Academic journal article Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

Translation in the Social Sciences and Humanities: Circulating and Canonizing Knowledge

Academic journal article Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

Translation in the Social Sciences and Humanities: Circulating and Canonizing Knowledge

Article excerpt

This article explores elements of knowledge-making in translatorial practices in the social sciences and humanities. It approaches the relationship between translation and knowledge-making within the rules of the game of the academic field, with particular attention to mechanisms of symbolic recognition. Translations and translating are understood as forms of knowledge-making which take place both overtly and covertly. This article draws on quantitative material relating to the paratexts of translations from German into French and a corpus of paratexts surrounding translations of Weber's Protestant Ethic into English in order to describe aspects of the relationship between translation and knowledge-making.

**********

This article explores elements of knowledge-making in translatorial practices in the fields of the social sciences and humanities. It establishes a relationship between translation and knowledge-making within the rules of the game of the academic field. In particular, it assumes that the social construction and stratification of knowledge in the social sciences and humanities rely on mechanisms of symbolic recognition. With regard to translation, symbolic recognition can be a consequence as much as a cause, and is evident first and foremost in selecting or deselecting a text for translation. At the same time, translation leads to a rewriting and repositioning of texts and scholars in a new intellectual space. This process can be understood as a form of knowledge-making in its own right, and takes place both overtly and covertly. Overtly, it is manifested in translatorial paratexts that offer an explicit interpretation of the translated material. Covertly, translators participate in knowledge formation through their textual choices, which inevitably become part of the reception of a scholar's work in the target culture.

Translation in the social sciences and humanities is not a single, undifferentiated practice. Hierarchies between scholarly systems, trending topics, translatorial traditions, as well as the different interests of agents within the academic field make translation a practice that is too diverse to be captured by generalizations. The focus here thus lies on a specific type of translation: namely, book translations of highly consecrated scholars. Translated books are chosen for pragmatic reasons, because they are relatively easy to identify compared to other (potentially translated) intellectual interventions. The allocation of books to specific disciplines, however, is less straightforward as several strands of research may appropriate texts for their needs. Hence, the fields of social sciences and humanities are not further differentiated in this study, although their methodological, epistemological, ontological, as well as publication practices and dissemination strategies differ widely, and the differences have an impact on translatorial practices in these fields. The decision to concentrate on translations of canonized scholars provides an opportunity to discuss the reciprocity of the relationship between translation and symbolic recognition. Furthermore, drawing on Gerard Genette's terminology, paratexts will be examined as spaces of translatorial knowledge-making and scholarly canon formation.

Certain texts are more likely to be translated than others. Translation studies offers explanations for the order of priority for selecting texts, reaching from the micro- to the macro-level; from personal motives to societal mechanisms. (1) Structural explanations emphasize rather "universalistic" patterns of selection between languages, although selecting a text always remains a local and individual act. In Pierre Bourdieu's terms, each individual action takes place within the boundaries provided by the rules of the game of the relatively autonomous societal field in question. In the social sciences and humanities, the selection of books for translation largely depends on the symbolic capital of the source text author. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.