M2: Unit 3 – Q5.4 Answer

« back to questions                                                                                                                                                                              » proceed to chapter 6

Answer

War situations offer many examples of translators and interpreters experiencing trauma because of their exposure to conflicting narratives. Baker (2010) points out that translators and interpreters working in warzones ‘often have to perform tasks that strain their loyalties or disrupt their sense of identity.’ In war situations, she argues, each side narrates the opposing side as ‘other’ and ‘inhuman’, allowing no room for ambivalence. Translators and interpreters, however, often have friends and even family on the ‘other side.’ They may then find themselves subscribing to conflicting narratives – the narratives of each opposing side – resulting in a trauma similar to that experienced by Kennedy. Also like Kennedy, they may meet with distrust and extreme dislike; Tobia (2009) describes how Germans working as interpreters for the British forces in occupied Germany at the end of World War II were closely supervised and monitored. They may even find themselves in serious danger; many Iraqi translators and interpreters working for US soldiers have been killed by other Iraqis who considered them to be traitors. Like Mark Kennedy, their behaviour might be viewed as unethical. Since our subscription to particular narratives is based on the values or ‘good reasons’ (Fisher 1987) to which we subscribe, it is seen as ethically unsound to subscribe to two opposing narratives at once. However, translators and interpreters, who often draw on narratives from different cultures to construct their own identities, regularly find themselves exposed to situations of this kind.