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Monday, 20 June 2011 08:20

Special Issue of Translation Studies: Cities in Translation

Guest edited by Sherry Simon and Michael Cronin

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No city is monolingual. All cities are sites of encounter and gathering, and languages are part of the mix. But in some cities translation plays a particularly important role in the identity and cultural history of the city. This is the case of cities with emergent national languages, like Montreal or Barcelona, or with histories of language conflict and takeover, like Istanbul or Czernowitz, or with cities which have been the site of language revivals like Dublin and Kolkata, or cities with a colonial history like Hong Kong and Dakar, or cities in a situation of post-conflict like Beirut or Johannesburg. In these cities, history is written across languages, in relations which involve a spectrum of interactions ranging from indifference and confrontation to creative engagement. Linguistically divided or dual cities have their origins in conquest, when a stronger language group comes to occupy or impinge on a pre-existent city. And so language relations across the city are marked by these inequalities. Movement across languages and city spaces is marked by the special intensity that comes from shared references and a shared history, and indeed translation becomes the very condition of civic co-existence. Contact, transfer and circulation among languages are determined by the demographics, institutional arrangements and imaginative histories of city life. There arises a culture of mediation, a culture of the “middle ground” (Scott Spector, Prague Territories). How do translators create pathways across urban space? (Sherry Simon, Translating Montreal; Cities in Translation). In what ways do translations contribute to the cultural dynamics of the city?

More generally, what does it mean to discuss all multilingual cities as a “translation space” (Michael Cronin, Translation and Identity). The recent history of the great multilingual, cosmopolitan capitals has often involved a tension between vehicular and vernacular languages, between imperial and emergent national languages. If the greatest challenge for cities in the twenty-first century is ensuring that populations from different backgrounds live together in relative harmony, then an emphasis on translation practices would appear to be fundamental to any attempt to create sustainable urban communities. What do the histories of translational cities tell us about the practices needed in the context of contemporary globalization?

The list of possible categories of cities includes:
Colonial and postcolonial cities
The Habsburg cities and cities of Central Europe
Ottoman cities-Levantine cities
Cities of the Soviet empire
Modern African cities

Themes may include:
Translation and conceptions of public space
Mapping of transactions across the city
Polyglot neighbourhoods and their influence
Translation through time (linguistic overlay, for example Czernowitz/Tsernauti, New Orleans)
Translation across spatial divides (for example Jaffa and Tel Aviv, Krakow and Kazimierz, Nicosia and Jerusalem)
Various forms of internal colonialism: Dublin, Barcelona, Montreal
Translation in the Virtual City

Articles will be 5000-8000 words in length, in English. Abstracts of 400-500 words should be sent by email to the guest editors. Detailed style guidelines are available


October 1, 2011: deadline for submitting abstracts (400-500 words) to the guest editors
October 2012: submit papers
October 2013: submission of final versions of papers
May 2014: publication date

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