Transcultural Practice, Gender/Sexuality and the Politics of Alterity
Edited by Christopher Larkosh
ISBN 1-905763-32-8, £25 (inc. postage and packing)
Published December 2011, 156 pages
Of interest to scholars in translation studies, gender and sexuality, and comparative literary and cultural studies, this volume re-examines the possibilities for multiple intersections between translation studies and research on sexuality and gender, and in so doing addresses the persistent theoretical gaps in much work on translation and gender to date. The current climate still seems to promote the continuation of identity politics by encouraging conversations that depart from an all too often limited range of essentializing gendered subject positions. A more inclusive approach to the theoretical intersection between translation and gender as proposed by this volume aims to open up the discussion to a wider range of linguistically and culturally informed representations of sexuality and gender, one in which neither of these two theoretical terms, much less the subjects associated with them, is considered secondary or subordinate to the other. This discussion extends not only to questions of linguistic difference as mediated through the act of translation, but also to the challenges of intersubjectivity as negotiated through culture, ‘race’ or ethnicity.
The volume also makes a priority of engaging a wide range of cultural and linguistic spaces: Latin America under military dictatorship, numerous points of the African cultural diaspora, and voices from South, Southeast and East Asia. Such perspectives are not included merely as supplemental, ‘minority’ additions to an otherwise metropolitan-centred volume, but instead are integral to the volume’s focus, underscoring its goal of re-engendering translation studies through a politics of alterity that encourages the continued articulation and translation of difference, be it sexual or gendered, cultural or linguistic.
Introduction: Re-Engendering Translation
Writing on Race and Sexuality in the Harlem Renaissance: Translation as Retelling and Rememory
This study uncovers a rich tradition of writing by African-American women, mostly hidden in the frst half of the 20th century, whose works developed as a site of ideological struggle in which gender, sexual and racial politics stand out as inextricable elements. The stories, diaries and poems of women writers such as Gwendolyn Bennett, Marita Bonner, Nellie Bright, Mae Cowdery, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Alice Dunbar-Nelson and Angelina Grimké reveal overtly feminist agendas, address issues of alternative sexualities and express homoerotic affection. This paper starts by looking at how the re-emergence of these women writers and their texts may fill some of the gaps in the American literary tradition, thanks to their re-narration and translation into other languages and cultures within a process of rememory as conceptualized by Toni Morrison. The focus then shifts to a discussion of the resonance that such subaltern subjects as African-American women writing in the Harlem Renaissance might have in the context of current Italian political realities, in which new legislation seeks to enshrine new ‘chromatic’ racial labels and categories.
Speaking to the Dead: Juan Gelman’s Feminization of Argentine Poetics as a Politics of Resistance
This article endeavours to reveal Argentine poet-in-exile Juan Gelman’s poetics of resistance through the discussion of the translation problems involved in parenting a similarly resistant text in English. In a verse strongly rooted in the city of Buenos Aires yet intimately involved in exile and loss, he authors an elegy entitled ‘Carta abierta’ (‘Public Letter’, 1980) in response to his son’s disappearance during Argentina’s military dictatorship in 1976. In these poems, he deranges language by reinventing words, spelling, grammar and gender in an attempt to recreate a ‘mother tongue’ that would allow him to speak (to) his ‘unspoken’ son.
Transformations of Violence: Metramorphic Gains and Plastic Regeneration in Marie Vieux-Chauvet’s Les RapacesPersonal Mission or Public Service?
The main objective of this article is to suggest that a commitment to translation that engages with the new possibilities evoked by gender and sexuality studies allows us to envisage and practice non-violent negotiations of similarity and difference. Marie Vieux-Chauvet is a Haitian novelist known for exposing gendered violence during the Duvalier dictatorships (1957-1986) in her trilogy Amour, Colère, Folie (1968). As translator of Vieux-Chauvet’s last novel, the allegorical fable Les Rapaces (1986), I had to engage with the ways in which violence is articulated at individual and structural levels, and consider the implications of my intervention in the text. Ultimately, my translation seeks to extend the social transformation envisaged by Vieux-Chauvet through self-reflexive,feminist strategies and paradigms of translation. Grounding my argument in this particular translation project, I review and resist the ways in which the term ‘violence’ has accrued around translation, proposing instead an understanding of translation as a generative activity.
Two in Translation: The Multilingual Cartographies of Néstor Perlongher and Caio Fernando Abreu
This essay discusses the problematics of literary translation and transcultural communication in the literary and cultural production of late twentieth-century Brazil, especially in the works of the Brazilian novelist and journalist Caio Fernando Abreu and the exiled Argentine poet, essayist and urban anthropologist Néstor Perlongher. Through a comparative analysis of common themes in their writing, such as multilingualism, male homosexuality and hiv/Aids, a transnational dialogue emerges that allows for a more nuanced and informed discussion of sexual subalternity in translation studies, above all in its implications regarding the ethical imperative of cross-identification for work in transcultural communication.
The Creation of ‘A Lady’: Gender and Sexual Politics in the Earliest Japanese Translations of Walter Scott and Charlotte Brontë
Takayuki Tokota Murakami
The Shogunate regime of sexuality divided women into two categories: ji-onna (ordinary women; housewives, marriageable women) and yujo (prostitutes/courtesans). The former performed the household labour and reproductive functions, and were thus separated from the amorous/sexual activities fulflled by the latter. The lady, orkajin, had become a predominant object of literary/artistic representation in the Edo period; at the same time, a female beauty was defined by the term bijin, one that used to be synonymous with kajin. By examining the Meiji translations of the poem The Lady of the Lake and the novel Jane Eyre, this paper attempts to analyze how ‘pre-modern’ and ‘modern’ sexual ideologies negotiated with each other in Meiji-era literary discourse, as well to demonstrate, through the history of the translation of the English word ‘lady’, how the ‘old’ conception was reconfigued and thus was able to survive. It also traces the changing definitions and theories of translation in the 19th and 20th centuries that infuenced the development of the conficting gender politics embodied in the term kajin.
Western Others (And ‘Other’ Westerns): Translating Brokeback Mountain into Vietnamese Culture
The current practice of English-Vietnamese translation, along with the dominant theoretical pronouncements by translators and literary critics, has perpetuated the peripheral position of translated literatures in the Vietnamese literary system. While translation is recognized as a real demand in Vietnam, it is alienated as the Western Other and contained in a closed-off and disempowered territory. Like translated literature, homosexuality experiences the same disempowerment. This essay arises from my experience of translating Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain. In this project, I argue that in the case of translating homosexuality from English into Vietnamese, the technique of radical domestication allows the translated text to be read not as a cultural product of the Other, but as a condition within Us, a condition that is perpetually displaced and remains unrepresented. My Vietnamese Brokeback Mountain represents the unspeakable from within, resisting the presumed otherness of homosexuality and the very translational medium through which it is told.
Gender, Historiography and Translation
This paper is an exploration of the interpellation of gender in the writing of literary and cultural history, and an attempt to understand how this may be conveyed through translation. The aim is to emphasize the need for dynamic interplay among the three components of gender, historiography and translation. The paper takes up for close study Subarnalata, a novel by Ashapurna Devi, one of India’s most eminent women writers, as well as its translated versions. This novel, the second of an expansive generational trilogy, tells the story of women’s emancipation and the emergence of the ‘lekhika’ or woman writer in India. It is axiomatic that a translator does not merely ‘transfer’ the text into another language, but also its cultural context. In this instance, the challenge is to convey the socio-cultural problematics and the milieu that the author very deliberately weaves into her text. The main question this raises: What kind of cultural sensitivity would be required to effectively translate all the elements of history? The paper then offers the concept of ‘ex-centrality’ as a desirable approach for translating texts of the marginalized and the underprivileged.
Notes on Contributors