Global Humanities Institute 2019 - Challenges of Translation: Lines of Research and Topics

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The lines of research and several individual topics articulated propose an itinerary of four moments which will build one on another.

In the first moment (I), we will address the more immediate interrogations raised by the semantic, poetic and epistemological challenges that define the task of translation in strict terms (limits and possibilities of passage between languages and literatures), before exploring their projections towards the realms of art and culture. This initial moment will thus allow us to engage with the several ways of understanding and practicing translation, establishing from the start alternative models to explore and develop the series of ethic-political, historiographical, and utopian interrogations to follow.

In the second moment (II), we will concentrate on a series of ethic-political interrogations that unfold the ways the model of translation allows one to rethink the relations between what we continue to call the native and the foreign. Special emphasis would be put on colonial and imperial practices (the translation of the victorious or the violence of translation), as well as on translation as both limited hospitality (hosting the foreign for the benefit of the own, boycott as indirect hospitality) and unconditional hospitality (right of asylum).

In a third moment (III), which diachronizes the previous series of interrogations about the relation between the native and the foreign, we will address translation as a way of giving hospitality to the foreign in time, opening a series of historiographical interrogations. Amid the translative performances of historical renewal, special emphasis will be given to the afterlife of the missing and missed (memorialization of colonial, apartheid and dictatorship unsettled dead), as well as the translative ways to shape forms of layered memory (heterogeneous, multilingual, competing and contesting pasts).

In the fourth moment (IV), we will interrogate the final promise inscribed in translation as both synchronic and diachronic hospitality as examined in the previous sections, or what can be called the utopic output of translative language as a way of redefining the foundations of the social and the political. Special emphasis will be put on how human kinship as translation and contagion between languages and cultures –something that questions and detaches itself from the models of universality and genealogy which have defined modern dominant modes of socio-political foundation– can become a new way of conceiving the constitution of the subject and the community in the so called globalized world.

I. Limits and possibilities of passage between languages, literatures, arts and cultures (semantic, poetic and epistemological interrogations)

1. Crossing languages: re-evaluating the semantic and poetic paradigms of untranslatability and translatability.

  • Promises and failures of the traditional imaginaries and logics of equivalence: imitatio, traductio, and interpretatio.
  • The prismatic effect: releasing multiple signifying possibilities (adopting a viewpoint, zooming, fragmentation, refraction and splitting the plurality of the source).

2. Crossing borders: translation as sui generisknowledge of the limits and differences between the foreign and the native.

  • Impossibility of appropriation and non-renunciation of the task: the foreign as a demand for significance beyond the appropriation of meaning.
  • Translation and the comparatist approach: a creative task to accommodate differences (languages, cultures, nationalities, traditions).
  • Experience and the untranslatable: identities and irretrievable deferral.

3. Translation as artistic paradigm (artistic translation as recreation of formal behaviours in diverse expressive media)

  • Literary translation and the translation of poetry: image forms (e.g. metaphor, montage), musical forms (e.g. rhythm, harmony), and contextual forms (e.g. allusion, irony) as strategies of artistic intervention.
  • Translation between the arts: disarticulation of the opposition between the space-based and time-based arts: translation performances between structure and sequence.
  • Translation and the new textual technologies: digital media as translingual and transtemporal transgression of the artificial geography of standard languages.
  • Artistic models and performances of translation as modes of dealing with the short circuits of identity, memory, and traumatic experiences.

II. Hospitality and resistance amid languages, literatures and cultures (ethic-political interrogations)

1. Translation as being accountable for the reciprocity of the foreign and the native.

  • Re-evaluating the paradigms of domesticating / foreignizing, visible / invisible colonial / postcolonial translations.
  • Cross-linguistic as cross-cultural study: moving beyond the imaginaries imposed by dominant languages, the technology of printing, and regulated communication.

2. The translation of the victorious or the violence of translation: colonial and imperial practices.

  • Literary hypertextualism, ideological ethnocentrism, semantic idealism.
  • Uneven linguistic exchange and asymmetrical translation practice.
  • Translating in war zones: local communities, citizen armies, foreign military personnel.

3. Translation as limited hospitality: hosting for the benefit of the own.

  • Building the national through insemination from the foreign.
  • Selective immigration and refugees: language instruction, acculturation and the weaponization of languages.
  • Boycott as refusal of communication / translation: indirect hospitality / solidarity.
  • Displaced intellectuals: being hosted in new cultural/academic institutions and languages.

4. Translation as unconditional hospitality: absolute exigency.

  • Asymptotic task and decision without rules: the absence of universal method.
  • Right of asylum: fidelity as freedom of the foreign in the native; non-intentional reception of the unpredictable.

III. Unfolding the foreign in time (historical interrogations)

1. Translation as historical renewal: encounter and hospitality in time.

  • History-making and translative performance: the dialogue between languages, literatures, and cultures through temporal boundaries and barriers.
  • Hospitality towards the pending past: the non-coincidence between present and meaning.
  • The metaphorical imagery of translation as dying, metamorphosis, and bringing to life; survival, unfolding, and after-ripening.
  • Translation, tradition, and treason in history: reluctant remains, forgetting, remembering, and the immemorial.
  • Translation and remains of the social: translating the untranslatable.

2. Afterlives of the Missing and Missed: memorialization of colonial, apartheid and dictatorship unsettled dead.

  • Forensic sensibility and national discourse: evidence, materiality, testimony, certainty, argument, context; exhumation, identification, restitution, reburial and reparation; recovery, inclusion and representation.
  • Forensicas foreignin the forum: the limits of the evidentiary and recovery; resolution in indeterminacy; rehumanization or life-writing in an ontological zone and temporal economy of spectrality and missingness.
  • South Africa, South America (Chile, Argentina), the Middle East (Israel, Palestine): geopolitical transfer of violence; the missing and the disappeared.

3. Layered memory: heterogeneous, competing and contesting pasts coexisting in translation.

  • Translation as fundamental process of psychic differentiation and the unconscious as foreign internal time.
  • Revealing the palimpsest in the images of the past / pluriingual memory: who decides what is remembered and recovered.

IV. Translative language and political foundation (metaphysical and utopian interrogations)

1. Human kinship as translation and contagion between languages and cultures.

  • Detachment with respect to the universalistic and the genealogical drives: the perfect language and the national / original language.
  • Machine translation (and untranslating machines): patterns of linguistic co-occurrence and the ends of global thought.
  • Historical languages always in-translation and the exemplary multilingual economy of literature, philosophy and poetics.

2. Translative languages as the law of constitution of subject and community.

  • The mixed foundations of the human: the cultural translation of identities; problematizing race and gender codes.
  • The mixed foundations of the humanities: the continuum of linguistic and disciplinary variety that we all inhabit; translation between academia and society.
  • Translative foundation of the political; irreducible contagion, de-territorialization, and the complication of the concept of sovereignty.
  • Exemplarity of the Latin American, the South African, Middle East and of other borderline and/or decolonized regions. Translation and mass-migration against the new populism: challenging national and linguistic identity.