M2: Unit 3 – Q8.3 Answer

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In this article, Jack is narrated as an innocent victim who has done the right thing by helping the US soldiers and is being unjustly persecuted by Iraqi insurgents, who see him as a traitor. The article’s author, Conrad Mulcahy, narrates Jack and the other wartime interpreters as being on the side of the Americans, arguing that they should be treated as U.S soldiers. In other words, Jack is one of ‘us’, while his angry compatriots are definitely ‘them’.

Baker (2010) argues that this is typical of mainstream Western war correspondents’ accounts of translators and interpreters working in warzones. In her view (ibid.:204), war correspondents tend to ‘romanticise’ the role of warzone linguists, narrating them as victims of the ongoing violence and of sectarian conflict rather than potentially complicit in the violence of war or even merely as service providers. While this kind of reporting acknowledges that locally hired wartime translators are seen by their compatriots as traitors for their role in helping the invading forces, media reports do not usually use this knowledge to question the translators’ ethics but rather to affirm their status as victims (ibid.:205).

Both the war correspondents and their compatriots who see them as traitors narrate wartime translators and interpreters as belonging to the side of the invading forces. As we saw in Chapter 5, Q5.4 , Baker (ibid.:200) argues that narratives during war situations typically narrate the opposing side as ‘other’ and allow no room for ambiguity: ‘There is no place in war for fluid, shifting identities, for split or even strained loyalties, not for negotiated narratives of any kind’. This can be traumatic for translators and interpreters, who often have friends and/or family on both sides of a war situation. These linguists experience a conflict between their own personal narratives and the narratives imposed upon them by their employers and their compatriots. As discussed in Chapter 5, dominant public narratives can infringe upon and restrict personal narratives. War situations tend to make it harder for people to construct their own personal narratives because the public narratives available to them become narrower; instead they find themselves narrated by others.