Translating Cultures

Theme Overview

In a world seen to be increasingly characterized by transnational and globalized connections, the need for understanding and communication within, between and across diverse cultures is stronger than ever. The Translating Cultures theme addresses this need by studying the role of translation, understood in its broadest sense, in the transmission, interpretation, transformation and sharing of languages, values, beliefs, histories and narratives.

Translating Cultures aims to:

  • engage with key concepts such as multiculturalism, multilingualism, tolerance, intolerance and identity;
  • explore the sites, locations and zones within, across and between which translation occurs, with particular reference to the role of translation in connecting the global, regional, national and local;
  • encourage understanding of the role of the intermediaries who perform the work of translation;
  • invite reflection on the vehicles of translation, such as narratives, performances, objects and other cultural artefacts;
  • interrogate the contexts in which translation occurs, such as those of youth culture, popular culture and diasporic culture, and of written, oral and performing cultures, both from a historical perspective and in terms of more contemporary interactions such as digital media and communications;
  • promote opportunities for researchers in all these fields to work across language areas, across disciplines and across national boundaries, exploring the extent to which engagement with the concepts, theories and practices of translation engenders new ways of conducting research, and seeking fresh approaches to the translation of the findings of research to audiences beyond the academy.

The theme has two key strategic objectives:

  1. to develop knowledge of the nature of translation as a process that occurs across different languages, cultures, generations, media, genres and sectors. This permits in particular an emphasis on exploration of the cultural dynamics of translation, as well as on analysis of its distinctiveness in relation to other processes of interpretation, transfer, imitation, transformation and exchange;
  2. to engage effectively from an Arts and Humanities perspective with key areas of public concern such as diplomacy, commerce, conflict and security, economic growth, migration, education, health and well-being, law, ethics and the environment by informing the work of policy makers and public, private and third sector organizations.

Theme Development

In order to focus some of the key issues presented by the theme, the following strategic questions have been developed in consultation with the theme Fellow, Translating Cultures Advisory Group, academic community and other key partners:

How can research into languages and cultures anywhere in the world and at any time:

  1. Encourage engagement with the ways in which translation may be seen to be constitutive of cultures in their formation, projection and transformation?
  2. Extend analysis of the ways in which translation serves as a form of transmission and circulation of ideas, ideologies and forms of knowledge between geographical locations, historical moments and cultural contexts?
  3. Contribute to understanding of the role of translation both in processes of artistic and literary creation, and as an active contributor in the development of new knowledge and understanding?
  4. Enhance awareness of the importance of the spaces, contexts, practices, materials, actors and technologies of translation?
  5. Develop understanding of the ethics of translation, in the light of a range of phenomena including globalization and digital communication?
  6. Permit a closer interrogation of the politics and understanding of translation in a variety of public, private and voluntary bodies and their wider contexts?

The theme aims to address research questions relating to a range of historical contexts and a variety of geographical locations. It is open to diverse methodological, conceptual and theoretical approaches.

‘Translation’ is conceived in its broadest possible sense and relates not exclusively to processes that are interlingual but also, for example, to those that are intermedial or intercultural. It might also encompass issues such as the ‘untranslatable’, and the impact of what is transformed, gained or lost in the process of translation. The questions aim to reflect a broad range of cultural issues, understandings and interactions and are not prescriptive either in their conception of ‘culture’ or ‘cultures’ or in their understanding of research methodologies – be they, for example, thematic, theoretical or practice-led - applied to their exploration, provided they fit broadly within the traditions and remit of the arts and humanities.

A new website giving information on activities funded by the theme and supported by the theme’s Leadership Fellow will be launched shortly at: www.TranslatingCultures.org.uk. The Theme Leadership Fellow is Professor Charles Forsdick.