Comptes rendus

Luc van Doorslaer and Peter Flynn, eds. Eurocentrism in Translation Studies. Amsterdam/Philadelphia, John Benjamins, “Benjamins Current Topics, Book 54,” 2013, 133 p.[Record]

  • Jonathan Evans

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  • Jonathan Evans
    University of Portsmouth

The essays collected in this book, apart from a final interview-based chapter, are reworked papers from “The Construction of Translation Studies through Translation: Contrasting Various ‘Continental’ Perspectives” conference held in Antwerp in 2009. The volume has been published before as a special issue of Translation and Interpreting Studies (6, 2, 2011). All of the essays presented interact in some way with Edwin Gentzler’s Translation and Identity in the Americas: New Directions in Translation Theory (2008), which was, according to the editors, one of the “pretexts” of the conference (p. 1). The volume reads, as such, as a form of companion to Gentzler’s own book and someone approaching it with no knowledge of Gentzler’s argument or scholarship might find it difficult to follow. The centrality of Gentzler’s book, with its focus on translation in the Americas, as well as the “‘continental’ perspectives” of the title of the conference, lead to some of the limitations of Eurocentrism in Translation Studies, which often focuses on the contrast between Europe and America, and the sorts of thinking this produces. There are six essays in the book and one interview-based chapter. The essays bring together scholars working in America (Gentzler), Europe (Delabastita, Flynn, Boyden, Valdeón) and Africa (Marais), while the interviewees are Sherry Simon, Judy Wakabayashi and Maria Tymoczko (all attached to North American universities). It seems odd to me that there is such an obvious gender split here: all the essays are by men and the interviewees are all women. This may be just chance, but it gives an odd shape to the book and feels like an area where changes could have been made in the transition from special issue to collected volume (for example, it would have been possible to commission essays by the interviewees). While the inclusion of an African scholar lends a bit more balance to the continents involved, there is a glaring omission of Asian scholars (as Translation Studies is a reasonably strong discipline in Hong Kong and South Korea and a growing discipline in mainland China, Taiwan and Japan) as well as Australasian scholars (though Wakabayashi is Australian by birth and works with Japanese) and scholars from South America. While this may be a consequence of the volume resulting from a conference, I feel that it limits its effectiveness as a volume on Eurocentrism in Translation Studies, as the additional, non-European perspectives would have offered a broader approach to the topic. Gentzler’s own contribution deals with changes taking place in the discipline, from the search for non-European perspectives on translation to changing spaces of analysis (i.e. the shift from nations to subnational units like cities and diasporic communities). The essay is an excellent corrective to many entrenched ideas about translation, exploring how translation is understood in multiple cultures. While this sort of work has been going on for a while, Gentzler succinctly brings it together and shows the relevance of thinking beyond European viewpoints. I found his analysis of multilingualism in the USA fascinating and an extremely useful way of approaching the complexity of language usage there. Delabastita’s essay is a nuanced and detailed discussion of the problems of “continentalism” in Translation Studies, which explores how using European models to discuss the rest of the world can lead to misunderstandings and oversimplifications, as well as the problem of opposing Europe to America or elsewhere. Delabastita also points out the prevalence of French post-structuralism in Gentzler’s work, leading him to ask “doesn’t his overall dependence on French post-structuralism place him a similar position of self-imposed intellectual compliance with the old European center?” (p. 39). Yet, he notes that …