The place of translation/interpreting

Among translation and interpreting scholars however there has been an increasing interest in the role of languages in conflict, and in particular in the part which translators and interpreters play in military situations (Apter, 2006; M. Baker, 2006; Dragovic-Drouet, 2007; Inghilleri, 2008, 2009; Rafael, 2007; Salama-Carr, 2007; Simon (ed.) 2005; Stahuljak, 2000, 2010). Often informed by a legacy of thought from cultural studies and literary theory (Bermann and Wood, 2005), such work seeks to enlarge contemporary concepts of translation in ways which might be appropriate to, ‘translating culture in an age of political violence’( Tymoczko, 2009).

Three particular approaches have characterized this research. One perspective examines how the processes of language mediation are themselves constitutive elements in constructing discourses which permit and support war. Thus Mona Baker (2006; 2010) studied the ways in which translators are positioned as contributors to narratives of war, and Vicente Rafael (2009) examined what he called the ‘weaponizing’ of language by the American military. Other writers have concentrated on the role of the interpreters themselves, adopting a Bourdieusian lens to focus on the figure of the interpreter within the social and professional contexts of war (Inghilleri, 2005, 2009), or using frameworks of testimony and witness in order to make the voices of interpreters in war more audible to those around them (Stahuljak, 2000).

Finally, some commentators have argued that  the praxis of interpreters in conflict has presented particular challenges to more traditional understandings of a professional interpreter’s role and training: ‘ “ You don’t make war without knowing why”: the decision to interpret in Iraq’( Inghilleri, 2010); ‘ Relationships of learning between military personnel and interpreters in situations of violent conflict’ ( Tipton, 2011).  In all this research, languages are being perceived as central to conflict situations, and the traditional paradigms of interpreting and translating are challenged to varying degrees. The emphasis is on recovering the visibility, the individual subjectivities and lived experience of those who act as language intermediaries in war and conflict.

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