Organizing information into neat, readily recognizable categories that are easy to understand makes many people feel secure in their knowledge. However, this tendency can result in binaristic and reductionist thinking, or the practice of analyzing and describing a complex phenomenon in fundamental, simple and incomplete terms that are presented as explaining the complexity sufficiently. The articles collected in this issue of TTR upset the complacent binary cart by looking beyond the traditional reductionism that often underpins discussions on minority and migration. Rather than simply opposing conventional conceptions of dominant and dominated, major/ity and minor/ity, or the migrant other and Indigenous, Brian J. Baer and Nike K. Pokorn, Maud Gonne, Sarah Neelsen, and Gillian Lane-Mercier, for example, have taken a far more nuanced look at these relationships in their case studies from two major geographic areas: North America (Canada, the USA) and Europe (Belgium, Germany).
Moreover, the receptivity to complexity that we note in all the case studies extends to an understanding of translation as a complex phenomenon (Marais, 2013), which is not limited to oral or written linguistic transfer. In fact, translation as a complex phenomenon of transformative processes and practices is the concept of translation that has been retained by all of the authors, most notably Karen Lorraine Cresci, Maud Gonne, Eva C. Karpinski, Anne Malena and Julie Tarif, and Carmen Ruschiensky. Instead of simply comparing linguistic border-crossings between the source and target texts, comparisons sustained by the presumed, and questionable, “linearity or bi-directionality of translation,” Eva C. Karpinski, for example, examines “complex processes of languaging” (see her contribution in this issue), or “a process of making meaning and shaping knowledge and experience through language” (Swain, 2006, p. 98), to reveal translation to be “an open-ended possibility of multiple materializations and becomings” (Karpinksi). For her part, Maud Gonne refers specifically to complexity theory in her contribution. Complexity theory is the study of apparently complex and chaotic systems, which can self-organize into a coherent system. Paula Thomson and S. Victoria Jaque (2017) explain that, while the initial response to complexity is often the fear of chaos, research shows that agents, especially creative agents, will find order in chaos through self-organization thanks to their tolerance of, even receptiveness to, complexity.
The first group of articles in this issue deals with translation in Canada. By questioning received ideas, considering simultaneously the textual past and present, and moving beyond official dualism by listening to minority, including Aboriginal, voices, the four contributions upend traditional views of translation in order to take account of unexpected elements that allow for the identification of the many different yet connected parts that compose Canada’s multifaceted sociolinguistic landscape. First, the existence of a Canadian tradition of egalitarian translation is put under scrutiny; second, how translation and language can be mobilized to reaffirm First Nations, Métis and Inuit sociolinguistic identity on at least one university campus is examined; third, the role of translation “afterlives” in conserving the past while creating in the present is analyzed; fourth, translation and “languaging” as conduits to “multiple becomings” is explored.
In “Relire l’histoire de la traduction littéraire au Canada : d’une tradition de traduction à des amorces de traditions imprévisibles,” Gillian Lane-Mercier provides an insightful and highly original analysis of the role of literary translation in the evolution of power relations between Québec’s Francophone majority and Anglophone minority since 1976, with particular attention to the cultural revitalization through increased translation into French that the latter has experienced since the mid-1990s. Her analysis of this minority/majority dynamic defies the traditional dominant/dominated classification, revealing a more complex situation that brings to light the gap between, on the one hand, the official discourse on official language parity and a tradition of translation, and, on the other, the reality of diminishing English-Canadian interest in the cultural production of their Francophone compatriots. After examining literary translation that can serve to advocate for both cultural assimilation and cultural integration, Lane-Mercier calls into question the popular interpretation of the history of these power relations, which is founded on “perceptions, ambient discourses and received ideas” rather than facts. Her nuanced rereading exposes the real compromises that these “received ideas” erase, along with the lack of a tradition of translation in Canada, despite the high number of translations into French produced in the country (second only to France).
While Canada’s discourse on translation has traditionally been limited to the country’s two official languages, English and French, the situation is, in fact, not that dissimilar from the Belgian example exposed in Maud Gonne’s article in this volume. The traditional binary view has reduced the sociolinguistic complexity of the Canadian nation to the conflictual relationship between English and French, as described by Lane-Mercier, thereby systematically ignoring Canada’s sociolinguistic plurality, composed of First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, in addition to the nation’s many settler groups. Anne Malena and Julie Tarif’s “Translating Indigeneity at the University of Alberta” explores recent attempts to redress the asymmetrical relations between First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, and non-Indigenous people in Canada. Post-secondary education has been called upon to play an important role in healing the trauma caused by centuries of “colonialism and attempted cultural genocide.” Many institutions across Canada, including Edmonton’s University of Alberta, are now “Indigenizing the Academy” by developing creative ways to make their environment more inclusive. Malena and Tarif’s article examines several relevant official documents, including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, and discusses issues of space, curriculum and pedagogy, all from a translation perspective. The authors acknowledge the necessity to “modify teaching methods in order to acknowledge the colonial nature of Canada’s history and re-integrate Indigenous worldviews into Canadian culture.” A series of eight interviews conducted on the University of Alberta campus has shown that, while positive change is under way, “Indigenizing the Academy” can only be successfully implemented provided the importance of languages and translation is fully recognized and “both sides respect each other’s beliefs and learn from them.”
While the generation of textual “afterlives” and “multiple becomings” may initially appear chaotic to some, the next two contributions find genealogical structure by “including and extending beyond” traditional concepts of translation as linguistic transfer. Carmen Ruschiensky’s “Revisiting ‘Speak White’: A lieu de mémoire Lost and Found in Translation” traces the “afterlives” of Michèle Lalonde’s seminal 1968 poem to explore how various transformative processes of translation contribute to “constructing, renewing and transforming it as a lieu de mémoire.” Ruschiensky’s use of translation “designates a phenomenon that […] encompass[es] different forms of rewriting, adaptation and remediation, foregrounding the generative aspect of the memory site as well as the tension […] between a lieu de départ [(past)] and its reinscription in a new context [(present)].” Specifically, her article focuses on six transformations of “Speak White”: two translations, a parodic rewriting, two adaptations and “a theatrical production that introduces its own layers of intertemporal, intermedial and interlingual complexity.” The transformations “reveal how a lieu de mémoire can be simultaneously anchored […] in the past while also being renewed […] through translation in the present across languages, cultures, media and time.”
In “‘Qui sont-je?’ Multilingual Entanglements in Üstün Bilgen-Reinart’s Porcelain Moon and Pomegranates: A Woman’s Trek through Turkey,” Eva C. Karpinski examines “an ethics of cross-cultural encounter” in Bilgen-Reinart’s “translation” of Turkey for Canadians, which requires “co-habiting in the discomfort of non-transparency,” a reality experienced by the autobiographical work’s Turkish-Canadian author, who also learned Sayisi Dene while living in Manitoba. Karpinski’s frame of decolonial translation abandons text-based understandings of translation, and avoids the reductionism of text, language and culture, by aspiring to translate the multilingual and multicultural reality that the autobiography incarnates. According to Karpinski, “[decolonial translation] draws attention to the complexity of translation that can more productively be seen as a multilingual entanglement of subjectivities, texts, languages and contexts, open to multiple becomings realized through different encounters between authors, translators and audiences.” This opens the door to questioning not only translations as border-crossing, but also geopolitical borders. Instead of comparing supposed linear or bi-directional linguistic transfer between the source and target text, examining complex processes of languaging enables one to “see what [translation] does, how it connects, whose interests it can serve, and what futures it imagines as possible.”
The second group of articles examines the complex, and at times ambivalent, relationship between translation phenomena and the dominant culture in (the) America(s), as they relate to English-Spanish linguistic hybridity and understudied diasporic foreign-language newspapers. Karen Lorraine Cresci’s article, “On Loss and Gain: the Translation of Linguistic Simultaneity in This is How You Lose Her […],” by Dominican-born, Pulitzer-prize winning New York-based writer Junot Díaz, explores culture clashes in two short stories, which dramatize sociolinguistic tensions between English and Spanish through the use of Spanglish. This artistically and politically significant strategy that Díaz has named “linguistic simultaneity” is central to his fiction as an expression of his Latino identity. Translators of these short stories must rethink the traditional source language-target language binary paradigm, since code-switching defies the conception of translation as transposition between closed linguistic systems. Translations into Spanish, “one of the languages that make up the fictional universe of the source text[,] […] are especially challenging.” Focusing on the extent to which translators transpose the “linguistic simultaneity” of Díaz’s source texts, Cresci explores reader responses to translation strategies used to maintain or downplay linguistic tension. A comparison of examples of translations into Spanish of Diaz’s short stories “The Sun, The Moon, The Stars” and “Otravida, Otravez” from This is How You Lose Her (2012) illustrates how linguistic simultaneity can be recreated.
In “Translation and Diaspora: The Role(s) of Translation in U.S. Immigrant Newspapers, 1917–1941,” Brian J. Baer and Nike K. Pokorn study a distinct, and surprisingly complex, intercultural context that will add a new layer to intercultural contexts retained as an object of study in Translation Studies (TS) research. The authors apply TS approaches and methods developed for researching translation in newspapers in their analysis of often anonymous translations, whose source-languages varied from immigrant languages to English, yet another example of nonlinearity in translation. Their research complexifies traditional binary models of the immigrant experience and contributes to our understanding of diaspora as a site of translation between the host culture and the often heterogeneous immigrant community. Preliminary research into two immigrant foreign language newspapers published during the interwar period, one Slovenian and one Russian, has documented a consistent presence of translations, though the latter served different purposes in the two newspapers, “reflecting their divergent political orientations and the distinct make-up of the immigrant communities.” Baer and Pokorn’s research has also uncovered that translation was used as “a tool of government surveillance” of immigrant communities suspected of sedition throughout this period.
The last two articles deal with European contexts, specifically Belgian (minority translation) and German (migrant translation). Maud Gonne’s “La boîte noire de l’historiographie interculturelle belge. Les allers-retours d’Emma Lambotte entre Liège et Anvers (1895-1950)” questions traditional historiography’s binary view that has tended to reduce the complexity of the Belgian nation to the conflictual relationship between the French (Walloon) and Dutch (Flemish) communities. This view has systematically ignored the plurality of Belgium’s diglossic territory, composed of Flemish, Walloon and German multidialectal communities, and the reality of its “asymmetric configuration.” The existence of two competing language groups—French, spoken by the elite, and Walloon—, the latter the language and culture promoted by Emma Lambotte through her writing, translation and artistic, among other activities, further complexifies the Walloon community. The traditional “simplistic confrontation of dominant and dominated languages” has hidden the complex dynamics revealed by exchanges, travel and translation “between the different minority cultures.” Gonne focusses on Lambotte’s (1876-1963) travels between Antwerp and Liège to provide new insights into the heretofore largely invisible Walloon minority point of view, and in so doing opens up the black box of Belgian intercultural historiography.
Sarah Neelsen’s “Promouvoir le transculturel comme typiquement allemand. Retour sur cinquante ans de littérature de la migration et sur sa promotion” deals with the very complex transmutations that transculturalism brings not only to contemporary German “migrant literature,” but also to post-reunification Germany. It first examines three successive waves of migrant groups to post-WWII Germany: the Heimatvertriebene, or displaced persons from Central and Eastern Europe, the 1960s Gastarbeiter, and more recent migrants. Each of these groups has produced German-language writers, who interestingly often translate, for example, Romanian Herta Müller, Hungarian Terézia Mora and Turkish Feridun Zaimoğlu. While acknowledging that this literature is widely known and studied today in German-speaking countries, Neelsen’s article wonders how it is promoted by cultural policy and historians of literature. Since reunification, Germany has been transformed into a community built around the German language that has become a symbol of cultural plurality. The article presents the reasons for promoting migrant literature, the latter’s impact on the image of German culture abroad and its attraction for allophone authors, including those who have the option to write in English.
Setting aside the “paradigm of simplicity” (Meylaerts, 2017, p. 50) by not reducing complex phenomena to simple terms enabled the authors to question received, more often than not reductionist, ideas on a translation tradition in Canada; to explore reconciliation strategies for Aboriginal languages (and by extension cultures) not recognized by federal dualistic official languages legislation; to theorize in novel ways translation “afterlives” and “multiple becomings;” to examine the translation challenges of American linguistic hybridity; to uncover the translational dimension of foreign language migrant newspapers in the US; to investigate Walloon as a minor language in Belgium; to argue that the German language has become a symbol of cultural plurality. By delving beneath the surface of traditional binarisms that reduce complex phenomena to simple terms, the authors, as agents, have exposed the, at times, apparently chaotic details that their research has contributed to (self-)organize (ibid., p. 49). The road to deeper understanding often requires meeting complexity, and the chaos it can bring with it, head on, a road that the contributors to this special issue have successfully navigated.
Five of the peer-reviewed articles collected in this issue (by Baer and Pokorn, Gonne, Karpinski, Malena and Tarif, and Ruschiensky) were initially presented as conference papers at the SSHRC-funded international conference Lost and found in transcultural and interlinguistic translation/La traduction transculturelle et interlinguistique : s’y perdre et s’y retrouver (Université de Moncton, 2-4 November 2017). The remaining three articles (by Cresci, Lane-Mercier, and Neelsen) were submitted in response to the call for articles that followed the conference.
- Marais, Kobus (2013). Translation Theory and Development Studies: A Complexity Theory Approach. London, Routledge.
- Meylaerts, Reine (2017). “Studying Language and Translation Policies in Belgium: What can We Learn from a Complexity Theory Approach?” Parallèles, 29, 1, pp. 45-59.
- Swain, Merrill (2006). “Languaging, Agency and Collaboration in Advanced Second Language Proficiency.” In H. Byrnes, ed. Advanced Language Learning: The Contribution of Halliday and Vygotsky. London, Continuum, pp. 95-108.
- Thomson, Paula and S. Victoria Jaque (2017). “Understanding Creativity in the Performing Arts.” In Creativity and the Performing Artist. Behind the Mask. London, Academic Press (Elsevier), pp. 3-16.
[Aucune note biographique associée à l’auteur(e)]
Gillian Lane-Mercier est professeure au Département de littératures de langue française, de traduction et de création de l’Université McGill. Ses champs de recherche couvrent les théories de l’énonciation et de la réception, l’analyse du discours, la traductologie, la sociologie de la traduction, la traduction littéraire au Canada et la littérature anglo-québécoise. Co-auteure de Faulkner. Une expérience de retraduction et coéditrice de Minority Languages, National Languages, and Official Language Policies, elle a publié de nombreux articles et chapitres dans des revues et collectifs à l’échelle tant nationale qu’internationale. Ses travaux actuels portent sur l’histoire de la traduction littéraire au Canada et les politiques linguistiques fédérales.