polarities. Instead postcolonial translations are complex, fragmentary, and even self-contradictory, as translators position their work through a metonymic process to achieve very specific strategic goals, prioritizing particular aspects or elements of the source texts for specific activist effects and ends. Such metonymies are an essential aspect of the ability of translations to participate in ideological struggles, to be engaged and partisan. Thus, paradoxically, the polarization of postcolonial contexts facilitates theoretical insight into the process of translation by setting in sharp relief the significance of the featured, functional, and contextual aspects of translators' metonymic choices. Postcolonial translations also indicate that a translation is not merely a text but an act, where the function is as important as the product itself. Hence fidelity may not be of paramount importance in situations involving asymmetry of cultural power or imperative political aims, even when the translator’s fundamental allegiance lies with the source culture.

Translation as an act normally also has a very public dimension in a postcolonial context. Far from being invisible, postcolonial translators are frequently prominent cultural figures, highly visible and publicly engaged in the assertion and creation of resistance to oppression. Thus, postcolonial contexts model many of the values associated with calls for activist modes of translation. Finally, consideration of actual translation movements in post-colonial situations illuminates the ironies resulting from activist translation movements. Case studies indicate not only the possibilities for the activist use of translation but also the necessary conditions for the success of resistance and its limitations as well. A case in point is the important and highly successful translation movement in Ireland at the turn of the twentieth century that translated early Irish literature into English. Led by prominent Irish cultural figures, the translation movement was an important element in securing (partial) independence for Ireland and establishing the Irish Republic; it helped to demonstrate the existence of an independent Irish culture and played an important role in identity formation at the time. Ironically, the skewed representations of early Irish culture in translations (regarding heroism and sexual purity, for example) also helped to create a mythos about Irish identity that was written into law after 1922, making Irish cultural configurations some of the most regressive and repressive in Western Europe. The representations also were later used to validate the ethos of the IRA during the troubles in the second half of the twentieth century. In a sense, Ireland became a victim of its own self-representation and self-construction. Valuable and instructive as postcolonial studies have been, therefore, they have limited use in modeling all activist translation and resistance in translation. For one thing, the social models underlying postcolonial theory are not fully applicable to all situations of conflict, coercion, or oppression. Although some writers think of post-coloniality in existential or ontological terms, postcoloniality is best seen in terms of a particular configuration of political circumstances involving such factors as conquest and dispossession; the subjection of a local culture within an empire or an imperial network, that is, dominance by a political, economic, linguistic, and cultural "center"; the presence and interface in the colonized setting of at least two languages and cultures, of which one at least antedates the advent of imperialist conquest; the absence of self-determination, instantiated not only by lack of choice of leadership and autonomy of the polity, but also by the absence of an independent army or the right to bear arms. Obviously, this is merely a suggestive list, not one meant to be definitive or complete: post-colonial situations differ significantly in their characteristics. As is clear from this list, the problems of postcoloniality are thus, not precisely those of people in diasporas, of minorities within a pluralistic society, or of women who are oppressed the world around. By lumping such divergent cases together, we actually learn less about conditions of oppression and means of resistance; our conclusions about the data become less reliable as well. In part postcolonial theory has been popular because it filled a theoretical gap after the fall of the Soviet Union and the consequent diminished confidence in Marxist analyses. The trajectories of translation theory and other fields suggest that new theories of power are needed, as are new theories of resistance and activism, theories that will be more flexible and more applicable to a broader range of cultural contexts than postcolonial theory can of its nature be. It is often seen through consideration of concrete case studies such as those included in this paper that the contours of new theories begin to emerge. The group of essays in this issue of is part of a larger collection that Dr. Dabaghi is editing with Edwin Gentzler, to be published as Translation and Resistance. Essays done here respond to the calls for activism in translation studies, illustrating how resistance has been undertaken historically and how it can be effected at present. The ethical and ideological focus of the essays is central, demonstrating how translators can be agents of social change. These studies indicate the wide range of targets of resistance and the many motivations for activism among translators, as well as the variety of forms and the flexibility of textual strategies employed. The essays also illustrate how discourses about resistance have evolved since the first calls for action were sounded. The importance of activist translation in shaping a receiving culture is evident, as is the willingness of translators to introduce significant shifts into their texts, manipulating the source texts in radical ways. The essays also indicate that translations constitute a distinct and significant element in literary and cultural systems, with translations often at the leading edge of a system. Illustrating that translation goes well beyond communication of content, these studies show that activist translation often has affinities with the semiotic associations of non-Western words for translation discussed above. Each essay relates to some of the issues discussed above.

In "Translation and Activism" Mona Baker offers a theoretical model for the formation, motivation, and assessment of activist translators and the translation movements, and she writes about contemporary activist translators who are handing together in activist communities; her essay shows that activist and resistant translation is most effective as a collective endeavor in which individual translators take highly visible roles. In "Suppression of the Erotic", Ben-Ari shows that zero translation is highly significant in analyzing cultural configurations, and she demonstrates that activist translation can take many different forms from pulp fiction to medical manuals in supplying cultural gaps; Milton discusses the many activist roles of Monteiro Lobato in "The Resistant Political Translations of Monteiro Lobato", including publishing, active lobbying for specific political outcomes, defying government regulations, and so forth. Milton's essay is an excellent case study of the relationship between translation and other forms of activism; illustrating as well the continuity between translation and various forms of refraction, he shows the significant role that metatextual reframing plays in activist and ideological strategies. Baer's work on "Literary Translation and the Construction of a Soviet Intelligentsia" demonstrates that the content of translation is often secondary to the act itself as a sign of resistance to cultural constraints.

In wartime the critical value of translation has long been recognized as a matter of national security and survival, and language expertise has commanded a privileged role: it is essential to have translators who are loyal and reliable rather than potential traitors. In the United States waves of renewed interest in translation and language study can be correlated with World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, as well as the protracted Cold War. Because of the so-called war on terrorism, in our own time certain aspects of translation have again become central to public discourses. In peacetime by contrast it is easy to stereotype and dismiss translation as a secondary activity, a process that can be undertaken by anyone with a good bilingual dictionary. The essays that follow are reminders that in peace as in war, translation always has a potentially radical and activist edge, that it is driven by ethical and ideological concerns that it participates in shaping societies, nations, and global culture in primary and central ways. Translation can change the world.


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22. Translation and Political Engagement: Activism, Social Change and the Role of Translation in Geopolitical Shifts. 2000. The Translator 6:1.23-47.

23. Venuti, Lawrence. 1992. Rethinking Translation: Discourse, Subjectivity, Ideology. London: Routledge. 42, 81.

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №1 - 2010

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