Speaker at Translation and Activism International Workshop

26/27 September 2016

Organised by Dr Caroline Williamson

O’Rahilly Building, CACSSS Seminar Room (G27)

An Irish Research Council New Foundations Project

On Pandering to a Western Readership:
Building a Network around Activist Translation

Translation is a crucial yet fraught activity. On the one hand, it can provide visibility and engagement to the otherwise obscured and disenfranchised. On the other hand, it is a process rife with potential pitfalls and dissatisfactions. Berman (1985), for example, distinguishes 13 distorting tendencies (such as clarifying, lengthening, ennoblement, and homogenization, among others) which, he argues, are inherent in all translations. Similarly, Venuti draws our attention to the “violence of translation” which, he claims, “resides in its very purpose and activity: the reconstruction of the foreign text in accordance with values, beliefs and representations that pre-exist it in the target language” (2010, 68). What is at stake in this process, according to Venuti, is a “wholesale domestication of the foreign text, often in highly self-conscious projects, where translation serves an imperialist appropriation of foreign cultures for domestic agendas” (2010, 68). When translating texts that could be perceived as (culturally or politically) controversial or unpalatable to a Western readership, how do translators balance the need to remain faithful to their source material while maintaining international interest or indeed commercial viability? This international workshop, consisting in archivists, ethnographers, journalists and translation specialists, will discuss this question in the aim of establishing the terms and parameters of a critical and overdue debate about the role of translation in political and social activism.



Day 1 26 September 2016

10:00-10:30: Introduction: ‘On Pandering to a Western Readership’ (Caroline Williamson, UCC)

10:30-11:00: Coffee


– Maja Haals Londorf (LSE/The Children’s Research Network), ‘Cultural and political brokerage: the use of a translator in ethnographic fieldwork with children in post-genocide Rwanda’

– Hilary Footitt (University of Reading), ‘Translating “Development”’

12:30-14:00: Lunch


– Anneleen Spiessens (Ghent University), ‘Une Saison de machettes, or the fiction of an “innocent” translation’

– Paul Bandia (Concordia University), ‘Translation and Fictionalization of War and Conflict’

15:30-16:00: Coffee

16:00-16:30: Katarina Höije (Freelance journalist based in Bamako), Title TBC

17:00-18:00: Laurence Venuti (Temple University), ‘Translation, Publishing, and World Literature: J.V. Foix’s Daybook 1918 and the Strangeness of Minority’


Day 2 27 September


– Michael Cronin (Dublin City University), ‘The Dilemma of the Moderns: translation, ecology and new world orders’

– Luis Perez-Gonzalez (University of Manchester), ‘Subtitling in Posthegemonic Times: Exploring the Role of Affect in Translation Activism’

11-11:30: Coffee

11:30-13:00: Claver Irakoze (Aegis Trust) and Paul Rukesha (Aegis Trust), ‘The Challenges of Translating Memory: Archiving the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi’

13:00-14:30: Lunch

14:30-15:30: Round Table: ‘Translation in Conflict: Understanding the Sub-Saharan Context’