Friday, 20 May 2011 09:12

Epistemicide: Translation and the Globalization of Knowledge

Call for Papers

In today’s world, academics are under a great deal of pressure to produce texts in English, as funding, and ultimately career success, depends upon publication in prestigious international journals. However, knowledge that has been construed in accordance with other cultural norms often has to be radically reformulated in translation to bring it into line with English discourse expectations. Such domestication procedures (which often go far beyond the word or sentence level to involve textual organization and the whole rhetorical approach) effectively repackage the text in terms of the dominant epistemology, thereby rendering invisible rival forms of knowledge.

Conversely, the translation of academic works from English into other languages typically takes place with very little regard for the discourse conventions operating in the target culture; that is to say, English discourse patterns are often calqued onto the target language without the application of any kind of “cultural filter” (House 2006). Over the long term, this brings about language change, eroding traditional discourses of knowledge until they become “mirror-images of the dominant language” (Cronin 1998).

The concept of “epistemicide” was coined in the 1990s by the Portuguese sociologist, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, to refer to the destruction of "other” knowledges by hegemonic Western science (eg. Santos 1996, 2001, 2007). This panel is designed to draw attention to the extent to which the process occurs during the practice of translation (Bennett 2007).

Hence, contributions are invited on issues related to the translation of academic texts into or out of English, and the erosion of epistemological diversity that inevitably results. Of particular interest are papers dealing with: ways of construing knowledge in non-European cultures; the effect of English as a lingua franca upon different academic discourses; competing hegemonies in the academic sphere (eg. the influence of French discourse practices upon Romance cultures or of Chinese upon oriental cultures); and the drift towards an epistemological monoculture and its possible consequences.


Bennett, Karen, 2007. ‘Epistemicide! The Tale of a Predatory Discourse’, in Sonia Cunico and Jeremy Munday (eds), Translation and Ideology: Encounters and Clashes, special edition of The Translator, Vol. 13, No. 2:151-169.

Cronin, Michael, 1998. ‘The Cracked Looking Glass of Servants: Translation and Minority Languages in a Global Age’, The Translator, Vol. 4, No. 2:145-62.

House, Juliane, 2006. ‘Text and Context in Translation’, Journal of Pragmatics 38: 338–358

Santos, Boaventura de Sousa, 1996. "The Fall of the Angelus Novus: Beyond the Modern Game of Roots and Options" Working Paper Series on Political Economy of Legal Change, 3, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

----- 2001. “Towards an epistemology of blindness: Why the new forms of ‘ceremonial adequacy’ neither regulate nor emancipate”, European Journal of Social Theory 4(3): 251-279

----- 2007. “Beyond Abyssal Thinking: From global lines to ecologies of knowledge”, Revista Crítica de Ciências Sociais 78. 3-46.



This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. is a member of the Centre for English Studies, University of Lisbon, where she researches in the area of Translation Studies. She has a PhD in Translation Studies and is also a practising translator, specializing in the translation of academic texts from Portuguese and French into English. She currently teaches English for Academic Purposes and Scientific Communication at the University of Coimbra. She has published numerous articles on many translation-related subjects, and has two books coming out soon: Academic Discourse, Translation and Hegemony: the Transfer of Knowledge in the Age of Globalization, to be published by St Jerome Press; and Academic Writing in Portugal by Coimbra University Press.

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