The Year of Translation: 2009-2010

Whew!  This has been an exciting year for translation studies, with a flurry of conference activity, and, surprise, the field seems to have finally arrived in the United States.

I have been very busy, giving papers at over a dozen venues, from distinguished lectures and keynote addresses to papers on panel discussions. For me, the highlight came at Lessius University College in Brussels, Belgium, where the focus of a one-day conference on The Construction of Translation Studies was on my work in translation studies in the Americas and what distinguished it from translation studies in Europe.

At Lessius I gave two addresses, one on intranational translation in an increasingly multilingual United States, and the other on international trends in Canada, Brazil, the Caribbean, and Latin America.  Other participants including scholars from Belgium, South Africa, Spain, and Norway.  While some scholars from Belgium expressed concern with some new definitions emerging from the New World,  others, mostly from outside of Belgium, seemed much more receptive. A special issue of TIS has been scheduled on “Eurocentrism and the Americas in Translation Studies,” in which many of the papers will be featured.

In the United States, the big news is that translation served as the Presidential theme at both the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA) conference held in March in Boston, and at the Modern Language Association (MLA) held in December in Philadelphia.

At the ACLA at Harvard University, the conference theme was “Global Languages, Local Cultures,” and dozens of translation-related panels were held, many on aspects of world literature, translation studies, and cultural studies.  I gave a paper on “The Writer, Translator, and Marketplace” with scholars including Suzanne Jill Levine, Susan Bernofsky, Rosemary Arrojo, Bella Brodzki, Allen Hibbard, and Alfred MacAdam, which was quite exciting and very well received.

At the MLA, the theme was “The Tasks of Translation in the Global Context.” I gave two papers: the first was titled “Developing a New Generation of Translator,” organized by  Martin Riker of the Dalkey Archive Press, with participants including Emmanuell Ertel (NYU), Bill Johnson (Indiana), Suzanne Jill Levine (UC Santa Barbara), Benjamin Paloff (Michigan), and Lawrence Venuti (Temple). Many of the schools represented are starting new translation programs; in fact, our program at UMass is now one of the oldest! My second paper was on the panel “(Re)Interpreting Translation,” in which I focused on the social and psychic costs in the absence of translation and interpreting services, non-translation also being a category for translation studies.  For more on the MLA conference, please see my blog above.

Another area that is booming involves the success of the post-graduate summer schools in translation.  I spoke for the third consecutive year at the Nida School in Misano, Italy, which has grown wonderfully over the years. In 2009 there were over 22 associates, most of whom already had their PhD’s in hand and have begun publishing.  The blend of bringing translation studies scholars with their research skills together with accomplished Bible translators with their field experience, makes for a wonderful combination. The beautiful setting on the Adriatic sea does not hurt at all. There are several flourishing summer schools in translation now, including the grand-daddy CETRA Program at Leuven, Belgium, and its offspring, including the Translation Research Summer School, with venues in London and Hong Kong, the Literary Translation Summer School at Norwich, UK, and the SummerTrans Program in Vienna.

I also gave international lectures in Macao, China, where new translation studies programs are emerging at the Instituto Politécnio de Macau, and in São Paulo, Brazil, where translation studies is thriving. In Brazil I gave a talk just last week at the Fifth Congresso Ibero-American de Tradução e Interpretação (CIATI) held at Centro Universitário Anhanguera (formerly Unibero) and a lecture at the Centro Interdepartamental de Tradução e Terminologia (CITRAT) at the University of São Paulo (USP). A proposal is in to start a PhD program in Translation Studies at the University of São Paulo, which would be quite welcome.

I also gave several individual lectures at universities in the United States, from the International Center for Writing and Translation at UC Irvine, to the Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture at UMass Dartmouth. Finally, I should also mention that I also spoke at our own American Translation and Interpreting Studies (ATISA) Association Bi-annual conference, held at NYU in New York City in April 2010.  This organization, of which I am one of the founders, is growing nicely. We had nearly 120 participants this year, with over 60 presentations on all aspects of translation studies. The topic was the “Sociological Turn in Translation and Interpreting Studies,” with the keynote speaker Michaela Wolf (Graz) giving a wonderful critical assessment of field.  At ATISA, I spoke on the “Micro-sociological Turn in TS,” focusing on translation at the community, family, and even individual level.

In sum, it gives me great pleasure to see the success and growth of the field nationally and internationally.  It has been a great year for translation, indeed.

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