Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Mona Baker - 3 March 2010 - 5-6pm Huxley Building 144

Mona Baker is Professor of Translation Studies at the Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies, University of Manchester, UK. She is author of In Other Words: A Coursebook on Translation(Routledge, 1992; second edition in preparation) and Translation and Conflict: A Narrative Account (Routledge, 2006), Editor of the Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies (1998, 2001; second edition, co-edited with Gabriela Saldanha, 2008); Critical Concepts: Translation Studies (Routledge, 2009); and Critical Readings in Translation Studies (Routledge, 2010). She is also founding Editor of The Translator (St. Jerome Publishing, 1995- ), Editorial Director of St. Jerome Publishing, and Vice-President of IATIS (International Association of Translation & Intercultural Studies.

Today's talk
Narrating the Arab World - ‘Accurate’ Translations, Suspicious Frames

Talk outline: Constructing and disseminating ‘knowledge’ about the Arab World is now a big industry in the West. Much of this industry relies heavily on various forms of translation, and in some cases is generated by a team of dedicated translators working on full-blown, heavily funded programmes that involve selecting, translating and distributing various types of text that emanate from the Arab World: newspaper articles, film clips, transcripts of television shows, selected excerpts from educational material, sermons delivered in mosques, etc. Examples of organisations engaged in such programmes and employing a large number of translators include the Middle East Media Research Institute, Palestinian Media Watch, and The Medialine, among others.

Drawing on narrative theory, this talk will attempt to demonstrate that recent efforts (for example, by MEMRI Watch) to discredit Zionist-led organisations like MEMRI by questioning the ‘accuracy’ of their translations miss the point. The narratives we elaborate about any aspect of the world through translation do not have to be linguistically ‘inaccurate’ in relation to their source in order to mystify and mislead. Because translation is a textual activity that is closely scrutinised and often treated with suspicion, undermining a narrative encoded in the source text does not necessarily mean direct intervention in the text itself. Often, this is done around the text (footnotes, prefaces, addition of visual material) and by the very selection of texts to be translated. This is particularly the case in politically sensitive contexts, where the translators or those who commission them are aware that other advocacy groups working on the same or similar issues will be scrutinising their translations carefully.

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