Translating Cultures: theme update, July 2014

Since the ‘Translating Cultures’ symposium held in March, activity linked to the theme has continued to evolve rapidly. I will soon be able to provide details of the innovation awards granted following the close of the call in March 2014, and look forward very much to working with the researchers involved in these new projects. Research networking projects have continued to organize a wide range of events, and I’ve learnt much at a series of workshop and symposia I have been able to attend over the past few months, including ‘Textual Ambassadors – Cultures of Diplomacy and Literary Writing in the Early Modern World’ (University of Cambridge, April 2014) and ‘Defining the Global Middle Ages’ (University of Oxford, April 2014), both of which brought together scholars from a range of disciplines and underlined the historical dimensions of the ‘translating cultures’ theme. The concluding conference of ‘Ottoman Pasts, Present Cities: Cosmopolitanism and transcultural Memories’ was held at Birkbeck College in June 2014, with a simultaneous exhibition at the Peltz Gallery on ‘East and West: Visualising the Ottoman City’, the catalogue of which outlines the ways in which the network has productively drawn in the work of a number of creative artists.

The theme has also allowed wider collaborations, with one of the most notable this year having been a project – in association with ‘Care for the Future’ – with the Institute for Government in the area of history, intercultural knowledge and public policy. We have now held three policy-focused events, bringing together Arts and Humanities academics and policymakers, focused on ‘History and Overseas policy’ (18 March 2014), ‘Understanding social cohesion and cohesive communities’ (15 April 2014) and ‘History and the Treasury’ (24 June 2014). A fourth event (4 July 2014) allowed a cross-section of those who had attended the three previous workshops reflected on the series and future possibilities, discussions which will lead to a briefing paper on further work in this area. There has been a further ‘translating cultures’ collaboration with the High Education Academy, continuing work begun last session in the area of interculturalism and pedagogic practice. This has linked the HEA’s activity in a range of strategic areas – engaging with local ethnic and linguistic minorities; teaching the politics and ethics of translation; translation and intermediality; languages and intercultural skills in conflict situations; intercultural communication and enterprise – with the ‘translating cultures’ theme. Six awards were granted this session for the following events: ‘Belarusian and Ukrainian Studies in Britain: Interaction between Academia and Diaspora’ (June 2014, University of Warwick); ‘Intercultural and multilingual skills in postgraduate education, research and beyond’ (June 2014, University of Glasgow); ‘PGT/PGR Translation Training Symposium in Your Subject in the Digital Age for Non-Linguistics/Non-Languages researchers’ (June 2014, University of Stirling); ‘Interculturalism in healthcare education, research and practice’ (July 2014, University of Durham); ‘Ethnolinguistic minorities in the UK and beyond: encouraging research led teaching’ (July 2014, University of Surrey); and ‘Translation in the digital age: pedagogy and current practices’ (July 2014, London Metropolitan University). The series has provided an excellent unique opportunity to integrate the ‘translating cultures’ theme into discussions of best practice in teaching and learning in Higher Education, and has also ensured visibility of theme activity across a wide range of institutions and subject communities.

A significant dimension of activity this session has involved the launch large theme grant teams. The launch symposium of ‘Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Language, the Body, Law and the State’ took place in Glasgow in May 2014, at the Lighthouse, where I was delighted to speak alongside the PI, Alison Phipps, and Humza Yousaf MSP, Scottish Minister for External Affairs & International Development. As part of the launch, one of the project RAs had made a film — ‘Welcome to Scotland. Fàilte gu Ghlaschu. Benvenuti a Glasgow. Karibu sana Glasgow. Bienvenue à Glasgow. مرحبا بكم في اسكتلندا. Willkommen in Glasgow’ — and project partner Tawona Sitholé performed his poem ‘Good English’. A version of Katja’s film, ‘Welcome to Scotland’, has subsequently been recognized as the winning video in the #IWelcomeRefugees video competition for Scottish Refugee Council and Refugee Week Scotland 2014. During refugee week the film was shown in the Scottish Parliament, in the House of Lords and to the Head of the Home Office and UNHCR High Commissioner. Warmest congratulations on this achievement, which places the project and wider theme at the heart of wider debates in this area. The launch conference of ‘Translation and Translanguaging’ will take place at the University of Birmingham on 18 July 2014, and the website of ‘Transnationalizing Modern Languages’ was launched at the ‘Reshaping Languages in Higher Education Conference‘ 2014 conference in Southampton this week. The project continues to develop its numerous strands with international and non-academic partners, with one of the most recent events being the Pop Paolozzi! Exhibition developed with pupils from Drummond Community High School.

We are now actively exploring the implications of the ‘beacon status’ of each of the projects, and seeking to maximize the very clear synergies between these three research programmes. All three large grant teams have events planned for the ‘Being Human’ festival in November 2014, situating the theme firmly in the festival programme and catering for a growing appetite for public understanding of research in this area.


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