Translation & Biocultural diversity

by on Nov.20, 2013

I am intrigued by “ecolinguistic issues in translation studies” (Phil Lynes): that translation can help think through ecological relations between and ecological impact of languages (and this is a beautiful amplification of biocultural diversity‘s claim that languages encode endogenous knowledge, including ecological knowledge).

The ecology of translation is one thing; what excites me about the idea of “ecosystemic translation” is the translation of ecology: “the embodied practices through which linguistically constructed patterns of sustainable living with other life forms are translated into our dominant paradigm and interrupt their hegemony.”

—knowing and remembering that it is not the job of any non-dominant pattern to be translatable/translated into our dominant paradigm, even if to interrupt it—and that the goal of translation is not to make available any kind of universally accessible knowledge or monocultural reality.

& yet. We are aware that our dominant paradigms are severely in the need of being injected with dynamic, participatory knowings and practices unfolding in interaction with other species, temporalities, the earth, ancestors. Precisely because we are at the risk of losing this diversity that must be nurtured and celebrated.

So how may we invite the “minor” languages or (linguistic) practices to help? Lynes recommends Michael Cronin’s translation ecology, with its metaphor of the network, for its honoring of particularism and place. To cite Cronin:

Firstly, a network is by definition open-ended and therefore capable of being extended indefinitely … As a result, new elements can lead to restructuring without collapse. Secondly, … [t]he potential openness of the network does not mean it is open to all. Thirdly, the logic of the network is greater than the power of its individual nodes. In other words, the connectedness of nodes is what permits their flexible and dynamic response to changing situations but it is shared goals, values and end, which allow for a level of structural coherence in the network itself.

These are some beginning thoughts about strategies for translation in the midst of ecological crises, shedding of old stories, eco-awakenings.

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