Panel 45. A Global Perspective on Translation Flows

Conveners: Ondrej Vimr, Diana Roig-Sanz, Julia Miesenböck 

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Systemic approaches (Zohar, Hermans) or sociology of translation (Heilbron, Sapiro) have sought to understand the historical and contemporary acts of translation as embedded in a wider international context. Yet, the former has been criticised for overlooking the human agent, while the latter has far too often employed a centrist world-systems model and dichotomies of centre vs. periphery or dominated vs. dominating, diverting attention from the distributed (multicentric), multi-layered and non-deterministic nature of intercultural communication, including literary circulation. This panel aims to advance the investigation of translation flows by taking inspiration from Global Studies and focus on concepts that allow fresh investigations while addressing many of the familiar issues of the place of literature in international communication and cultural exchange. We suggest topics falling into three categories: Connectivity, connections, and space. How does connectivity – or the fact that people stay in touch with each other as technology of the time allows – impact the international translation flows both now and from a historical perspective? Translations are results of such connectivity, and they are a form of connections across linguistic and geographical borders. How can we map translation zones and understand the patterns and circuits of connections between multiple regions, literatures, publishers, authors, literary agents, book fairs and festivals, or translators? How does connectivity and connections relate to each other? Scales, layers, and time. A global perspective involves an integration of different scales and layers. How do we approach local acts or regional patterns of translation from a global perspective? What is the interplay between the local, regional, and global scale of translation? How do unforeseen layers of international literary circulation (such as involving specific genres, topics, or repertoires) impact our understanding of translation flows at various scales and different historical epochs? Agency. Literary translation involves many actors, including translators, authors, publishers, literary agents, scouts, diplomats, institutions, or other cultural mediators (Roig Sanz and Meylaerts 2018). Most of them act in multiple capacities, across various scales and layers at the same time. What methods do we have at hand to disentangle the complexity of such relations and explore the impact of individuals or groups of individuals on literary flows at a particular time and place? How does global consciousness and connectivity affect their choices and actions? How do the actions of individuals affect the global? And what role do women play in these global translation flows? We welcome proposals employing all methods, including qualitative and computation (digital humanities) approaches, from all parts of the globe, addressing issues at any scale dating to any historical era as long as a global perspective is employed.


James, Paul, and Manfred B. Steger. 2016. ‘Globalisation and Global Consciousness: Levels of Connectivity’. In Roland Robertson and Didem Buhari-Gulmez (eds.): Global Culture: Consciousness and Connectivity, pp. 5–20. London - New York: Routledge.

Nederveen Pieterse, Jan. 2021. Connectivity and Global Studies. Palgrave Macmillan.

Roig-Sanz, Diana, and Reine Meylaerts (eds.) 2018. Literary Translation and Cultural Mediators in ’Peripheral’ Cultures: Customs Officers Or Smugglers? Palgrave Macmillan.

Vimr, Ondrej. 2022 (forth.): ‘Choosing Books for Translation. A Connectivity Perspective on the Current Practice of Translation Publishing’ in Diana Roig-Sanz and Neus Rotger (eds.): Global Literary Studies: Key Concepts. Berlin: De Gruyter.


Consecration and trust at the beginning of translators’ careers. Olga Słowik

In my paper, I will examine the notions of consecration (Casanova 2002) and trust (Rizzi et al. 2009) in light of my ongoing research into the starting moments of translators’ careers. In line with the social turn in Translation Studies and the exploration of translators’ agency (see Bassnett 1996; Chesterman 2009; Venuti 1995; Pym 1998, 2009), I focus on the starting points of the trajectories of Polish translators of Czech literature in 1975-2020. Exploring the concept of trust, I concentrate on the understanding of the beginning of translators’ professional trajectories, namely how trust towards people who have not yet published a translated book is established. How do aspiring translators build trust through interactions with publishers and editors? What is the role of personal connections, institutional authority, and coincidence? Are some literary genres (and their translators) more trustworthy than other? Is easier to start a career as literary translator for men or women? How does the process of building trust change over time? I have been conducting semi-structured interviews with Czech literature translators in Poland who debuted between 1975 and 2017, thus my research covers years of substantial changes in political and economic system in Poland (and in Czechoslovakia). It reveals, inter alia, that the notion of mediator/consecrator, especially the triad of “ordinary mediators”, “consecrated/charismatic consecrators”, and “institutional consecrators” (Casanova 2002), requires a reconsideration. As translators usually act “across various scales and layers at the same time”, they are involved in more complex relations, in which their degrees of consecration vary. Therefore, a more detailed categorization is needed. The same applies to the conceptualization of trust (Rizzi et al. 2019), especially the notions of interpersonal and institutional trust. I will sketch these limitations, discuss issues that occur within the Polish context of the past decades, and propose an alternative scheme.



Bassnett, S. (1996). The Meek or the Mighty: Reappraising the Role of the Translator. In R. Álverez & M. Carmen-África Vidal (eds.), Translation, Power, Subversion (pp. 10–24). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Casanova P. (2002). Consécration et accumulation de capital littéraire. Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales, 144, 7–20.

Pym, A. (2009). Humanizing Translation History. Journal of Language and Communication Studies, 42, 23–48.

Rizzi, A., Lang, B., Pym, A. (2019). What is Translation History? A Trust-Based Approach. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Pivot.

The tale(s) of the savage and the peasant: translation and colonialism in the history of folklore collection. Oliver Currie

The central role of translation in the development of folklore as a discipline in the 19th century has been recognised primarily in its contribution to the global diffusion of folk and fairy tales (Dollerup 1999). However, translation also played a crucial – less visible and more controversial – role in the folklore collection process itself. There was a significant degree of linguistic modification and inter- or intra-lingual transfer between the oral folktale or folk song as performed in the source culture and its appearance as a written text in the target culture. Further, the very concept of folklore, the delimitation of the source text and its categorisation as worthy of collection was shaped by the values, prejudices, and political context of the contemporary target culture, including colonialism (Naithani 2010; Briggs and Naithani 2012; Inggs 2019). The burgeoning interest in folklore in 19th century Europe was to a large extent driven by a belief that folklore retained aspects of a universal, primitive human culture, which was considered to have been best preserved by the least educated classes, or as the British folklorist Andrew Lang put it (1884, 11), the “savages” and the “peasants”. Although valued as the primary source of European folklore, European “peasants”, like colonial “savages”, represented a cultural and linguistic periphery. At the time, the European peasantry largely spoke peripheral languages and dialects, often as national minorities in multilingual nation states, but folktale collections were often published exclusively in translation in central languages. In France, for example, Basque, Breton, Occitan and Corsican folktales were published in French and in the United Kingdom Irish folktales were published in English, and only many years later, if at all, in the original. The use of translation as part of the folklore collection process thus contributed to the loss of an important part of the folklore – its original linguistic form and immediate cultural context – as well as to the appropriation of part of the literary heritage of peripheral cultures by central cultures. This paper explores the underresearched role of translation and its wider cultural context in the history of 19th century European folklore collection.



Briggs, Charles L., and Sadhana Naithani. 2012. "The Coloniality of Folklore: Towards a Multi-Genealogical Practice of Folkloristics." Studies in History 28 (2):231-70. doi: 10.1177/0257643013482404.

Dollerup, Cay. 1999. Tales and Translation. The Grimm Tales from Pan-Germanic narratives to shared international folktales. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Inggs, Judith. 2019. "Fairy tales and folk tales." In The Routledge Handbook of Literary Translation, edited by Kelly Washbourne and Ben Van Wyke, 146-58. London: Routledge.

Lang, Andrew. 1884. Custom and Myth. London: Longmans, Green and Co.

Naithani, Sadhana. 2010. The Story-time of the British Empire: Colonial and Postcolonial Folkloristics. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

Translation and self-translation in Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive: From process to product. María Luisa Rodríguez-Muñoz

Lost Children Archive, the first novel by the Mexican Valeria Luiselli written in English (following in the footsteps of Ingrid Rojas, Julia Álvarez and Junot Díaz) and translated by her and Daniel Saldaña into the author’s mother tongue of Spanish, was published in 2019. As in her essay Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions, which she also self-translated, the novel narrates the experiences of unaccompanied Latin American children seeking asylum across the border with the United States. Although “the Luiselli effect” (Sánchez Prado, 2021) has been described as the phenomenon of the translation of Mexican literature into English and the “rapid articulation of a Mexican literary canon in that language,” nothing has yet been said about the creative and translational implications of a Mexican-born author’s immediate self-translation. Therefore, this study aims to determine how the Spanish translation project has marked the genesis (Walkowitz, 2015; Logie, 2020) of Lost Children Archive and what strategies have been used by both the author herself and the second translator to rewrite in Spanish this critical history of the dehumanizing politics of the United States that are primary articulated through the hegemonic language of English. To this end, two methods have been used: first, a questionnaire has been developed for the artist and the second translator regarding the translation process and editorial guidelines based on the methodology of Castillo Bernal (2021) and Gentile (2019). Secondly, a contrastive analysis of the key fragments on the recovery of the identity in the exodus through the child and female protagonists’ voices of the novel is approached on three levels: lexical-semantic, syntactic-syntagmatic, and translatological. With this study, we determine how this cultural product took shape in the hands of all the agents involved (Milton and Bandia, 2009) and the way in which the broken and lyrical style of the original makes its way into Spanish to reconstruct the historical archive of the Latinx diaspora through literature, given that the author intends her experimental prose to be the means to show the truth deformed by the media.

World literature in indirect translation: an unnecessary task? Rabih Alameddine’s An Unnecessary Woman. Marta Pinto

In 2009, Andrew Chesterman charted the so-called field of translator studies, which he divided into three strands of agent-oriented research –cultural, cognitive, and sociological. The last strand encompasses not only translators’ networks but also public discourses by and on translators, these statements including fictional representations of translators. My paper will focus on Rabih Alameddine’s 2013 novel An Unnecessary Woman, whose main character is a woman from Beirut confined at home translating pieces of world literature that do not circulate beyond the walls of her dwelling. Her work ethics compels her to translate exclusively pieces that were not originally written in English or French, the foreign languages that she masters and from which she translates into (classical) Arabic. Openly professing indirect translation, this woman has never published any of her translations: once a work is complete, she stores it into a box and shelves it. Fictions of translators being an invaluable source for theorizing and advancing research about translation (Vieira 1995; Pagano 2000; Kaindl 2014; Arrojo 2018), the aim of this paper is to examine An Unnecessary Woman as a comment on indirect translation and elaborate on the implications of this fictionalization to understand beliefs and attitudes towards indirect translation. This aim cannot disregard the potential target readership of the unnecessary woman’s translations, in that Lebanese society is plurilingual, using French, English and basic Arabic in their daily lives and exchanges. Itself a reception site of world literature, the novel suggests that keeping up with and accessing some of the best works of the world’s many literary traditions is more important than the means employed for a text to travel beyond the borders of its culture of origin. Hence, can translation, regardless of the degree of mediation and the market available for its consumption, work here as a stimulus to mother language and literary literacy? The interrelation between indirect translation, world literature and literacy will be framed within the discussion of mother-tongue protection/instruction and of translation as a democratizing force towards cultural enrichment and cultivation/personal improvement.



Arrojo, Rosemary. Fictional Translators: Rethinking Translation through Literature. London and New York: Routledge, 2018.

Chesterman, Andrew.“The Name and Nature of Translator Studies”, Hermes – Journal of Language and Communication Studies, 42, 2009, 13-22.

Kaindl, Klaus. “Going Fictional. Translators and Interpreters in Literature and Film. An Introduction.” In Klaus Kaindl and Karlheinz Spitzl (eds), Transfiction. Research into the Realities of Translation Fiction, 1-26. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2014.

Pagano, Adriana S. 2000. “Sources for Translation Theory: Fiction in Latin America.” ATA Chronicle 29 (4): 38–44.

Vieira, Else Ribeiro Pires. 1995. “(In)visibilidades na tradução: troca de olhares teóricos e ficcionais.”Com Textos 6: 50–68.


Published May 20, 2022 5:20 PM - Last modified June 6, 2022 7:39 PM
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