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Troubling Translations

Year of Funding: 
Cortes Marina

Recent years have seen a surge of interest in the study of the theory and practice of translation in the humanities and social sciences. Part of this interest is reflected in the growing fields of world literature and translation studies, both of which foreground the ethics, aesthetics, and politics of translation. Area studies has long taken translation seriously as a condition of possibility for cross-regional understanding, while different streams of postcolonial, feminist, and queer theories have been engaged with the ideologies and effects of translation at the borderlands of power.

Our research cluster pursues the questioning of translation as a way of enlarging our understanding of the humanities and the social sciences. Where literary translation is concerned, why is there always a vexed relationship between the original and the translated version of the text? What happens to the relationship between author and translator? What role does translation play in governing individuals and populations? How does translation contribute to or detract from the pursuits of war, empire, and nation-building? How is it deployed in such liminal and heterotopic sites as refugee camps, prisons, hospitals, slums, and colonial classrooms? How do we map the conflicted roles of translators as dissidents and collaborators, as smugglers of ideas and as critics of culture? How are they always faithful while unfailingly treacherous? Can we think of translators as the cosmopolitical figures par excellence?

The Troubling Translations research cluster holds regular meetings to discuss these questions and our work. It also sponsors three two-day campus visits by prominent theorists and a practicing translator, one during each of the academic quarters. In spring 2016, the group offers a one-credit graduate course open to all UW graduate students, taught jointly by Heekyoung Cho and Vicente L. Rafael.


Primary Contacts

Cynthia Steele (Comparative Literature, Cinema, and Media)

Heekyoung Cho (Asian Languages & Literature)

Vicente L. Rafael (History)