Oral Presentation Session - Invited Status Awarded
Invited by: Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Resistance
Secondary Theme: Inequality
Translation references a “whole family of semiotic processes” (Gal 2015:225) and at a basic level involves “the expression in one semiotic system of what has been said, written, or done in another” (227). Despite its nearly ubiquitous role in anthropological fieldwork throughout the discipline’s history, translation was not itself an object of analysis until recently (Rubel and Rosman 2003). While scholars have identified folk ideologies of translation, which reflect the belief that words can be reproduced faithfully (cf. Reddy 1979), anthropologists have argued that such a conceptualization overlooks the inherent imperfection in linguistic transfer as well as erases the translators’ own knowledge, positionality, and agency that play a salient role in mediating cross-linguistic interactions.
Recent scholarship in linguistic anthropology explores translation as a potentially political act and deserving of analysis in its own right, as linguistic mediations are “always positioned, never politically neutral, never innocent” (Gal 2015:236). Beyond linguistic translation, translators must act as cultural brokers (Reynolds and Orellana 2009), and can even at times occupy a paradoxical position as both the object and voice of the translation (García-Sánchez et al. 2011). These findings give insight to how translation often mediates interactions between interlocutors with asymmetrical power relations, unequal social statuses, and different stakes in the interaction. As technological, business, tourist, and other processes of neoliberal globalization connect people with disparate linguistic and cultural backgrounds, it has become increasingly imperative to better understand how translation can be a form of adaptation, one that can create unifications or divisions.
In this panel, we recognize that “all translation is radical translation” that must be grounded in contextualized linguistic, social, and cultural understanding to reflect a conceptual range in the target language (Mannheim 2015:215). We take into account the work of scholars of bilingualism and multilingualism who have demonstrated the ways that languages, dialects, and registers cannot be conceived as bounded entities. We additionally investigate how translation is a process “for creating material persistence and social connections” (Gal 2015:236) and critically examine the ways that translation (re)produces power asymmetries, but can also provide opportunities for speakers to negotiate imbalances of power and serve as a critical tool for everyday resistance, adaptation, and resilience. Papers converge on the themes of examining how translation practices can reify and/or subvert state, (post)colonial, and related institutional relations. Papers examine how indigenous and other subaltern voices can be further marginalized through reifying translation practices, how institutions exercise power and domination through translation, and how translators and speakers identify strategies and ideologies of translation to resist or negotiate power. Using ethnographic data from a variety of geographic contexts including Ecuador, Peru, the Dominican Republic, and the United States, these papers expound upon religious, legal, business, and technologically-mediated settings with both written and oral modes of translation. These papers make use of written, spoken, as well as image translation strategies and processes to address questions salient to the current study of translation as well as to provoke considerations for future research.