Translation seminar-A Report


The area of Translation Studies has for long remained an important area of intercultural inquiry, with its focus on the representation and recognition of the many different languages and cultures that constitute our world. The translation of a work from one culture to another, as many would argue, not only makes that work accessible to a new culture but also helps mend the fracture between the two cultures. As an area of interdisciplinary focus, the area of translation studies is confronted by new and perhaps more pertinent issues and challenges which underscore questions of interpretation, authenticity and the translatability of a work. What does it mean to translate? What is an authentic translation? When is a text rendered untranslatable? If the author is today declared dead, what is the role of the translator? What is a relevant translation in the context of our third world situation and its postcolonial condition? What characterizes the politics of translation? Such questions and many more compel our going beyond traditional and somewhat disciplinarily located/locked understanding of translations.


In an attempt to bring into focus the imperative and importance for new approaches to translation, the Forum on Contemporary Theory, under the Occasion Lecture Program, organized a one day seminar on “Dimensions in Translation Studies: Theory and Praxis” on May 30, 2008 at the Centre for Contemporary Theory, Baroda.


In his welcome address, P. C. Kar, the Director of the Centre for Contemporary Theory drew attention to the necessity, particularly in India, for translating eminent works in English into Indian languages like Gujarati, Marathi and Hindi. Making a case for critical translation, Piyush Raval, the Convener of the seminar and currently a Translation Fellow at the Centre, enlightened the participants with several western and eastern perspectives on translation. He demonstrated how the continuous feud between translatability and untranslatability provoke issues such as the necessity of translators, ethical responsibility and the art of translation.


Stressing on the inassimilable nature of translation, Rita Kothari, Associate Professor, Mudra Institute of Communication, Ahmedabad and Director, Katha Academic Centre, Ahmedabad, through her paper, “Encountering Inbetweenness: Confessions of a Translator,”  opined that cultural translation remains to be mere literary and linguistic, continuing to ignore the political aspect of translation that signifies borders and inbetweenness.

She held that the generalization implicit in translation approaches are not applicable to different regional languages in India. Translation practice should break the existing hierarchies targeting more and more equity penetrating the institutional politics. She also asserted that originality is a dubious notion when there is hybridity of cultures. In India one witnesses interplay of hierarchy of the source text and the target text. Dr. Kothari’s attention was in using translation as a sociological practice, especially on the language of violence. Working from a philosophical standpoint, Dr. Sachin Ketkar, from the Department of English, M. S. University of Baroda in his presentation on “Beyond Words: Translation as a Trope in Philosophical Discourse” discussed the ideas of Derrida and commented on significant paradigms of Hermeneutics. He discussed the dispute between the monadic view and the universalist view of translation. He accordingly suggested that translation is also about the difference between signifier and signified. He introduced the perspectives of Indian Philosophy; especially in the context of Brahmin Metaphysics and Buddhist Metaphysics where for the former truth is unchanging and for the latter truth is immanent. Underlying much of the theory and practice of translation is the politics of postcolonialism, which was sufficiently argued by Dr. Bed P. Giri, visiting fellow to the Institute of Advanced Education Communication, Kathmandu, Nepal and currently a Scholar-in-Residence at the Centre for Contemporary Theory. Dr. Giri commented on the hierarchies and postcolonial politics surrounding much of the grammar of translation. He also developed on the relative richness and poverty of languages influencing the act of translation, comparative difficulties in translating simpler works and works of art, hierarchy of languages, and the admittance of no clear cut rules of translation that mark translation practice in the post colonial situation. Translation becomes all the more prerequisite in the postcolonial context because of its indulgence with issues of social concern despite the employment of the language of the colonizers. Nevertheless, Dr, Giri stated that postcolonial translators have to think more about ethical and intellectual translation, different languages fundamentally being equal, acknowledging the fact that translator is not a cultural messiah, but can be a mediating link between cultures.



The seminar also drew some attention to the translation practice in India, with specific reference to Gujarat. In his paper, “Shadows of the West: the Language of Contemporary Gujarati Literary Criticism”, Dr Bharat Mehta, Department of Gujarati, M S University of Baroda,  presented a critical picture of Gujarati Literary Criticism and translations of Western literary criticism and theory being strongly inclined to the formalistic approach. He suggested that much of the scholarship in Gujarati translation need to adopt new sociological dimensions to their translation. The language of Western theories in translations, he found, incomprehensible, and recommended that translations of western theories be recontextualized in terms of political, social and literary needs. Presentations by Darshini Dadawala, Department of Gujarati, M. S. University of Baroda; Asha Makhecha, Department of English, C. Z. Patel College of Business and Management, Vallabh Vidyanagar; and Niva Bhandari from the Department of English, Jai Narayan Vyas University, Jodhpur, Rajasthan highlighted different approaches to translation in an attempt to balance the critical views of other presentations. Their ideas centered around factors involved in translating a poem, correlation of the theories of culture and theories of translation where languages and idioms differ in the target text from that of the source text and ways of coping with the various meanings.  



The seminar was in some way a success since it opened the discourse on translations studies by bringing in and providing a space for scholars from across the western region as well as from such South Asian nations as Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh. The Forum reiterated its commitment to promoting and supporting the theory and practice of translation as one of its thrust areas.