‘Translating Cultures’ Exhibition — A Court at the Crossroads of Empire: Stories from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council

A Court at the Crossroads of Empire: Stories from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council

A FREE exhibition at the UK Supreme Court, Parliament Square

Opening times: 09:30 to 16:30

Friday 1 August until Friday 26 September 2014 (weekdays only, except Bank Holiday Monday)

Venue: UK Supreme Court Lobby, Second Floor, Parliament Square, London

This summer, discover more about how a London-based committee served as an evolving hub of the British Empire, and how its judges applied the common law to both translate and mediate at the crossroads of Britain’s colonial interests. By looking at a range of the JCPC’s most intriguing past cases drawn from across the former British Empire, this free exhibition will draw out the personal impact of the committee’s colonial era decisions, in addition to their wider political and legal significance. The selected case studies will explore questions about the relationship between governments, national courts and the international legal order. An interactive ‘globe’ will sit at the heart of the exhibition, underlining the geographic breadth of the court’s impact and enabling visitors to find out more about the JCPC’s past and continuing links with a range of countries. The exhibition has been curated by a team of academics from a number of university institutions, led by Dr Charlotte L. Smith from the University of Reading’s School of Law and Dr Nandini Chatterjee and Dr Stacey Hynd from the University of Exeter’s Department of History. It has emerged from the ‘Translating Cultures’ network on ‘Subjects of Law: Rightful Selves and the Legal Process in Imperial Britain and the British Empire’.

Public lectures

Two lectures have been arranged to complement some of the themes of the exhibition.

Opening lecture, Thursday 31 July 2014 – 18:00

“Empire, Lawyers, and the Rule of Law”

Professor David M Anderson, University of Warwick

With opening of exhibition by Lady Hale, Deputy President of the Supreme Court

Closing lecture, Thursday 25 September 2014 –18:00

“Supervising the Administration of Justice in Empire: The Judicial Committee and Disciplining Colonial Judges”

Professor John McLaren, University of Victoria

Limited spaces available for closing lecture at time of going to press: click here for registration details.

Translation and Translanguaging launch, 18 July 2014

I have just spent the day being inspired by speakers at the launch conference in Birmingham of the AHRC Translating Cultures large grant on ‘Translation and Translanguaging’ – the speakers included Gautam Malkani, author of LondonstaniGisela Stuart MP, Venetia Porter, Assistant Keeper of Islamic and contemporary Middle East at the British Museum, and  Professor Christina Schaeffner of Aston University; the final session was an enlightening panel discussion to which a range of project partners contributed, from the worlds of heritage, sport, law, business and social care.

A flavour of the event can be found via the reactions at #TLAUNCH14 on Twitter , and the full programme is available here.

What follows are my comments concluding the day:


What a remarkable day! After such a rich, diverse and stimulating programme, it is a real privilege to be asked to say a few words in conclusion and in response to the proceedings.

I am going to start with the ‘MANIFESTO FOR LANGUAGES’ launched by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages which Angela Creese cited this morning  and of which I was proud to be a signatory last week. The document contains a key observation:

English is an important world language, but the latest cutting-edge research [to which this exceptional project we are launching today will surely contribute] shows that, in the 21st century, speaking only English is as much of a disadvantage as speaking no English. (my emphasis).

This is, I would argue, a notion that underpins also the Translating Cultures theme in general: contrary to the received wisdom in the UK, language barriers do not exist – they are in fact constructed; in other words [and this has been a refrain throughout today’s event], multilingualism should be a resource not a problem. We have a duty to understand the construction of language barriers, and we have much to learn from study of the ways in which languages – as vehicles of cultures, societies and communities – co-exist and negotiate their inter-relationships.

Adrian Blackledge focused this morning on the idea of the linguistic repertoire as opposed to an understanding of autonomous, atomised languages, and what is becoming increasingly clear is that the 21st century is itself post-monolingual: monolingualism was indeed an ideological invention and imposition of the Enlightenment, a phenomenon out of step with the way that most people in the world – including many in this country – lead their lives. The British Academy – in Lost for words: UK language capacity in the fields of diplomacy, international relations and security – has recognized this fact:

In an increasingly diverse and interconnected world, language skills [and I would add understandings of language] are gaining rather than losing their relevance.

This is also the logic of Translating Cultures theme:

  • First, the theme is response to a challenge – in a world seen to be increasingly characterized by transnational and globalized connections, there is a need for understanding and communication within, between and across diverse cultures is stronger than ever;
  • —Secondly, the Translating Cultures theme addresses this need by studying the role of translation, understood in its broadest sense, in the transmission, interpretation, transformation and sharing of languages, values, beliefs, histories and narratives;
  • Thirdly, the project aims for historical, geographical and disciplinary breadth.

There are two core objectives:

  • to develop knowledge of the nature of translation as a process that occurs across different languages, cultures, generations, media, genres and sectors – with an emphasis on exploration of cultural dynamics of translation [reflected in ‘Translation and Translanguaging’ with its emphasis on the importance of translation-as-negotiation];
  • to engage effectively from Arts and Humanities perspective with key areas of public concern – witnessed in the final session of today’s event – by informing the work of policy makers and public, private and third sector organizations. The public understanding of translation and multilingualism is as a result a key area of activity.

‘Translation and Translanguaging’ is part of larger constellation of projects: around 80 awards have been made so far, including research development awards, network grants (allowing new communities of academics to be formed), and fellowships; these projects are across a broad subject range, and there is evidence of interest in areas such as diplomacy, cross-cultural creativity, digital media, translation itself. Last year, three additional large grants were awarded, of an unprecedented scale and complexity in terms of Arts and Humanities research in UK. ‘Translation and Translanguaging’ is one of these, and I am delighted that the other two projects are represented in the audience today.

The large grants provide clear evidence of the ways in which thematic approaches to research should work – federating activity, and encouraging researchers to think different, to work differently, to choose different interlocutors, to move outside the academy [as today’s fascinating closing panel has made clear] in order to co-design research, to explore questions of mutual interest and to seek new audiences for the findings of scholarship. They also demonstrate the benefits of such significant investment – allowing the formation of large teams to ask complex questions with direct resonance in wider social and cultural debates.

‘Translation and Translanguaging’ is a beacon – it will be an inspiration for other researchers and stakeholders; the team is made up of a remarkable group of people – from across disciplines, across institutions and organizations, and also from a variety of countries. I have had the privilege of working with this team, of meeting a number of partners this morning, and of seeing the research questions crystalize and connections between case studies become clear.

What excites me about the project is that it will:

  • allow us to understand, in new ways, how people communicate multilingually across diverse languages and cultures;
  • contribute to redefinitions of ‘translation’ as the negotiation of meaning using different modes (spoken/written/visual/gestural) in situations where speakers often have different proficiencies in a range of languages and varieties;
  • think about place, and acknowledge that such practices occur in ‘translation zones’, and these are key to our understanding of translation and negotiation;
  • situate at the core of project the idea that speakers are not confined to using languages separately, but rather they ‘translanguage’ as they seek to make meaning – this is central to the concerns of the theme: i.e., investigating how communication occurs (or fails) when people bring different histories and languages into contact.

The context of project is clear, and includes:

  • 2011 Census
  • British Social Attitudes survey
  • BA/Guardian campaign for languages
  • APPG on Modern Languages, Manifesto for Languages

There is a genuine urgency around the questions being asked:

  • relating to mobility, and the cultural and linguistic diversity this generates;
  • relating to linguistic mapping – and what this tell us about culture and society;
  • relating to the increasing presence of ‘audible minorities’ in what are, in many place, increasingly multilingual societies – as Gisela Stuart made clear this morning, we urgently need to understand the subtleties and shifts that statistics and blanket statements about this situation tend to disguise.

To answer these questions, the challenge is to engage with sectors and experts – and a full range of these have been represented today: law, business and enterprise, politics, sport, museums; we have seen that outcomes of the project will impact on policy in areas of economic growth, migration, health and well-being, sport, cultural heritage, law and justice, by informing the work of policy-makers and public, private and third sector organisations. The project is, as a result, a clear response to a recent observation of British Chambers of Commerce: ‘The next generation of business owners must be ‘born global’ with language skills.’

But being ‘born global’ has, of course, implications beyond any particular sector and any particular group, and we have been given a flavour today of the remarkable group of researchers, collaborators and stakeholders of the ‘Translanguaging and Translation’ project who will be seeking to demonstrate this. They bring to project an impressive range of experience and knowledge. Angela Creese is doing an incredible job of bringing people together and allowing them  to think differently and work differently. The ingredients are here for a significant project likely to have resonance within and beyond academia. My hope is that team will have a leavening effect on the ways in which we think about translation and language more generally – in Higher Education, but crucially in wider society.

When I discover more about the ‘Translation and Translanguaging’ project – and indeed of much of the work of the ‘Translating Cultures’ theme more generally – I am reminded of the words of the translingual Japanese-German author Yoko Tawada: ‘Whoever speaks with a foreign tongue is both bird and ornithologist in one person’. The launched today reminds us that the study of languages and cultures leads invariably to an enhanced self-reflexivity and self-knowledge, encouraging what Martha Nussbaum has described as ‘an essential ability to see one’s own nation, in turn, as part of a complicated world order in which issues of many kinds require intelligent transnational deliberation for their resolution’.[1]

Gisela Stuart picked up this morning on the peculiarly British idea that language is something that exists and happens elsewhere. The Translation scholar Michael Cronin has challenged this notion by focusing not just on the detour inherent in the study of otherness, whether linguistic or cultural, but also on the experience of translation itself:  ‘The student of translation soon realizes […] that the genuinely strange and unexplored territory is their mother tongue. In other words, there is a sense in which translation becomes a dual experience of limits in language and culture.’[2]

I am delighted that Ian Grosvenor opened today’s event by quoting from Ben Okri’s Birds of Heaven:

Stories are the secret reservoirs of values: change the stories individuals and nations live by and tell themselves and you change the individuals and nations.[3]

What excites me most about ‘Translation and Translanguaging’ is the way in which – in partnership and in collaboration – it will contribute to changing the repertoire of stories that allow us to explore limits in identity, culture, language and place. In part, this is a question of recovering narratives that have long remained inaudible; in part and by extension, this is also, of course, about allowing stories to be told in a variety of languages; but finally, it is about exploring the new languages in which those stories can be told.

Many thanks for today’s event, and good luck with the project.


[1]               Martha Nussbaum, Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010), p.26.

[2]                Michael Cronin, Translation in the Digital Age (London: Routledge, 2013), p.67.

[3]               Ben Okri, Birds of Heaven (London: Phoenix, 1996), p.21.

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.

Launch of Research Project on Multilingualism in UK Cities

You are warmly invited to attend the launch of our research project entitled ‘Translation and Translanguaging: Investigating Linguistic and Cultural Transformations in Superdiverse Wards in Four UK Cities’.  This project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and led by the MOSAIC Centre for Research on Multilingualism at the, School of Education, University of Birmingham. The Conference Launch will be hosted at the University of Birmingham, The Birmingham Business School, Lecture Theatre G12 on Friday 18th July commencing at 10.30.

The day is organised around the theme of multilingualism in business, sport, law, heritage and education. The interdisciplinary research programme will generate new knowledge about how people interact in diverse cities. The research findings will inform policy locally, nationally, and internationally.  The research project is a collaboration between academic researchers, non-academic partners, and community stakeholders. It is also a partnership between four UK universities and the private, public and third sectors.  For your information please find attached the conference programme. The event is free.

To register your attendance please use the link provided.  http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/education/events/2014/07/research-project-launch-conference.aspx

The deadline for registration will be by Friday 4th July 2014.

Should you have any further enquiries please contact Jaspreet Kaur Takhi (j.takhi@bham.ac.uk).


A consortium led by MOSAIC Centre for Research on Multilingualism, University of Birmingham, is conducting research on multilingualism in superdiverse neighbourhoods. The 4-year research project, Translation and Translanguaging: Investigating Linguistic and Cultural Transformations in Superdiverse Wards in Four UK Cities, is a collaboration between four universities. The interdisciplinary research programme will develop new understandings of multilingual interaction in cities in the UK, and communicate these to policy-makers and communities locally, nationally, and internationally.  The research project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) runs from 2014 – 2018.

Globalisation and changing patterns of migration mean that ‘superdiverse’ cities are increasingly populated by speakers of multiple languages. Researchers from University of Birmingham, Birkbeck (University of London), University of Leeds, and Cardiff University will generate new knowledge about communication in changing urban communities.

The research team will conduct detailed investigations in selected wards in Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, and London. Researchers will focus on multilingual interactions between people in contexts of business, legal advice, community sport, and libraries and museums. Analysis will provide detailed evidence of how people communicate across languages and cultures.

The project will be run in collaboration with partners from private, public, and third sectors, including Migrants’ Rights Network, Library of Birmingham, Business in the Community, Birmingham Museums Trust, Law Centres Network, Lawworks, Sporting Equals, Equality and Human Rights Commission, and Midland Heart.

AHRC Theme Leadership Fellow for Translating Cultures, Professor Charles Forsdick, commented that the award “will provide an urgently needed contribution, from an Arts and Humanities perspective, to our understanding of some of the most pressing issues in the twenty-first-century. The aim of the project is to interrogate, analyse and demonstrate the central place of languages and culture in contemporary life. The project will transform academic and public understanding of the theories and practices of translation and interpreting in innovative, exciting and, I anticipate, often unexpected ways.”

Principal Investigator Professor Angela Creese welcomed the award, saying “This award gives researchers at the University of Birmingham the opportunity to lead a major, ground-breaking study of multilingualism in superdiverse cities across England and Wales. The research will make a significant contribution to knowledge about the potential of multilingualism as a resource for communication, creativity, and civic participation”.

For more information about the project visit,


The project will be formally launched at the University of Birmingham on July 18th 2014. Please register for the Launch Conference at: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/education/events/2014/07/research-project-launch-registration.aspx

Contact Professor Angela Creese:  a.creese@bham.ac.uk

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