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Translating Difference in Arabic Literature (ACLA Annual Conference)

Georgetown University
Organization: ACLA
Event: ACLA Annual Conference
Categories: Postcolonial, Literary Theory, African & African Diasporas, Mediterranean, Middle East
Event Date: 2019-03-07 to 2019-03-10 Abstract Due: 2018-09-20

This seminar considers the cultural and linguistic power differentials that affect the translation of Arabic literature. While translation from one language to another is nearly always fraught with unequal power dynamics, translating literature from, and into, Arabic poses a unique set of challenges. What are the implications of the cultural and linguistic diversity of the Arabic-speaking world for literary translation? How might we approach translating work from certain regions within major literary zones (North Africa within the Arab world, for example) into English? How can we articulate power differences and references that exist for Arabic readers from different places, and translate those into other languages?

We also seek contributions that take a more figurative approach to the concept of “translating” the Arabic literary world, including papers that consider how literary success and critical reception might translate unevenly across different spaces.  While Cairo and Beirut represent the traditional centers of Arabic publishing, literature from the Arabic-speaking world is produced in, and has ties to, many other spaces. How are authors from the “margins” of the Arabic literary world received in its “centers” and vice versa, and how does this reception change when their work is translated for non-Arabic-speaking audiences? How do the politics of translating difference in Arabic literature trouble assumed categories of the center/margins at the heart of theories of “world literature”? We welcome contributions that consider translation theoretically, practically, and metaphorically, as we explore the politics and aesthetics of translating difference in Arabic literature.



Erin Twohig