Researching Translation in the Context of Popular Culture
Theoretical and Methodological Perspectives
Kanaris Room, Manchester Museum
13 February 2015
Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies
School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, University of Manchester
This superb one-day event featured four excellent presentations delivered by:
- Professor Mona Baker (University of Manchester, UK) Translating Dissent: Researching the Prefigurative Politics of Subtitling in the Egyptian Revolution
- Dr Heather Inwood (University of Manchester, UK) Transformative Work: Participatory Culture from Audience Engagement to Fan Productivity
- Dr Luis Pérez-González (University of Manchester, UK) Investigating Digitally Born Translation Agencies in the Context of Popular Culture
- Prof Randa Abou-bakr (Cairo University, Egypt) Mock Translation in the Blogosphere: The Creation of an Alternative Discourse
*** To view the downloadable PDF versions of the presentations and videos from this event, please click here.***
All of the Abstracts can be found below or by clicking here.
Abstracts (listed alphabetically)
Mock Translation in the Blogosphere: The Creation of an Alternative Discourse
Randa Aboubakr (Cairo University)
Political humour has had a significant presence in public discourse in Egypt in the modern period, and particularly in popular journalism and caricatures, since writers like Yaqub Sannu’ and Abdullah al Nadim launched their sarcastic political publications during the last decades of the 19th century, and colloquial poets such as Badi’ Khairi and Bayram al-Tunsi produced their sarcastic social and political poetry during the first half of the 20th century. Until now, humour continues to be one of the most effective tools for expressing dissent, particularly in various forms of popular cultural production such as caricature, graffiti and billboards, street art, and the emerging field of citizen digital media. My presentation will focus on the use of mock translation as a type of humour in the emerging blogosphere in Egypt, with particular reference to citizen media projects such as ‘Tammat al-Targama’ Translation Done’), ‘al-Qari’ al-Sha’bi’ (‘The Common Reader’), and el-Koshary Today. By ‘mock translation’ here I mean humorous translations which deliberately seek to render the source text into a literal, exaggeratedly foreignised, and highly idiosyncratic translation in Arabic. I will extend Mikhail Bakhtin’s concepts of parodic imitation, ambivalence, and spectacle in carnival (1941/1984) to address the use of mock translation as a means of combatting the hegemony of authoritative discourse. Since humour is in itself an ‘exclusionary’ strategy, as it requires and presupposes some shared knowledge between producer and recipient (Norrick 2003), humorous mock translation is a doubly exclusionary practice. By accentuating the ‘foreignness’ of the value system embodied in the source text, and foregrounding the new ‘ridiculous’ meaning, mock translation represents a strand of alienating ‘transformative imitation’ (Ashcroft 2001), which, like the language of carnival, promotes the discourse of subaltern groups, pokes fun at hegemonic discourses, overturns power hierarchies, and contributes to the creation of a more egalitarian space.
Biodata: Randa Aboubakr is Professor of English and comparative literature at Cairo University, and founder and principal coordinator of Forum for the Study of Popular Culture (FSPC). Among her publications are The Conflict of Voices in the Poetry of Dennis Brutus and Mahmud Darwish (Reichert Verlag, 2004), and ‘The Role of New Media in the Egyptian Revolution of 2011: Visuality as an Agent of Change’, in Popular Culture in the Middle East and North Africa: A Postcolonial Outlook (Routledge, 2013). She has translated some books of poetry from and into Arabic and English, as well as a number of books on Islamic feminism. Prof Aboubakr has been Research Fellow at University of Texas, Austin, USA, University of Leiden, the Netherlands, University of Florence, Italy, and Zentrum Moderner Orient- Berlin, Germany; she has been awarded research fellowships from the Wissenschaftskolleg Berlin, Germany, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. She has been Visiting Professor at Freie Universitaet Berlin and the Jagiellonian University of Krakow.
Translating Dissent: Researching the Prefigurative Politics of Subtitling in the Egyptian Revolution
Professor Mona Baker (University of Manchester)
While interest in the political impact of translation, including subtitling, has grown significantly in recent years, little has been done to examine its role in contemporary social and political movements. This presentation will focus on the use of subtitling by two collectives connected with the Egyptian Revolution: Mosireen and Words of Women from the Egyptian Revolution. While firmly embedded in a domestic movement of protest, both collectives are also part of a global culture of activism and seek to engage with wider movements of collective action and with global publics. The presentation will explore some of the challenges of researching the fast paced and diffuse output and interactions of such collectives and will attempt to demonstrate how volunteer subtitling functions in this context. It will also explore the potential for subtitlers to use more creative strategies and to play a more active role in actualising the political values that underpin the work of such collectives.
Biodata: Mona Baker is Professor of Translation Studies at the Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies, University of Manchester, UK and is currently leading the Citizen Media at Manchester initiative. She is author of In Other Words: A Coursebook on Translation (Routledge, 1992; second edition 2011) 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, 2009); Critical Concepts: Translation Studies (4 volumes, Routledge, 2009); and Critical Readings in Translation Studies (Routledge, 2010). She is also founding Editor of The Translator (St. Jerome Publishing, 1995-2013), former Editorial Director of St. Jerome Publishing, and founding Vice-President of IATIS (International Association for Translation & Intercultural Studies).
Transformative Work: Participatory Culture from Audience Engagement to Fan Productivity
Dr Heather Inwood (University of Manchester)
This session will explore some of the ways in which people transform texts through practices associated with participatory cultures and fandoms and the methodologies that can be used to make sense of such textual transformations. The prefix ‘trans’ serves as an entry point to consider the extent to which cultural boundary crossings and textual indeterminacies have become the new norm as digital media such as the Internet facilitate — and regulate — mass participation in culture. On the one hand, a theoretical emphasis on participation has strongly demotic overtones, suggesting that walls are being torn down between producers and consumers, authors and audiences, or between professional and amateur creators of culture. At the same time, fans have gone from being viewed as a site of interpretive resistance, offering responses to and repurposings of popular media texts that often defy the original producers’ intentions, to a source of cultural authority and/or economic productivity in their own right. This has led some scholars to suggest that fans are being incorporated into the commercial operations of media organisations and risk losing their potential for cultural subversion by reaffirming the authority of the ‘original work’ and the ‘auteurs’ who produce them. Examples of Chinese-language texts and media will be introduced to illustrate what is at stake in the transformative work of participatory cultures. Participants will share an interest in the interface between translation, popular culture and fan studies and should be prepared to discuss the textual transformations that participatory cultures produce, be they translingual, transcultural, transnational, transmedia, transgender, transhistorical, or even transhuman.
Biodata: Heather Inwood is Lecturer in Chinese Cultural Studies and Undergraduate Programme Director for Chinese Studies at the University of Manchester. She received her PhD in modern Chinese literature from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, in 2008 and was Assistant Professor of Modern Chinese Cultural Studies at The Ohio State University between 2008 and 2013. Her research spans the fields of Chinese literature, media and popular culture, with a focus on interactions between contemporary literature and digital media technologies. Her book, Verse Going Viral: China’s New Media Scenes, explores the fate of modern Chinese poetry an age of the internet and consumer culture and was published by the University of Washington Press in 2014.
Investigating Digitally Born Translation Agencies in the Context of Popular Culture
Dr Luis Pérez-González (University of Manchester)
The impact of advances in information and communication technologies on the established cultural industries is receiving a growing amount of scholarly attention. As far as the translation of popular culture products is concerned, there has been a groundswell of interest in the processes though which some (hitherto) marginal cultural forms have been absorbed into the fabric of the cultural industries, and in the ensuing transformations of the social practices associated with the production and consumption of cultural content. Much scholarly work has thus addressed the emergence of cultural manifestations that have developed wholly or significantly through practices of self- or participatory mediation, with the involvement of non-professional translators either in an individual capacity or as part of various forms of virtual communities. This session focuses on the theoretical and methodological implications of this development, exploring the challenges entailed by the emergence and consolidation of digitally born translation agencies. Indeed, the translation of popular culture in the digital context steers us away from the translator as an individual or subject position, and towards collective discursive spaces of translatorship involving complex negotiations of cultural identity and citizenship. In this light, the various factors driving the interaction between translators and the wider audiences they are embedded in, and between members of a virtual community working on a collective translation, are now attracting as much attention as the study of the translated texts themselves. The (self-) mediated nature of participatory translation in the digital context provides unique insights into the translation process, including access to successive drafts and other forms of ‘avant-textes’. This session will explore the relevance of netnography and genetic criticism to the study of translated popular culture, as texts connected and concerned with the quotidian and ordinary experiences continue to move towards the core research remit of translation studies.
Biodata: Luis Pérez-González is Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies and Co-Director of the Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies, University of Manchester, UK. His main research interests concern audiovisual translation, multimodal communication and, more recently, media sociology in the digital culture. Former Editor of The Interpreter and Translator Trainer, he is the author of Audiovisual Translation: Theories, Methods and Issues (Routledge, 2014). He has been guest editor of special issues of The Journal of Language and Politics 11(2) (Translation and the Genealogy of Conflict, 2012) and The Translator 18(2) (Non-professionals Translating and Interpreting: Participatory and Engaged Perspectives, 2012, with Şebnem Susam-Saraeva). He is a member of the Executive Council of IATIS (International Association of Translation and Interpreting Studies).