This transdisciplinary and multilingual seminar, which aims to create a community of graduate students in the humanities and humanistic social sciences working across modern languages as well as students in other fields who see translation as crucial to their scholarship and (eventual) activism, takes as its task the bridging of the gap between academic-theoretical discourses on translation and the practice of translation as a public good. As such, it necessarily assumes a two-pronged approach:
1) Translation and its publics: We will consider the theorists and creative projects that focus on the “public” dimension of translation—broadly, its vocation to enable a provisional and fragile relation between cultures, as Edouard Glissant would have it, by making previously inaccessible texts available to new publics, but especially its potential to create expanded and even entirely new conceptions of the public sphere (e.g., queer translation, translation in imperial contexts). This aspect of the seminar will include application of insights gained from readings and discussions in the form of translations in each of our chosen languages with reflection on the implications of the type of translation being produced.
2) Public translation: In dialogue with the readings that address translation as a public good, we will critically develop the public-facing dimensions of the seminar in the form of a “public translation” collective that offers translation services to those both locally and far afield who, for whatever reason, cannot engage professional translation. While this aspect of the seminar can be placed under the heading of “service-learning”—in its deployment of the “assets” of the university to provide assistance to the community—the broader aim is to design a collaborative network of translators and those who require/desire translation in which multiple parties co-create the resulting target-language text.
Both aspects of the seminar will aim to shift the discussion from the varying conceptions of translation as a private, intimate act (Spivak) to the possibilities of translation as a public good.