SourcesTranslation intersects, in our view, with two other fields where its potential is amplified: education and cross-cultural analysis. With regard to education, it is important to avoid a form of translation that merely transcodes one language onto another in linear or literal fashion. It is essential to accompany translations with notes on the particular social and cultural contexts that allow a language to be understood. This might help bridge the gap created by the very logic of elitist or expert knowledge which bars underprivileged subjects from access to certain languages or codes. Cross-cultural analysis is implicated in this process too. Given the unviability of literal translations, cross-cultural transcoding requires a re-interpretation of the ‘original’ texts within the logic of the context into which they are rendered. This means opening spaces for other forms of thinking, speaking and being. As Hito Steyerl explains in her essay “The Language of Things”: “If Benjamin’s concept of translation could tell us one thing, it is that translation is still deeply political, if we literally put it to practice. Only that we need to shift our attention from its content to its form. We need to shift the focus from the languages of belonging, to the language of practice. We should stop expecting it to tell us about essence, when it about transformation that it speaks to us instead. And we need to remember that the practice of translation only makes sense, if it leads to much needed alternative forms of connection, communication, and relations- and not to new ways of renovating culture and nation”.
Genealogies of practice
- Reassemblage Trinh T. Minh-ha , 1982
Combining a postcolonial approach with a cinematic reflection on the narrative positions of culturally-embedded subjects, Min-ha's "Reassemblage" had a huge impact on experimental ethnography in the early 1980s. Women are the focus but not the object of this influential film, a complex visual study of rural Senegal. The film is a montage of fleeting images and includes almost no narration, as Min-ha intended "not to speak about/Just speak near by," decentring her own position as speaking subject in relation to the images presented to the viewers. "Reassemblage" reflects on documentary filmmaking itself and the ethnographic representation of cultures. Min-ha’s method emerges through disjunctive editing, distilling sounds, silences, repetitions, vistas of Senegalese villagers and their surroundings, and abrupt jumps-cuts from wide shots to extreme close-ups, in order to reveal the cultural functions of cinematic discourses.