Unflattening the Encounter: Translation, Travel, and Place(Roundtable)
Sanjukta Banerjee (York University)
Agata Mergler (York University)
How can we apprehend the “terms of translation” shaping the construction and circulation of texts and artifacts across space and time? What sites and contexts of cultural and linguistic encounter move us to question those terms? Translation can be understood as always entangled with its surroundings, in tension with and inseparable from the place of its construction and of its reception at different times and places, suggesting that the complexity of language relations can remain constant across sites of inquiry; it can also have a flattening effect for the receiver, often blurring the line between “speaking of” and “speaking for”, and obscuring the networks of actors and processes involved in its making. The awareness of translation’s intimate relation to place is heightened when examined from the perspective of travel: an encounter between a translated or a self-translated travel text, or a label accompanying an artifact or exhibit, and its receiver can be opened up to investigations into the gazes, languages, trajectories, modes of knowing that converge and intersect at that moment, leading to an understanding of the cognitive economies determining notions of its (un) translatability, and the conditions and possibilities of its intelligibility at different spatio-temporal contexts. A travel text in self-translation can offer the space to reflect on the ideological patterns shaping authorial/translatorial decision to add or omit elements of a place because of their (potentially) subversive meaning for the intended reader. Drawing on a range of perspectives, including those from translation studies, travel writing, cultural studies, and museum/curatorial studies, participants will discuss, among others, examples from eighteenth-century French travel accounts of India, English-German accounts of explorations in the South Seas during the eighteenth century, and translations in art in contemporary Latin America, Central/Eastern and Southern Europe, to foreground place/space as a critical resource for examining the traffic of meaning made possible by translation.