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Translating Society: A Beginning …

Translation is a crucial process for not only international but also interdisciplinary discourse as well as the dissemination of concepts between divergent academic textual genres with divergent audiences. This conference focuses on translation as an essential process in articulating social analyses in the humanities, social sciences, arts and culture. Translations between scholarly languages and between academic disciplines do not simply serve as interfaces or form boundaries between socio-analytic discourses, but play a constitutive and productive role in the emergence, spread and reception of social analyses.

At this conference we will discuss the constitutive significance of translation praxes for articulating social analyses under four exemplary rubrics:

  1. Trajectories of critical analyses in the humanities and social sciences in the transnational space of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries;
  2. The contemporary diffusion of the prefix “post-“ in social analyses;
  3. The circulation of ideas between Germany, Europe and Asia in modernity;
  4. Conjunctions of the category “identity” in scholarly and literary social analyses.

Multilinguality and translation are not only the thematic leading principles but also the performative core components of the conference. Translations regulate the border between socio-analytic discourses; they make the idiomaticity of social analyses apprehensible in the form of translation problems and paradoxes; and the praxis of translating is a socio-cultural practice that is intimately bound to differential systems and hierarchies participating in their reproduction and modification. Thus, the conference will take place multilingually, but not by turning to professional simultaneous interpretation, which conceals rather than discloses the productive significance of translation, rather by means of activating praxes of translation that engage the attendees themselves. In this manner translation’s effects of constituting meaning will become apprehensible.

What will take place in detail?

  • At the conference, the papers will not be presented by their authors but by their commentators. As such this conference is called a “commentators’ conference.”
  • The authors’ papers will be made available online.
  • The written version of the papers and their oral presentation at the conference will take place in different languages and different academic idioms.
  • The presentation of the papers, the follow-up responses by their authors and the general discussion will be informally translated for those participants who use a different language.
  • In order to make the performative effects of translation visible, we will not rely on professional simultaneous interpreters. Instead the participants will be invited to help shape translation practices by involving themselves in the process of translation.

… and a View to the Future

The conference is part of a larger project to study the epistemological and political dimensions of translation processes in scholarly discourse and to engage the widest possible audience in the discussion. The conference website will thus be continually enriched with additional documents, such as the presentations of the commentators and audio-visual clips from the conference. In this way, the processes of discussion and research as translation practices will be made apparent and their openness preserved.

We are currently planning on a translation of all contributions into English, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and German. In the larger context of this project, the Center of Excellence “Cultural Foundations of Integration” at the University of Konstanz, where the conference will take place, and the Berlin-based publisher b_books, which will oversee our online presence, will work together with the multilingual book series Traces: A Multilingual Series of Cultural Theory and Translation.

We thank the Volkswagen Foundation for its financial support and the Center of Excellence “Cultural Foundation of Integration” for its logistical support.