Translations, Translators, Interpreters and Subversion
In political science, subversion is generally negatively connotated, because it implies a form of destruction. However, subversion can also play a positive role through the healthy questioning of the values of a socio-political or religious system. For example, subversively translated poems were produced by early 19th century Decembrists, who wished to renew the Tsarist system in place. Certain poems illustrated the injustices of the system, while others promoted a liberal constitution (Baer 2010). The Russian translators of these poems were not neutral; they were actively engaged in a fight that called upon their resourceful creativity. Their subversive translations opened up alternative avenues to the dominant system and instigated a revolution in the way people thought. This more positive understanding of the term as a catalyst for positive change is the one that tends to have currency in translation studies research that focuses on the relation between translation and power.
The issue of subversion has been broached in studies that examine relations between translation and power (Tymoczko et Gentzler, 2002), and in those that examine the links between translation and resistance (Tymoczko, 2010). However, the theme has not yet been the object of broad, while focussed, and in-depth discussion. In fact, translation studies research that touches on subversion is not limited to politics and literature, but rather includes more generally any discipline that involves culture (Alvarez et Vidal, 1996) and that requires creativity. Research findings tend to share the view that one cannot understand translation without taking into account the subjectivity of translators and their translations, and that translations can be manipulated with a subversive aim in view (Lefevere, 1992). In contradiction with the myth of the neutral, submissive and docile translator, translating subjects, like all humans, are imprinted with a subjectivity that is inscribed in their history and culture (Fournier-Guillemette, 2011). Researchers have studied subversive translation in the former Soviet Union or in Fascist Italy (Delisle, 2003), in Victorian Great Britain (Merkle, 2010; O’Sullivan, 2010), in Latin America (Bastin, Echeverri and Campo, 2010) and in the French classical era (Ballard and D’hulst, 1996), to name but a few examples. The interest of TS in subversion has thus been manifest at least since the beginning of the 1990s and has taken numerous forms. The time is now ripe to undertake a comprehensive reflection on the place of subversion in translation and interpreting, and the relationship that translators and interpreters have with the subversive practices of their profession.
Chantal Gagnon, Université de Montréal
Wangtaolue Guo, University of Alberta
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