Translation and context: Perspectives on and from Africa

Current scholarship, whether in the humanities, social sciences or natural sciences, seems to agree that knowledge, or aspects thereof, is in some respect(s) relative to context, to a greater or lesser extent. With this as point of departure, one can argue that context, conceptualized as an environment determined by (a) particular time(s) and space(s), also plays a role in translation practices, translation products and translation processes, in short, in the type of phenomena with which translation studies scholars busy themselves. If one grants the relativizing influence of context, it means that a field like translation studies should spend a considerable part of its time on comparing the role of context in an effort to inform a global debate on translation.

As such, it seems reasonable to argue that Africa constitutes a relatively unique context and to spend some time considering the nature of the influence that Africa as a context has on translation and translation studies, in comparison to other contexts. Conversely, systems theory predicts that translation practices and the study of these practices will feed back into the systems in which it operates, i.e. the context. The ways in which contexts are co-constructed by practices and emerge out of these practices are thus relevant to translation studies.

To consider Africa as a context, one could conceptualize Africa from a number of perspectives. In translation studies, Paul Bandia has done so from a postcolonial perspective and Alamin Mazrui has done so from a political-culture perspective, to name only two. Work has also been done in descriptive translation studies on the African continent, and in some circles, linguistics studies on translation are also carried out. These perspectives, and others such as Bible translation and community interpreting, may not have been explored to their full potential and seem to allow for further research, which could be explored for this conference.

Another avenue for considering Africa as a context for translation studies would be to look for alternative conceptual perspectives from which to study translation. Recent work in conceptualising the relationship between translation and development would be one option. It also seems that many options exist for sociological approaches as not much has been written about translation in Africa from a sociological perspective. Furthermore, translation studies scholars have also not yet explored the economy, in particular the informal economy, as part of the contextual constraints. Tapping into the oral culture of Africa may open further avenues. Lastly, the teaching of translation and interpreting in Africa in response to the contextual constraints is an avenue that warrants exploration.

In light of the above, the Association for Translation Studies in Africa announces its second conference to be held at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa on 25 and 26 May 2018. We invite abstracts of between 300 and 350 words on research related to the various avenues or perspectives above. Topics related but not limited to the following will be considered:

  • Theoretical work on context and universalism in translation studies, including the implications of continentalism.
  • Conceptualisations of translation as influenced by Africa as context.
  • Empirical data on translation and interpreting practices in Africa.
  • Comparing data from Africa with data from other contexts.
  • Theorising the implications of data on African practices.
  • Considering and comparing Africa as a developmental context in translation.
  • Teaching translation and interpreting in the African context.
  • Exploring marginal practices in the African context, or comparing marginal practices across continents, for example practices in marginal languages, by marginal groups or in marginal contexts.

Abstracts should be e-mailed to ATSA2018@ufs.ac.za before Monday, 7 August 2017, along with the title of the paper, name, affiliation and short biography of the speaker.

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