The Affront of Untranslatability

A chapter in Duncan Large, Motoko Akashi, Wanda Józwikowska, Emily Rose (Eds.), Untranslatability: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Routledge, 2018Untranslatability

Untranslatability is, already on the face of it, a less-than-amicable discourse, prone to offence and to disturbing interdisciplinary peace. Now a century and a half since Whitman’s penning of “Song of Myself,” socalled Untranslatables continue to “sound [their] barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world,” whether or not they are appreciated when and where they do so (Whitman [1855] 2016: 183). This chapter is devoted not to repairing the word untranslatability’s accumulated impertinences, but to canvassing a range of typical scenarios that, when viewed collectively, might account for the social effrontery inherent in untranslatability as a concept, a charge or a gesture. This is thus not an apologetic exploration, nor one that sets out to delimit the phenomenon of untranslatability as such-as so many other thoughtful investigations in this book do-but is rather an attempt to understand the complex, even chaotic illocutionary force that calling something “untranslatable” routinely unleashes in various scholarly and everyday conversations. To the extent that the reader agrees with the notion that effrontery is somehow immanent in the word untranslatable, and that a variety of typical scenarios of affront collude with one another to intensify for the word an arch and casuistic aura, we may then consider whether the concept of untranslatability is-despite itself-still capable of holding water in scholarly work, cultural politics and indeed activism, and whether any modest adjustments might mitigate its performative excesses thus far.

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Practicing Multilingual Research: A Special Issue of Critical Multilingualism Studies

300-word statements of interest by February 1, 2018

Drafts due for peer review by May 1, 2018

Guest Editor: Emily Linares

“I send a copy [of my first book] to my father. I should have known better. His reply is curt and simple. Why did I have to write my first book in English? Wasn’t French good enough? He had spent several weeks, he said, with an English-French dictionary trying to read the book and had scribbled in the margins all the places where, he said, my English was deficient. He was returning it to me for my information. I remember well my mixed feelings of pity and guilt and the sudden realization that my very interest in understanding the multilingual condition was perceived as a direct affront to some members of my own family.”

                                                                   —Claire Kramsch (forthcoming)

This CMS special issue seeks to draw critical attention to the normative monolingual and linguistic forms that academic scholarship tends to take, as well as to the experience of publishing in an L2, L3, and beyond. In order to explore this aim, we invite auto-ethnographic accounts, discourse analyses, and critical reflections from researchers working in a range of disciplines who have published or created work in a language other than their L1. As a large body of scholarship shows (see References below), thematizing multilingualism in research does not necessarily mean that multilingual research practices are being undertaken.

Some potential arenas and forms for critical exploration may include:

  • critical discourse analyses of research on intercultural competence, L2 literacy, or foreign language education (as well as other arenas), where research results and formats are often divorced from, or only superficially consider, multilingualism as an active mode of research practice;
  • reflections on methodology in multilingual studies where an underlying monolingual mindset is in evidence, as well as recommendations for methodologies that are appropriately sensitive to the multilingualism of subjects, including that of the researcher;
  • empirical studies that explore the role of multilingual reflexivity and practice in research and pedagogy;
  • theoretical reflections on the possibilities and limitations of researching multilingually.

Contributions can also take the form of auto-ethnographic accounts on experiences of publishing or creating in an L2, L3, etc. We define ‘language’ broadly, welcoming, for instance, contributions by musicologists and dancers who write in an “L2 research idiom” about their primary creative language of music or movement—or those who produce creative work in the language of the arts or other symbolic repertoires. Alongside the perspectives of those who have published in English as an L2, we also invite L1 English speakers who have chosen to publish in another language to share the implications of this choice for their ongoing work as scholars, teachers, colleagues, activists, and / or civic subjects. Contributors are encouraged to critically reflect on and discursively contextualize a particularly memorable constellation of experiences producing research in an L2, L3, etc. Contributors are welcome to cite and comment on specific excerpts from the research undertaken. Contributions may explore such questions as:

  • What motivations led you to publish or otherwise create research in an L2, L3, or in a combination of these?
  • What affordances and challenges did this process present? How did the experience of writing in a language other than your L1 influence the form, content, and bearing of your ideas and the habitus of their generation?
  • How did you negotiate your identity (in both your L1 and L2 networks) as a researcher writing in a language other than your L1?
  • What other scholars’ or traditions’ multilingual modes of research have guided your work?

In the general spirit of the Critical Multilingualism Studies journal, we endeavor to house a discussion on “what ‘blind spots’ vis-à-vis multilingual praxis and theory might still persist […]; and to pursue whatever reorientations may be necessary in order to address these adequately” (Gramling and Warner 2012: 4). It is our hope that this special issue will promote ongoing critical dialogue about the potential for a culture of scholarship that is multilingual in content, form, and epistemology—both within and across publications, genres, and formats.

Continue reading

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Transgender Studies Quarterly invites translators & translation curators to publish

Twice yearly, Transgender Studies Quarterly (Duke University Press, tIssueofBlacknesssq.dukejournals.org) print-publishes a short “translations” section of about 3000 words, which features translated texts (literary, interviews, historical, poetic, journalistic, legal decisions, etc.) that have to do with transgender experience in some significant way. Recent TSQ Translations Sections have featured contemporary Turkish trans activists and Black German trans community organizers, and previously Japanese and Italian short literary works in translation. Other Sections have housed first-time translations of medieval manuscripts, contemporary writings from imprisoned trans people, manifestoes, memoirs, original poetry, etc.

The TSQ Translations Section editor extends an invitation to you or a colleague to guest curate (or even just contribute to) a future Translations section. Perhaps you already have a few texts in mind that have been important contribution to transgender life in their original language for one reason or another, but have not yet appeared in English. Perhaps you have a few translations yourself on trans topics and would enjoy having an outside editorial pair-of-eyes on them before print publication. Perhaps you are part of a translation community where these themes are being explored and worked on.

Most of the editing and coordinating are done by the Section staff, so guest editors are primarily responsible for thinking about, identifying, curating, and either translating or coordinating the translation of a few texts (usually 3 or so texts of 1000 words each), usually from one language or theme, which will then appear in English for the first time in TSQ. Note that, since TSQ is focused on transgender studies specifically, rather than on LGB studies, we prefer work that addresses transgender identity in some specificity, though LGB and other subjectivities are always welcome as an additional feature of the proposed texts. Rights to the originals can remain, of course, with the original rights-holders, but Duke University Press requires explicit permission from original authors or editors.

The TSQ Translations Section editor, David Gramling, invites potential guest editors and contributors to contact him directly with ideas, at dgl@email.arizona.edu or @linguacene. Please do share your ideas with him if you are interested in teaming up for this rather uncomplicated, rather time-unconsuming, and free-form type of one-time project. Note that, though TSQ is an academic journal, it has a broad readership and an even broader cultural and political mandate. So diversity of genres, backgrounds, and contexts are most welcome. Experimental and interpretive approaches to “translation” are also encouraged. The next open spot is coming up quickly—Jan 15, 2018.

Though TSQ can’t pay for the translation work, it’s a great way for an emerging translator / scholar / writer to get some shorter work out in a prominent, high-visibility print journal with great in-house editing, reviewing, and proofing. It’s also an important way to render trans and lgbt studies ever more multilingual and planetary, in a moment when nationalist retrenchment is alluring for so many. For more information on TSQ, see the articles below:

Joselow, Maxine (22 June 2016). “A Push for Transgender Studies”. Inside Higher Ed. Washington, D.C. Retrieved 2016-06-26.

Kellaway, Mitch (27 May 2014). “Duke Univ. Press Debuts Academic Journal for Transgender Studies”. The Advocate. Here Media. Retrieved 2016-03-19.

Morgan, Glennisha (16 May 2013). “Duke University Press’ Transgender Studies Quarterly to Publish in 2014”. The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-03-19.

Kang, Andy (28 May 2014). “Groundbreaking Transgender Studies Quarterly Released”. GLAAD.org. GLAAD. Retrieved 2012-02-04.

“Archive of All Online Issues”. tsq.dukejournals.org. Duke University Press. Retrieved 2017-01-30.

 

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New Article in Tilburg Law Review

Is there A Right to Untranslatability?: Asylum, Evidence and the Listening State | Link to article

co-authored with Sarah Craig, Senior Lecturer in Public Law, University of Glasgow

SarahCraigThis article focuses on Refugee Status Determination (rsd) procedures, in order to understand the relationships among language, translation / interpreting, evidentiary assessment, and what we call the ‘listening state’. Legal systems have only recently begun to consider whether adjudicative processes ought to take place in multiple languages concurrently, or whether the ideal procedure is to monolingualize evidence first, and then assess it accordingly. Because of this ambivalence, asylum applicants are often left in the ‘zone of uncertainty’ between monolingualism and multilingualism. Their experiences and testimonies become subject to an ‘epistemic anxiety’ only infrequently seen in other areas of adjudication. We therefore ask whether asylum applicants ought to enjoy a ‘right to untranslatability’, taking account of the State’s responsibility to cooperate actively with them or whether the burden ought to remain with the applicant to achieve credibility in the language of the respective jurisdiction, through interpretation and translation.

This work was funded by a UK Arts and Humanities Council Large Grant “Researching Multilingually” from the Translating Cultures Programme.

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Visiting Arizona State University

David_Gramling Lecture

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Palliative Care Conversations: Clinical and Applied Linguistic Perspectives

Gramlingnewstoolstoryde Gruyter 2018, series Language and Social Life, co-authored with Robert Gramling MD, DSc (University of Vermont). Pre-order here.

 

An excerpt from the first page of the book:

“Palliative Care Conversations arose from the interactional work of hundreds of people speaking with one another about life-and-death issues ranging from the profound to the minute—often under conditions of great duress, suffering, and distraction. On one level, the “work” these people do—for and with one another—is the work of emotion, understanding, spirituality, empathy, morality, comfort, expertise, logistics, nourishment, community, care, and imagination. But this work is always also the work of conversation, where participants—ranging from physicians and nurse practitioners to medical students, family friends, and seriously ill persons themselves—spontaneously co-create a complex and diverse fabric of conversational speech acts among them, which help them accomplish certain interactional goals and meanings in certain moments. Sometimes these goals are vague and diffuse to the observer, sometimes they are stunningly overt and precise. Sometimes participants’ contributions to conversations have to do with concrete clinical realities, and sometimes they have nothing to do with hospitals or illness whatsoever. Sometimes various participants’ goals coincide with one another; often they do not. We titled this book Palliative Care Conversations in the plural, so as to emphasize that we do not believe in a single exemplary, model conversation that ought to be followed in contexts of serious, life-limiting illness—contexts often called End-of-Life conversations—when multiple curative interventions have proven ineffective over time. There are many such models, and many of these are presented in this book, thanks to the efforts of the patients, families, and clinicians featured in the forthcoming chapters.”

 

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#Transcollaborate

Monash-PratoI travel to Prato, Italy, this week to talk with colleagues from the #Transcollaborate working group about the ins and outs of collaborative translating in 2017. My talk description is below.

Seven Stadia Long:
On the Disorderly Social Sojourn of TransCollaboration

This talk takes a wide-angle look at the politics, political economy, ethics, linguistics, historical grounds and contemporary worldviews that compel us in 2017 to recommit to the ancient norm of translating and translanguaging collaboratively—particularly in times of for-profit war, linguaphobia, social death, reactionary monolingualism, and the radical acceleration of the “translation machine of global credit-debt” (Lezra 2015: 175). Drawing on various traditions of theory within and without of Translation Studies, this talk however focuses ultimately on the practical and social experience of collaborating subjects, in an era when automated, individuated, algorithmic, and crowd-sourced cross-linguistic big-data management platforms are presumed to ensure optimal reliability. In this light, collaborative translation is re-envisioned as a counter-practice of resistance, one in which new tools for mutual recognition, social defamiliarization, historical kinship, and metalinguistic reflection may be seen to dwell. Accordingly, the talk offers some initial recommendations for practitioners on how to get ready for translingual collaboration, both for those who already love “group work” and for those who may treasure the solitary journey most.

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