Researching Translation & Interpreting I The Challenge and Promise of Interdisciplinary

13-15 October 2017

Baker Centre for Translation and Interpreting Studies

Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China

A relative newcomer to the academic world and initially associated with vocational training, translation studies is now firmly established as a vibrant research field in many if not most universities around the world. In their various modes and diverse manifestations, translation and interpreting have further engaged scholars located well beyond the boundaries of translation studies – including sociologists, media and film specialists, forensic linguists, literary scholars and political scientists. Special issues focusing on translation and interpreting continue to appear in leading international journals such as Comparative Literature Studies, Social Dynamics, The Yale Journal of Criticism, Journal of Pragmatics, Journal of Visual Culture, Language and Literature, Discourse, and Public Culture, among many others.

Alongside the growth of interest in translation among scholars from various disciplines in the humanities and sciences, interdisciplinarity has become a key goal for academic institutions everywhere. But what does interdisciplinarity mean, generally as well as more specifically, in the context of translation studies? Does it mean borrowing methods and theoretical models from one or more other disciplines to address a research question that is specific to translation studies? Or does it mean addressing a question that is broader than the concerns of a single discipline such as translation studies by drawing on the knowledge and methodologies elaborated in several disciplines? And how does each type of encounter impact translation studies as a borrowing or collaborating discipline?

Organised to launch the Baker Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and as the first of a series of events and initiatives to be carried out under its aegis, this international conference will bring together established scholars as well as doctoral students and early career researchers to examine various facets and challenges of pursuing interdisciplinary research on translation and interpreting, and of defining translation studies as an ‘interdiscipline’. Contributions that focus on the negotiation of different epistemologies of knowledge, theoretical models and research methodologies are welcome, as are those that present case studies in which insights from other disciplines are operationalized, critiqued and adapted.

Potential themes of interest include but are not restricted to the following:

  • Interdisciplinary models for researching translation and interpreting in new settings, such as digital platforms, social media, asylum hearings, refugee camps;
  • The adaptation of theoretical insights and models from sociology, cultural theory, media studies, linguistics and other disciplines to address research questions in translation studies;
  • Models of collaboration across the human and natural sciences and the potential contribution of translation studies in this context;
  • The use of translation as a critical category to interrogate the tenets and long held assumptions of another discipline;
  • The application of specific methods of research, such as ethnography or genetic criticism, in the study of translation and interpreting;
  • Interdisciplinary models for theorizing and researching communities of translators and interpreters;
  • Interdisciplinary models for theorizing and researching cognitive aspects of translation and interpreting;
  • The ethics of interdisciplinary research.

The language of the conference is English.

Keynote Speakers

Brian Baer, Kent State University, USA

Deep Interdisciplinarity, or Confronting the Fact of Translation across the Humanities and Social Sciences

The fact that the ‘linguistic turn’ initiated by Saussurian linguistics altered the very conception of meaning-making or knowledge production across the humanities and social sciences suggests the need to distinguish such profound influence, which I describe as deep interdisciplinarity, from the borrowing of isolated concepts and methods, or surface interdisciplinarity. This presentation argues that confronting the fact of translation, that is, analyzing actual instances of translation, is a necessary continuation of the linguistic turn, fundamental to any effort to transnationalize a field of study. Using Global Sexuality Studies as an example, the presentation will begin by reviewing broad trends across the humanities and social sciences in which translation is either ignored or treated as a metaphor, resulting in the mystification of the actual workings of cross-linguistic and cross-cultural exchange. It will then provide models of the productive integration of translation into research as a way to relativize universalist claims and to further situate the researcher. Such integration, however, is predicated on re-conceiving translation outside the Romantic paradigm — as an authentic, creative site where identities are negotiated and new knowledge is generated. In calling scholars to confront the fact of translation, we reframe and in a sense reverse the traditional progressivist discourse surrounding the interdisciplinarity of translation studies by no longer considering it in terms of a ‘young’ discipline borrowing from more ‘mature’ ones, but rather as a necessary extension of the linguistic turn, a manifestation of deep interdisciplinarity

Kaisa Koskinen, University of Tampere, Finland

A Conversation across Disciplines and Communities: Public Sociology, Public Translation Studies and Revitalizing an Endangered Language via Translation 

The American sociologist Michael Burawoy (2005) put forward a four-partite division of labour in sociology, dividing the field into professional and critical sociology on the one hand, serving the intra-academic needs of the discipline, and policy and public sociology on the other hand, reaching out to audiences outside academia. The same division was later proposed for translation studies (Koskinen 2010). This presentation will focus on the promise and relevance of public translation studies, which, by analogy to public sociology, can be seen as a dialogic and activist mode of engaging in conversation with communities outside academia and of co-creating new knowledge or designing social interventions together with these communities.

The potential of public translation studies will be illustrated through a case involving Karelian, a critically endangered Fenno-Ugric language spoken in the Russian Republic of Karelia and in Finland by some 25,000–55,000 speakers. The Kiännä!* project (2015–2018, University of Eastern Finland, funded by Kone foundation) participates in revitalizing Karelian by empowering new actors to engage in translating material into its different dialects. It runs translation seminars aimed at Karelian speakers, teachers and students from both sides of the border, and it has resources for publishing translations.

In the spirit of public translation studies, academic members of the Kiännä! project engage in an active dialogue with participants whose linguistic skills and expertise in the cultural context of Karelian in Finland and/or in Russia exceed their own. The trainers, in turn, have expertise in translation that they can share with participants. Learning processes are multifarious, as the participants also learn from one another, and the trainers learn by exposing their existing knowledge to a context where commonly held assumptions about translation do not always hold. In addition to enhancing the practical translation skills of participants and increasing the pool of available texts in Karelian, the project has proved a fertile ground for generating new research questions within the fields of sociolinguistics and language policy, linguistics and multilingualism, as well as translation studies. This feedback loop into research illustrates the potential of public translation studies: in revitalizing the Karelian language we are also revitalizing translation studies research.

* Translate! in Karelian.


Burawoy, Michael (2005) ‘For public sociology’, American Sociological Review 70: 4-28. Also available at

Koskinen, Kaisa (2010) ‘What Matters to Translation Studies?’ in D. Gile, G. Hansen and N. Pokorn (eds.) Why Translation Studies Matters. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 15–26

Luis Pérez-González, Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies, University of Manchester, UK

(A)(E)ffecting Translation in the Digital Culture

Translation studies is playing an ever more important role at the nexus of various pathways of research in the humanities as the digital shift towards a postmodern, informational society continues apace. Unlike critical theory and media sociology, however, translation studies has been slow to tackle the theoretical challenges that arise as digital media content moves away from the normative logic of linguistic referentiality, which assumes that texts should be faithful representations of the reality they draw on, to enable the emergence of a more deliberative and eclectic public sphere (Chouliaraki 2010). In the digital culture, the production and consumption of media content often involve political ‘acts of citizenship’ (Isin 2008) by people living in conditions of precarity (Berlant 2011) or in need of ‘reconstitution’ (Deuze 2006) through playful or ethical forms of self-expression. The intervention of citizens-turned-translators in these processes opens up alternative spaces to negotiate subjectivity that are not limited to the reproduction of texts, but have the potential to play a central role in the construction of the cultural encounters in which these texts are embedded (Baker 2013).

This presentation will explore the contribution that the concept of affect, now widely adopted in the fields of media sociology and political science, could make to the study of translation of popular culture in a neoliberal context – where politics is being increasingly performed “through the everyday life that once appeared to be a refuge from politics” (Beasley-Murray 2010). After presenting a range of key notions drawn from affect theory, I will examine the connections between affect and other concepts – specifically, habitus and narrative – that have drawn attention to various aspects of embodied agency and have gained wide currency in translation studies in the last decade. Against a backdrop of increasing recognition of the (e)(a)ffects of non-conscious affinity and rupture structures, currently thematized through terms like ‘post-truth’ and ‘populism’, I will reflect on the contribution that embodied agents of translation can make to current and future processes of ethical and political engagement in the new model of public sphere.


Baker, Mona (2013) ‘Translation as an Alternative Space for Political Action’, Social Movement Studies: Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Protest 12(1): 23–47.

Beasley-Murray, Jon (2010) Posthegemony. Political Theory in Latin America, Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.

Berlant, Lauren (2011) Cruel Optimism, Durham: Duke University Press.

Chouliaraki, Lilie (2010) ‘Self-mediation: New media and citizenship’, Critical Discourse Studies, 7(4): 227-232.

Deuze, Mark (2006) ‘Participation, Remediation, Bricolage: Considering Principal Components of a Digital Culture’, The information Society 22: 63-75.

Isin, Engin F. (2008) ‘Theorizing Acts of Citizenship’, in Engin F. Isin and Greg M. Nielsen (eds) Acts of Citizenship, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 15–43.

Wen Ren, College of Foreign Languages and Cultures, Sichuan University

The Evolution of Interpreters’ (Code of) Ethics in China’s Mainland after 1949: A Sociological and Historical Perspective

This presentation will examine the evolution of interpreters’ (code of) ethics and its interaction with the making of a profession (or ‘field’ in Bourdieusian terms) in China’s mainland after 1949, from both a sociological and a historical perspective. Using Bourdieu’s theory of practice as an analytical tool, and institutional documents, (auto)biographies, interviews and related publications as data, I will address a number of questions. First, between 1949 and 1979, a period during which interpreting was not an autonomous ‘field’ and “formal knowledge” (Freidson, 1986) of interpreting was not part of the curriculum, how did the ethics of (mostly diplomatic) interpreters manifest itself and how did it work? Second, the period from 1980 to 2009 saw the gradual professionalization of interpreting. During this time, how was ethics codified by professional organizations and incorporated in interpreting education? How were professional ethical principles followed or challenged by interpreters in practice? How did ethics-related knowledge and practice interact with interpreters’ habitus and capital, and influence the ongoing professionalization of interpreting? And finally, the term ‘language service’ (of which T&I service constitutes an important part) was first officially introduced in 2010. While the rapid development of the language service industry in recent years has been expanding the spheres of T&I services, in what way does the client-centredness of this industry impact interpreters’ perception of professional ethics and their actual ethical decision-making? Are interpreters’ relatively stronger capital and habitus instrumental in resolving the now more complex array of ethical dilemmas they face? How will interpreters’ growing capital (cultural, social, economic, symbolic) and more pluralized ethical models affect the future development of interpreting as a fledging field, paradoxically expanded and framed by the language service industry in China?


Bourdieu, P. (1977) Outline of A Theory of Practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bourdieu, P. & Wacquant, L. (1992) An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology, Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Freidson, E. (1986) Professional Powers: A Study of the Institutionalization of Formal Knowledge, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Workshop 1 | Researching Translations of the Sacred: Approaches from Translation Studies Texts

Workshop leaders

The translation of the sacred has been a key part of religious intercultural practice through history, and Translation Studies offers rich interdisciplinary possibilities for examining a range of issues surrounding the interface between translation and religion. These include the transmission and transformation of the sacred across different languages, cultural traditions and historical contexts, notions of translation as a sacred act or religious experience, modes of text production within and across religious communities, and the very nature of the sacred itself. This workshop will begin with a consideration of the nature of interdisciplinary research, focusing in particular on synergies between Translation Studies and Religious Studies. It will then examine theoretical and methodological issues, including the generation of research questions and approaches to research topics involving issues of translating the sacred. Finally, it will consider the potential for Translation Studies to intervene in areas more usually considered the preserve of Religious Studies. Themes to be explored will include issues of censorship and power, faith communities and conversion, the history of translating sacred text, collaborative translation, and paratextual framing of translations/retranslations/relay translations of sacred texts.

Workshop 2 | Interdisciplinarity in Researching the Translation of Global News

Workshop leaders

This workshop will start with a reflection on the complexity of the study of news translation as a phenomenon that cuts across traditional academic fields, which calls for interdisciplinarity. It will then discuss current approaches to news translation, with a focus on the potential advantages and dangers of interdisciplinarity and paying special attention to the difficulties that are most likely to affect translation studies scholars. The first part of the session will also illustrate the scope for interdisciplinary research on news translation at the point of intersection between translation studies and journalism studies by presenting an exploratory account of the notion of domestication of the foreign. The concept of domestication is used in both translation studies and journalism research, although in very different ways. In both cases, it can serve to draw attention to the way in which news events are globalised and to the significance of different strategies for doing so. It also challenges simplistic views about news homogenisation in the context of globalisation by leading to abundant empirical evidence of how global news events are told in diverging ways at the local level.

The second part of the session will focus on ways in which such complexities in news translation may be analysed by utilising concepts and methods from different disciplinary strands. By drawing on methods from discourse studies and using the concepts of voice, reflexivity and framing, we will consider how the use of distinct strategies in news translation may have significant consequences on the ways in which an event is portrayed or the difference of the other is presented in the news. Such divergences can also be analysed by drawing on social narrative theory and the comprehensive and rigorous conceptual frameworks of contemporary narratology. The workshop demonstrates how with even just four basic elements – narratorsactorstime and space – researchers can begin a close textual analysis of news as narratives that circulate in various competing and contested forms, constructing diverse realities for consumers.


The conference will take place at the Yang Yongman Building (School of Foreign Languages). Instructions for finding the venue are available here.

Further details on available accommodation are available here.

Submission of Abstracts for Individual Presentations

Abstracts of 300-500 words should be sent by 20 April 2017 to: Dang Li ( or Kyung-Hye Kim ( Notification of acceptance will be given by 15 June 2017.

Registration Fees


  • Early Registration (by 1 August 2017): 1000 RMB / 140 US Dollars
  • Late Registration: 1300 RMB / 190 US Dollars
  • Students, Early Registration (by 1 August 2017): 500 RMB / 70 US Dollars
  • Students, Late Registration: 650 RMB / 95 US Dollars
  • Further information on how to register will be available by May 2017.

Important Dates

  • Submission of abstracts: 20 April 2017
  • Notification of acceptance of abstracts: 15 June 2017
  • Early Registration: 1 August 2017