Call for Papers | Ethnographic Research in Translation and Interpreting Studies

Special issue of The Translator (2023)

Guest edited by Maialen Marin-Lacarta (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) and Chuan Yu (Hong Kong Baptist University)

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

In parallel with the growing interdisciplinarity of Translation and Interpreting Studies (TIS), and an increasing interest in participant- and process-oriented studies in the field, there has been a burgeoning of innovation in methodologies that transcend disciplinary boundaries. TIS scholars have begun to reflect systematically on research methods, as is evidenced by the publication of dedicated monographs and the inclusion of entries on research methodologies in encyclopaedias and handbooks. With a shifting attention from texts to practices, ethnographic approaches have gained popularity as researchers have felt compelled to enter the field to study the agents, their practices and actual processes of translation and interpreting, and the interactions involving both human and non-human actors. The ethnographic methods that TIS scholars have started to apply include participant observation, fieldnote writing, diaries, interviews and focus groups. The integration of ethnographic approaches as a viable and necessary form of data collection in TIS has been supported by various researchers (Wolf 2002, Buzelin 2007, Sturge 2007, Koskinen 2008, Flynn 2010, Hubscher-Davidson 2011, Tesseur 2014, Olohan and Davitti 2015, Marin-Lacarta and Vargas-Urpi 2019, Yu 2020). At the same time, technological advances have enabled data collection in unconventional forms, and ethnographic studies that incorporate both online and offline fieldwork have become more and more common. Whilst stimulating discussions continue and the literature on ethnography flourishes in the social sciences, there has been little systematic reflection on how ethnography expands TIS scholarship, and the benefits and challenges of applying ethnographic methods. The current special issue invites papers to discuss how TIS has benefited from ethnography conceptually and methodologically, as well as the challenges that occur in the use of ethnography. It aims at expanding current possibilities of data collection, analysis and dissemination.

The guest editors welcome papers that reflect on the intersections between ethnography and translation, and the use of ethnographic methods in TIS. Potential topics include, but are not restricted to the following:

  • Intersections between translation and ethnography at a conceptual level, e.g. ethnography as the translation of cultures, thick description and thick translation, and representations in translation and ethnography.
  • Rethinking ethnography and ethnographic methods through the lens of TIS research.
  • Conducting fieldwork in TIS research, e.g. T&I workplaces and environments, T&I in organisations, multi-sited ethnography, the challenges and possibilities brought up by the field site(s) during the research process.
  • Ethnographic TIS research in the digital age, e.g. conducting digital ethnography, incorporating both online and offline ethnographies, etc.
  • Methodological reflections on the complexities and challenges that arise during fieldwork, especially those from immersive ethnographic experiences.  
  • Researcher/ethnographer’s positionality, the relationship with research subjects, and other ethical issues during fieldwork and at the stage of disseminating research results.
  • Achieving social impact through ethnographic TIS research; ethnographic action research in TIS.
  • Teaching ethnographic methodology in TIS research training.

To propose a paper, please send your abstract (700-800 words, excluding references) by email to both guest editors of the special issue:


Buzelin, Hélène. 2007. “Translation Studies, Ethnography and the Production of Knowledge”, in In Translation – Reflections, Refractions, Transformations, Paul St-Pierre and Prafulla C. Kar (eds.). Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 135–169.

Flynn, Peter. 2010. “Ethnographic approaches,” in Handbook of Translation Studies, vol. 1., Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 116–119.

Hubscher-Davidson, Severine. 2011. “A Discussion of Ethnographic Research Methods and their Relevance for Translation Process Research,” Across Languages and Cultures 12(1), 1–18.

Koskinen, Kaisa. 2008. An Ethnographic Study of EU Translation. Manchester, UK: St Jerome.

Marin-Lacarta and Mireia Vargas-Urpi. 2019. “Translators Revising Translators: A Fruitful Alliance,” Perspectives: Studies in Translation Theory and Practice 27 (3): 404-418.

Olohan, Maeve and Elena Davitti. 2015. “Dynamics of Trusting in Translation Project Management: Leaps of Faith and Balancing Acts,” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 46(4): 391–416.

Sturge, Kate. 2007. Representing Others: Translation, Ethnography and the Museum. Manchester: St Jerome.

Tesseur, Wine. 2014. “Institutional Multilingualism in NGOs: Amnesty International’s Strategic Understanding of Multilingualism,” Meta 59(3): 557–577.

Wolf, Michaela. 2002. “Culture as Translation – and Beyond: Ethnographic Models of Representation in Translation Studies”, in Crosscultural Transgressions, Research Models in Translation Studies II: Historical and Ideological Issues, Theo Hermans ed. Manchester: St Jerome, 180–192.

Yu, Chuan. 2020. “Insider, Outsider or Multiplex Persona? Confessions of a Digital Ethnographer’s Journey in Translation Studies,” The Journal of Specialised Translation 34 (July): 9–31.

Production schedule

  • 15 May 2021: Submission of abstract (700-800 words)
  • 15 June 2021: Decisions on the abstract proposal
  • 15 January 2022: Submission of full manuscript (preferably between 6000 and 8000 words, inclusive of tables, references, figure captions, footnotes, endnotes). Detailed style guidelines available here.
  • 16 January to 15 September 2022: Peer review process
  • 15 December 2022: Submission of final revised manuscript
  • 15 February 2023: Final editing by guest editors
  • Early 2023: Publication of special issue