“Objects in the Midst of Other Objects”: Cultural Translation and the Anxieties of ‘Otherness’

By Sarah Maitland.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The history of translation is as long as that of literature itself, yet only recently has translation been conceptualised not just as a channel of exchange between languages but also as a journey across cultural and social borders. This ‘cultural’ translation interprets one side to another, carrying it ‘across’ from its original context and reshaping thoughts across cultures in line with certain norms. This complex intercultural encounter – operationalised through the translation and re-writing of foreign literatures – brings with it a profound challenge for the humanities. As scholars writing within the interpretive disciplines this encounter with ‘otherness’ manifests itself in the subjects we choose as the objects of our research, the interpretive lenses through which we locate our knowledge and the institutional, societal and personal influences that inform our findings. In a globalised world the practice of cultural translation, as our way of making sense of the difference we perceive, is an encounter taking place not just in worlds ‘out there’, but on our very doorsteps. As ‘objects in the midst of other objects’, our desire is to make sense of ourselves in relation to others and to account for the others we see all around us, in the materials we research and the practice we commit to writing. In short, our desire to work our way through the anxieties of otherness. This article will explore cultural translation as an ethical regime for intercultural encounter that re-examines extant power relations and resists essentialism; a regime in which cultural border is viewed not as a barrier but only the beginning of the intercultural relationship.

Keywords: Cultural Translation, Translation Studies, Language, Culture, Identity

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 7, pp.77-86. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 612.422KB).

Dr. Sarah Maitland

Doctoral Candidate, School of Languages, Literatures and Performing Arts, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, UK

Sarah Maitland is a doctoral candidate in translation studies at Queen’s University Belfast, where she is researching translation, politics and the intercultural. Her academic interests include post-colonial translation theory; hermeneutical approaches to the foreign in translation; and multiculturalism and statutory approaches to cultural diversity, including interculturality. She holds an MSc in translating and interpreting from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. Before commencing her doctoral studies, Sarah worked at the United Nations as a researcher and has managed an international peacebuilding and community relations research programme in Northern Ireland. She is a practicing translator of contemporary drama in Spanish, and has had a number of her translations published and produced for the stage.

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