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Simpson Center for the Humanities

#UWtranslators: Q&A with History Professor Vicente Rafael

#UWtranslators is a series of interviews with translators by the UW Translation Studies Hub.

By Jesús Hidalgo

Trained in Southeast Asian history, European intellectual history and anthropology, History Professor Vicente Rafael's research interests include language and power, the politics of translation, comparative colonialisms and nationalism, the social history of media and mediation, critical theory and anthropology, empire, race and gender. Much of his writing has been on the colonial and post-colonial Philippines and the United States.

How did you become interested in the Translation Studies field?

My interest lies less with translation studies as a field and more with translation as a historical practice. I got interested in it starting with my first book on the role of translation in the Christian conversion of Tagalogs during the early Spanish colonization of the Philippines.

How is your work in the field of Filipino Studies connected with Translation Studies?

Filipino Studies is a very interdisciplinary field that involves a plurality of languages and long, unfinished histories of colonial rule that also involve multiple languages. To track and analyze this history, one needs to take translation seriously, both as a way of reading documents and as a way of understanding how people deal with plurilingual worlds.

How do you use Translation Studies in your classes?

By talking about language as a whole or history as a series of discursive regimes.

Why are Translation Studies still relevant in our contemporary society?

The question should be: why is translation at all still relevant? Or better yet, could there be a society where translation did not exist?

Do you have any upcoming projects related to Translation Studies?

Yes, a project on the role of English in the production and maintenance of linguistic hierarchies in Southeast Asia and the United States; and the emergence and role of creole languages in disrupting linguistic hierarchies.

What translated works are you reading nowadays?
Gina Apostol, "Insurrecto"