CfP | 32nd Annual Congress of the Canadian Association for Translation Studies

CC BY-NC 2.0 Anton Bielousov

Material cultures of translation

University of British Columbia

2-4 June 2019*

* Dates to be confirmed by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Registration information available at:

Over the last few decades, the study of material culture has become an essential scholarly perspective in the humanities and social sciences. This has led to the emergence of new research objects in established fields (such as, for example, the study of contemporary practices of consumption in anthropology), but also to new disciplines (such as book and media history) and new social theories deriving from a so-called “post-humanist” paradigm. Those research trends, disciplines and theories all share the idea that one cannot understand how societies, cultures and literatures are formed, evolve and function without taking into account the multiple objects, resources and material spaces of which they are composed and with which they interact.

In Translation Studies, material culture has gained increasing scholarly attention over the last fifteen years or so. In 2003, Michael Cronin invited translation scholars “to avoid the simplistic distinction between translators and their tools” (Cronin, 2003: 63) and to analyse how the various mediators involved in any translation activity intertwine. In 2005, Maria Tymoczko identified the study of « material cultures » as a key trend in Translation Studies. More recently, in 2015-2016, the forums held in Translation Studies in the wake of Karin Littau’s article on “Translation and the Materiality of Communication” (2015) have revealed an urgent need and willingness among translation specialists to reflect on the material aspects of translation and interpretation – whether the latter be defined 1) as modes of interlingual or intersemiotic communication, 2) as cognitive processes involving an interaction with a wide range of technologies, or 3) as historically, socially and culturally situated products.

At a time when we are experiencing profound changes, not only in the material media and modes of translation, but also in the working conditions of translators and interpreters, one can no longer ignore the material environments in which translation and interpretation practices (both in the restricted and extended senses) take place. Recent debates on the materiality of communication have also established the critical limitations of traditional definitions of the text as a mere aggregate of linguistic signs, or as the sole expression of the individual self, or, again, as a more or less disembodied manifestation of the written word.

Several key questions, though, remain open to exploration:

  • What are the material cultures of translation and interpretation made of? Is it possible to circumscribe their limits, as well as their historical, geographical, technological and conceptual configurations?
  • How should we articulate the relationships between translation of interpretation phenomena and the material cultures that surround them? Which aspects of those relationships are most crucial to explore, from both historical and contemporary perspectives, and in both practical and theoretical terms? In particular, how is one to avoid the pitfalls of (technological, historical, social etc.) determinism, on the one hand, and idealist and essentialist subjectivism, on the other?
  • Since various aspects of material culture have already been analysed in neighbouring disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, how is one to define a translation- and interpreting- specific perspective on this matter? Is it possible to identify its core research questions, as well as its theoretical and methodological foundations?

Critical discussions on the material environments of translation and interpretation practices can be carried out from a variety of viewpoints. Following are a number of suggested (but by no means exhaustive) lines of enquiry:

  1. Material conditions of production and performance
  • Components of material cultures involved in the genesis of translation projects and in their material production. Human actors (printers, publishers, etc.) and non-human actors (objects, text and communication technologies, networks, etc.)
  • Components of material cultures involved in the emergence and development of interpreting practices (conference interpreting, liaison interpreting, etc.) and of multimodal and performative translation practices (performing arts, etc.)
  • The impact of material actors on the translation process: translation and text technologies (manuscript, print, digital, etc.); influence of the book /print markets, of the audio-visual industry, of digital environments, etc.
  • Translation technologies, translation and interpretation ergonomics, translators’ and interpreters’ physical environments in a variety of contexts (pedagogical, professional, voluntary, etc.)


  1. Materiality, dissemination, conservation
  • Kinds of textuality in translation: the written and the spoken word, discursive and visual languages, multimodal textualities etc.
  • Forms of publishing, disseminating, conserving and curating translations – including oral performances, interpreting practices, and intersemiotic translations
  • The impact of such forms and means of textual production on the reception, circulation, and cultural status of translation
  • Reading, translating, interpreting practices and representations associated with various forms and means of textual production (manuscript, print, illustrated texts, audio-visual and digital documents and platforms, etc.)
  • The place of such material forms and environments on translation training and pedagogy
  • The role played by material actors in the “afterlife” (Adams and Barker) of translations: objects, manuscripts, libraries, collections, visual and cinematographic arts, digital repositories and databases, etc.


  1. Cultural contexts
  • The various economic systems involved in the production, diffusion, and reception of translations: the importance of the book trade, but also of colonial exchange (paper, cotton, ink trades, etc.), post-colonial economies, and the globalized market; sub-contracting, crowdsourcing, etc.
  • Political and institutional issues involved in the production, circulation, and conservation of translations: local and global politics and policies; patronage, sponsorship, and funding; the roles of higher education and research institutions, learned societies and journals, scientific networks, etc.
  • Material and institutional contexts for interpreting practices, whether institutional (UN, EU), corporate, community-based, etc.
  • Translating and interpreting in the digital economy
  • Historical and ideological perspectives: conceptualizations of “materiality” underlying translation and interpreting practices; the evolution and historicity of the “material” in translation theory and practice
  • “Immaterial” aspects of translation; cognitive and psychological perspectives; translation and the history of science, of concepts, of ideas
  • Translating material culture: representing material objects, issues involved in the translation of taxonomies, toponymies, etc.


  1. Critical perspectives
  • Disciplinary intersections between Translation Studies and the history of books, of print, of reading, of media etc.
  • The critical contribution of “post-humanist” sociologies: Latour, Pickering, Deleuze-Guattari, etc.
  • Translation and interpretation-specific insights on contemporary debates on mediality, intermediality, multimodal textualities, etc.
  • Methodological issues raised by the study of material cultures of translation and interpreting from a variety of perspectives (historical, literary, pedagogical, ethical, critical, etc.)

Papers should not exceed 20 minutes. Your proposal (in English, French or Spanish) should include the two following documents:

  • A 300-word abstract in Word format, which will be included in the conference program
  • A completed form (below). The information you provide in the form will not be used to evaluate the quality of your proposal; rather, it will be included in the grant application that CATS will submit to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

Please send your proposal to the organizers, Marie-Alice Belle and Hélène Buzelin, at the following address:, by September 15, 2018.

Surname (Family name)


Affiliation country




Diplomas (please start with the most recent)
4 lines maximum


Positions recently held, as well as positions related to this event (please start with the most recent)

5 lines maximum



Recent publications as well as those related to this event (please start with the most recent)
10 lines maximum


Title and abstract (100 -150 words)


Relevance of your paper to the conference (100 – 150 words)



Adams, Thomas, and Nicholas Barker. 1993. “A New Model for the Study of the Book.” In A Potencie of Life: Books in Society, edited by Nicholas Barker, 5–43. London: British Library.

Armstrong, Guyda. 2015. “Coding Continental: Information Design in Sixteenth-Century English Vernacular Language Manuals and Translations.” Renaissance Studies 29 (1): 78–102.

———. 2016. “Response by Armstrong to ‘Translation and the materialities of communication.’” Translation Studies, 9 (1): 102-106.

Bachleitner, Norbert. 2009. “A Proposal to Include Book History in Translation Studies.” Arcadia 44 (2): 420–440.

———. 2016. “Response by Bachleitner to ‘Translation and the materialities of communication.’” Translation Studies, 9 (1): 106-109.

Bassnett, Susan. 2016. “Response by Bassnett to ‘Translation and the materialities of communication.’” Translation Studies, 9 (1): 109-113.

Belle, Marie-Alice and Brenda M. Hosington. 2016. “Translation, history and print: A model for the study of printed translations in early modern Britain.” Translation Studies, 10 (1), 2-21.

Burkette, Alison. 2016. “Response by Burkette to ‘Translation and the materialities of communication’”, Translation Studies, 9 (3): 318-322.

Buzelin, Hélène. 2005. “Unexpected Allies”, The Translator, 11(2): 193-218

Chartier, Roger. 1997. Le livre en révolutions. Paris: Textuel.

———. 2011. Cardenio entre Cervantès et Shakespeare: histoire d’une pièce perdue, Paris: Gallimard.

———. 2013-2014. Textes sans frontières (XVIe-XVIIIe siècles). Series of lectures given at the Collège de France. Accessed April 10, 2016.

Coldiron, Anne E. B. 2015a. Printers Without Borders: Translation and Textuality in the Renaissance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

———. 2016. “Response by Coldiron to ‘Translation and the materialities of communication’”. Translation Studies 9 (1): 96–102.

Cordingley, Anthony and Céline Frigau Manning, eds. 2016. Collaborative Translation: from the Renaissance to the Digital Age. London: Bloomsbury.

Cronin, Michael. 2003. Translation and Globalization. London: Routledge.

———. 2013. Translation in the Digital Age. London: Routledge.

———. 2016. “Response by Cronin to ‘Translation and the materialities of communication’”, Translation Studies, 10 (1): 92-96.

Gambier, Y. 2018 “Un futur partiellement codé dans le passé: la traduction collaborative.” In Traduire à plusieurs/Collaborative Translation, edited by Enrico Monti & Peter Schnyder, 37-55. Paris: Orizons

Hou, Song & Xuanmin Luo. 2016. “Response by Hou and Luo to ‘Translation and the materialities of communication’”, Translation Studies, 10 (1): 87-92.

Kaindl, Klaus. 2013. “Multimodality and Translation”. The Routledge Handbook of Translation Studies, 257–270. London: Routledge.

Kosik, Rebecca. 2016. “Response by Kosick to ‘Translation and the materialities of communication’”, Translation Studies, 9 (3): 314-318.

Koskinen, K. and Paloposki, O. 2003. “Retranslations in the Age of Digital Reproduction.” Cadernos de Tradução 1 (11): 19-38.

Littau, Karin. 2011. “First Steps towards a Media History of Translation.” Translation Studies 4 (3): 261-281.

———. 2015. “Translation and the materialities of communication.” Translation Studies, 9 (1): 82-96.

———. 2016. “Response by Littau to the responses to ‘Translation and the materialities of communication.’” Translation Studies, 10 (1): 97-101.

McDonough Dolmaya, Julie. 2011. “The Ethics of crowdsourcing.” Linguistica Antverpiensia 10 :97-110.

———. 2014. “Analyzing the Crowdsourcing Model and Its Impact on Public Perceptions of Translation.” The Translator, 18 (2): 167-191.

O’Hagan, Minako. 2016. “Response by O’Hagan to ‘Translation and the materialities of communication.’” Translation Studies, 9 (3): 322-326.

Olohan, Maeve. 2011. “Translators and translation technology: The dance of agency.” Translation Studies, 4 (3): 342-357.

Thompson, John B. 2005. Books in the Digital Age. Cambridge: Polity.

Tymoczko, Maria. 2005. “Trajectories of Research in Translation Studies.” Meta 50 (4): 1082-1097.