Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Agency in Non-Professional Manga Translation in Iran

Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Agency in Non-Professional Manga Translation in Iran

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Unlike professional translation, which has traditionally been the focus of translation researchers working on the English-Persian language pair, non-professional translation has not yet been recognized as a distinctive phenomenon in the context of Iran. Professional translation refers to translations produced by individuals who "designate themselves as 'translators' or 'interpreters' and are recognized (and paid) as such by their commissioners" (Perez-Gonzalez & Susam-Saraeva, 2012, p.150) while non-professional translation refers to the translations undertaken by "individuals not only without formal training in linguistic mediation but also working for free" (Perez-Gonzalez & Susam-Saraeva, 2012, p.151).

The present study is an attempt to describe and examine non-professional translation in Iran from the perspective of agency. 'Agency' has been defined by Kinnunen & Koskinen (2010) as a human's "willingness and ability to act". In this definition willingness can be understood as a translator's inclination to translate a work into another language by choice and without reluctance, ability as the presence (or lack) of power in a translator to decide on what and how to translate, and acting can be defined as a translator's exertion of influence in the real world through translation (Kinnunen & Koskinen, 2010, p.7).

A review of the way Haddadian-Moghaddam (2014) investigates agency in professional translation in Iran can help to further clarify the concept. He proposes a three-tier model in which agency is broken down into the three components of decision, motivation and context. These are then dealt with in turn in an attempt to discover the people who decide what gets translated and the factors that motivate the translators to translate as well as the factors which constrain or increase their agency.

In his diachronic analysis of professional literary translation in Iran during a period starting from the late nineteenth century to modern-day Iran, he investigates decision-making at two levels: decisions made regarding what books/authors get translated as well as those concerned with stylistic preferences and translation strategies. Such decisions, especially during the first two periods under investigation in his study, were made mainly by translators themselves, with publishers playing an important role. In modern-day Iran, as far as gatekeepers, or the selectors of works for translation, are concerned, Haddaian-Moghadam suggests that some publishers give preference to "first-class literature" over "second-hand literatures" in their selections of works for translation. He regards this as an attempt to "provide a publishing model that does not rely solely on the discretion of translators" (Haddadian-Moghadam, 2014, p.120).

As for the motivation of professional translators in contemporary Iran, based on the results of his interviews with translators and publishers, Haddadian-Moghadam (2014) concludes that Iranian translators usually have altruistic and non-economic motives for their jobs. He also found that professional translators felt that they provided cultural service to their fellow countrymen by raising their awareness of other cultures. And interestingly, some translators are reported to do their translations for the sake of finding peace and serenity in the troublesome world surrounding them. For instance, Hosseini (1990), the translator of Faulkner, held that sometimes translating books worked for him as "opium to escape from the extreme anxiety of the Iran--Iraq War" (Hosseini, 1990, p.22). Haddadian-Moghadam (2014) reports that he could hardly find monetary remuneration as a motivation among Iranian professional translators.

As for context, or the contextual factors that are believed to limit or boost the agency of translators and publishers, Haddadian-Moghadam (2014) identifies two sublevels: textual and extratextual. This categorization is useful in that it attempts to distinguish factors that arise from the text itself (textual context) as opposed to factors that are present in the social environment wherein a text is translated (extra-textual context). …

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