Translating the Literatures of Smaller European Nations: A Picture from the UK, 2014-16

‘Translating the Literatures of Smaller European Nations’ was a Translating Cultures network that ran from 2014-16. A report on the findings of the project has recently been published by Rajendra Chitnis (University of Bristol), Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen (UCL), Rhian Atkin (University of Cardiff) and Zoran Milutinović (UCL).

The report emerged from a series of public, industry-focused workshops, interviews and other published material arranged and produced during the life-time of the project. ‘Translating the Literatures of Smaller European Nations’ explored how smaller European literatures attempt to reach the wider world. It concentrated on the variety of actors who collaborate to bring a text to an international audience.

Key findings:

• The widespread and enduring pessimism about the prospects for translated literature in the UK is outdated.

• Concern has shifted from a focus on the low amount of translated literature being published to questions about the diversity of literature translated.

• The number of independent presses publishing translated literature has markedly increased in the past decade, often founded by people from corporate publishing or the financial sector with sophisticated strategies for raising their profile and establishing their brand.

• Technological advances are central to the growth in translated literature. Social media, book review sites, on-line reading groups and bloggers have transformed the notion of ‘word-of-mouth’.

• Translated literature remains a preoccupation of the educated urban middle-class, centred fundamentally on London and almost completely absent from school curricula.

• Commercial imperatives foster conservative approaches to book choices even among independent publishers, to the detriment of less familiar European literatures.

• The success of genre fiction in translation raises both hopes that this will make reading translated literature more normal and concerns that this will reduce the diversity of literature translated. An emphasis on retranslating classics rather than translating new works exacerbates the situation, particularly for smaller European literatures for which few if any works have historically attained international classic status.

• Data about the diversity of translated literature shows what is published more than what is actually read. The increasing dominance of English-language literature in both English-speaking contexts and in translation suggests that a declining diversity of voices and perspectives is not unique to English-speaking readers.

• Alongside questions about the diversity of national voices and of literary genres, male authors continue to dominate translated literature, raising questions about selection processes for translation (by publishers and other ‘gatekeepers’, including translators) or for funding or promotion (by national and international organisations or competition juries).

• The prominent phenomenon among smaller European literatures of ‘supply-driven’ translation – motivated not by reader demand but by a desire to circumvent the market or draw publishers’ attention to texts – makes texts available, but raises concerns about the proliferation of unread texts and the quality of translation and product.

• Advocates are divided between those who favour forms of intervention, particularly in relation to funding strategies, to increase the quality and profile of translated literature and those who fear the consequences of intervention for the diversity of translated literature published, including the range of literatures available to readers.

CFP — (Im)mobility: Dialectics of Movement, Power and Resistance 

(Im)mobility: Dialectics of Movement, Power and Resistance 

LAHP Student-led Interdisciplinary Conference 2017 

Keynote speaker: Dr Alexander Samson, UCL 

The London Arts and Humanities Partnership is pleased to announce the cross-disciplinary student-led conference (Im)mobility: Dialectics of Movement, Power and Resistance, which will be hosted by The London School of Economics (28 November 2017). 

We live in a time in which global mobility is one of the central themes of several political agendas. It is subject to contestation, resistance and attempts of redefinition, in debates that are often shaped around the narrative of ʻidentities under threatʼ. Building on the ‘mobility turn’ theorized by sociologist John Urry (2007), Stephen Greenblatt, in his manifesto on Cultural Mobility (2009), began to explore the ʻtension between individual agency and structural constraintʼ, in both the present and the past. This cross-disciplinary conference aims to investigate the dynamics of mobility and immobility in relation to structures of power. How does (or did) power regulate the mobility and immobility of people, objects and ideas across time and space? Inversely, in which ways have matters of movement resisted and altered injunctions placed upon individuals, groups and/or objects by those in power? What effects do such dialectics of movement have in reshaping the cultural and social realms? 

We invite PhD students and early career researchers from any department within the Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences to contribute with 20-minutes papers that address, but are not necessarily limited to, the following issues: 

● (Im)mobility and construction of social and cultural identities 

● (Im)mobility, law and freedom 

● Migration 

● Translation, language mobility and power 

● Bodily (im)mobilities and disability 

● Maps, travelogues and postcolonialism

● Movements of people in urban and rural environments 

● Hidden or concealed mobilities of people, objects, ideas (e.g., smuggling, trafficking, resistance to censorship) 

● Mobility of academics and intellectuals 

● Digital technologies, social media, flow of information and politics 

● Artistic, literary and musical interpretations of mobility-power dynamics 

To submit a paper, please send a presentation title and an abstract of approximately 300 words, along with your CV and contact details, to lahp.mobilities@gmail.com by 30 July 2017. Applicants will be notified of the outcome by the end of August 2017.

Some small bursaries are available for presenting attendees travelling from outside of London. Enquiries should be directed to lahp.mobilities@gmail.com

Segalen, Colloque de Cerisy du 3 au 10 juillet 2018, CFP

‘Attentif à ce qui n’a pas été dit’ : Segalen 1919-2019

Colloque de Cerisy du 3 au 10 juillet 2018

Appel à contribution

Disparu prématurément en 1919, Segalen, médecin, voyageur, archéologue, écrivain, a laissé une œuvre abondante, en grande partie inédite à sa mort. Des éditeurs, des écrivains et des critiques l’ont mise en valeur au cours des années 1960, ce dont témoigne un de ses lecteurs : « un grand écrivain méconnu qui mourut en 1919. C’était un médecin. Il voyagea en Chine, qu’il raconta dans deux livres que l’on découvre maintenant. Son style est d’une rare modernité » (François Mitterrand, Lettres à Anne, 28/11/1971 p. 925).

Située au carrefour de plusieurs cultures et de plusieurs disciplines, fortement novatrice en matière de formes et d’idées, son œuvre n’a cessé depuis lors de susciter l’intérêt de critiques littéraires, d’ethnologues, de philosophes, mais aussi l’inspiration et l’émulation d’artistes (poètes, musiciens, peintres, etc.). C’est cette réception multiforme de l’œuvre de Segalen que ce colloque de Cerisy se propose d’étudier, il s’agira d’évaluer quelles lectures en ont été faites, en France comme dans les pays où elle a été traduite. En quoi a-t-elle marqué les penseurs et créateurs tout au long du XXe siècle et en ce début de XXIe siècle? Et en quoi, par sa diversité, nous aide-t-elle à penser le monde et l’art aujourd’hui ?

La réflexion pourra s’articuler autour des directions suivantes :

Resituer Segalen dans l’histoire de son époque : la jeune République et ses opposants (bonapartistes), la colonisation, la chute de l’Empire de Chine, la Première Guerre mondiale, compte tenu de l’évolution du regard porté sur ces questions depuis plusieurs décennies.

Comment apprécier la « modernité » spécifique de l’œuvre de Segalen en tenant compte de ce qu’il doit à son époque ? Depuis la période « fin de siècle », les naturalistes des Cliniciens ès Lettres et les symbolistes (« les chers miens »), Rimbaud, Claudel, Maeterlinck, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche et Jules de Gaultier, vers une « poétique » qui lui est propre.

Segalen est l’inventeur de formes et d’un style nouveaux : quels en ont été les effets sur d’autres créateurs ?

Étudier les problèmes posés par l’édition des textes de Segalen, compte tenu du fait qu’il a laissé la plupart de ses œuvres inachevées à sa mort, et voir en quoi ces nouvelles éditions ou l’édition de lettres et de textes demeurés longtemps inédits modifient l’appréciation de son œuvre.

Étudier les diverses interprétations par des critiques de la notion centrale de « Divers » et les significations qu’elle peut prendre aujourd’hui chez des écrivains, des poètes, des penseurs et des philosophes, des ethnologues, en France et à l’étranger, particulièrement en Chine.

Étudier la « diversité » des travaux de Segalen dans les sciences (médecine, psychiatrie) Les méthodes scientifiques ont-elles marqué sa pensée et son style ? Comment les textes de Segalen sont-ils reçus par des médecins ? Il a mené lui-même des recherches en sciences humaines (ethnologie, sinologie, archéologie…). En quoi ces travaux sont-ils liés à son œuvre littéraire ? Comment sont-ils appréciés par des sinologues (par exemple Basile Alexeiev, Vadime Elisseff, Simon Leys, François Jullien…) ?

Étudier la réception des œuvres de Segalen par des poètes (Remy de Gourmont, Pierre Jean Jouve, Pierre Emmanuel, Édouard Glissant, Gérard Macé, Kenneth White, Salah Stétié, Lorand Gaspar, François Cheng, Christian Doumet, Pang Pei…)

Étudier différentes réceptions critiques de Segalen en Europe (Henry Bouillier, Gilles Manceron, Michel Pierssens, Daniel Bougnoux, Noël Cordonier, Christian Doumet, Marc Gontard, Dominique Gournay, Étienne Germe, Marie Dollé, Charles Forsdick, Mickaël Taylor, Maria Zinfert…) et en Chine (Cheng Tcheng, Hung Chengfu, Ho Kin-Chung, Esther Lin, Qin Haiying, Huang Bei…) 

Étudier les traductions de Segalen en diverses langues (allemand, anglais, chinois, espagnol, italien, japonais, néerlandais, portugais etc.)

Etudier des œuvres picturales, musicales et des sculptures, créées en relation avec les textes de Segalen.

Étudier la réception des ouvrages de Segalen par des bibliophiles.

Les propositions de communication sont à envoyer pour le 30 juin 2017 à : colette.camelin@sciencespo.fr

***

Le comité scientifique :

Colette Camelin, Muriel Détrie, Christian Doumet, Mathilde Poizat-Amar, Philippe Postel

“Littérature-monde en français”: Ten Years On

Un entretien avec Alain Mabanckou et Abdourahman Waberi

Charles Forsdick: Le manifeste pour une littérature-monde en français a été publié il y a dix ans. A votre avis – une décennie plus tard – quel a été son impact sur la production littéraire dans le monde francophone?

Alain Mabanckou: Je crois que c’est un manifeste qui ne faisait que confirmer le mouvement actuel de la littérature : s’ouvrir au monde et ne pas se laisser emprisonner par les discours nationaux. Nous n’avons donc fait qu’accompagner un courant et, dix ans plus tard, nous pouvons dire que la production littéraire est de moins en moins marginalisée ou prise de haut. En France les écrivains africains par exemple publient dans de grandes maisons d’édition et leurs œuvres sont critiquées au même titre que celles des écrivains français, et dans les mêmes journaux.

Abdourahman Waberi: Son impact a été, à l’évidence, important puisque dix ans après sa publication, étudiants, journalistes, auteurs ou chercheurs nous sommes nombreux à en parler encore. Le point de convergence ou si vous préférez le désir de bousculer l’hégémonie parisienne est, lui, très ancien. Les idées avancées dans ledit manifeste circulaient déjà avant 2007. Véronique Porra le rappelle : « Les auteurs reprennent ici des idées-force qu’ils ont pour certains déjà développées dans des articles ou interviews depuis le début des années 2000. C’est par exemple le cas d’Abdourahman Waberi, qui dès 1998 s’est distancié des écritures postcoloniales et rangé dans une catégorie qu’il a lui-même définie comme celle des « enfants de la postcolonie » ; c’est également le cas d’Alain Mabanckou, d’Anna Moï et de Nancy Huston, qui ont déjà énoncé des prises de positions critiques similaires dans des articles ou des essais antérieurs… ». Ces idées circulent et circuleront sous de nouvelles formulations, me semble-t-il.

CF: Le manifeste a été beaucoup commenté dans le monde universitaire anglophone, surtout aux Etats-Unis – selon Jackie Dutton, on a maintenant publié plus de 300 articles et chapitres à son sujet, dont ceux dans la collection éditée chez les Presses Universitaires de Liverpool. Pourquoi un intérêt de cette envergure en dehors de la France?

AM: Je crois que la France a toujours été en retard dans la réception et la critique des œuvres des écrivains venus d’ailleurs et écrivant en français. L’espace anglophone est plus réceptif à notre discours grâce à l’abondance des chercheurs en études francophones. Enfin, j’ai comme l’impression qu’en France on a perçu le manifeste comme un coup d’Etat qui permettait aux francophones de s’emparer de la langue française. De même, étudier en profondeur la littérature-monde donnerait le sentiment aux chercheurs français de la fin d’un discours franco-centré.

AW: Le chiffre avancé par Jackie Dutton est impressionnant mais il ne me surprend pas puisque le colloque de Tallahassee auquel vous et moi avions assisté en 2009 aux côtés de Michel Le Bris, Jean Rouaud, Anna Moï, Alain Mabanckou, Dominic Thomas, Alec Hargreaves etc… signalait cet engouement sans pareil. Je pense qu’il y a beaucoup raisons mais la principale tient au fait que les enseignants et les chercheurs évoluant dans le monde universitaire américain (mais aussi canadien ou australien, par exemple) s’emparaient de cet objet pour questionner de façon opportune leur champ d’étude. Leurs interrogations trouvaient des échos dans le manifeste. En tout cas le temps était venu aussi, pour eux, de s’éloigner de certaines habitudes et de braquer leur attention sur d’autres sujets d’études… La France reste ou restait sourde voire hostile à ces questionnements pour des raisons liées à la fois à son histoire et à son système universitaire.

CF: Le manifeste a fait allusion aux “écrivains d’outre-France”, sans faire de distinction entre les auteurs dits “postcoloniaux” et ceux qui sont plutôt “exophones”, c’est-à-dire qui ont adopté le français comme langue nouvelle. Faudrait-il, selon vous, faire la différence entre ces deux désignations?

AM: Je pense que la vraie révolution serait d’aller vers les écrivains francophiles – ceux dont les pays n’ont pas été colonisés par la France et qui sont venus à la langue française par choix. Je ne me sens pas “exophone” ou même “d’outre-France”: je suis un écrivain africain qui dit le monde en français, parce que le français est ma seule langue d’écriture. En cela je me sens aussi proche de ceux qui ont choisi une langue, peut-être même plus proche d’eux que d’un écrivain français.

AW: Le manifeste pensé et porté par un petit groupe d’écrivains dont j’étais cherchait d’abord à créer une masse critique. Tous les écrivains agacés par le parisianisme, pensions-nous, devaient se sentir attentifs à notre démarche. Et nous n’avions pas tort, loin de là. Bien sûr, tous n’ont pas été sollicités pour des raisons de temps et de place. Le grand public ne s’encombre de ces désignations. Les critiques et les chercheurs qui étudient ces mondes doivent bien sûr s’y attarder pour approfondir leurs analyses et nous offrir des résultats fiables et sérieux comme cela se fait dans tous les domaines.

CF: Le manifeste évoque une littérature-monde en français, à savoir monolingue. Votre propre oeuvre circule en traduction en plusieurs langues, dont notamment bien sûr l’anglais. Quel est le rôle de la traduction dans la world literature, et peut-on la concevoir sans être – pour citer Edouard Glissant – “en présence de toutes les langues du monde”?

AM: Toutes les langues peuvent se parler et se parlent. Si nous avions célébré une “littérature-monde en français”, c’est parce que c’était le dernier champ qui résistait à l’appel du monde. La littérature-monde dans l’espace anglophone n’est pas une question : c’est une littérature qui a son prestige et qui donne à la langue anglaise une vitalité extraordinaire à travers des écrivains comme Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith, Chimamanda Ngozie Achie, Teju Cole et bien d’autres. Ces auteurs sont considérés comme des écrivains à part entière. Dans la littérature française on ne se gêne pas de faire des anthologies dans lesquelles tout est « blanc », national et loin du mouvement du monde. La traduction a désormais un rôle essentiel : il permet au monde de mesurer l’étendue de l’imaginaire en français, un imaginaire qui ne vient pas forcément de France. D’ailleurs on traduit plus les auteurs écrivant en français et venus d’ailleurs que les auteurs « franco-français ».

AW: Mon œuvre circule en anglais, langue dans laquelle presque tous mes livres sont disponibles grâce au talent et à la générosité des traducteurs sans qui rien de polyphonique ne peut s’accomplir. En effet, les écrivains travaillent, comme le soulignait mon regretté ami Edouard Glissant, en présence de toutes les langues du monde. Ils peuvent fomenter des projets artistiques fabuleux à partir d’un lieu microscopique comme Sainte-Lucie (Derek Walcott), Martinique (Césaire, Glissant..) ou Djibouti mais ils ont besoin de l’alchimie opérée par la traduction. Mes livres sont traduits en anglais mais aussi dans une multitude d’autres langues comme l’italien, l’allemand ou le japonais et cela représente à mes yeux la meilleure des récompenses.

CF: Alain Mabanckou, la publication récente de L’Histoire mondiale de la France – collection à laquelle vous avez contribué un excellent chapitre sur la mort d’Aimé Césaire – a suscité de vives controverses : y a-t-il, à votre avis, des rapports entre la littérature-monde et cette nouvelle historiographie transnationale de la France ?

AM: En France quand on touche à l’Histoire il faut s’attendre à des polémiques. Mon ami historien Patrick Boucheron qui a eu l’idée de ce livre est soucieux de la réécriture de l’Histoire de France tournée vers le monde. Dans ce sens il fallait montrer une France métisse, bâtie aussi par des gens venus d’ailleurs. J’étais honoré d’écrire un chapitre sur Césaire qui est à mon avis l’un des plus grands poètes français… Ce livre collectif peut donc être vu aussi comme une volonté de placer le monde au cœur de l’imaginaire en français, cette fois-ci sur le plan de l’Histoire de France…

CF: Dans ce chapitre sur Césaire, vous faites allusion avec justesse à la “contribution indéniable” du grand poète Martiniquais “dans ce qu’il est convenu d’appeler aujourd’hui la world literature”. Ce constat suscite chez moi deux questions : le manifeste aurait-il pu reconnaître une généalogie beaucoup plus complexe de la littérature-monde¸ avec des apports des auteurs importants tels que Césaire, Senghor, Damas et d’autres ? et aurait-il dû se situer par rapport aux autres catégories littéraires – pas nécessairement synonymes ou traduisible – telles que justement la “world literature” ou la Weltliteratur ?

AM: Je crois que dans le Manifeste on peut ressentir en filigrane la présence de Césaire, de Glissant. De Césaire nous empruntons le refus de la soumission : les auteurs francophones ne sont pas les esclaves de la langue française, mais cette langue ne vaudrait rien si elle n’était pas revivifiée par les écrivains venus d’ailleurs.  De Glissant, on peut constater que même dans l’expression “littérature-monde” son esprit est là, avec ses thèses de “l’identité rhizome” ou sa “poétique de la relation”. Césaire et Glissant sont parmi ceux qui ont placé notre imaginaire dans le concert du monde.

CF: Enseignant dans le système américain, vous connaissez bien, Abdourahman Waberi, la façon dont on aborde et la littérature dite “francophone postcoloniale” et la “world literature” en dehors de la France. Je te pose la même question qu’à Alain: selon cette perspective, le manifeste aurait-il pu reconnaître une généalogie beaucoup plus complexe de la littérature-monde¸ et aurait-il dû se situer par rapport aux autres catégories littéraires telles que la world literature ou la Weltliteratur?

AW: Oui, mais encore une fois il ne faut pas assigner au manifeste des missions qui n’étaient pas les siennes. Il ne s’agissait pas de poser les fondements d’une réflexion académique au long cours. Il s’agissait de s’adresser d’abord aux journalistes, aux éditeurs, aux libraires français pour leur dire d’arrêter de minorer les productions des artistes que l’on appelle Francophones.

CF: La publication récente d’une traduction américaine de Moisson de crânes: textes pour le Rwanda me mène vers des questions de mémoire: y a-t-il, à votre avis, des rapports entre la littérature-monde et les tentatives littéraires de parler d’une mémoire coloniale et postcoloniale – ou même de transformer le texte littéraire en lieu de mémoire?

AW: Intuitivement je dirai oui il y a des multiples rapprochements. Cependant il me faudrait plus de temps de réflexion et d’espace pour creuser cette piste. Je pense à l’instant au nouveau livre d’Anna Moï qui reparle de son pays, le Vietnam, en dialoguant avec une autre “Vietnamienne”: Marguerite Duras. Cette remontée dans le temps n’est pas un fait du hasard mais un désir de transformer l’espace et le texte littéraire en lieu de mémoire.

CF: Une dernière question à vous deux: quel avenir pour la littérature-monde en français? S’agit-il toujours d’une catégorie utile, ou a-t-elle maintenant atteint son but?

AM: Je pense que comme tout manifeste, le nôtre reflétait une période, celle du début des années 2000. Nous avons prôné une littérature-monde, maintenant il s’agit de vivre le monde en littérature et de se rappeler que la création littéraire est avant tout une aventure personnelle. Il ne faudrait pas que la littérature-monde soit vue comme une catégorie à part. Il faudrait qu’elle ne soit plus qu’une littérature comme une autre.

AW: Le manifeste sous sa forme initiale a atteint son but, la réflexion continue et doit continuer sous de nouveaux angles. Et c’est très bien ainsi.

Call: Red Africa – a special issue of Twentieth-Century Communism

Call for contributions

Red Africa – a special issue of Twentieth-Century Communism

In Red Africa. Affective Communities and the Cold War, Mark Nash writes: ‘although only a minority of independent African states chose formal affiliation with Marxism and communism, there is no doubt that together with the developing nationalist movements this was a major ideological force in African culture and politics’. Twentieth-Century Communism invites contributions to a special issue on the oft-neglected theme of Communism and Africa. The journal is open to contributions from the field of cultural studies as well as the social sciences. Subjects could include: the history of Communism in Africa before and after decolonisation, notably the experience of ‘tropical Marxism’; relations between Africa and the world Communist movement, in all its tense diversity (East/West, European/non-European, Moscow/Beijing/Belgrade/Pyongyang/ Havana/East Berlin/Tirana/Paris, etc.); the experience of Communist Africans in exile; the place of Africa in Marxist theory.

Contributions of approximately 5000 words should be submitted by 1 October 2017 to Gavin Bowd, gpb@st-andrews.ac.uk. The issue will appear in the second half of 2018.

CFP: Memory, Migration, and Decolonisation in the Caribbean and Beyond, 1804 to the Present

Memory, Migration, and Decolonisation in the Caribbean and Beyond, 1804 to the Present

Institute of Latin American Studies, Senate House, School of Advanced Studies, University of London, 23rd–24th May 2017.

We invite papers that interrogate the intersections between memory, migration, and decolonisation across the Caribbean and its diasporas. The conference seeks to explore how ideas about decolonisation have resonated in the Caribbean, the Americas, and Europe. We take Haitian independence (1804) as a thinking point for debates surrounding concepts of independence, colonialisms, and freedoms. We welcome papers that explore contemporary practices of neo-colonialism and resistances to them as well as issues of formal ‘decolonisation’. We will develop themes of decolonisation by moving beyond any set discipline: we are particularly interested to hear proposals from artists, curators, musicians and community activists, as well as scholars. As part of an ongoing oral history project, this conference will feature a community-led public engagement activity that focuses on the lived experiences of decolonisation and migration amongst members of Britain’s Caribbean diaspora.

Themes of interest include (but are not limited to):

  • Memories and experiences of migration, empire, and (de)colonisation;
  • (Neo)colonialism in the contemporary Caribbean and beyond;
  • The development of national consciousness;
  • Caribbean literature;
  • Theorising decolonisation;
  • Visions of a post-colonial future.

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words, by Friday 17th March, to decolconference@gmail.com

Keynote Speaker: Prof Matthew Smith (University of the West Indies, Mona)

Guest Speakers: Prof.Tina K. Ramnarine (Royal Holloway, University of London) Dr William ‘Lez’ Henry (University of West London)

Convenors: Jack Webb and William Tantam (Institute of Latin American Studies); Maria del Pilar Kaladeen (Centre for Postcolonial Studies)

In association with AHRC Translating Cultures Theme.

The Black Jacobins Reader: out now

co-edited with Christian Høgsbjerg
tl-image

“This is the most authoritative confirmation to date of the intellectual stature of C. L. R. James and the prophetic grandeur of his great classic, The Black Jacobins. Some eighty years after its first publication, readers of different generations and across a diversity of national origins document their admiration of the depth and spontaneity of James’s analytical interpretation of the Haitian Revolution. It was the first and only example in modern history of a successful slave revolt when a population of enslaved Africans defeated three European armies and converted a slave plantation into the Independent Republic of Haiti. The nineteenth century had judged it inconceivable; and ever since it has survived a universal silence.” — George Lamming

The Black Jacobins, with its unforgettable story of Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution, is one of the great books of the twentieth century. The Black Jacobins Reader provides us with a rich selection of reflections on C. L. R. James’s achievement and his own rethinkings over time. Whether understood as a cultural history of revolution before cultural history; a classic text for revolutionaries; a meditation on universal history; a pioneering Marxist analysis of the slave trade, slavery, and modern capitalism; an inspiration for generations of historians; an exploration of what it means to be ‘West Indian’; a disruption of orthodox notions of historical temporality or a provocation to think about the relation between the past and the present; or indeed any combination of these; it is undoubtedly a book that continues to inspire many. Black activists in U.S. prisons, writers, and historians are amongst those who remind us, in different ways, of the power of a text such as this—one that wrote the history of a people supposedly without history.” — Catherine Hall

Containing a wealth of new scholarship and rare primary documents, The Black Jacobins Reader provides a comprehensive analysis of C. L. R. James’s classic history of the Haitian Revolution. In addition to considering the book’s literary qualities and its role in James’s emergence as a writer and thinker, the contributors discuss its production, context, and enduring importance in relation to debates about decolonization, globalization, postcolonialism, and the emergence of neocolonial modernity. The Reader also includes the reflections of activists and novelists on the book’s influence and a transcript of James’s 1970 interview with Studs Terkel.

Contributors: Mumia Abu-Jamal, David Austin, Madison Smartt Bell, Anthony Bogues, John H. Bracey Jr., Rachel Douglas, Laurent Dubois, Claudius K. Fergus, Carolyn E. Fick, Charles Forsdick, Dan Georgakas, Robert A. Hill, Christian Høgsbjerg, Selma James, Pierre Naville, Nick Nesbitt, Aldon Lynn Nielsen, Matthew Quest, David M. Rudder, Bill Schwarz, David Scott, Russell Maroon Shoatz, Matthew J. Smith, Studs Terkel
Contents:
Foreword / Robert A. Hill  xiii
Haiti / David M. Rudder  xxi
Acknowledgments  xxiii
Introduction: Rethinking The Black Jacobins / Charles Forsdick and Christian Høgsbjerg  1
Part I. Personal Reflection
1. The Black Jacobins in Detroit: 1963 / Dan Georgakas  55
2. The Impact of C. L. R. James’s The Black Jacobins / Mumia Abu-Jamal  58
3. C. L. R. James, The Black Jacobins, and The Making of Haiti / Carolyn E. Fick  60
4. The Black Jacobins, Education, and Redemption / Russell Maroon Shoatz  70
5. The Black Jacobins, Past and Present / Selma James  73
Part II. The Haitian Revolution: Histories and Philosophies
6. Reading The Black Jacobins: Historical Perspectives / Laurent Dubois  87
7. Haiti and Historical Time / Bill Schwarz  93
8. The Theory of Haiti: The Black Jacobins and the Poetics of Universal History / David Scott  115
9. Fragments of a Universal History: Global Capital, Mass Revolution, and the Idea of Equality in The Black Jacobins / Nick Nesbitt  139
10. “We Are Slaves and Slaves Believe in Freedom”: The Problematizing of Revolutionary Emancipation in The Black Jacobins / Claudius Fergus  162
11. “To Place Ourselves in History”: The Haitian Revolution in British West Indies Thought before The Black Jacobins / Matthew J. Smith  178
Part III. The Black Jacobins: Texts and Contexts
12. The Black Jacobins and the Long Haitian Revolution: Archives, History, and the Writing of Revolution / Anthony Bogues  197
13. Refiguring Resistance: Historiography, Fiction, and the Afterlives of Toussaint Louverture / Charles Forsdick  215
14. On “Both Sides” of the Haitian Revolution? Rethinking Direct Democracy and National Liberation in The Black Jacobins / Matthew Quest  235
15. The Black Jacobins: A Revolutionary Study of Revolution, and of a Caribbean Revolution / David Austin  256
16. Making Drama our of the Haitian Revolution from Below: C. L. R. James’s The Black Jacobins Play / Rachel Douglas  278
17. “On the Wings of Atalanta” / Aldon Lynn Nielsen  297
Part IV. Final Reflections
18. Afterword to The Black Jacobins‘s Italian Edition / Madison Smartt Bell  313
19. Introduction to the Cuban Edition of The Black Jacobins / John H. Bracey  322
Appendix 1. C. L. R. James and Studs Terkel Discuss The Black Jacobins on WFMT Radion (Chicago), 1970  329
Appendix 2. The Revolution in Theory / C. L. R. James  353
Appendix 3. Translator’s Foreword by Pierre Naville to the 1949 / 1983 French Editions  367
Bibliography  383
Contributors  411
Index  415

Teaching and research in ‘strategically important’ languages

Teaching and Research in ‘Strategically Important’ Languages:
a Comparative Perspective, between France and the United Kingdom

Christine Lorre-Johnston (Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3), Catherine Davies (IMLR), and Charles Forsdick (AHRC) report on the recent seminar held in Paris discussing the notion of ‘strategically important’ languages.

imgThis one-day seminar was held at the University Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3 on Friday 25 November 2016, in the amphitheatre of the Institut du Monde Anglophone. The seminar was conceived as a follow-up to a workshop entitled “What Is Modern Languages Research?” held by the Institute of Modern Languages Research, University of London, in July 2015. The Paris event was jointly organised by Christine Lorre-Johnston (Sorbonne Nouvelle, and LabEx TransferS programme), Catherine Davies (London, Institute of Modern Languages Research [IMLR]), and Charles Forsdick (Liverpool, and leadership fellow of the Translating Cultures theme of the Arts and Humanities Research Council [AHRC]), with the generous support of our respective institutions and research programmes.

The seminar took its cue from the fact that in England, Modern Languages, along with area studies and related languages, were considered “Strategically Important and Vulnerable Subjects” in the 2005 report of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The aim of the day’s discussions was to investigate the notion of ‘strategically important’ languages, in a comparative perspective focusing on the UK and France, and the impact of that notion on higher education and research, as well as school education.

The introduction by Christine Lorre-Johnston recalled the existence of the parallel institutions that frame research and teaching in the UK and in France. The first panel, on European languages, was chaired by Janice Carruthers (Queen’s University Belfast) and Ricarda Schneider (Sorbonne Nouvelle). Andrew Hussey (University of London Institute in Paris) started with Juan Goytisolo’s novel Landscapes after the Battle (1982) to destabilise the notion of linguistic identity in France in the 21st century, with the omnipresence of Arabic. Catherine Davies discussed “The Growth of Spanish and Portuguese in the UK,” pointing out that because British universities are autonomous, government “encouragement” is not enough to sustain language degree programmes: dialogue with university management is important. Tatiana Matzenbacher (Sorbonne Nouvelle) stressed the diplomatic and political importance of learning Portuguese. Godela Weiss-Sussex (IMLR) described various initiatives that have been taken to emphasize German culture in an effort to counter the decline in the number of students of German.

The next two panels, chaired by Charles Forsdick and Stefan Sperl (School of Oriental and African Studies [SOAS]), dealt with non-European languages. Stefan Sperl explained how the SOAS Arabic Programme aims at transcending stereotypes for indigenous (English-speaking) students, and at gaining comparative perspective for heritage students (with an Arabic background). Luc Deheuvels (Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales [INALCO]) retraced the long history of the teaching of Arabic in France, and pointed out that even though Arabic is taught in some 20 universities in France, there are still few Arabic teachers in secondary schools. Stephen Hutchings (Manchester), discussing Russian in the UK, evoked two current concerns: the notion of ‘securitisation’ of public discourse, and the need to explore the possibilities of research and teaching across language areas, because transnational and transcultural exchanges have spawned new geopolitical configurations. Nalini Balbir (Sorbonne Nouvelle) analysed the status of Hindi as a ‘rare’ or ‘small’ language in France, except in overseas departments with a population of Indian origin: in Guadeloupe, Hindi is taught at secondary level, and at the University of Réunion, a diploma in Hindi is available.

A whole panel, chaired by Charles Forsdick, was devoted to Chinese. For Derek Hird (Westminster), one challenge is to integrate Chinese language and another area of study, to offer a larger range of combined programmes. Li Wei (University College London) focused on the English Baccalaureate that was created in 2011, enabling high school students to join the “Mandarin Excellence Programme,” in the context of the ‘Golden Era’ between the UK and China. Joël Bellassen (INALCO) described the surprisingly long history of teaching Chinese in France, a language that ranked 5th in secondary schools in 2007, and has kept gaining ground since then. Because Chinese is so different from European languages, a better reference framework is still needed for it in the European Common Framework for languages.

The third panel, on “National Strategies,” was chaired by Janice Carruthers. Clíona Ní Ríordáin (Sorbonne Nouvelle) insisted on the need, in the case of the Irish language, to disentangle language from religion and politics and to acknowledge the presence of various traditions. Bernadette Holmes (Speak to the Future, UK) brought out the importance of a second language from employers’ viewpoint, and the value for young people of having cultural insight into another culture. Jocelyn Wyburd (Cambridge) explored the utilitarian aspect of the term strategic, including the importance of languages in the Army and the British Listening Services.

Catherine Davies chaired the fourth and last panel on “Strategic Usage of Languages.” Hilary Footitt (Reading) discussed the importance of languages in NGOs and the sense of temporality attached to it, of the need to learn a language now. Christopher Stone (Wolverhampton) noticed the same sense of immediate necessity with sign languages, often for economic reasons, notwithstanding the fact that sign language is a language of its own. Anna-Louise Milne (ULIP) evoked the variety of linguistic experiences that English students have when they spend three years in Paris, and how it changes their relation to the language. Charles Forsdick closed the seminar by stressing the need for a shift from ‘strategically important’ languages to the strategic importance of languages. He emphasised the intrinsic value of studying languages, as opposed to its utilitarian value, and the need to challenge the ‘linguistic muteness’ in research, policy and practice.

Christine Lorre-Johnston, Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3

Catherine Davies, IMLR

Charles Forsdick, AHRC

Human Zoos and Being Human

humanzoogermanyAnthropozoological displays—often associated more succinctly with the phenomenon of the ‘human zoo’—are public exhibitions of human beings, usually conceived to demonstrate in an exaggerated and stereotypical fashion the cultural and social differences between national and social groups. The term ‘human zoo’ designates a range of practices, not least because the term in its wider understandings can describe more generally various forms of curiosity towards those considered somehow different. The geneaology of the phenomenon is usually associated with the early modern period and in particular the first significant and sustained contacts between European and non-European cultures, when indigenous people from South America were brought to France, Great Britain and Spain and displayed to the European public. In 1550, a royal procession in Rouen before the French King Henry II featured Tupinamba Indians from Brazil, an event that inspired Montaigne to write his essay ‘Des cannibales’.

240px-baartmanThe display in London and Paris of Saartjie Baartman (pejoratively known as the ‘Hottentot Venus’) for the purposes of science, entertainment and the satisfaction of a more general prurience is often taken as the foundation of modern manifestations of the phenomenon. It was, however, with the advent of universal and colonial exhibitions—most notably the 1878 and the 1889 Parisian World’s Fairs—that ‘human zoos’ were institutionalized and linked to the elaboration of both colonial ideology and scientific racism. In parallel, a number of impresarios and showmen—one of the most notable examples being Carl Hagenbeck, owner of a major zoo in Hamburg—began to arrange highly successful tours of indigenous populations from various parts of the world, a practice that included the development of ‘villages’ displaying European populations (e.g., Breton, Irish and Welsh) minoritized in their wider cultural contexts. Particularly prominent involved Native Americans, and included the ‘Buffalo Bill Wild West Show’, which toured throughout Europe and visited Liverpool at least twice. With the advent of cinema and the rise of anti-colonial sentiment (or at least a growing anxiety surrounding the ideological foundations of empire), ‘human zoos’ fell rapidly into abeyance, and indeed became increasingly rare following World War II. The phenomenon was still in evidence at Expo 58, also known as the Brussels World’s Fair, but this was a rare example. Forms of display associated with ‘human zoos’ continue to be evident, however, explicitly in a number of recent controversial attempts to include humans alongside animals in the context of conventional zoos, but also in hybrid performance pieces such as Brett Bailey’s Exhibit B, a production of which was abandoned at the Barbican in 2014 after vocal protests centring on the extent to which the show replicated rather than critiqued the racism at the heart of the ‘human zoo’. Focus on ‘human zoos’ has also formed part of a more general debate on the treatment of human remains in museums, and the ways in which colonial racism can persist in unquestioned display practices. Some commentators see the spirit of the ‘human zoo’ present in popular forms such as reality TV

Despite the popularity of the practice in the period 1870-1930, and the proliferation of iconography and ephemera to which it gave rise, the ‘human zoo’ disappeared rapidly from collective memory. The work of the French public history group ACHAC raised awareness of the phenomenon and began to explore its global complexity, first in a conference in Marseilles in 2000, papers from which appeared in an influential book in 2002. (This has now been translated into several languages, and an English-language edition appeared with Liverpool University Press in 2008). A major exhibition on the subject was held at the Quai Branly in Paris in 2011/12, and a version of this will be on display in Liverpool later this month as part of the Being Human festival. The exhibition, which covers a range of historical periods, geographical locations and national contexts, raises many questions about ‘human zoos’, and the forms of observation they involve. Drawing on the rich iconography surrounding the phenomenon, it also forces us to address the ethics of display and the extent to which access to often challenging imagery is essential to understanding this historical practice and its contemporary afterlives. The exhibition was developed in association with the Lilian Thuram Foundation, and is part of a wider commitment to understanding the historical roots of contemporary racism—and to contributing to anti-racist education: ‘You are not born a racist, you become one. […] Racism is an intellectual, construction and more than anything, a political one.’

The exhibition will be held at the Kuumba Imani Centre in Liverpool from 17-25 November, and will be complemented by three events in which audiences will be invited to learn more about humans on display and to engage in debates on the subject. The exhibition will be launched with a roundtable on 21 November at 5pm, with speakers including Sandrine Lemaire (ACHAC, France), Shahmima Akhtar (Birmingham) and Lara Atkin (QMUL). At the University of Liverpool on 22 November, there will be a screening of the documentary on ‘human zoos’ produced by ACHAC (in French, with English subtitles); and a concluding panel discussion on ‘DISPLAYING HUMANS: HISTORICAL AND CONTEMPORARY PERSPECTIVES’ will be held in the Anthony Walker Education Centre at the International Slavery Museum at 3pm on 23 November, with Shahmima Akhtar (Birmingham), Lara Atkin (QMUL), Stephen Kenny (Liverpool), Emily Trafford (Manchester) and Karen Salt (Nottingham).

Full details—including information about registration—are available here.

 

Alison Phipps of Researching Multilingually at Borders named as first UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts

UNESCO/UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW PRESS RELEASE

University of Glasgow invited to join UNESCO’s prestigious Universities Network for its work in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts

The University of Glasgow has been invited by UNESCO’s Director General to join its prestigious universities network (the UNESCO Chairs) and establish the first UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts.

The purpose of the UNESCO Chair is to promote an integrated system of research, training, information and documentation on how the integration of refugees into new communities can be promoted through languages and the arts. The UNESCO Chair will bring together internationally-recognised researchers in this field from across the University as well as other institutions in the United Kingdom, in Africa, the Arab States region, as well as in other regions of the world.

The University of Glasgow’s Professor Alison Phipps will lead this activity as the UNESCO Chairholder. Professor Phipps, who is Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies, in the School of Education and Co-convener of GRAMNet – the Glasgow Refugee and Asylum Migration Network, said:

“The endowment of this Chair by UNESCO will allow us to extend our work significantly with a focus on the protection of living culture. It will allow us to develop multilingual and creative hubs of activity with a number of partners, including Glasgow Open Museums, Scottish Refugee Council, the Red Cross and the Iona Community to enable refugee integration through languages and the arts. In Ghana we shall be working with the University of Ghana and the Noyam African Dance Institute and in Gaza with the Islamic University of Gaza.”

Glasgow’s UNESCO Chair will be delivered in partnership with the University of Glasgow’s Refugee, Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNet), migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, a collective of international researchers, artists, public and third sector organisations. It extends present work funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council under the Translating Cultures theme with existing partners – including those in Gaza and Ghana with historical experience of refugee integration, land, language and population loss – to address needs in countries that are presently receiving displaced persons.

In response to UNESCO’s announcement, the University will establish a full-time secretariat to undertake a programme of research focused on fostering refugee integration through creative and cultural expressions. The University will also appoint two artists-in-residence – Gameli Tordzro, a Ghanaian multiple arts professional, and Tawona Sithole, a poet from Zimbabwe.

Professor Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow welcomed the announcement and said:

“The establishment of this UNESCO Chair is a great honour for the University and reflects our commitment to and support for refugees since the 1930s when the University was a haven to academics fleeing the Nazi regime. It is also a tribute to the inspirational research that has been led by Alison Phipps. I have no doubt that the UNESCO Chair will lead to an expansion of this important work at a time of unprecedented refugee crisis”.

The UK National Commission for UNESCO, which is the central hub for UNESCO-related matters in the UK,  supported Professor Phipps through the rigorous application process to establish the UNESCO Chair. The UK National Commission for UNESCO’s Higher Education Director, Professor Kiran Fernandes, said of the announcement:

“With its focus on fostering community integration through creative and cultural expression, Glasgow’s UNESCO Chair encapsulates what UNESCO is all about – building peace in the minds of men and women through intercultural understanding and collaboration. In being invited to establish a UNESCO Chair, the University of Glasgow is taking its rightful place within a dynamic, global network of universities which have been formally honoured by UNESCO for high-quality research that is working to further UNESCO’s peace building mission”.

Research projects range from the dynamics of ethnic inequality and identity in the UK since the Second World War; lesbian, gay and bisexual migrants in Scotland; and a training model for effective interpreting in healthcare settings. Other aspects include:

  • The Researching Multilingually at Borders project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). It is a collaboration between seven academic institutions (international and UK) and third sector organisations. The international team of researchers, with their different disciplinary backgrounds, research experiences, language and performance skills, will conduct international comparative research on translation and interpretation at different kinds of border in order to develop theory, ethical research practices and research methodologies in relation to multilingual research.

Artists-in-residence:

Gameli Tordzro was appointed GRAMNet Musician-in-Residence in 2015. His plans include the development of a Migrants Arts Network within GRAMNet in collaboration with other artists-in-residence’. He said: “I will also bring the expertise and experience of a diaspora artist from a context in the global south with a history of both receiving and losing populations through slavery, displacements and conflict. This is vital knowledge for working with refugee populations in the present and in their own displacement from the contexts where their languages are spoken readily and cultural forms are palpable and part of everyday life.”

Poet-in-residence Tawoni Sitholé’s work with the University of Glasgow has ranged from Global Health inductions to working within the School of Education, and is currently focused on the Researching Multilingually project.   He said: “Working with the Chair I will ensure that the ethics of respect for indigenous and ancestral knowledges are maintained and observed fully within the project and the academic work. As the programme of work with the Chair becomes established with the two partners in the global south we will work to extend the reach of the work into my own native Zimbabwe and also with indigenous custodians of culture and language with whom Prof Phipps has established and trusted relations.”

An inaugural UNESCO Chair lecture will be held at the University of Glasgow in spring, 2017.

The Scottish Refugee Council’s Head of Policy and Communications, Gary Christie, said: “Since the considerable increase in interest in refugee integration, through the resettlement of refugees from Syria, we have further consolidated our work with the University. Large public meetings on the Greek arrivals and humanitarian aid with Médecins Sans Frontières, artists and campaigners, and also with the Italian Ambassador to the UK, have each attracted audiences of over 300 at the University for our joint work.

“They have been central to capacity building required across many new sectors. Working with academics under the proposed UNESCO Chair programme will enhance those new activities considerable and enable us to work with partners in contexts from which we have much to learn, but where we often struggle for research access. The proposed extension of the CARA (the Council for At-Risk Academics) work by the University is particularly pleasing and could lead to significant capacity building around refugee integration in the higher education sector.”

Dr Nazmi Al Masri, Vice-President of External Relations, the Islamic University of Gaza, said: “The Islamic University of Gaza is delighted to be a partner in this innovative UNESCO Chair established at the prestigious University of Glasgow and to be competently and creatively led by Professor Alison Phipps. Speaking from Gaza, which has been hosting Palestinian refugees for about seven decades, I can confidently confirm that this UNESCO Chair will achieve its noble objectives and will contribute to the promotion of universal values adopted by the UNESCO and the partner universities involved in this Chair. Hand in hand and with languages and arts we will together promote the culture of peace, tolerance and pluralism.”

The Artistic Director of Noyam African Dance Institute, Nii Tete Yartey, said of the recent work with Professor Phipps, Gameli and Naa Densua Tordzro and Tawona Sitholé in Ghana: “The past weeks with the research and artistic team of Broken World, Broken Word has been a transformative experience for not only the Noyam Dance Institute, but also the Dodowa community as a whole. It is rare to have a project that goes beyond just harnessing the collective energies of a community to touch and actually bring families together in the end. It has been an amazing journey. I look forward to future work deepening these relationships through the UNESCO Chair programme. ”

Links to videos:

Ghana: https://vimeo.com/138059033

Gaza – sign languages: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnxZ_tWPOT0&feature=youtu.be

Glasgow and Languages: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bl77CaxL_BA&feature=youtu.be

Ghana artist in residence, Gameli Tordzro’s Ha Orchestra: https://vimeo.com/103518219

Zimbabwean Tradition-Bearer and Poet in Residence – Tawona Sithole: https://vimeo.com/98254165

Liverpool Travel Seminar X: ‘Travel and Place’

The tenth annual Liverpool Travel Seminar will be held at Blackburne House, Liverpool, on Saturday 24 September 2016.

Registration details here.

The Liverpool Travel Seminar is a collaborative and interdisciplinary research forum launched jointly by Liverpool Hope University, the University of Liverpool, and Liverpool John Moores University in 2007. It provides a constructive environment in which colleagues from Liverpool’s three universities with interests in travel and travel writing can discuss the latest developments in their fields whilst reflecting on possible future directions. The Seminar provides a cross- and inter-disciplinary research infrastructure, permitting cross-institutional dialogue and research collaboration in Liverpool itself. At the same time, it aims to expand national and international networks of scholars working on travel and associated fields.

This year’s event is arranged in association with the Arts and Humanities Research Council ‘Translating Cultures’ theme, and brings together researchers linked to AHRC-funded projects with members of the Network on Travel Writing of the Far North to discuss questions of travel and place.

Convenors: Charles Forsdick (University of Liverpool), Zoe Kinsley (Liverpool Hope University) and Kate Walchester (Liverpool John Moores University)

Programme

10.00 arrival and coffee

10.30

Panel 1: Travel Writing of the Far North 1800-1900

Kim Simonsen (University of Amsterdam)

Silke Reeploeg (University of the Highlands and Islands)

Karina Lykke Grand (Aarhus University)

12 noon

Panel 2: From ‘Dark Tourism’ to ‘Phoenix Tourism’

Charles Forsdick (University of Liverpool)

Margaret Topping (Queen’s University Belfast)

13.00 lunch

14.00

Panel 3: European Travellers to Wales

Carol Tully (Bangor University)

Heather Williams (University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh & Celtic Studies)

15.30 tea

16.00

Panel 4: Re-enacting the Silk Road

Mike Heffernan (University of Nottingham)

Jean-Xavier Ridon (University of Nottingham)

17.00 close of workshop

There are a maximum of 28 places available for the workshop, which will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Haun Saussy on the interplay between Modern Languages and Comparatism

From: Comparative Literature: The Next Ten Years


HAUN SAUSSY

“We can confidently predict that ten years from now, comparative literature will be in a state of crisis. It is always in crisis. In 2004 I ventured that nothing has ever defined comparative literature so well as the search for its own definition, a search conducted between and against better-established fields. That continued sense of crisis, however, is one we make for ourselves. External conditions impose another shape on comparative literature’s sense of crisis.”

“Comparatists will have to stand up for themselves in the next ten years, first by championing the so-called national language departments without which comparative literature will not survive except as a label for general-education literature-in-translation courses; second by reminding the culture around us of the value there is in being able to synthesize complex and discrepant information that was never designed to be drawn together; and third by demonstrating new ways of making sense exactly where existing canons and methods fail us. That is how we can keep comparative literature’s specific difference open in an increasingly consolidated and shrinking humanities domain.”

Translating historical research into visual material

Translating historical research into visual material: the exhibition Empires of Emptiness: Fortresses of the Sahara and the Steppe

Ketfi_IMG_0260
The ‘Empires of Emptiness’ exhibition has recently opened at Jackfield Tile Museum, in the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site, offering an example of how transnational historical research can be translated into visual material. The exhibition’s core concepts revolves around a unique combination of high-impact photographs and archival material about the Russian and French empires to offer a new interpretation of how colonial systems expand into deserts, through the case-studies of fortifications.

The exhibition explores these vast spaces of wind, sand and stars, demonstrating how, despite the seemingly limited ‘value’ of arid lands and the significant logistical difficulties they posed, the conquest of deserts has often mobilised sizeable resources from some of the world’s most notable empires. Commenting upon the exhibition, the project’s principal investigator and exhibition curator Dr Berny Sèbe, Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham, observed:

‘The combination of high-impact visual and historical material offers a unique insight into one of the least-known areas on Earth, the environment and complex civilisations of the Sahara desert the Central Asian steppe. The exhibition’s remit is to open up a whole new world to visitors – visually and intellectually’.

Sebe_IMG_1278The exhibition, which is open daily until 21 September, concentrates on two colonial conquests in arid environments – the Russian fortifications in the Central Asian Steppe and the vast network of French forts that were built in an attempt to control the Sahara desert. Reflecting upon the parallel between these two major imperial powers in the nineteenth century, Prof. Alexander Morrison stated that

‘in both cases, the two powers, Russia and France, resorted to the same basic tactic, which was building fortresses in the middle of these territories, in the hope that this would somehow allow them to control these populations.’

This is why the study of fortresses has allowed the two historians to provide a variety of new insights into empire-making processes in desert environments. It looks at both the ‘high politics’ of these conquests such as the development of fortress lines across empty spaces as well as the more practical aspects of desert fortifications – construction, everyday life and relationships with local populations.  Empires of Emptiness reveals the fascinating untold story of desert conquests.

The exhibition is a visual and a historical journey which uses breath-taking photography, in particular from the world-renowned archive of multiple award-wining photographer Alain Sèbe, to show vividly the ‘nature’ of the Sahara and the Steppe, which is essential to understanding the strategic and logistical challenges which desert fortresses were supposed to help overcome.

New forays into archival material in France and Russia provide unique insights into decision-making processes, as well as the practicalities of building fortresses in deserts. Berny Sèbe argues that through the case study of desert fortresses, the whole story of imperial expansion unravels under our eyes. We wanted to give substance to the actual processes of conquest which underpinned the expansion of empires whilst examining why empires were sometimes driven towards conquering apparently useless territories, such as deserts.’

Drawing the conclusions of this entangled history of desert conquests, Alexander Morrison notes that ‘there are some really interesting parallels not just between the territories and the peoples that they conquered, or that they attempted to conquer, but between the imperial mentalities which we see in both cases, on the part of the Russians and on the part of the French.

The exhibition is the result of a University of Birmingham-led research project ‘Outposts of Conquest’ funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council of England.

For more information about the project visit www.bham.ac.uk/empires.  ‘Empires of Emptiness – Fortresses of the Sahara and the Steppe’ is in the Footprint Gallery at Jackfield Tile Museum, Ironbridge Gorge TF8 7LJ, and is open everyday from 10am until 5pm between 23 May and 21 September 2016.  Admission is free of charge.

 

Translating Cultures and Care for the Future Innovation Awards on International Development

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is pleased to announce a new call for Research Innovation awards on International Development. The call is a joint initiative between the AHRC’s Translating Cultures and Care for the Future themes. Awards will be funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

Projects will be expected to take innovative, collaborative and adventurous approaches to development-focused topics pertinent to the Translating Cultures and Care for the Future themes. They will be expected to make incisive contributions to the development of the themes.

Closing Date: 21/07/2016

The call seeks to complement a number of other calls that have recently been launched, or are in development, through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). This includes recently announced calls on global health and agriculture and food systems, a possible joint call on resilience to natural disasters, a planned ESRC/AHRC call on forced displacement and an AHRC/ESRC call on conflict to be delivered through the Partnership for Conflict, Crime, and Security Research (PaCCS). Given the intersections between issues, applicants are advised to consider which opportunity is most appropriate for their research plans, taking into account the particular foci (for example the focus on Translating Cultures and Care for the Future for this call); call requirements (e.g. expectations relating to innovation, non-academic engagement, etc.) and types of activities which can be supported under the calls (e.g. funding levels/ durations, provision for networking, exploratory, developmental research etc).

For further information on scheme criteria, eligibility, assessment procedures and supportable activities please see the Translating Cultures and Care for the Future Innovation Awards on International Development scheme guidance. (PDF, 182KB)

Translation and the law

Guest post: first appeared on the ‘talking humanities’ blog.

Dr James Hadley, researcher in translation/translingual studies at the School of Advanced Study, gives a taster of a ground-breaking new project on the world of legal translation that is bringing together the expertise of the Institute of Modern Languages Research and the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.

Law is something that underpins everything we do in the present day. From the ways in which we buy and sell things to how we move around, law shapes every aspect of our lives. However, laws are not static, and while they are ubiquitous, they are far from uniform.

Legal systems, traditions, structures, and terms vary fundamentally around the globe, and even within Europe, the common law system that characterises the English system, is unusual. So what happens when laws and legal documents need to be translated from one language to another? How do we bridge the gaps between not only the different languages at work, but also the radically different understandings of what a law is and how it functions?

The Institute of Modern Languages Research (IMLR), in partnership with the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS) has just begun a new project aimed at exploring some of these key questions. We want to know who is qualified to translate legal documents, how they are assessed, and what issues may be associated with reading translations of legal documents.

It might be tempting to assume that the translation of legal documents is something that occurs relatively rarely. However, when we start to think about jurisdictions such as Canada, Hong Kong, and Switzerland, each of which has more than one official language, and is required to make laws equally available in each, we start to see that legal translation occurs all the time.

In these contexts, translated laws carry the same legal force as the laws they have been translated from, so they function precisely in the same way as the laws they have been translated from. This approach reaches its extreme, perhaps, in contexts such as the EU, in which new legislation is required to be published synchronously in all 23 of the EU’s official languages, each of which is considered to be of equal standing.

However, the intention of creating a law with equivalent force in another language is not the only reason legal documents might be translated between languages. Such documents are very frequently translated in response to particular issues. The directors of a company that begins trading in another country may require large numbers of legal documents to be translated, simply to understand the regulations under which they will be required to work. Similarly, individuals living abroad very often require legal documentation to be translated in order to allow them to buy a house, accept a job, or simply to understand their rights in the new culture.

As anyone who has ever needed to wade through a contract will know, legal documents are written in their own language, sometimes called legalese. Thus, even if a legal document is English, and you speak the language, it is not necessarily the case that you will understand everything that is written in it. That being the case, and legal traditions around the world being so variable, it is easy to see how translating legal documents from one language to another would be no mean feat. Even if you do happen to speak both languages, you also need to understand, and be able to reproduce the respective forms of legalese with an extremely high degree of technical accuracy.

We at the School of Advanced Study are interested in all aspects of legal translation. Over the coming years, we are planning a series of projects that will explore the particular idiosyncrasies, issues, and problems associated with translating laws and legal documents. Keep an eye on the websites of the two institutes (IALS and IMLR) for a whole series of events and developments in which we will look forward to sharing our interest in this theme with you.

Dr James Hadley is an early career researcher at the Institute of Modern Languages Research. He is interested in the ways that translation theory has been used, and even more interested in the ways that it has not been used. To date, much of his research has focused on translation in under-researched contexts, such as Japan, and medieval Europe. He is currently completing two projects, one on indirect translations or translations of translations, and the other on the phenomenon of celebrity translators in the Meiji period Japanese context. His next project will be an ambitious survey of the use and generation of translation theory today.