‘Translating Cultures’ large theme grants announced

The three projects awarded large grants in association with the ‘Translating Cultures’ theme have now been announced by the AHRC alongside another six major awards relating to ‘Digital Transformations’ and ‘Science in Culture’. This constitutes a major development for all of the themes, and I look forward to learning in early 2014 which large grants will be successful under ‘Care for the Future’. These projects are intended to be beacons for the individual themes, but we will consider as they evolve the ways in which they might contribute to the continued development of links across the four themes also.

To focus on ‘Translating Cultures’, almost eighty awards have already been made under the theme, encompassing fellowships, networks and research development, and we have seen excellent progress as researchers address key questions from a range of disciplinary perspectives, in a variety of different locations and across a number of historical periods. These large grants represent a new phase in the theme’s development as they have been awarded to projects believed to have transformative potential — and which will serve as beacons or flagships for the work around ‘Translating Cultures’. The teams of researchers associated with these projects will together contribute to our renewed understanding of the ways in which translation and interpreting form an integral part of culture and society, in the UK and elsewhere. Their approaches are actively cross-disciplinary, exploring the ways in which acknowledgement of the importance of languages can reinvigorate a number of scholarly fields. They also all exemplify the internationalization of research practices, to the development of which the ‘Translating Cultures’ theme aims to contribute significantly, not only through collaborations but also through a careful reflection on the challenges and benefits of researching multlingually.

Full details of the projects will be provided in due course when the new ‘Translating Cultures’ website is launched. Alison Phipps in Glasgow has brought together an international, multidisciplinary team to reflect on questions of translation and interpreting at various borders — most notably of language, the body, the law and the state. The project is particularly interested in exploring how we can operate effectively as researchers in contexts where more than one language is present, underlining the ways in which the internationalization of research practices depends in large part on a challenge to the assumptions of monolingualism. The implications of such an approach — methodological, epistemological and ethical — are likely to be considerable, and the collaboration with Pan African Arts Scotland will have major implications for the ways in which the findings of Arts and Humanities research are translated for and communicated to wider audiences. Angela Creese in Birmingham will be PI on a project investigating translation and translanguaging in superdiverse wards in four UK cities, Cardiff, Leeds, London and Birmingham itself. As such, the project will contribute significantly to developing our understanding of multilingualism in the UK, providing clear engagement via the ‘Translating Cultures’ theme with the wider interest in linguist mapping that emerged when the findings of the 2011 census were made public. Angela and her colleagues will explore how people communicate across diverse languages and cultures, and develop our understanding of how languages are not used separately but in relation to each other as speakers ‘translanguage’. The project will engage actively with a range of other fields, including health and well-being, sport, heritage and law, underlining the importance of engaging with questions of language and translation in a range of disciplinary fields — and also, as is the case with the project led by Alison Phipps, informing the work of policy makers in these and other areas. Charles Burdett in Bristol and his co-investigators in Warwick and St Andrews will lead a team of researchers and collaborators looking at questions of mobility, identity and translation in modern Italy (as it becomes a destination for migrants from other cultures) as well as in diasporic Italian communities elsewhere. One of their key aims is to reflect on the ways in which various forms of mobility, linguistic, geographical and cultural, have defined the development of modern Italian culture — and then to extend this transnational reflection into the development of an urgently needed new framework for the disciplinary field of Modern Languages as a whole. The project will involve collaboration with external partners in a variety of locations, and will complement effectively the focus on multilingualism and border-crossing central to the other two projects.

I am very excited about the prospect of working with Alison, Angela, Charles and their teams of researchers and external partners. These three awards will expand and enhance the ambitious research already conducted under the ‘Translating Cultures’ theme. They will provide urgently needed contributions, from an Arts and Humanities perspective, to our understanding of some of the most pressing issues in the twenty-first-century world: multilingualism, mobility, and the crossing of borders. The aim in each project is to interrogate, analyse and demonstrate the central place of languages and culture in contemporary life, whether in localized contexts or in wider globalized frames. Central to each is also, as I have suggested, an active engagement with a range of partners beyond academia, as well as collaboration with international networks of scholars. These projects will transform academic and public understanding of the theories and practices of translation and interpreting in innovative, exciting and, I anticipate, often unexpected ways.


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