Ma(r)king the Difference: Multiculturalism and the Politics of Translation 3658409231, 9783658409234

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Ma(r)king the Difference: Multiculturalism and the Politics of Translation
 3658409231, 9783658409234

Table of contents :
1 Introduction: Intertwining Multiculturalism and Translation
2 Translation and Culture—in Five Currents of Thought
2.1 Translation Studies
2.2 Cultural Studies
2.3 Postcolonial Studies
2.4 Black Decolonial Studies
2.5 Critical Translation Studies
3 Translation as Method
3.1 Translation in Conceptual History
3.2 Koselleck on Concepts and Identities
3.3 Benjamin on Translatability
3.4 Benjamin on Fidelity
3.5 Fanon on Migration as Translation
3.6 Fanon on Untranslatability
4 Translation and the Question of Minorities
5 Translation: Moral Imperative or Colonial Question?
6 Translation in the Valladolid Debate
6.1 The Barbarian as a Hermeneutical Problem
6.2 The Indian Question: the Birth of Transcontinental Historiography
6.3 Translation in the Colonial Context: The Original Appropriation
6.4 Translating the Gentile into the Indian
6.5 The Valladolid Debate: Toleration and/as Cannibalism
6.6 Redefining the Difference’s Translatability
7 Translation and the Jewish Question
7.1 The Jewish Question in National Historiography
7.2 Translation in the National Context: Bauer and Marx
7.3 Translation as Emancipation
7.4 On the Translatability of Jewishness into National History
7.5 Redefining the Jewish Difference Through Orientalism
8 Translating Multiculturalism
8.1 Multiculturalism and the Migrating History of Minorities
8.2 Translation in the Multicultural Context: Kymlicka and Taylor
8.3 On the Translation From Indigenous into National Minorities
8.4 Multiculturalism as the New Public Virtue
8.5 The Muslim Difference in Multiculturalism
9 Conclusions
9.1 Historicizing Multiculturalism
9.2 The Politics of Translation in Multiculturalism

Citation preview

Tania Mancheno

Ma(r)king the Difference Multiculturalism and the Politics of Translation

Ma(r)king the Difference

Porto, 2016.

Tania Mancheno

Ma(r)king the Difference Multiculturalism and the Politics of Translation

Tania Mancheno University of Hamburg Hamburg, Germany Dissertation for the academic degree of Dr. phil. obtained from the University of Hamburg (2019).

ISBN 978-3-658-40923-4 ISBN 978-3-658-40924-1 (eBook) © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, part of Springer Nature 2023 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors, and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Planung/Lektorat: Martha Schmidt This Springer VS imprint is published by the registered company Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, part of Springer Nature. The registered company address is: Abraham-Lincoln-Str. 46, 65189 Wiesbaden, Germany

In this brave new dystopian world of cultural translation, translation ironically would have been translated back to its literal, etymological meaning, of human migration. Harish Trivedi (2005)

To Cecilia Paredes Moncada, for her lived philosophy of details


This book is the outcome of my edited and reviewed PhD thesis on political science obtained from the University of Hamburg, in December 2019. My first advisor was Professor Dr. Jürgen Zimmerer, who guided me, and continues to do so, in the research on German colonial history. My second advisor was Professor Dr. Peter Niesen. He generously accepted to be appointed as my advisor after his predecessor and former chair of the area History of Political Thought and Ideas, Professor Dr. Michael Thomas Greven, passed away. Michael Greven inspired and encouraged me to engage in writing a PhD in a foreign language, in a not so much, but still, foreign country. He also instructed me to carry the lens of the history of political concepts and Begriffsgeschichte. His sudden death substantially disrupted the smoothness of the analysis carried out during several years of research that culminated into my dissertation. My third advisor was Professor Dr. Urs Stäheli and Professor Dr. Christine Hentschel was appointed chair of the examination committee during my defense. All the actual professors at the University of Hamburg are well-renowned scholars in Germany and beyond. Although some of them do not completely agree with the findings of this research, none of them can deny the contemporary need to adapt colonial history into the history of their own field of study. I am grateful for the opportunity these scholars have provided me to conduct interdisciplinary research in Germany. I also appreciate their own engagement in their upcoming endeavors with a critical analysis of postcolonial relations in the academia and beyond that may have been motivated through my research. Only younger generations of students can benefit from this epistemic compromise, and judge upon our performance as academics, in transmitting valuable wisdom without reproducing colonial patters of knowledge.




At least three anonymous expert reviewers revisited the manuscript and gave important comments regarding wording and the uses of some sources, which have been updated. My dearest friend and college, Robert Lee Best, carefully and insightfully edited this new version. Robert translated complex thoughts into readable passages and he also rendered my ideas more accessible. My mom, Dra. Martha Moncada, improved several expressions and made significant comments. My father Diego Mancheno, and Juan Carlos Coéllar, my grandma Ceci, my brother Juan Coéllar and my sister Carolina Mancheno never ever doubted that the many days I spent in front of the computer and bent over books would culminate into my first book: this one. Their love and confidence made this possible. A big thank you also goes to Springer Nature for their wonderful guidance and expertise in publishing my dissertation and another to the coordinators of the Graduate School for the support in this process.


1 Introduction: Intertwining Multiculturalism and Translation . . . . . . .


2 Translation and Culture—in Five Currents of Thought . . . . . . . . . . . 2.1 Translation Studies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.2 Cultural Studies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.3 Postcolonial Studies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.4 Black Decolonial Studies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.5 Critical Translation Studies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

19 20 29 30 33 35

3 Translation as Method . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.1 Translation in Conceptual History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.2 Koselleck on Concepts and Identities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.3 Benjamin on Translatability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.4 Benjamin on Fidelity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.5 Fanon on Migration as Translation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.6 Fanon on Untranslatability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

43 46 48 53 59 61 67

4 Translation and the Question of Minorities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


5 Translation: Moral Imperative or Colonial Question? . . . . . . . . . . . .


6 Translation in the Valladolid Debate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.1 The Barbarian as a Hermeneutical Problem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.2 The Indian Question: the Birth of Transcontinental Historiography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.3 Translation in the Colonial Context: The Original Appropriation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.4 Translating the Gentile into the Indian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

79 80 85 93 97




6.5 The Valladolid Debate: Toleration and/as Cannibalism . . . . . . . . . 6.6 Redefining the Difference’s Translatability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

103 115

7 Translation and the Jewish Question . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.1 The Jewish Question in National Historiography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.2 Translation in the National Context: Bauer and Marx . . . . . . . . . . 7.3 Translation as Emancipation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.4 On the Translatability of Jewishness into National History . . . . . 7.5 Redefining the Jewish Difference Through Orientalism . . . . . . . .

121 122 129 140 147 158

8 Translating Multiculturalism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.1 Multiculturalism and the Migrating History of Minorities . . . . . . 8.2 Translation in the Multicultural Context: Kymlicka and Taylor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.3 On the Translation From Indigenous into National Minorities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.4 Multiculturalism as the New Public Virtue . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.5 The Muslim Difference in Multiculturalism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

163 163

179 191 198

9 Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9.1 Historicizing Multiculturalism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9.2 The Politics of Translation in Multiculturalism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

211 211 214

References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .




Introduction: Intertwining Multiculturalism and Translation

Is there a common language to narrate the historical exclusion of those identities marked as different from an implicit norm? Which grammar explains the division of humanity in social history, from the enslavement of Black-Africans to the high death rages of Black citizens in contemporary, multicultural Western cities? The answer to these questions, Frantz Fanon ([1952]2008) would argue, is found in the conceptual and social history of racism. Operating in language throughout history, racism is more than a misguided opinion, or an unethical issue. Racism is a manifestation of violence that creates forms of life and identities. Beyond notions of political correctness, which have more to do with moral and ethics than with politics, I approach the historic absence of non-white authorship in global history through the following inquiry: What language explains the exclusion of racialized cultural identities from historical authorship? As a tentative response, I suggest that this is due to an exercise of translation. Translation is implemented as a methodological tool for analysing semantic changes adopted for racializing identities throughout history. Through translation, the normative distinction between a majority and several cultural minorities, which is at the core of multiculturalism, will be approached as a longer relation between the cultural norm and its differences. Thereby, I turn the current focus on cultural minorities from a specific problem into a matter of comparative-historical significance. The aim consists in formulating a conceptual history of multiculturalism. Throughout the 20th century, several thinkers, such as Hannah Arendt (1951), W.E.B. Du Bois (1904), Fanon (2008), Wendy Brown (2006), Cecile Laborde (2006) and Alana Lentin (2012) have criticized that liberal approaches to national identity treat identities marked as different symptomatically, i.e., as an identity in need of familiarization, or transformation into something more affine to the majority. Embedded in this tradition of critical political thought, this research © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, part of Springer Nature 2023 T. Mancheno, Ma(r)king the Difference,




Introduction: Intertwining Multiculturalism and Translation

applies translation to explain the constitution of identities beyond cultural distances by rather focusing upon the historical relation among them. Thereby, translation shall enable narrating a shared heritage condensed in culture. Interweaving translation and culture, the historical uniqueness of multiculturalism will be called into question by comparing the semantics applied by the Canadian philosophers Will Kymlicka and Charles Taylor, at the beginning of the 21st century in the multicultural debate, with two older debates: The Jewish Question discussed by Karl Marx and Bruno Bauer in the 19th century (1843– 1844), and the so-called Indian Question or the Valladolid Debate between the Spanish Dominicans friars Bartolomé de Las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda in the 16th century (1550–1551). Considering the context of each debate, I focus on those concepts (nouns and adjectives) employed for ma(r)king the alien or foreign differences by the discussants. Thereby, I also disseminate information about the culture considered the norm in each case. The reconstruction of multiculturalism follows Reinhart Koselleck’s ([1985]2006) approach to conceptual history (Begriffsgeschichte) as well as contemporary conceptual historians, who offer views on translation as a tool that traces the migration of concepts and their meaning, i.e., on their inter- and transnational circulation. João Feres Júnior (2002; 2011), Melvin Richter (2005) and Jani Marjanen (2006; 2009) approach translation beyond a one-way transfer.1 The focus on the “past border-crossing activity in the study of uses of concepts” (Marjanen 2006: 239) enables “to describe and explain what happens when concepts formulated in one language and political context are transferred to, or impose upon users of another language” (Richter 2005: 13) and geographical context. In this sense, translation enables reflecting upon the concepts’ ability to travel among languages (Bhabha 1994), as well as upon the capacity to intervene and subvert the familiar language (Skinner 1965; Buden 2006; Ivekovi´c 2008b). To apply translation as a research tool for conceptual reconstruction means taking both into account: the historical asymmetry proper to translation, which enables identifying the direction, towards which the translation is guided (Feres Júnior 2011: 237); as well as the relations of power, in which it occurs (Richter 2005: 8). Related to questions of fidelity, and to the power in defining culture (and differences), translation enables asking: who translates? i.e., who has the power to translate? Finally, in whose name, and for who is the translation carried 1 Werner/ Zimmermann (2003; 2006) apply histoire croisée to conceptual history and to the history of ideas, yet do not include North-South relations nor the colonial history in the export of concepts and ideas.


Introduction: Intertwining Multiculturalism and Translation


out? The geometry inherent to any translation contextualizes both the difference to be translated and the prevailing notion of familiarity (Richter in: Oieni/ Feres Júnior 2008: 230). Treated as social catalysers, the concepts administered for ma(r)king differences in the three debates above mentioned compose the many layers of meaning assembling that trope2 . The semantic changes and continuities defining the respective difference will be reconstructed through the debates’ comparison. Translatability—a bridge concept between translation studies and critical cultural studies, which has been explored by Walter Benjamin ([1923]2002)—will be adapted for interpreting the relation between a majority and minorities in each debate. Benjamin defines translatability, or the dynamics of differences’ inclusion into, and exclusion from the norm, as a vital attribute of translation. This analogy applies the contingency in language to the analysis of identities. Composing a field of semantic power, in which decisions upon the fertilization and infertility of meaning take place, the concepts mobilized in each debate have an impact upon identities. Moreover, I propose that the question of the difference articulated in the Valladolid Debate, in the Jewish Question, and in the multicultural debate imply a translation of identities. The imperative of becoming recognisable by the norm is common to the three debates, which are hermeneutical questions problematizing the encounters with cultural differences. The processes of ma(r)king identities, which affect and transform the meaning of culture from the 16th century to modern times will be redescribed as a regime of translation. Pursuing the historicity of a transhistorical and transnational nonWestern/European difference, the compared reconstruction traces affiliations among concepts and their meanings regarding a translational question of the difference. Approaching processes of identity ascriptions as a contingent relation between the ‘proper’ and the ‘foreign’ implies, as Arendt (1951) notes, that people are not born into a minority, but rather translated into minorities. The persistence in translating differences into minorities will be analysed through 2

According to Koselleck (2006: 100), a concept is not only the outcome of a range of specific meanings synchronically related to each other through time; meanings also are diachronically staggered within a concept. A trope points precisely to such a condensation of synchronic and diachronic meanings within a concept. Hayden White, who cooperated with Koselleck, is known for having defined ‘trope’ as a historical motif in literary criticism. In White’s (1984: 24) words, tropes are “figures of thought, as the rhetoricians call them, without which the narrativization of real events, the transformation of a chronicle into a story, could never be effected”. For an analysis on the implications in the understanding of history in Koselleck and White, see: Raga Rosaleny (2011).



Introduction: Intertwining Multiculturalism and Translation

Fanon’s (1967; 2008) approach to the fertility of racism in language. In his view, the dominant white-European gaze that defines cultural differences and the survival of a colonial identity beyond colonial times are the outcome of totalitarian usages of language. Linking the contexts of the colony, the nation-state, and the supranational regime of human rights for analysing the geometry of power translating identities, I emphasise on the colonial heritage of modern political concepts.Intertwining the question of the cultural difference with the history of translation, the mutation in the meaning and applications of concepts in each debate will be discussed as illustrating a paradigmatic change in the understanding of translation: the conversion, the emancipation and the recognition of translatable differences. In other words, the (im)possibilities of converting (Las Casas and Sepúlveda), emancipating (Bauer and Marx), and tolerating (Kymlicka and Taylor) differences shall trace the conceptual history of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism and translation Is there a synonym or equivalent for addressing the particularity of multiculturalism? Is the English concept transferable, or translatable into another language and context? Moreover, is there any comparable time to Canadian multiculturality? The translatability of multiculturalism implies an exercise of comparison amongst different horizons of experience that enable tracing the concept’s historicity or descriptive accuracy (Koselleck 2006: 101–2). This step enlarges the concept’s semantic content, yet its translatability still depends on its original value. The cultural turn in translation studies3 suggests that translation is a process taking place between languages, as well as a transfer of meaning within historical variations of the same language (Steiner 1975). George Steiner (1975: 19) points out that “language is literally, at every moment, subject to mutation”. Language is therefore constantly subject of transformation. If multiculturalism is untranslatable, then it designs a completely new cultural constellation in Western societies. Disproved from a migration of meaning, multiculturalism would stand for an extraordinary phenomenon in social history, i.e., as Koselleck (2006: 15–16) would argue: a phenomenon with no (conceptual) history. As a brand-new term, multiculturalism would be an unfamiliar concept,


As a new branch within the humanities, translation studies constitute the transdisciplinary research on the theory and practice of translation, as well as on the consequences of this praxis upon compared literature and culture. The field of study reassembles knowledge from comparative literature, history, linguistics, philosophy, semiotics, cultural studies, and postcolonial studies. Authors and sources are presented in the chapter Translation and Culture.


Introduction: Intertwining Multiculturalism and Translation


with no register of its usages. The concept’s novelty would indicate that no consensus on the definition on multiculturalism has so far been attained. In fact, this later appears to be the case. Recently acknowledged as constitutive of the cultural landscapes in Western4 countries, multiculturalism merely refers to the co-existence of culturally diverse groups within a single nation-state. In the entry from 2010, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines multiculturalism as “a body of thought in political philosophy about the proper way to respond to cultural and religious diversity” (Song 2010). However, the definition of the ‘proper way’ of dealing with cultural diversity remains the contested issue. Several prescriptions on what multiculturalism is, and what it should be, are condensed into a social question known as the multicultural question. The inability to transfer the meaning of multiculturalism to other cultural experiences and contexts, and to explain it in relation to the long history of the nation-state, contributes to the understanding of multiculturalism as an exceptional condition of Western societies. Unable to function as a metaphor (i.e., a concept with many layers of meaning), multiculturalism stands for an operational concept, which articulates a social question without precedents, i.e., without history. Since the referent in ‘minorities’ changes, the concept of multiculturalism neither offers a historic explanation of the becoming of those multicultural constellations, nor a final moral judgment on the multicultural social landscape. Whereas the concept’s meaning is rather descriptive, its application is highly normative. Functioning as a ‘movement concept’ (Koselleck 2006: 69), multiculturalism is considered either good or bad. For this reason, the term is highly contested.5 If, however, there is indeed a translation for multiculturalism, then the concept cannot claim to be sui generis. The originality of its meaning would rely in older 4

What do I mean by Western? Derived from the noun Westerner, the adjective western is dated back to the 18th century, as it was used as a synonym for the cultural attachment and biological belonging of “Euro-American” in opposition to “Oriental”. In the preface of his book Orientalism ([1978]2003: xiii), the postcolonial thinker Edward Said states that the concept of West and Orient are highly dependent on history. “I emphasize […] that neither the term Orient nor the concept of the West has any ontological stability; each is made up of human effort, partly affirmation, partly identification of the Other. […] That these supreme fictions lend themselves easily to manipulation and the organization of collective passion has never been more evident than in our time.” 5 See e.g., Angela Merkel’s widely known quote in 2010: “Multikulti ist gescheitert” (quoted in Spiegel 2010a) which, roughly translated, is equivalent to Cameron’s “multiculturalism is dead” (quoted in Gilroy 2012). The death of multiculturalism in Germany, which was criticized in India as populism (Spiegel 2010b), postulates its previous existence.



Introduction: Intertwining Multiculturalism and Translation

cultural arrangements, in which the question of the cultural differences has been posed under similar or related terms.6 As Koselleck explains (ibid.: 68), the suffix ‘-ism’ in multiculturalism mobilizes a register of contested meanings and discourses. The utopic content of these ‘ground concepts’ is intimately related to totalitarian measures and regimes. As an example, Koselleck (ibid.: 68–9) refers to the trajectory of patriotism, which, emerging in the 18th century, develops into other ‘isms’ such as nationalism and Zionism. He (ibid.: 91; 226) also notes that their utilization in political, social, and cultural discourses is a source of ideology since the rhetorical power in these concepts can form political identities.7 The young conceptual history of multiculturalism situates the concept’s first appearance in the aftermath of the Cold War, in Western democracies. This date is mentioned by the Canadian philosophers Taylor and Kymlicka, who head the discussion on multiculturalism within contemporary Western liberal philosophy, as well as by critical voices on the republican heritage of multiculturalism, such as the philosophers Etienne Balibar, Homi Bhabha, Stuart Hall and Rada Ivekovi´c. According to the entry in the Merriam-Webster Dictionaries, the first academic adoption of the concept is registered to 1957. However, because of its usages, multiculturalism is relatable to Koselleck’s reconstruction of the older trajectory of patriotism. As a political concept, multiculturalism mobilizes democratic values that are employed in contradictory manners (Song 2017). For instance, several heads of states of Western countries (geographically referring to central Europe, North America, and Australia) have defined the respective national configuration as multicultural, without however endorsing multiculturalism. This politicized noun condenses conflictive understandings of culture, identity, as well as plural notions of the ‘common’. It deals with cultural attachments, political memberships, nationality, and citizenship (ibid.), but also with estrangements, and banishments. Multiculturalism is praised for articulating the historical uniqueness of a nation (Taylor 1992), as well as for preventing old conceptions of political betrayal (Kymlicka 2005). At the same time, multiculturalism invents ‘the’ people beyond the nationalization of one language and one culture.


For example, Quentin Skinner’s reconstruction of the modern concept of freedom is carried out through older semantic connotations of the term such as: liberty and no-cohesion of will. See his lecture ‘A Third Concept of Liberty?’ (2001), and his book liberty before liberalism (1998). In A Genealogy of the Modern State (2009), Skinner undertakes a similar conceptual reconstruction on the uses of the concept of ‘state’. 7 For a further discussion upon this issue see the chapter on Koselleck.


Introduction: Intertwining Multiculturalism and Translation


The translatability of multiculturalism to other social arrangements and pluralizations of culture evaluates the concept’s value, as well as its originality. A historical understanding of multiculturalism pluralizes its origins by focusing on the history of minorities; thereby, tracing a transnational trajectory or a historical pattern of the encounter with differences, in Western societies. This perspective does not treat multiculturalism as a current pathological social condition, but rather offers arguments against both the public condemnation, and the salvation of marked differences. My attempt to translate the content of multiculturalism traces affiliations among concepts that define differences in a relation to the prevailing norm. It depicts a notion of a cultural ‘we’ that is both transhistorical and transcontinental. Instead of labelling anachronistically past events as multicultural, by tracing the migration of meaning from one debate into the other, I rather seek for a transcontinental history of minorities. The aim of the compared reconstruction lies in redescribing multiculturalism as a regime of translation of differences. What do I mean by translation-regime? Jon Solomon (2007) speaks of a “regime on translation” based on Michel Foucault’s (1975) analysis of institutional power as dispositive arrangements within a biopolitical regime. Solomon (ibid.: n.n.) describes the naturalization of dynamics of exclusion, through what he terms the colonial translation of identities. The multiplicity of “disciplinary measures”, “in place since the colonial era but far outliving colonialism’s demise” build a regime that produces “differentiated identities, whose constitutions are interdependent and, at specific intervals, actually complicit in a single, yet extremely hierarchical, state of domination”. He (ibid.) also adds that the consequences from this regime are that: “translation inevitably governs not just linguistic exchange but social organization”. Including violence as inherent to translation, Solomon (ibid.) suggests awakening the ‘historical dimension’ of this ‘social praxis’. The politics of translation, he (ibid.) notes, “must address the segmentation of society according to gradients of majority/minority relations composed on the basis of gender, class, ethnicity, race and postcolonial or civilizational difference.” The regime of translation dealing with differences regulates the interaction with the norm and solves indeterminacy through the institutionalization and recreation of colonial discipline. Identities are allocated on groups of people according to previously established racialized differences, along what Fanon (2008) describes as ontological frontiers. In other words, differences are “segmented and organized according to the various classificatory schemes of biologico-sociological knowledge emerging out of the colonial encounter”



Introduction: Intertwining Multiculturalism and Translation

(Solomon 2007: n.n.). The regime of translation thus functions as a “pre-emptive operation” (ibid.). Approaching the three debates through the “biopolitics of translation” (ibid.) highlights the power relations in language in each modus operandi. In each case, the adoption of concepts create, transform, and translate identities. Also, the migration of meaning between what is considered proper and foreign becomes substantial for the constitution of culture, which includes the conditions that render differences untranslatable. Hence, the assimilation, emancipation, and toleration of identities marked as differences into a cultural norm shall constitute a historical path for multiculturalism, which recaptures the significance of recognition beyond a moral issue, and treats it rather as a historical, political, and transnational question. Translation and multiculturalism Transgressing the distinction between the native and the foreign, translation affects historians of concepts and ideas, political thinkers, and philosophers. Yet, the intellectual exchange among them is still scarce. In response to this absence and based on the interdisciplinary critical analyses and theories on translation, which will be discussed in the next chapter, I situate translation as a concept for political theory. For this aim, I link multiculturalism and translation by querying: How does translation deal with the cultural difference? The reconstruction of multiculturalism localizes the intervention of translation (in culture) by inquiring: How is the difference depicted and (trans)formed into a minoritarian identity in each debate? Also: How do the discussants describe the required cultural transformation? The concepts employed for evaluating the difference’s capacity to change and adapt to the norm or its need to be expulsed from the majoritarian community compose a historic register on the translatability of cultural differences. In the identification of differences, regardless of their number, as a minority, a radical transformation is at stake. The public debates on differences imply an authentication that alters and renames them as cultural identities. Hence, I question: Who is the (new) difference, or minority? And consequently: who is the majority? By cultural difference, I refer to a problem of communication between identities. The question of the cultural difference addresses a problem of understanding, as well as the difficulty in establishing a common ground for communication (Solomon 2007), community (Balibar 2011), and communion (Buden 2006; Ivekovi´c 2008a; 2008b). The repetitive appearances of the cultural difference guide the comparison among the debates. Its meaning migrates among concepts and contexts, altering and readapting to the respective notion of culture and its


Introduction: Intertwining Multiculturalism and Translation


exclusion and inclusion patterns. This is where translation intervenes.8 It enables a diachronic comparison of the internal differentiation of culture. Approaching Koselleck’s (2006: 12) Differenzbestimmung, that I paraphrase as the ma(r)king of difference, the ethnicizing power of language will be analysed in the following conceptual trajectory: Concepts identifying groups of peoples as Indians (who were not Indians, since Columbus did not arrive to India), Jews (who were not necessary practicing Jews, and who were also German) and Muslims (who, regardless of their citizenship or views on Islam, are treated as such) compose the semantic legacy of the history of multiculturalism. Thereby, the history of cultural differentiation between European and non-Europeans in the 16th century, as well as between nationals and Jews in the 19th century, is not only associated to contemporary hostile associations with the figure of Muslims, but also with newcomers, as well as immigrants from the Global South in the Global North. Through the reconstruction, it will be highlighted that the debates create exceptional identities, which are trans-historically comparable. Following Fanon’s ([1961]1991) historic-philosophical analysis of colonialism, and Arendt’s (1951) analysis of anti-Semitism in Europe, the reconstruction of multiculturalism does not reveal who is the subject of the translation, i.e., who is the translated identity. Identification can never grasp the complexity of an identity as language cannot fully grasp the transformation of cultural identities. These never completely correspond. Identities are moreover formed within, what Koselleck (2006: 12) calls the Differenzbestimmung. Instead of searching for an accurate definition (or authentication) of cultural minorities, it is the repetitive differentiation which is at stake. The reconstruction shall demonstrate how translation works upon culture by focusing on concepts that have been conceived to identify differences. The philosophers of language Boris Buden (2003; 2006) and Ivekovi´c (2007; 2008a; 2008b), as well as the feminist philosophers Brown (2006) and Lentin (2012) discuss the categorizations of cultural differences within democracies. From variant angles, these authors clarify that identities are differentiated in relation to, and by, a norm. The cultural norm depends upon previous differentiation that, while prescribing the ‘right’ epistemic attitude towards differences, also redefines identities. 8

See also: Naoki Sakai’s seminal work Translation & Subjectivity. On “Japan” and Cultural Nationalism (1997), which is a central source for Solomon. Sakai develops the semantic affinities among the concepts of communication, community, and communion through the epistemic framework of translation studies. Localizing translation in “the semantic field of the border”, he argues that it serves as both: “a bridging and a separating device between languages, cultures, and indeed subjectivities” (quoted in: Mezzadra/ Neilson 2013: 272).



Introduction: Intertwining Multiculturalism and Translation

Why should translation enable a wider understanding of cultural identities as the one offered by ethical, plural, and secular liberalism? The reconstruction of differences in multiculturalism through historically affiliated concepts unveils the geometry of power behind it. This perspective is also engaged with a critical interpretation of the social problems of the present: On the one hand, the migration of ideas and concepts finds meaning equivalences among languages and contexts and relates premodern, modern, and postmodern conceptual production.9 Translation renders the unfamiliar, familiar and drags the unknown into the knowable (Jakobson 1959; Steiner 1975: 26–7). Hence, it is a task that reduces qualitative distances of cultural estrangement. Establishing a relation between the domestic and the alien (Ricoeur 2006: 10), the common and the foreign, translation encounters and deals with cultural differences. Thereby, it intervenes in the formation of culture and of cultural identities (Sakai 1997: 3) and permits tracing a historiography of the question of differences marked as minorities. On the other hand, translation authorizes exchanging origins and affiliations through relations of translatability and non-translatability among identities and differences. The geometry of translation sometimes affirms and subverts the nation’s monolingualism and its monocultural demos. The cultural plurality inherent to translation, in the encounter with the difference, is not a historical exception but a condition to the survival of the culture considered proper and original (Benjamin 2002; Fanon 2008). In this sense, translation enlarges the telos of equal liberty pursued by liberal and republican theories beyond questions of membership, and cultural belonging to Western democracies (Laborde/ Cohen 2016).10 It conceives national identity through its hermeneutic detours and formulates an analysis of cultural identities that takes the cultural transformation through mobilized concepts into account.


Fanon’s reconstruction of racism and colonialism and Thomas Noetzel’s (1999) conceptual analysis of the usage of authenticity follow such a transhistorical approach. 10 For a discussion on equality as the telos of liberal theory see also: Elizabeth Anderson’s article “What Is the Point of Equality?” (1999); Ronald Dworkin, Sovereign Virtue (2002); Philip Pettit, Republicanism. A Theory of Freedom and Government (1999); Samuel Scheffler, “What Is Egalitarianism?” (2003), and Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice. A Defense of Pluralism and Equality (1983) Further, in Rescuing Justice and Equality (2008), Gerald A. Cohen offers a valuable critique of John Rawls’ Theorie of Justice (1971). In my analysis, as I take distance from the liberal universalist philosophy, as well as from Kymlicka’s and Taylor’s benevolent definition of multiculturalism. I thereby also take distance from the tradition of a liberal interpretation of the impersonal democratic mechanisms framing the public debate and (see f.e.: Fraser 1990; Habermas 1991; Honneth 2012).


Introduction: Intertwining Multiculturalism and Translation


Analysing the “problem of the cultural” (Bhabha 2006) (or the problematizing of culture) expressed in the three debates as a translation, the model of the cultural norm (majority) and the exception (minority) is replaced by the model of a source (the foreign culture) and a target language (the proper culture). Thereby, translation enables narrating the trajectories of meaning framing identities beyond static definitions. In short, translation reveals the strategies for dealing with differences composing the conceptual history of multiculturalism. Understanding the debates as acts of translation between the proper and the foreign, the identity (ascriptions) are defined as a continuously transforming relation. In the wide spectrum of possible relations with the culturally alien, translation is explainable in terms of diplomatic, as well as colonizing acts (Robinson 1997: 48). In its manyfold interpretations, translation is however commonly a “shaping force”, or better: “the shaping power of one culture upon another” (Lefevere 1992: 1). Its transforming attribute is dependent on a successful performance.11 As there is no translation without a loss and a gain (Ricoeur 2006; Derrida 1998), the foreign(er) and the domestic unescapably mutate. One option in rendering differences resemblant is cultural appropriation, which entails the necessity of familiarization or naturalization (Lefevere 1992: 5) and illustrates the expected cultural and social change. Despite the violence implied in an appropriation, translation is a “promising moment” (Wagner 2009: 1) that is conditioned upon translatability. According to Benjamin (2002: 262), it is the translator, who identifies this potentiality in language. Benjamin’s interpretation of translation as an intimate act12 will be applied to the discussants’ speech acts. Las Casas and Sepúlveda, Marx and Bauer, as well as Kymlicka and Taylor will be analysed as translators of differences into their respective cultural norm. As translation acts, the three debates discuss the virtues of rendering foreignness intelligible. As translators, the discussants possessed the ability to transport meaning from one cultural context into another, as well as the 11

Before translation studies, the analytical interweaving between translation and culture was already undertaken in a critical revision on the role of the social anthropologist by Talal Asad in his founding article entitled “The Concept of Cultural Translation in British Social Anthropology” (1993). Situating this anthropological gaze within a critique of colonialism became central for postcolonial studies, which developed within the departments of literature (see: Bhabha 1994; Said 2003; Spivak 1993). For a further description see next chapter. 12 Benjamin’s founding text in critical translation studies of the 20th century, The Task of the Translator, was first published in 1923 as a preface to his own translation of Baudelaire’s poems in Tableaux Parisiens. In this text, he reflects on his personal experience as a translator. Yet, the reproduction, copy and translation of works of art are important issues in his broader study of culture, time, and society (Benjamin 1970 and 1992).



Introduction: Intertwining Multiculturalism and Translation

capacity to censor, taboo, and defame. In short: The translator has the power of defining the untranslatable. At the same time, the translator has the transhistorical capacity of rendering alike. This power, which is also described in terms of virtue (Benjamin 2002: 259), is not reducible to the translator’s will. Registers of meaning are mobilized for regulating the relation with the foreignness. In this context, fidelity appears as a lighthouse guiding the translator’s choices. Translation implies cultural contact and is an act of (cultural) exchange. Yet, it does not imply an agreement or consensus among differences. A contestation of meaning is inherent to the process, i.e., to the dialectic between affirmation and estrangement that occurs in language. Translation is thus a powerful strategy that accelerates changes in meaning and significance, and which either increments or reduces the ambivalences in the difference’s authentication. Oscillating between the known and the unknown, the translator creates a hermeneutic attitude toward differences. From within a paradigm of knowledge that include dialectics of appropriation and misappropriation of differences, the translator possesses a redefinitory power. Yet, a mistranslation remains a latent possibility. Beyond rational interests13 , the translator is caught in the fidelity-betrayal dilemma that traces a normative frontier between the translatable and the untranslatable. The translator’s power in redefining culture raises the following questions: who is entitled to translate? More importantly: In whose name, and for whom, is the translation carried out? The countless encounters between believers and infidels throughout history demonstrates that culture is intimately related to relations of power. It also reveals that conversions do not ensue solely upon a voluntary basis. There is no free will in the usage of language (Derrida 1998); or as Derrida (ibid.: 2; emphasis original) provokingly hints: “Yes, I only have one language, yet it is not mine”. To speak a language is always to speak the language of another. Reconstructing the relation between the questioning and the questioned identities from a political point of view thus includes the tensions between religion and secularism that articulate a need for translation.


Proposed mainly by Quentin Skinner (1965), the analysis of the speaker’s intention motivating the usage of concepts is the dominant methodological approach in the Cambridge School (See also: Skinner 1998; Pocock 2005). This approach to reconstruction treats agents as rational subjects and does not study the relation between concepts and identities. The hermeneutical difficulty in thinking agency (as speech) independently of language is treated at length in the chapter Translation as Method.


Introduction: Intertwining Multiculturalism and Translation


The conceptual trajectory of fidelity from one episode of history into another canalises the social requirements in today’s (multi-)cultural societies, thereby, enlarging the history of multiculturalism: In the Valladolid Debate, the Jewish Question, and the multicultural debate the mistranslation and the misunderstanding of the differences’ values to the norm are latent possibilities. The debates entail significant (mis)understandings of religious forms of belongings. Likewise, in multicultural times, political memberships, emotional attachments, and the senses of cultural fidelity and betrayal that go along, have won much more significance than it appeared to be the case after the end of the Cold War. Culture remains a central “ideological battleground” (Wallerstein 1990) and it is treated as a problem, even though its definition remains contested. As Seyla Benhabib (2002: 1) notes: “the emergence of culture as an arena of political controversy is one of the most puzzling aspects of our current condition”. Therefore, the analogy between the foreign and the difference shall allow reconstructing the violence in the multicultural language which, while defining the parameters of translatability, belonging, recognition and tolerance remains however unable to avoid objectivating differences. Through the conceptual transplantation, the semantic content condensed in the “-ism” is traced back before the modern conception of cultural minorities had taken form, to the history of the encounter between the Western and the non-Western (or the history of colonialism). Thereby, the primordial distinction between the majority (norm) and the minority (difference) is situated beyond culture: Translation enlarges the conceptual history of multiculturalism by redescribing cultural distances as the translatability of differences. Adapting the translatability of language into the translatability of culture includes the contingency in the definition of the ‘norm’ and the ‘difference’, the ‘majority’ and the ‘minority’. In a historicizing exercise, identities are defined as processes of (trans)formation or constant mutation of the foreign, due to the survival of the original. Koselleck’s approach on the identitarian power of language, Jacques Derrida’s treaty on différence (1968), François Lyotard’s differend (1988), and Homi Bhabha’s “cultural difference” (2003) add the perspective of the exile to the analysis of the relation between concepts and identity, which shall be applied to the reconstruction of differences in multiculturalism. Three debates on cultural differences In the Manichean fragmentation of culture illustrated in the Valladolid Debate, the Jewish Question and in multiculturalism, differences are depicted either naturally or culturally in comparison to the majority, as well as to other differences or minorities. Besides this matching strategy, the discussants evaluate its ability



Introduction: Intertwining Multiculturalism and Translation

to become familiarized with the norm. Familiarization enables incorporating the differences. Each debate is both representative of its time and a reference point for discussions on cultural differences beyond its time. All had a worldwide impact on relations between the so-called West and the non-West. The debates are performed similarly in form and content. All informed institutions, imparted legislations and rearranged international politics: The Valladolid Debate took place in front of a religious court of the Spanish colonial Empire. The Jewish Question is an example of a popular publication of the 19th century concerned with finding the ‘right’ definition of Germanness and nowadays, multiculturalism is taught in Western universities, for liberal Western democracy is at its core. Furthermore, Taylor is a consultant in cultural-governmental issues for Canadian politics, and Kymlicka is an UN-Adviser in issues of cultural diversity. Besides being intellectual debates carried out publicly in the Western world (young Spain, young Germany, and today’s Canada), each controversy is discussed by two white, male, public intellectuals14 : The discussants are the Spanish Dominican friars Bartolomé de Las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, Karl Marx and Bruno Bauer, as well as the philosophers already mentioned, Kymlicka and Taylor. Each debate reorders the treatment of problematic differences, depicted either as cultural exception or minorities: In the 16th century, the nature of the so-called ’Indians’ of the Americas, the Spanish colonial subjects, is submitted to trial. During the 19th century, the presence of the Jewish national minority living within Germany is politicized, discussed, and contested. In our times, multiculturalism diversifies minorities: Indigenous people, Aboriginal people, migrants, refugees, women, and Muslims are the new subjects of debate. Submitting identities to social corroboration, the debates intervene in the realm of the private and redefine the limits of the domestic. The publicity framing the differences turns the annunciation of cultural plurality into a public denunciation of the respective status quo. In short, the debates reformulate the understanding of the ‘common’. At the same time, each debate catalyses a general identity crisis. The majority entitled to submit differences to public discussion, although being dominant, is at risk: The majority faces a possible loss of privileges, i.e., a restructuration. Moreover, none of discussants rule out the potential for conflict or hostility. The encounter with the difference is depicted as tension that requires 14

I hereby refer to James Tully’s (2008: 3, 16) characterization of the public philosopher, who addresses public affairs through a critical ethos or a specific “critical attitude towards ways of being governed in the present—an attitude of testing and possible transformation”.


Introduction: Intertwining Multiculturalism and Translation


a social critique which includes a redefinition of tradition. However, as Kymlicka (2010: 99) notes, the evaluation of the in/compatibilities between the singularity and tradition cannot avoid mobilizing definitions of identities with essentialized attachments and biological approaches on belonging. In Multicultural Odysseys (2007a), Kymlicka hints that multiculturalism marks the century’s shift in the treatment of cultural minorities living within nationstates both ethically and institutionally. He speaks about a “revolutionary change” in the traditional assimilationist cultural politics and identifies a regulation of “ethnic conflict” that contributes to ensure, what he terms, “ethnic survival”. The preventive and conservationist regulation of minorities worldwide is described as the “globalization of multicultural policies”. At the same time, Kymlicka points out that the lack of conceptual history of multiculturalism is due to its new circulation. In his words (2010: 98): “Ideas about the legal and political accommodation of ethnic diversity have been in a state of flux for the past 40 years around the world”. Yet, adding another temporality to the concept, he (ibid.: 99) also notes that: “Multiculturalism may be intended to encourage people to share their distinctive customs, but the very assumption that each group has its own distinctive customs ignores processes of cultural adaptation, mixing and mélange, and renders invisible emerging cultural commonalities, thereby potentially reinforcing perceptions of minorities as eternally ‘Other’.”

According to Kymlicka, the diversity implied in multiculturalism responds to a timeless logic. The adoption of the concept thus risks reifying identities as Otherness or differences. To his liberal plea for the multicultural society, it seems therefore legitimate to ask: Where does the novelty of multiculturalism, and the renewability of society lye? Counteracting the uncertainty related with multiculturalism, Balibar and Ivekovi´c propose that its novelty lies in the new regime of cultural citizenship. Both philosophers define multicultural policies as carefully embracing chosen forms of the foreign, while, at the same time, passing repressive laws against others. According to Balibar (2011), the employment of multiculturalism articulates the “vicissitudes of the nation form”. Ivekovi´c (2007) argues that multiculturalism creates hierarchies of citizenship according to cultural belonging. Both critiques claim that multiculturalism is not an inherently benign model for the survival of cultural differences. It is rather a regime producing violence against immigrants and children of migrants, and peoples, who are defined as non-national and/or non-European (Mancheno 2015; 2016). In Balibar’s (2011: 3; emphasis original)



Introduction: Intertwining Multiculturalism and Translation

words, this regime of selected membership articulates “on one side, a prohibited genealogy, and, on the other side, a stigma of origin or ‘ethnic-cultural descent’ that is imposed on them”. The transnational approach to multiculturalism redefines the processes of minoritization from a non-minoritarian point of view. The question of minorities in multiculturalism illustrates that the contingent divergence between social history and language cannot escape authentication—a process, which as Fanon (2008), Derrida (1998) and Hall (2000) explain—inevitably transpires in language: Relating the liberal concept and social phenomenon of multiculturalism to the Valladolid Debate in the 16th century and the Jewish Question in the 19th century intertwines the questions of ‘the Jews’ and ‘the Indians’ to multiculturalism. Through the comparison, which—according to Koselleck (2006: 10) is already a translation—, the semantic battle and the ontological mutation, i.e., the irruptive and regenerative attributes of translation in language and culture (Mezzadra/ Neilson 2013: 272), shall illuminate how multiculturalism mobilizes a colonial register of meaning that causes patriotic and religious motivated violence. The reconstruction traces the patterns transforming identities into minorities. Following Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (2005: 106): “The problem is never to acquire the majority, even in order to install a new constant. There is no becoming-majoritarian; majority is never becoming. All becoming is minoritarian”. Therefore, cultural differences are no discontinuity to the cultural norm, but integral quest to the survival of the cultural identity considered majoritarian. The difference thus ceases to be a threat for the norm. Interrelating ‘premodern’, ‘modern’ and ‘postmodern’ periods of time, this conceptual reconstruction is neither reductive nor anachronistic. Beyond an attempt to adopt contemporary words for describing old phenomena, I identify synchronic and diachronic changes of meaning within concepts that trace an alternative path of cultural (minoritized) identities’ formation in social history. The reconstruction focuses on relations of meaning within concepts that enable their comparison (Raga Rosaleny 2011: 41–42). The layers of meaning shall explain how distinctly multiculturalism succeeds, or fails, in becoming genuinely different from older constellations of cultural differentiation. Structure This book is structured in three sections. The first section presents the theoretical framework justifying translation as a methodological approach for the analysis of the debates. On the one hand, it introduces five currents of thought that entangle translation and culture, which are typologically classified as: translation studies,


Introduction: Intertwining Multiculturalism and Translation


cultural studies, postcolonial studies, Black decolonial studies and critical translation studies. On the other hand, it describes the meaning of translation for conceptual history according to the Cambridge School in the work of Quentin Skinner and introduces Koselleck’s thoughts on the conflictive relation between concepts and identities. On a third step, Benjamin’s approach to the fertility in language and translatability will be reworded into the notion of translation as a virtue. This section develops toward an interpretation of Koselleck’s uses of the mask as a powerful metaphor in explaining the incommensurability between identities and concepts. This metaphor will be related to Fanon’s uses of it in explaining the relation between identities and culture through racism. A reflection on translation and authenticity in Fanon’s thought concludes this segment on theory. The second section outlines the three controversies. Yet, as a preface to their individual presentation, translation will be situated in-between a moral imperative and a colonial question. It will be also reformulated into a biopolitical question of life and death. This opening chapter builds the layout for analysing the translation regime in each debate as well as the comparability among them. The first chapter suggests that the Valladolid Debate illustrates the classic paradigm of translation. In the colonial empire, translation appears as conversion or as the hermeneutic project of knowing the difference without being eaten by it. The appearances of the concept of Indian will be briefly explained through its biblical relation to the concepts of the savage, the barbarian, and the cannibal. Further, I will show that in their depictions, Las Casas and Sepúlveda compare the Indian to the figure of the Jew and the Turk. All these concepts/identities are employed to describe the foreignness found by Europeans in New Spain and The Indies. These identities are also depicted as alien from the Christian identity in Europe of the 16th century. Further, the Orientalized difference(s) projected upon Indians will be discussed in relation to the constitution of Europeanness. Finally, I will argue that oscillating between conversion and annihilation, Las Casas’ and Sepúlveda’s argumentation on the translatability of the colonized entails a redefinition of humanity. The second chapter in this section deals with the modern paradigm of translation that is manifested in the Jewish Question as discussed between Marx and Bauer. In this case, translation appears as an emancipatory project, through which Jews are alienated from their foreignness for becoming German. Fidelity does not depend on religious conversion, but rather on the familiarization of Jewishness with Germanness. Arendt’s analysis on the politicization of the concept of the ‘Jew’ in the 19th century in her essay “Race-Thinking before Racism” (1944) and in The Origins of



Introduction: Intertwining Multiculturalism and Translation

Totalitarianism (1951) show that the national question is, however, a transnational question. The last section of this chapter discusses older uses of the collective noun of Jew and shows how these mobilize the colonial geo-epistemic geography baptized by Edward Said as Orientalism ([1978]2003). The last chapter focuses on the third paradigm of translation articulated in the debate between Kymlicka and Taylor. It focuses on the contemporary employments of the collective nouns: ‘Aborigine’, ‘migrant’, ‘Muslim’ and ‘newcomer’. Added to the semantic field composing the cultural difference, these multicultural concepts, as well as Kymlicka’s and Taylor’s moral approach on tolerance and recognition will be related to their appearances, and to the uses of further comparable terms, in the Valladolid Debate and the Jewish Question. Moreover, outlining what I mean with the translation of identities into minorities, also multiculturalism will be redefine as the new virtue. Further, this chapter deals with of one the salient issues in multiculturalism: The Muslim Question. Contemporary discussions on the uses of the burka and the hijab in the public space and public institutions in Western cities across Europe, the United States, Canada, and Australia15 show that the dialectics of veiling and unveiling are central for ma(r)king differences. As a metaphor of the political thinker seeking to bring about a fuller understanding of the difference, these dialectics are also directly concerned with colonial and epistemic violence (El Guindi 1999: xii). The debate upon the veil (Alvi 2013; El Guindi 1999; Laborde 2008) offers evidence of the transhistorical question of the cultural difference. Condensed in the cultural artefact of the veil, the Muslim Question visualises the question guiding this research: How does translation deal with the cultural difference? The last section of the book summarizes the comparison among the debates, as well as the transhistorical relation between translation and the question of minoritized differences. The conclusions synthetize the historicization of multiculturalism and the politics of translation developed in this research.


There are also non-Western countries and even countries, which are culturally Islam-based states, such as Egypt, Morocco and Turkey that have passed laws for banning the burka from the public space. Yet, since the political argumentation in these cases does not suggest that the burka is incompatible with the values and freedom understanding of the West, but rather present strategies of Westernization of the domestic, these legal decisions require a different analysis, which cannot be covered in this research.


Translation and Culture—in Five Currents of Thought

For the young, yet already well-established academic field of cultural studies, linking translation and culture is not a new task. Many social thinkers agree on the fact that today translational practices have become a truism; while in translation studies every linguistic translation is cultural (Robinson 1997: 2), cultural theory introduces translation as one of its most important conceptual tools (Asad 1993; Wagner 2009). The tighter relation between language and culture, motivated by the linguistic turn (Lyotard 1982), criticises the methodology of the “modern historical sciences” (as practiced until the first half of the 20th century) for proceeding as if aspects of tradition were historical objects.1 Instead, this hermeneutic approach to the study of culture focusses on the transmission of tradition as essential for historical analysis (Gadamer 1976: 35). This post-modern approach relates language to the analysis of culture without reducing the later to the former. Culture is conceived as being constituted by a range of linguistic elements, which have an impact on its renewability. Language is understood as a battleground, in which meaning, and ideas are exchanged. The articulation of language into the analysis of culture opens the possibility of “cheating with power as we do with language” (Kibédi Varga 1990: 9). This epistemic turn caused a fragmentation of the major disciplines into smaller academic departments pursuing their own agendas (Robinson 1997: 1; Said 1983: 228). However, it also enabled interdisciplinary studies on translation. Interweaving linguistics and social sciences, cultural translation changes the 1

The most known structuralist methodologies for social analysis are found in the so-called founding fathers of sociology: August Compte, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber, who suggested studying society as a social thing. This methodology is often quoted in the original French formulation as “considérer les faits sociaux comme des choses”. For a compared discussion on the classical perspectives on the objectivity of social facts, see: Pharo (2000).

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, part of Springer Nature 2023 T. Mancheno, Ma(r)king the Difference,



2 Translation and Culture—in Five Currents of Thought

understanding of culture and language from a variety of angles. Five of the contemporary currents of thought among them are typologically discussed in the next chapters.


Translation Studies

Within linguistics, the comprehension of translation as a cultural practice has been proposed by the subfield translation studies.2 A cultural understanding of translation suggests that a need for translation appears not only when differences among languages should be overcome, but also when changes in a term’s meanings (within the same language) come to light (Steiner 1975: 32). Translation’s transformative potential operates within a single language (ibid. 1975: 29). It ceases to be considered a tool, to be rather considered a manifestation of the whole language and culture that is being translated (Lefevere 1992: 10). According to George Steiner (1975: 471), since the act of sending and receiving meaning and concepts is a transaction, translation is a formal and practical technique proper to any act of communication. Translation’s metaphorical potential suggests that the circulation of concepts, and the transmission of cultural meaning across time and spaces are necessary movements for the survival of culture as a collective good. Moreover, André Lefevere (1992) and Doris Bachmann-Medick (2009) argue that the actuality of concepts depends on their mobility, i.e., in their historical adoptions and forms of appropriation. The transference and exchange of meaning into another allows integrating changeability and innovation to the analysis of cultural identities. It also includes the encountering and accommodation of differences as an attribute to their constitution. Thereby, translation alters the conception of the ‘original culture’. Further, according to Benjamin (1970: 221), translation’s reproductive performance constantly reframes the conception of authenticity. Translation thus implies a constant 2

See for example the edited volumes by Susan Bassnett and André Lefevere Translation, History and Culture (1990), and Lawrence Venuti’s The Translation Studies Reader (2004). Both offer a vast selection of texts from Benjamin to the contemporary moral philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah. See also the volume Postcolonial Translation (2002) edited by Bassnett and Harish Trivedi and their introduction polemically entitled: “Of colonies, cannibals and vernaculars”. Also, the cultural critical thinkers Douglas Robinson (1970), Aamir Mufti (2007), Eric Cheyfitz (1997) and Tejaswini Niranjana (1992) develop a political definition of cultural translation based on the analysis of colonial linguistic mappings, and the hierarchies of value given to languages in postcolonial settings.

2.1 Translation Studies


critical revaluation of the narrative on culture. Hence, Lefevere (1992: 10) concludes that translation studies shall focus on the strategies developed for the ‘change and survival’ of languages and cultures. In Steiner’s view (1975: 253), the history of translation is characterized by three theoretical moments, or paradigms. Dealing with the “otherness of the original” (ibid.), translation has been described first, as a method for attaining semantic equivalencies; second, as the strategy of naturalization through domestication; and third, as a powerful tool for exotization through foreignization. These forms of relationability with foreignness are catalysers of the paradigmatic shifts in the epistemic attitudes towards differences. At the same time, the difference’s transversal significance can be reconstructed through the transformations in the paradigms of translation. Developed in the classical period, the first paradigm refers to the practice of strict literalism or word-for-word translation. Framed by theology, religion and the critique of religion, the idea of finding equivalents in different languages was decisive for evaluating the philosophical translations from Old Greek into Latin (Lefevere 1992: 70). From Cicero to Saint Augustine, translation is described as an internal peregrination seeking the equivalent meaning of the foreign in the proper language. For example, Cicero describes his method for translation as follow: “where the Greeks have one word I use more than one if I can’t translate otherwise, but that does not mean that I should not have the right to use a Greek word whenever Latin is unable to offer an equivalent.”3 His ‘equalizing’ understanding of translation is found until the medieval times of the 16th century. The Christian massive baptisms of colonial subjects, which were held in the Spanish colonies in the Americas and the Philippines, illustrate this classic paradigm: The ceremonies and speeches of the Catholic missionaries took place in local languages, yet the Castilian concept Dios (God) remained untranslated. The untranslatability of the Spanish name of God suggests an inherent authenticity and original meaning of the concept, which, according to Friedrich Schleiermacher (1813: 161), “lies outside the boundaries of the particular”. Moreover, it also implies the lack of complexity in the target language. Dios was considered untranslatable into the foreign horizon. The imposition and subsequent adoption of Dios into precolonial languages build a fulfilled translation, which reaffirms both the concept’s originality and the survival of Catholicism in the colonies until today. Operating within a platonic 3

Extract from De finibus bonorum et malorum (“On the Limits of Good and Evil”), dated 44 BC (In: Lefevere 1992: 47).


2 Translation and Culture—in Five Currents of Thought

understanding of language, this first paradigm of translation suggests that civilization, i.e., the significance of a culture, resides in language. Finding equivalents among languages is therefore a necessary task for maintaining the purity of written languages. Enabling a “mirroring-effect” in the linguistic universe, translation functions as universal grammar. In opposition to The Tower of Babel, translation functions as a bridge enabling recognition in diversity. It permits true communication and the authentic communion of plurality in the singularity of mankind. Framed by eschatology, a successful translation is equivalent to redemption. In secular times such an achievement is reworded as the recognition or toleration of differences. Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s following quote (1824 in: Lefevere 1992: 24) illustrates the shift from the religious into the humanist impulse guiding a translation: “A truly general tolerance will most certainly be reached if we respect the particular characteristics of single individuals and nations. We should, however, keep in mind that what has real merit distinguishes itself in that it belongs to humanity as a whole, and translate accordingly. Germans have contributed to such mediation and mutual recognition. Those who understand and study German find themselves on the market place where all nations offer their wares. They act as interpreters by enriching themselves.”

The second paradigm in the history of translation is dated to modernity4 , and geographically situated in the German Romanticism and French protonationalism.5 In secular times, the direction—or in the words of Koselleck, the horizon of expectancy—guiding the translation is redefined. Translation’s goal changes from seeking the divine, or the purity of languages, towards their progressive enrichment. Besides its intention, also the translator’s task is reformulated. In a clear anthropocentric move, the translator is placed at the centre of the equation. The potentiality of translation no longer resides in language, but rather in the translator’s performance. Fidelity and originality, the motifs framing the first religious and classic paradigm of translation, remain central to the modern and secular paradigm. Yet,


When does modernity begin? The periodization of this paradigmatic break in the history of ideas and in global social history, that Koselleck calls Sattelzeit, are discussed in the chapter on the Valladolid Debate. 5 I refer to the thinkers in the tradition of Ernest Renan and Johann Gottlieb Fichte, who defined the nation principally through the virtues of the respective national languages. For a comparison of the nationalisation of culture through language in the French and the German case see: Balibar 1997 and Cahen/ Landwehrlen 2010.

2.1 Translation Studies


there is an autonomous restatement in the equation. Framed by Friedrich Schleiermacher, Johann Gottfried von Herder, Wilhelm von Humboldt, and Friedrich Schiller, the modern or romantic paradigm of translation marks the invention of tradition. In the words of Steiner (1975: 246), the second paradigm of translation suggests that: “antiquity was ‘invented’ more than it was discovered.” In opposition to the religious redemption that seeks fidelity in equivalencies, the translator’s task is now guided by the liberal value of loyalty to the national language. The German Romantic defines translation as a task contributing to the nation-building, or as Johann Gottlieb Fichte states in his famous Addresses to the German Nation ([1808]1922), to the task of Bildung. In this sense, translation’s ultimate purpose consists in building a national culture (Buden et al. 2009: 199). In its modern conception, translation relates the existence of the translator to political freedom. In words of Schleiermacher (quoted in: Lefevere 1992: 5): “it is an act that runs counter to both nature and morality to become a deserter to one’s own mother tongue and to give oneself to another.” Privileging the aesthetic side in the act of translation, the romantic tradition presupposes that as in poetry, the success of a translation depends on its capacity to adapt the foreign character of its semantic substance. The demand for fidelity in translation does not lead towards the faithful conversion of the foreign into the universal “but rather to the translator’s mother tongue or to his or her nation, which for Humboldt amounts to the same thing” (Buden et al. 2009: 199). The translator’s fidelity relies in her capacity of adding value to her language, which contributes to building the spirit of the nation. Translation thus functions as a “sort of cultivation in both the individual and the social sense” (ibid.: 199). The foreign (das Fremde) is only valuable in relation to the significance it provides to the proper/national language, which is also considered the authentic culture. In the second paradigm, translation focuses on the naturalization of the foreign into the proper. Allowing the translator to appropriate the foreign originality, to translate is, at the same time, being faithful to the nation. In other words: rendering natural to the target language, or the mother tongue, is considered a virtue. Just as with for Humboldt, for Herder translation is always already a cultural translation. According to Herder, before its first encounter with other languages, before its first translation, language is in “a kind of linguistic state of nature” (ibid.: 199). In order to overcome this original form of language, which is perceived as an insular condition, the fecundation of culture through translation is inexorable. In this sense, the German Romantic suggests that the ideal translator sacrifices his freedom to accomplish the cultural mission intrinsic to translation (ibid.: 200). This ethnocentric perspective formulates an important parable to the


2 Translation and Culture—in Five Currents of Thought

ideal citizen. The good citizen also sacrifices his freedom for accomplishing the cultural mission intrinsic to the nation (ibid.). In the modern paradigm of translation, fidelity thus evolves into a patriotic virtue. Correspondently, if translations are undertaken with another purpose, these become equivalent to acts of betrayal. Considered a requirement for translation, the virtuous character of loyalty remains important for literary production in general. Yet, the increase in both the frequency and currency of translations has affected its conception. Characterized by an acceleration and burocratization of the translation praxis, the third paradigm builds upon the humanizing task of education (Bildung) by “reworking it for a contemporary global education” (Apter 2013: 4). The postmodern paradigm does not break with, but rather offers a critical approach towards national historiography and the homolinguistic cultural narratives in a global heterolinguistic context. According to Emily Apter (ibid.), the critical distancing from a national understanding of language is motivated by “the interest of an approach to literary comparatism that recognizes the importance of non-translation, mistranslation, incomparability and untranslatability.” This perspective, to which Steiner’s (1975: 473) work belongs, puts “forward the hypothesis that the proliferation of mutually incomprehensible tongues stems from an absolutely fundamental impulse in language itself”. In times, in which imitation is a far less restrained practice, the outcomes of translation are pluralised. Adopting untranslated concepts into the proper tongue is defined as a praxis creating parallel texts within the idiom of the target text. It also adapts “the resources of the vernacular language to the meaning of an international word”, so as the other way around (Palonen 2016: 181). Translation transgresses the boundaries of the knowable, thereby, affecting the familiar meaning of culture. Revisiting translation’s range of impact, the third paradigmatic change in the history of translation also redefines the translator’s task. Understood as a ‘conceptual task’ (ibid.), translation is more than the grammar defining ‘world literature’6 : It is also the grammar of supranational politics.


In Against World Literature, Apter (2013) develops a critique on the inflationary translations into English as a linguistic regime, in which the category of world literature builds a domestic Western genre defining the non-European literary production. This critique is also formulated by Mufti in Orientalism and the Institution of World Literatures (2010) and Forget English! Orientalisms and World Literatures (2016).

2.1 Translation Studies


This postnational linguistic regime is exemplified in the constitutional definition of the European Union as a “multicultural, multilingual democracy”7 . Translation is the “common language” in the European Parliament, and its proliferation increases its meaning for politics.8 Building upon Max Weber, Kari Palonen (2016: 186) suggests that: “the temporal condition of politicians is much better than that of the bureaucrats suited to the understanding the contingency, historicity and controversiality of concepts.” The politician is a bureaucrat, but also a political actor, who introduces vernacular concepts into international political languages and vice versa. Used by “parliamentarian oppositions”, “minorities” and “competent […] politicians”, “the rhetorical power of political concepts” can reduce the “simple numerical power of the governmental majority” (ibid.). As Palonen continues: “All of them can use conceptual reflections and revisions as instruments illustrating the weakness of the policy of the government, in constructing alternatives to them as well as to introduce new questions or new dimensions in the old ones into the political agenda”. While a democratization and popularization of the translator’s task can be observed, “the potentials of fiction, of counterfactuality, of undecidable futurity” also increase (Steiner 1975: 473). The linguistic understanding of politics opens possibilities for thinking the plurality of political languages, concepts and cultures. Yet, by defining the in-between of identities, the postmodern paradigm of translation also contributes to the politicization of language. As Palonen (2016: 175) points out, the metaphorical use of political language “has even been taken so seriously that certain languages have been named, as if they would be entities 7

In an article entitled “European Parliament—never lost in translation” published in 2008 by the European Parliament on the official news online page of this institution, the European Union (EU) is defined through the normative meaning given to linguistic plurality: “The EU is a community of 27 countries, whose unity and diversity is expressed via 23 official languages, as well as plethora of other national, regional and local languages. It is home to nearly 500 million people with diverse ethnic, linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Multilingualism contributes to European values of democracy and equality. The European Parliament is committed to debate and discussion in all EU languages. The reason for this and how it is achieved is explained in this focus. Preserving this unique linguistic diversity is a big challenge. As the EU has recently started operating in 23 languages, it is worth looking at the meaning of multilingualism, its benefits and its costs”. The tautology in the definition of multiculturalism if its value is solely measured in plurilinguism is discussed in the chapter on multiculturalism. 8 Whereas in 2005 the total cost of interpretation in all EU institutions was almost e190 million, for 2006 the cost of translation is estimated at e800 million. “This amount represents one third of the total expenditure of Parliament” (European Parliament 2008).


2 Translation and Culture—in Five Currents of Thought

independent of the context and specific problematic of each scholar”. In words of Steiner (1975: 473), treating “the problem of Babel” as a constant for politics is now central: “But different tongues give to the mechanism of ‘alternity’ a dynamic, transferable enactment. They realize needs of privacy and territoriality vital to our identity. To a greater or lesser degree, every language offers its own reading of life. To move between languages, to translate, even within restrictions of totality, is to experience the almost bewildering bias of the human spirit towards freedom. If we were lodged inside a single ‘language-skin’ or amid very few languages, the inevitability of our organic subjection to death might well prove more suffocating than it is.”

Steiner connects translation to the political concept of freedom beyond the monolinguistic boundaries of ethnocentrism. Babel is not only a human condition, but also world’s plurality, which—as he states (ibid.)—is vital for our identity. There is a liberating potential in the exchange with the foreign since multilingualism counteracts colonialisation as well as the nationalisation of culture. Yet, this culturalization of culture implies a conservative backlash that remaps a frontier between ‘us’ and ‘them’.9 This frontier is the condition for political language, but also of the political. Samuel Huntington’s (1996) foretold “clash of civilizations”, but also Said’s (2003) critical dismantling of Oriental colonial geographies show that the plurality of languages and cultures is a condition for the political world. Both also suggest that untranslatability may derive into conflict and war. According to Said, colonialism violently reduces the plurality of civilizations into a commodification. In Orientalism, he (2003: 20) describes the process by which the “Other’s identity” is translated into the colonial idea of the “Oriental” identity that thereafter circulates. However, the relation established with the cultural and linguistic differences alters the privileged standpoint of national conceptual production independently of the creativity in the oppressive identification. In the supranational and multicultural linguistic geographies, translation foreignizes the foreign without a final equivalent, nor an accomplished naturalization. Multilingualism counteracts the goal of translation as being the 9

One of the contemporary postmodern voices, Zygmunt Bauman (2011) states in an interview: “a ‘nation’ needs the coercive power of the state to make its unity (‘sharing’) real—to replace the multitude of local traditions or dialects with one history, one language. With the emergence of the modern state, the trinity of nation, state and territory has been established as the seat and holder of sovereignty.” See also: David Miller’s National Responsibility and Global Justice (2007). Within cultural feminism, see: Moller Okin’s controversial article: “Is Multiculturalism bad for women?” (1999).

2.1 Translation Studies


nationalisation of culture. The impacts of translation for politics are considered within a global map. In these international and/or colonial settings, the contingency in the definition of the foreign submits the naturalization of languages and identities constantly to redefinition. In other words, in the third paradigm of translation, language’s ability to create entities and identities is diversified. The current redescriptions of the foreign in terms of alien, newcomer, migrant, illegal, refugee, and asylum seeker offer an important example of the conceptual diversification for defining foreignness. Functioning in a similar sense to Wittgenstein’s “forms of life” (Lebensformen) (1958), and Charles Taylor’s “forms of being” (1992), Steiner (1975: 474) notes that in these descriptions that seek to identify the cultural difference, translation is responsible for creating the “irresponsible alternative”, which he (ibid.: 473) also calls “alternities of being”. Focusing on the redescription of that which is in-between the domestic and the strange, the postmodern paradigm conceptualizes translation in a constant ambivalence. As Lawrence Venuti (1995: 484–5) concludes, translation is at the same time, parroquial and utopian. Oscillating between a possible misrecognition and the promise of universal recognition, translation’s normative horizon is no more than the “conjecture, no doubt heretical, that there shall come a day when translation is not only unnecessary but inconceivable” (Steiner 1975: 474). Steiner (ibid.) poetically describes the post-translation times as the times, in which: “Words will rebel against man. They will shake off the servitude of meaning. They will ‘become only themselves, and as dead stones in our mouths’. In either case, men and women will have been freed forever from the burden and the splendour of the ruin at Babel. But which, one wonders, will be the greater silence?”

In After Babel (1975), Steiner illustrates the end of translation with the metaphor of silence. In this state of perpetual freedom, which is the utopic absence of politics, speechlessness represents redemption. However, beyond Steiner, several scholars in contemporary translation studies have gone a step further in adding the productivity of translation, as well as the relations of power to the analysis. Thereby, the scholars demonstrate that the silencing strategies in the handling of political language include old and new linguistically imperialistic forms. In Translation and Empire (1970), Douglas Robinson undertakes a conceptual reconstruction of translation as an imperialistic and colonial strategy. Relating Cicero’s theory of equivalences to Eric Cheyfitz’s and Tejaswini Niranjana’s postcolonial critique of translation, Robinson brings translation studies and postcolonial studies into a dialogue for criticizing the hierarchy that classifies ‘written’ and ‘oral’ languages.


2 Translation and Culture—in Five Currents of Thought

More recently, in Enlightenment in the Colony (2007), Aamir Mufti (2007: 3) reflects on British colonialism in India and rewords the postcolonial periodization as a “contradictory transition and the resultant crisis of its structures in the form of minoritized social groups and cultural practices”. He (ibid.: 7) speaks of the “minoritization of language, culture, and memory” and investigates the transnational formation of minoritarian identities, or what he (ibid.: 4) calls, a “Third Worldist and postcolonial understanding of the Jewish Question”. Exploring “the possibilities for the convergence of perspectives made possible by the problematic of ‘Jewish difference’ with those emerging out of the forms of difference that mark the trajectories of colonial and postcolonial cultures and societies”, Mufti (ibid.: 6) approaches the question of Jewish minorities in Europe while problematizing the “secularization and minority in post-Enlightenment liberal culture as a whole” (ibid.: 2). Further, Mufti (ibid.) relates the transnationality of the Jewish Question to the “crisis of Muslim identity in modern India”. Besides his postcolonial critiques to the Enlightenment in the creation of minorities, Mufti (2010; 2016) is known for assessing the uses of the English language in the postmodern world. As Niranjana (1992), he identifies homogenizing tendencies in its hegemony as the global lingua franca. Niranjana (1992: 2) explains that the inflationary uses of notes and prefaces in the English translations of texts written in Hindi function as mechanisms of exclusion that justify “cultural domination”. These do not only create differentiated spaces of cultural referents, but also reify the ‘hidden’ cultural distance between the source text and the readers of the target text. The commented translation renders the possibilities of hearing non-European languages, and the individual voices of the colonised even less probable. Dismantling this silencing phenomenon, Spivak counters the position of the silenced subaltern identity by including the Bengali sayings that were omitted from previous English translations of the texts written by the Indian activist Mahasweta Devi into the main text (Aranda 2008: 51). In conclusion, Steiner’s ideal-typology in the paradigms of translation highlights that the history of translation enlarges national historiography. Being a crucial literary and political praxis common to the constitution of the majoritarian and dominant identity, translation frames the history of the formation of the nation-state from its colonial and imperial precedents to its most recent supranational developments. As a figure of history, translation thus allows linking the three political forms of the empire, the nation-state, and the supranational regime.

2.2 Cultural Studies



Cultural Studies

Cultural studies popularized the concept of cultural translation in the social sciences. Even though there is no common definition of this concept, it is conceived as a tool for the study of culture, as well as for describing processes of trade and exchange of meaning (Bhabha 1994; Wagner 2009). At the same time, the semantic transactions are considered essential for the constitution of that culture, which is “subject to change and cultural variation” (ibid.). Therefore, “the study of culture itself is a very much cultural practice” (Neumann/ Nünning 2012: 2). Cultural translation shifts the focus from cultural uniformity towards the transfer of concepts (ibid.), which either reconfigures (Chakrabarty 2000: 2) or displaces the original (Chevrel 1997: 356). In both cases, the translation has a distinctive result (ibid.: 355). Based on Said’s notion of “travelling theory” (1983), cultural studies focus on the travelling capacities of culture, instead of seeking to reconstruct its internal coherence. The cultural mutation, or the attained “history of literary innovation” is neither ‘objectively’ explainable nor quantitatively measurable (Lefevere 1992: 1). According to James Clifford (1989 quoted in: Neumann/ Nünning 2012: 7): “travelling is a matter of recognizing the ambivalent, increasingly contested appropriations and resistances that characterize the circulation”. In this sense, “[t]ravelling is […] a multilayered, complex and conflictual process which generates difference and defines tendencies towards homogenization and universalisation”. Cultural studies expand and differentiate the meaning of cultural translation offering an understanding of translation in terms of negotiation of cultural differences (ibid.: 2). One of the important voices, the Jamaican thinker Stuart Hall, identifies in the concept of culture, a source that socially maps differences among belongings. Hall (1992: 472) notes that in the study of culture: “The important point is the ordering of different aesthetic morals, social aesthetics, the orderings of culture that open up culture to the play of power, not an inventory of what is high versus what is low at any particular moment.” Cultural translation recalls a kind of cultural transition, but one in which the outcome is never completely predictable. Capturing the significance of meaningcirculation for the literary production of identities, cultural studies include the experience of voluntary and involuntary movement of people found in tourism, enforced displacement, as well as in diasporic webs in linguistic, literary, and cultural analysis (Bachmann-Medick 2009). As Lefevere (1992: 2) suggests, more than a “window opened on another world”, “translation is a channel opened, often not without a certain reluctance, through which foreign influences can


2 Translation and Culture—in Five Currents of Thought

penetrate the native culture, challenge it, and even contribute to subverting it”. Cultural studies thus offer a wide range of concepts that explain the ambivalence of cultural belongings, such as “hybridity” (Hall 1992), “hybrids” (Price/ Lugones 2003), “hyphenated-identities” (Vandeyar 2011) or “frontier identities” (Anzaldúa 2012). However, the focus on the aestheticization of language for describing these translated identities sometimes risks losing sight of the political ambivalence inherent to translation.


Postcolonial Studies

In reaction to a depolitization of culture in cultural studies, postcolonial studies focus more decisively on the impacts of colonization on cultural production, as well as on social and political thought (Ashcroft et al. 2006: 1). Postcolonial studies link language and culture in the analysis of identities, which are mapped in time and space through translations. This mapping is outlined by Hall, Bhabha, Partha Chatterjee and Said. Yet, also authors, who do not label their philosophical work as postcolonial—as Derrida, Deleuze and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak— have contributed to this cartographic thinking. All problematize authenticity and visualize regimes of representation of what Hall (1996: 19) calls “the unacknowledged”. Postcolonial studies “subvert the structures of ‘othering’ in language and representation, image, sound and discourse, and thus […] turn the mechanisms of fixed racial signification against themselves” (ibid.). Approaching (post)colonial identities as an interruption in the fulfilment of the Hegelian recognition, postcolonial thinkers formulate a critique to modernity.10 They do not refute modernity but emphasise on the plurality inherent to modernity itself (Bhabha 1994; Said 2003). These authors suggest that the power and violence in the nationalization of language that until today frames the nation’s cultural, literary, and conceptual production require an alternative historiography.


See: Arjun Appadurai: “Patriotism and Its Futures” (1993); Bhabha: Nation and Narrations (1990); Chatterjee: “Beyond the Nation or Within?” (1997); Ranajid Guha: “On Some Aspects of the Historiography of Colonial India” (2000) and Spivak: “The Politics of Translation” (in: Spivak 1993). From a decolonial perspective see Walter Mignolo: The Idea of Latin America (2008); Ramón Grosfoguel: “World-System Analysis and Postcolonial Studies. A Call for Dialogue from the ‘Coloniality of Power’ Approach” (2008) and “The Structure of Knowledge in Westernized Universities: Epistemic Racism/Sexism and the Four Genocides/Epistemicides of the Long 16th Century” (2013).

2.3 Postcolonial Studies


Considering language as a political device that transmits colonial patterns after colonialization, Chatterjee’s (1986; 1993) conceptual reconstruction of the nation offers an alternative historicity to Benedict Anderson’s ([1983]2006) imagined community. Chatterjee (1993: 5) maps displacements of meaning between (ex-)colonized India and (ex-)colonizer England, thereby, shifting the narrative of national identity towards a transcontinental geography of cultural belonging. He (ibid.: 6–9) opposes a depiction of the colonies as situated in a permanent state of backwardness in comparison to the metropoles, as well as the view that defines the colonies as a failed translation of the national history of the so-called motherlands (ibid.: 13). Chatterjee’s compared conceptual reconstruction shows that the accuracy in the Indian translations of the English concept of the nation is evaluated regarding the non-Western capacity to coin with or to normalize Western notions. He (1986: 10; emphasis added) notes that non-Western (or forming colonial) countries “continue subjection in a world order that does not allow them to appropriate their paths towards modernity and the human values of the Enlightenment”. Illustrating the colonial experience in terms of a “temporal asymmetrical representation” that stands for a “historical stagnation”, Chatterjee (1986: 2) concludes that (post)colonial international relations place the “‘Others’ at the “need to equip themselves culturally by appropriating what is alien to them”. Also, Dipesh Chakrabarty (2000: 4–6) suggests that in the former colonialized world, modernity is still today a telos, i.e., an expectation of the cultural translation of European historiography, which is never fully attained. He also notes that the persistence of colonial patterns continues to neglect the conceptual production and the voices of those peoples, whose civilization has historically been defined as premodern or primitive at the national, as well as at the international level. Chatterjee and Chakrabarty show that despite sharing an official language, in both democracies, India and England, there is a hierarchy in conceptual production. The imported and exported Western colonial imaginaries compose a geopolitical geography that narrates national historiography as the translation of the Western culture into the non-Western world. Moreover, both thinkers argue that this circulation of colonial imaginaries still frames international relations today. Defining colonialism in terms of a violent transplantation of the European cultural world into non-European regions enables a postcolonial understanding of translation. Beyond the attempt of finding equivalencies, degrees of affinity, and the originality of concepts, postcolonial studies analyse the various forms that colonialism has taken. The impacts of the Westernization of the world are not the same everywhere.


2 Translation and Culture—in Five Currents of Thought

Beyond a monocultural genealogy of concepts, Chakrabarty (2007: 17) argues that: “The problem of capitalist modernity cannot any longer be seen simply as a sociological problem of historical transition (as in the famous ‘transition debates’ in European history) but as a problem of translation, as well”.11 This means a break from the “time —before scholarship became globalized— when the process of translating diverse forms, practices, and understandings of life into universalist political-theoretical categories of deeply European origin seemed to most social scientists an unproblematic proposition”. Localized at “the relation between sovereign and linguistic borders and the checkpoint” (Apter 2013: 3), postcolonial studies are not immune to nationalism. Yet, by capturing the historicity of conceptual production beyond colonial/national forms of political belonging and identities, postcolonial studies supersede structuralist or habitus-related approaches. As Solomon (2007) notes, the transition from the national culture to the “translational culture” transforms the relation between freedom and violence. Following Fanon12 , postcolonial studies resignify subjectivities, positions of enunciation and identities, as well as the (ex-)colonial subject’s im/possibility to constitute an independent self. Earlier to Foucault’s thinking on modern political power, Fanon (2008) examines unequal relations of power in the uses of language and points to the ambiguity between freedom and alienation implied in culture (Fanon 1967). In his work, freedom and alienation appear as two components of (post)colonial identities (Gordon 2007). Postcolonial thinkers that follow a Fanonian approach argue that the national/colonial politics of language, and the relations of power implied in a translation can cause speechlessness as a social phenomenon. However, postcolonial studies are less interested in describing the patterns determining 11

Similarly, Fanon (1991) amends Marx’s fatalistic view on the expansion of capitalism worldwide as a translation of its stages into the colonies. Fanon also analyses the translation of infrastructure materialized in urban architecture, notions of the ‘civilized life’, and the limits of ‘privacy’. These geographic notions contextualize the globalization of capitalism and the monetarization of social relations. For a comparison of Marx and Fanon on the question of capitalist and imperialist expansion see the edited volume by Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture (1988). 12 From Canada to Guinea-Bissau, Fanon’s work has been translated into many languages. The transnational validity of his thinking renders it powerful and exceptional. He inspired movements for independence, postcolonial and decolonial theory and anti-racist teaching. To mention a contemporary example of pedagogic and artistic work that builds on Fanon in Germany see: Grada Kilomba’s Plantation Memories (2016). See also my own engagement with pedagogies of difference inside and outside the university.

2.4 Black Decolonial Studies


speechlessness, than in altering and intervening in the politics of in/visibility. For avoiding succumbing to speechlessness, social death and invisibility, postcolonial thinkers build bridges between the (in)commensurability between conceptual and social history. In Can the Subaltern speak? (1988), Spivak works on the politics of silencing that frame a notion of collective speechlessness, which is associated to the colonialized, or subaltern identities. She maps postcolonial conceptual production and proposes the in/visibility of languages not only as a metaphor, but as a social indicator. Speechlessness does not illustrate the end of translation, but the translation of identities into postcolonial identities. In Spivak’s view (1988: 313), “the subaltern cannot speak”. At the same time, she also describes unintelligibility as a performative act of otherness, as well as a political tool for struggles for independence and decolonial forms of representation. According to Spivak (ibid. 287), what cannot be said becomes important. In a postcolonial geography, translation is at once instrument for cultural alienation and subversion of the dominant social order. Its rhetorical power does not only reside in the promise of domesticating differences, but also in its constant redefinition. Spivak (1993) refers to this double and contradictory agency as “the politics of translation”.


Black Decolonial Studies

Rewriting cultural identities through transnational and multi-temporal narratives of belongings, W.E.B. Du Bois (1904), Éduard Glissant (1983), Fatima El-Tayeb (2011) and Paul Gilroy (1987) among many other Black scholars put into question the criteria defining cultural filiation, cultural heritage, and provenance. Contemporary to Fanon, Glissant defines translation as a decisive tool for both colonialism and resistance to colonial power. In Poetics of Relation, he (1997) illustrates the ambiguity of cultural identities and narrates their reassembling after the painful colonial experience. Thereby, he (ibid.) proposes a shift in the common imaginary of the genealogical tree that represents the register of family degrees among consanguineous members, and that is also used as a metaphor for the greater fictive family of the modern nation (see: e.g.: Balibar 1997; Skinner 2009). To depict decentred and transnational constellations of identities, Glissant (1997: 12) replaces the imaginary of the fir tree by the mangrove.13 13

The use of natural landscapes as metaphors for describing cultural identities is a recurrent topic in Caribbean critical political thought. The figure of the mangrove appears in the works and poems of Aimé Césaire (1955) and in Éloge de la Créolité (1989) written by Jean Bernabé, Patrick Chamoiseau and Raphaël Confiant.


2 Translation and Culture—in Five Currents of Thought

The mangrove, a tree found in Africa and in the Southern and Central regions of the Americas (as well as in Australia), grows on the edges of the continents between earth and water. The older roots of the tree penetrate the earth and touch the water, while the younger are still visible, as if they have not yet decided, whether to choose the water or the earth for their aging. In the landscape they generate (no mangrove survives alone), the individual roots become so entangled, that it is easier to conceive them as an ensemble with no individual beginning or end. In Glissant’s words (ibid.: 15): “The roots are not important. Movement is”. […] Center and periphery are equivalent. Conquerors are the moving, transient root of their people”. Due to its multiple origins and roots, the mangrove is for Glissant (ibid.: 18) a metaphor for cultural identities beyond the Western canon represented in the fir tree’s individuality. The mangrove illustrates identities as non-linear and replaces the idea of originality and affiliation with the multiplicity of belongings and entanglements created throughout the centuries of tricontinental colonial trade. Glissant reads in the mangroves’ landscapes the translation of historical migration routes as well as the interlocking roots of Caribbean cultural identity (Moatamri 2007). According to the philosopher (Glissant 1997: 89), the mangrove, captures the conflicted postcolonial shared history and identities beyond national fidelity and patriotism. In his political vocabulary, Creolisation claims not to be Caribbean nationalism, but the translatability of culture (El-Tayeb 2011: xviii). From a less poetic and more political perspective, Du Bois (1940) redescribes cultural identities’ formation beyond both their biological roots and their inherent cultivation. He focusses instead on the displacement, or better: on the cultural transplantation. Reflecting from a biographic-critical perspective on the transnational meaning of race, Du Bois (1940: 59) notes that: “The mark of their heritage is upon me in color and hair. These are obvious things, but of little meaning in themselves; only important as they stand for real and more subtle differences from other men. Whether they do or not, I do not know nor does science know today. But one thing is sure and that is the fact that since the fifteenth century these ancestors of mine and their other descendants have had a common history; have suffered a common disaster and have one long memory. The actual ties of heritage between the individuals of this group, vary with the ancestors that they have in common with many others: Europeans and Semites, perhaps Mongolians, certainly American Indians. But the physical bond is least and the badge of color relatively unimportant save

2.5 Critical Translation Studies


as a badge; the real essence of this kinship is its social heritage of slavery; the discrimination and insult; and this heritage binds together not simply the children of Africa, but extends through yellow Asia and into the South Seas. It is this unity that draws me to Africa.”

Tracing the formation of modern identities back to the enslaved migration from the African continent, Du Bois depicts the becoming of the Black identity transnationally. The travelling meaning of race emphasizes on a historical shared responsibility instead of an original sin or guilt. The common heritage is based on the colonial displacements of people. This historical movement is what Du Bois (1940: 59) rewords in collective terms as “kinship” and, in the singularity, as a “badge”. Translation and culture require the transportation of concepts and meaning. Thereby, both unavoidably change. Moreover, the migration (in)forms identities as well as differences among them. In the decolonial cartographies of belonging, translation functions as an instrument of resignification of colonial and postcolonial relations among differences. Focusing more on history than on cultural innovation, Black thinking transmits a living memory of shared experiences. The living archives reassemble the meaning and significance of Blackness and resignify the value violently given to Black, non-white, and Indigenous (post)colonial identities in history and historiography as minoritarian.


Critical Translation Studies

Another current of thought dealing with translation and culture is found in the work of Rada Ivekovi´c, Boris Buden, Sandro Mezzadra and Jon Solomon. Analysing the fluent relationship between translation and culture, the philosophers of language and translators draw upon postcolonial geographies of language for analysing multiculturalism. They formulate a relational understanding of translation, culture and power. Through an inventive socio-linguistic approach, they define translation as a political intervention.14

14 See the projects: Translation: the Mother Tongue of a Future Society? (2008), Translate (2005–08) and Europe as a Translational Space: The Politics of Heterolinguality (2008– 2012). These include several essays written by Buden and Ivekovi´c (unfortunately the pages are unnumbered).


2 Translation and Culture—in Five Currents of Thought

Ivekovi´c (2007) and Buden (2006) focus on the meaning of fidelity and reveal its entanglements with the history of translation and its significance in multicultural settings.15 Based on the legacy of the German Romantic, both philosophers ask: ‘to whom is the translation being addressed?’ And ‘to whom should the translator be faithful?’ Yet, they also approach the intersections in these questions by including gender, nationality and the biopolitical strategies of identification in their analyses. Ivekovi´c (2007; 2008a) focuses on the long-neglected figure by cultural analyses on translation: The translator. In her gendered analysis of the translator, Ivekovi´c, similar to Spivak concludes that translation has traditionally been a feminized occupation. Whereas Spivak (1993: 188) makes aware of the sexist presupposition that women, as translators, “must have a tough sense of the specific terrain of the original”, Ivekovi´c’s (2008a) gendered imaginary of the translator relies on the idea of the mother tongue. Awarded by virtue of birth from the mother to her children through breastfeeding, the mother tongue allows establishing an analogy between women as the natural bearers of the national language; hence, as the natural translators of the national culture. Insofar as translations ensure the reproduction of the mother tongue, and this language creates, as a natural link, the national community, these are treated as potentially patriotic acts. In this view, translation becomes a patriotic act (Ivekovi´c 2003; 2008a). Linking women to nativity, and translation to patriotism, Ivekovi´c (2006: 7) indicates that cultural hierarchies and patriarchal relationships are at the basis of inequalities among generations, classes, and genders. From another perspective, Buden’s (2008) reconstruction of the historical and analytical continuum between translation and patriotism is based in immigration policies. He sees no contradiction in European immigration policies, which embrace (some carefully chosen forms of) the foreign, and at the same time, pass repressive laws against migrants legalizing detention and deportation. In his words (ibid.: IV): “It is precisely in so doing that this politics exercises a form of faithful cultural translation. It actually separates the foreign from foreignness and incorporates, or more precisely, builds the former into society”. The difference is not constituted prior to the notion of culture. It is rather the trajectory and


Both members of the European Institute for Progressive Cultural Politics (EIPCP), Buden and Ivekovi´c share the understanding of migration and of the European postcolonial nation with their colleagues Etienne Balibar (1997; 2011) and Sandro Mezzadra (2007; together with Nielson 2013). It is important for me to mention that the philosophers Ivekovi´c and Buden grew up in the former Yugoslavia and share the experience of intellectual exile in central European countries.

2.5 Critical Translation Studies


the migration proper to the translation that determine the historical formation of cultural differences among identities. Linking the intellectual and conceptual history on translation, Buden and Ivekovi´c (2008a; 2008b) narrate how translation either subverts or affirms cultural uniformity. The “mimesis” (Bhabha 1994), “repetition” (Benjamin 1992), or “interruption” (Buden 2006) of the original meaning caused by translation shifts cultural affiliation away from a unique source (la souche) of heritage. Instead, translation frames and creates identities and differences and, in words of Balibar (2004) “different humankinds”. Thereby, cultural fidelity and national loyalty are approached as contingent categories that are explainable only through comparison. Working on the normative distinction between the ‘original’ and the ‘translated’, as well as between the ‘native’ and ‘foreign’ in the definition of culture (Ivekovi´c 2008a), the authors approach the constitution of cultural identities through a transnational, comparative-historical perspective. With a focus on cosmopolitanism and questions of citizenship in the European context, Ivekovi´c and Buden (2003; 2008; et al. 2009) draw from Balibar’s critique of the concept of the nation and move beyond translation studies and cultural studies. They depict migration as both a regime, and an autonomous movement at the core of Western multicultural societies. Mezzadra (2006: 32) summarizes their notion on “cosmopolitics” in the following manner: “what is new in the ‘lesson of otherness’ referred to by Balibar? In post-colonial studies otherness is widely recognized as an essential element of European identity since the beginning of modernity. As for instance Homi Bhabha or Gayatri Spivak taught us, a movement of contamination, transits and translation (a movement of metissage) contradictorily cohabits within colonial experience and anticipates the “postcolonial” present. It is important to stress that, in light of postcolonial studies, the relationship between Europe and its ‘others’ is not to be reduced to a simple opposition (which could be described in terms of ‘exclusion’). That relation, to borrow the Lacanian term used by Spivak (e.g. 1999), must instead be reconstructed bringing it back to a movement of forclusion. Let’s try to simplify the somehow esoteric language of many postcolonial critics: Since the image of Europe and its ‘civilization’, beginning in the 16th century, takes its shape within a movement of constant comparison with the images of the ‘barbarism’ (but also of the ‘liberty’) of ‘savage’ peoples inhabiting the spaces which are open to the European conquest, those peoples then, are themselves not confined to mark the external edge of Europe, but are from the very beginning implied in the theoretical and practical work which produces the unity of European space and the concepts which articulate that unity.”


2 Translation and Culture—in Five Currents of Thought

Applying the politics of translation to European multiculturalism, Balibar, Buden, Ivekovi´c and Mezzadra formulate an analytical approach to the creation of transcontinental identities and criticize the relations of power framing those identities. In line with decolonial studies, Mezzadra and Neilson (2013) suggest that applying translation to the study of globalization requires rethinking the monolinguistic constitution of tradition and of the political subject. This perspective follows Spivak’s notion that “making sense of ourselves is what produces identity” (1993: 179) by acknowledging that language and translation articulate diasporic subjectivities, which do not correspond with the national imaginary. Including postcolonial migration as a component in the (trans)formation of modern concepts and identities, Ivekovi´c (2006) approaches translation as a process that rewrites the original while creating an identity of its own. Following Benjamin, Ivekovi´c (2010) and Buden (2006) suggest that it is the journey in the concept’s history that allows the original to survive since its explanatory force exponentially increases through its possible articulations in different languages and contexts. The authentication of the original meaning still depends on fidelity; the translator decides upon the difference’s faculty of affiliation into the target language, as well as upon the untranslatable foreignness. Yet, the aporia proper to translation is this time defined as “the impossibility of finding an exact match between the translation and the meaning of the original” (Buden 2006). The translator’s task becomes the faculty of tracing “the other in the self” (Derrida 1974 quoted in: Spivak 1993: 40). Reconstructing the meaning of fidelity in translation, Ivekovi´c and Buden also develop on its opposite: betrayal. Buden (2008) defines the translator’s task as a transgressing agency in the monolinguistic order and explains the dialectic between fidelity and betrayal in translation in terms of resistance. Based on Spivak’s (2000: 23–4) idea that: “As a translator, then, I perform the contradiction, the counter-resistance”, Buden (2008: VI) concludes that: “one might conceive betrayal, as this act of subversion and transgression that informs the politics of resistance and initiates an emancipatory change. One might think of this betrayal as an effect of fidelity to the task of cultural translation, the task of generating a renewal, a new flowering of a culture of life as opposed to the culture of death”.

Even if there is no physical migration of bodies in the linguistic transaction, in the intimate relation of meaning established between the proper and the foreign, “translation itself is political and contextual: it happens within globalisation” (Ivekovi´c 2008b). In words of Ivekovi´c (ibid.):

2.5 Critical Translation Studies


“Translation can then be seen as a way to revisit the question of citizenship and of political subjectivity beyond the European metaphysics of the subject and beyond reductive political economy. I have proposed the concept of missing citizen here, as an analogy to the Indian concept of missing women designating aborted female fetuses.”

Reflecting on Ivekovi´c’s as well as on Said’s work, Balibar (2004: 21) concludes that: “this conflictual model of the process of translation ([…] where differences are neither denied nor absolutized, but subjected to the political and historical practices of translation) […] provides an instrument, and features a regulating ideal for the political handling of the issues of ‘multi-culturalism’.”

The critique to multiculturalism through translation deals, for example, with the power in the metaphor of hospitality (Honig 2006). This concept, which in the linguistic realm harbours migratory meaning of foreign concepts, responds in social history to the ethic requirement of offering shelter for people. Similar to Arendt’s (1951) and Bonnie Honig’s (2006) analyses on the political strategies for excluding non-nationals from the nation-state, Ivekovi´c highlights the impossible disassociation of hospitality from hostility. The productivity generated from the relation between these concepts includes a critique to liberalism, and to the regimes of borders and migration. In Ivekovi´c’s terms (2008b; emphasis original): “That there is no democracy without borders means for us that translation is both impossible, unavoidable and imperfect. In this sense, borders are the lines of temporary coagulation of applied power, without being power directly: they are derived, and so are ‘identities’. The political—along with inequality, borders and conflict – is ‘primary’, as Ch. Mouffe and E. Laclau have put it. But the excess, that which cannot be represented, is where subjectivities are made and where change appears: through, across, and in spite of identities or borders.”

The will to translate and to be translated certainly includes a strategy of mutual understanding and the desire for cultural contact. Yet, how mutual may translation be, if the relations of power are unavoidably asymmetrical? Is the recognition of the contingency of the borders and identities enough for redefining tradition and identities from a postnational, postcolonial perspective? The critical voices on translation do not necessarily offer a transnational perspective upon the history of concepts and on identities. The exchanges with decolonial thinking and Black studies remain scarce. As a result, no narratives creating transnational geographies of conceptual production are retraced. Not


2 Translation and Culture—in Five Currents of Thought

being able to decentre the West from the transnational and translational production of concepts and identities, Ivekovi´c’s and Buden’s critiques are not decolonial enough to engage with the question of race and translation, or Du Bois’s (1904) “color-line question”. Following Fanon, this is another way of saying that the impacts of colonialism in the constitution of culture remain absent from their analyses. Whereas Ivekovi´c’s proposal in decentring the link between fidelity and translation through the motive of betrayal is based upon a resignification of the liberal citizen through the empty signifier of the “missing citizen”, the thinker on postcolonial Latin-American identities, Gloria Anzaldúa (2012), defines the betrayal in the translation from the perspective of the difference. She argues that after the “colonial translation” marked differences remain vulnerable to public condemnation. The “missing citizen” is not only a marked difference, but also the untranslatable difference. Based on the historical figure of La Malinche16 , who is a significant example for the betray-logic inherent to translation, Anzaldúa (2012: 44) describes the cultural-ontological dilemma embodied by the feminized non-white, postcolonial body as follow: “the worst kind of betrayal lies in making us believe that the Indian woman in us is the betrayer. We, indias y mestizas, police the Indian in us, brutalize and condemn her. […] Son las constumbres que traicionan. Not me sold out my people but they me. Because of the color of my skin they betrayed me.”

Anzaldúa’s adoption of untranslated Spanish in her English publications is not only “a refusal to translate the Spanish and Nahuatl (indigenous) words, phrases, epigraphs and poems references” (Shafiq 2006: 6), as her critics suggest, mostly and more importantly, these are a refusal of being forced to articulate multicultural thoughts monolinguistically. Her mother tongue is her bilingualism. Anzaldúa’s desire to “write bilingually”, i.e., “switch[ing] codes without having always to translate” (2012: 81) is a rebellion against the monolinguistic grammar of nationality and the patriotic logic of fidelity. The use of the verb 16

La Malinche, also known as Malinali Tenepal or Malintzín, was personal interpreter and lover of Hernán Cortés (one of the most brutal Conquistadores of Central America). In Latin American historiography, she is traditionally depicted as the betrayer of ‘her own’ people. Her biography however demonstrates that betrayal is a highly contingent accusation, which depends more on the power of the accuser than on the crime of the accused. For a discussion on her politicized and ever-present biography in Mexico’s historiography see: Lanyon 1999 and Luziris 2011.

2.5 Critical Translation Studies


traicionar, meaning to betray, in the sentence: “Son las constumbres que traicionan” expresses precisely that it is tradition that betrays. This means that cultural identities have been, and still are, betrayed by culture. The figure of La Malinche condenses a translated and an untranslatable identity. Also in this case, her mother tongue is her bilingualism. In Fanon’s psychiatric work (1967; 2008), this self-alienating experience is diagnosed as cultural anxiety and paranoia. Beyond a literary, or psychoanalytic interpretation of the interplay between cultural fidelity and betrayal, the political philosophers Kwame Anthony Appiah (1996), Alana Lentin (2012) and Lewis Gordon (2007) point out to Du Bois’s (1904: 5) predictions on the central issue of the 20th century being the “the color-line” problem. Their work reveals disturbing historical continuities between older applications of the category of race and the contemporary usages of the category of culture. Moreover, the philosophers suggest that the conception of culture operating in multiculturalism cannot be completely detached from the category of race. Their common critique suggests that the exchangeability of the category of minorities in multiculturalism coins with a changing definition of the non-Western, who is viewed as always belonging somewhere else; where no individual difference counts (Fanon 1991; Gordon 2007: 2, 16). Ma(r)king the difference between white and non-white people, the concept of non-Western minority is an umbrella term for the concepts of Indian, mulatto, mestizo, ‘colored’, Black, Jew, Muslim—a range of concepts utilized as disclaimers of non-white individuals. Multiculturalism marks differences as minorities and non-white people fall into the category of minority. The exchangeability of the label minority suggests that it marks a geographical differentiation that functions as a disclaimer of non-Europeanness. Yet, non-Western does not only mark a geographical difference. It is also a description systematically applied to non-white people living within Western democracies, who are identified as aliens and foreigners independently of their citizenship (Brown 2006; Lentin 2012). In this sense, multiculturalism creates and reinforces differences, which are either translatable or untranslatable according to the European norm. Appiah (1996: 78) suggests that one way out of this semantic totalitarianism consists in shifting away from authenticity. Defining culture beyond authenticity means renouncing to the idea of recognizing some aspects of identities as “scripts, in which group members are presumed to share a common culture by definition”. To abandon the notion of authenticity in identity means that there is an exchangeable source determining what for example constitutes “a proper way of being black” (Wilkins 1996: 7).


2 Translation and Culture—in Five Currents of Thought

However, an analysis that seeks to avoid the problematization of identities as differences requires a reconstruction of the power and violence in the regimes that define non-Western minorities as translatable or untranslatable. Reconstructing multiculturalism as a regime of translation and the multicultural question as a relation of biopolitical power, the question of cultural difference in the Western world becomes a matter of cultural life and social death. In the following chapter, the conceptual history of the question of the cultural difference will be traced as a historical and methodological question concerning the translatability of humanity.


Translation as Method

Begriffsgeschichte or conceptual history1 traces genealogies of concepts through changes and exchanges of their meanings and usages. Abandoning the evolutionary path in historical investigation, conceptual historians evade positivistic and universalistic models of language (Skinner 1969: 13). Instead, the plurality of meanings implies new constellations for interpretation. In the Anglo-Saxon world, Skinner (1969) suggests that conceptual changes are rendered intelligible through the analysis of the rhetorical redescriptions made by agents. Dealing with synchronic and anachronistic uses of political concepts, conceptual history reformulates the categories of sameness, differences, and resemblances among them. Conceptual historians do not provide definitive definitions since the migration of meaning, or the social dynamics of language, are infinite. Conceptual history acknowledges the contingency in language. Koselleck (2006: 12–16), the German founder of Begriffsgeschichte traces temporal differences among concepts as indexes and points to following aporia: Although history cannot be conceived without the entanglement between language and society, there is something in social relations that irremediably scapes language. History is not identical to language so that it cannot be reduced to it. Consequently, Skinner (1965) suggests that conceptual history can only reflect on the conceptual specificity that it generates. Hence, it is never a fully accomplished task. 1

Following Melvin Richter (1987: 247), I use conceptual history (or history of concepts) as the English translation for Koselleck’s Begriffsgeschichte. This label also includes John Pocock and Quentin Skinner’s history of ideas (Richter 1990). As Richter (1996: 17) suggest: “These German and Anglophone styles converge to an extent that justifies dialogue among their practitioners. Out of this might come a meaningful comparative analysis of how different political and social languages in [different, TM] speaking societies have converged and diverged”. © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, part of Springer Nature 2023 T. Mancheno, Ma(r)king the Difference,



3 Translation as Method

Skinner reconstructs the meaning of concepts by focusing on the speech-acts, in which they appear.2 The meaning can remain similar to previous uses. Yet, the context can also cause changes or attain different outcomes from the known mobilized concepts. In this case, their new uses are neutralized or accommodated into conceptual history. In his early work, Skinner (ibid.) suggests that the contestations of meaning within a concept signalize an ideological battle. Yet, what does he mean by ‘ideological’? In Visions of Politics (2002: 182), he responds to this question while also to his critics, who oppose historical contextualism in favour of the philosophical task of establishing clear definitions.3 In his view, ideological motivations underlie even the most abstract systems of thought. In his words (ibid.: 6–7): “all attempts to legislate about the ‘correct’ use of normative terms must be regarded as equally ideological in character. Whenever such terms are employed, their application will always reflect a wish to impose a particular moral vision on the workings of the social world”. Thereby, Skinner suggests on the one hand, that philosophical arguments are deeply interweaved with claims of social power and, on the other hand, that the uses of history are ideological. These understandings of ideology could be reduced to the weaker claim that all political utterances involve claims to social power and, therefore, are in some respect ideological. It could also be stated that all political utterances are purely ideological, hence, only comprehensible in ideological terms. However, the ‘ideological’ power of utterances, is more than just an adjective or a grid constituting a body of thought. In Skinner’s words (1965: 151): “ideological arguments are commonly sustained by an appeal to the past, an appeal either to see precedents in history for new claims being advanced, or to see history itself as a development towards the point of view being advocated or denounced”. Ideological thus means a “prescriptive use of historical information” (ibid.). He (1969: 18) also adds that the history of political philosophy is readable as pedagogic history. Skinner acknowledges ideology as a source of legitimation for domination and characterizes determined forms of ‘domination’ as ideological. Further, he stresses upon the impossibility of defining domination from a non-ideological point of view. As a rhetorical tool, ideology distorts ways of thinking and speaking in a pedagogical and authoritarian manner. Yet, if ideology and domination can only be explained in context, it becomes difficult to identify the uses of 2

See for example Skinner’s work on ‘liberty’ in his book liberty before liberalism (1998), and on the ‘state’ in “A Genealogy of the Modern State” (2009). 3 Critical voices towards Skinner’s “revisited historical contextualism” (Lamb 2009) are gathered in the compilation edited by James Tully: Meaning and Context: Quentin Skinner and His Critics (1988).

3 Translation as Method


domination from an ideological point of view. The tautology in finding a nonideological meaning of domination makes it necessary to take the contingency implied in the forms of domination seriously. In short: ideological domination may be studied through the context and vocabulary that shape the ideology. According to Skinner (1969), there is no requirement to distinguish between ideologically motivated utterances and particularistic speech-acts expressing viewpoints and beliefs. In both uses, there is a will to achieve social power that frames the concept’s history: Both enforce a particular moral vision on the world (Lamb 2009: 24). Therefore, Skinner (1969: 43) acknowledges that “the social context […] helps to cause the formation and change of ideas; but the ideas in turn help to cause the formation and change of the social context”. Just as the translator, the conceptual historian intervenes in the genealogy of concepts, hence, in historiography. According to Benjamin (2002), the translator’s ability to communicate is related to freedom. Also, the conceptual reconstructions liberate the concept from a timeless definition. Juggling with differences among contexts and the meaning of utterances, the conceptual historian engages in a translation task that transgresses and releases her own language from traditional boundaries. The conceptual reconstruction is more than a transfer of meaning. As the translation, it adds value to the original concept and captures the circulation of meaning. The translator and the conceptual historian are aware that the concept’s originality survives only through transformations, which in social history are comparable to experiences of migration: Also, the ‘host’ society transforms the name, and the identity of the migrant person. Yet, a sense of fidelity preserves the original meaning (and the identity), only as long as it circulates among different contexts. The dilemma, in which translation means both the mutation and the survival of the original, makes it necessary to reconstruct the concept’s meaning through the happenings that explain its usages (Higham 1954; quoted in Skinner 1969: 39), as well as unveiling the relations of power determining and transforming it. Conceptual history absconds anachronism by creating new affiliations of meaning and uses of a concept. As translations also the polylingual conceptual histories trace singularities in the semantic battlefield, in which traditionally universal historical narratives conquer. Thereby, translation becomes equivalent to the political task of dismantling the violence of universalism.



3 Translation as Method

Translation in Conceptual History

Conceptual history contests the traditional understanding of concepts as well as consensual meanings through ‘redescriptions’, which are also referred to as translations (Koselleck 2006). Yet, these are often reduced to the capacity to appropriate alien words (Feres Júnior 2002). Thereby, translation becomes a mechanical process that transfers meaning “from a language ST to a language TT without changing it significantly” (Robinson 1997: 8). Operating from within a dichotomised model, in which the non-translated (the familiar) and the translated (unfamiliar) are “hermetically separated from one another” (Price/ Lugones: 2003: 7), conceptual reconstructions can “leave reciprocity widely unacknowledged” (Werner/ Zimmermann 2006: 36–37). Moreover, conceptual history can reify linguistic frontiers. In words of Marjanen (2009: 241): “the important role of national languages in nation-building processes has evidently contributed to a focus on national history”. Beyond monolingualism, Marjanen (ibid.: 244) describes translation as the ability to transgress “the notion of cultural influence and a simple reception of culture”. Translation overcomes the isolation proper to the “national histories of concepts” (Leonhard 2005 in: Marjanen 2006: 243). Marjanen (2006: 243) defines the cultural transfer and semantic interaction between political languages as a histoire croisée, “which reflects the synchronic variations of the past” and reveals semantic changes by comparing concepts in different languages. Also, Melvin Richter (2005: 14) argues that, if the semantic and cultural transformations are analysed only through one side of the exchange, i.e., as a one-way transfer, then, the reconstruction inevitably focuses on the origins of the concept, thereby, ignoring alterations, extensions or even improvements in the concept’s uses. He also notes that reconstructions of translations from a Western (or Northern) into a non-Western (or Southern) context are mostly carried out to find out if a reproduction took place. However, even if the original meaning finds equivalents, these are not equally valued. The Western connotation is commonly treated as the original experience and source of conceptual meaning (ibid.: 8). Similarly, Feres Júnior (2002: 22) notes that finding affiliation degrees or resemblances among concepts reduces culture to a one-way assimilation, thereby, veiling processes of appropriation and alienation of meanings. Conceptual reconstructions that privilege the adaptation of concepts into foreign contexts reduce translation to a tool for authentication. Focusing on the Latin American history of concepts, Feres Júnior (ibid.: 14) shows that descriptions of the development of the region are accompanied by

3.1 Translation in Conceptual History


derogatory expressions and stereotypes, which denote “perversion, incompleteness, retardation, and lack of the group’s self-bestowed qualities”. Conceived within the “ultimate incapacity to have historical ‘progress’” (Feres Júnior 2002: 22), Latin America is pictured as lacking the means for challenging this definition, i.e., for “counterconceptualization” (Feres Júnior 2003: 17). He thus shows that conceptual reconstructions allocate values to contexts and languages. Feres Júnior (ibid.) reconstructs, what he calls, a “genealogy of the notion of historical handicap” from a semantic field among the terms ‘traditional’, ‘pre-secularized’ and ‘underdeveloped’. Deeply interwoven with temporal oppositions, the notion of historical handicap “constructs the other”, “in opposition to the group’s self-image” and creates deep cultural oppositions between identities (Feres Júnior 2003: 18). Challenging Latin American historiography and history as the backward and primitive ‘Other’ in history, Feres Júnior (ibid.) shows that differences are not only defined as temporal gaps, but also as geographical distances. This means that the context, in which concepts travel, is geopolitical. As stated above, Chatterjee (1993: 5–6) draws a similar conclusion from his reconstruction of ‘nationalism’. He identifies a distinction between a ‘proper’ and an ‘improper’ nationalism that are geo-culturally imagined as Western and non-Western. Even among countries sharing English as an official language, the translation of political concepts implies violence. The coloniality that marks the difference between the Western and the non-Western conceptual production makes it impossible to trace a reciprocal exchange of meaning. The asymmetric relations of power expressed in language treat authenticity as synonym of originality. And this later becomes synonym for historical singularity. However, the concept’s historicity may become confused, so that its original meaning cannot be traced to its original source (ibid.: 2–3). Chatterjee and Feres Júnior show that translation transforms its meaning beyond uses and users. Both develop an understanding of a changing originality beyond geopolitical determinism and authenticity. Embedding conceptual production in postcolonial geographies, they trace the appropriation of concepts without searching for uniqueness. Moreover, they illustrate the migration of meaning within the ontological partition that is experienced in language and evaluate the concept’s value by addressing its comparability or untranslatability to other concepts and contexts. Thereby, both reconstruct the polyvalent meanings and uses of concepts, while avoiding normative categorizations of their appearances. Chakrabarty (2000: 18) summarizes what it means to historize the relations of power in translation in the following quote:


3 Translation as Method “what translation produces out of seeming ‘incommensurabilities’ is neither an absence of relationship between dominant and dominating forms of knowledge nor equivalents that successfully mediate between differences, but precisely the partly opaque relationship we call ‘difference’”.

A conceptual reconstruction that considers the constitution of differences proactively links language and identities and acknowledges that in postcolonial cartographies, language turns into a field of political representation and alienation.


Koselleck on Concepts and Identities

How does Koselleck approach the phenomenological relation between political concepts and identities? According to the conceptual historian, concepts do not mirror reality. Putative identities cannot unfold in language since there is no correspondence between social history and its linguistic testimony (Koselleck 2006: 30). Moreover, he (ibid.: 13) traces a difference between social history and conceptual history that he describes as a tension (Spannung) and adds that: “Jede Geschichte zehrt von dieser Spannung”. The tension between the ‘lived’ and the described experience is fundamental to Koselleck’s conceptual history. He notes that, if social history and conceptual history are drawn out from one another, a Differenzbestimmung (a difference ma(r)king) irremediably takes place (ibid.: 14). The Differenz emerges from the irreducibility of historical time (geschichtlicher Zeit) to language and vice versa and is the product of the tension (Spannungsverhältnis) between action/trade (handeln) and speech/address (Rede). In political concepts, Differenz describes meaning contestations, or, in terms of Skinner (1965), ideological battles. It entails (or is explained through) the various horizons of experiences (Erfahrungshorizonte) that conflate into a political concept. The meaning of an utterance varies according to the context, as well as to the associations induced by its users (Koselleck 2006: 58). In their polymorph usages, their trajectory into another concept/event are as important as the baptisms or first appearances. The concept’s reuses do not compose a chain of historical events (as for example in the historiographical source of the chronicle).4 Instead, Koselleck acts as an archaeologist of the historical layers composing the concept. Due to the meaning-expansion, the semantic field supersedes the singularity of concepts themselves (ibid.: 61). This means that the lack of equivalence 4

For a definition of the chronicle and an interpretation of the chronicler as translation see the chapter on the Valladolid Debate.

3.2 Koselleck on Concepts and Identities


between identities and concepts causes semantic shifts (semantische Verschiebungen) (ibid.: 59) that allocate identitarian meaning. There is no experience of exclusion or integration without concepts. They have the power to create identities or to contribute to disadvantages by associating identities to negative connotations. The fertility of their meaning (sinnstiftendes Potential) may even create in Koselleck’s words (ibid.: 58) “real victims”. The conceptual history of the nation, more precisely, the convergence of the horizon of experiences within the German concept Volksgemeinschaft 5 , illustrates the functional complementarity between concepts and identities (ibid.: 56). Koselleck explains that its conceptual specificity resides in its transformation into a political slogan (Kampfparole) during the 20th century for justifying the murder of thousands of German citizens. Since then, the concept functions for the integration of Germany, as well as for the exclusion of people marked as Jews. In this politicization of concepts, Koselleck (ibid.: 58) clearly identifies a racialization. Koselleck (ibid.: 18–9) traces the transportation of meaning from older into newer concepts emphasising on the tension among society, social change, and the articulation of those changes (Aufbereitung und Verarbeitung) in language that composes history. Since the validation or verification of the interrelation between the speech act and the historical event keeps the authenticity of a concept alive (ibid.: 20), his Begriffsgeschichte seeks to address this reliance. The identifying power of language is also found in his conceptual analyses on patriotism. Building upon Hegel (1896), Koselleck (ibid.: 59) defines patriotism as the political movement capable of creating a homeland (Vaterland) and, at the same time, disproving it from parenthood. National independence and an autonomous government are achieved through a semantic change of subject (semantischer Subjektswechsel) from the monarch into the Leviathan (ibid.: 220). The patriotic love to one’s own homeland (Vaterlandsliebe) competes with the ‘pater patriae’. In this modern model, patriotism is a movement concept (Bewegungsbegriff ), which empowers the moral citizen. The modern patriot is not a synonym for the citizen, but rather for the good citizen (‘civis bonus’). The normativity refers to the loyalty that gives to the patriot identitarian meaning. The personification of patriotism, the figure of the patriot, illustrates the complementarity of political concepts and identities. Yet, Koselleck does not argue in


In his analyses on the German concept of Volksgemeinschaft, Koselleck (2006: 56–58) quotes Koebner’s work and life. He traces Koebner’s changes in the usages of the term nation as he wrote from within Germany and after his exile to Palestine. Thereby, Koselleck explains that when we speak about the nation, we do it from a particular point of view. By reason of the situated thinking, Koselleck considers Koebner a precursor thinker of Skinner and Pocock.


3 Translation as Method

favour of a radical discursive analysis. From a liberal approach, he rejects the cultural homogeneity of ‘collective identity’ and ‘memory’ (2016: 113) and instead argues in favour of an individual memory. Also, the incommensurability between individual and national memory results in a tension. Yet, Koselleck grasps the fertility in language in creating identities. In doing so, he acknowledges a totalitarian moment, which is constitutive to the uses of political concepts. In an interview6 published in Contributions (2016), the conceptual historians Javiér Fernández Sebastián and Juan Francisco Fuentes ask Koselleck (ibid.: 112) the following question on the link between identities and conceptual history: “don’t you think that strong political identities such as party, class, nation or gender could be seen as the result of the effective (or affective) acceptance of certain concepts by individuals that make them perceive themselves as essentially belonging—sometimes exclusively as well—to this or that reference collectivity or community? We particularly have in mind certain asymmetrical counter-concepts, upon which identities are built, that become instruments for the exclusion of others and give rise to what a historian of nationalism would call ‘counter-identities’.”

In his answer, Koselleck (ibid.) recalls that the nation is more than a linguistic project, but rather a political invention that traditionally repudiates regional languages. Language is a field of power: It is bearer of linguistic politics as well as of ideology. Therefore, Koselleck (2006: 20) argues that ever since the nationalization of language, ideology is necessarily national. In his words (2016: 113): “if one focuses on detail it would be possible to find national differences that are linguistically masked by different ideologies”. Moreover, he (ibid.) concludes that in the national form: “collective memory is always an ideology”. This neutral understanding of ideology, that Koselleck shares with Skinner, presupposes a relation between ideology and national language, which, however, cannot ignore the productivity of meaning resulting from it.7 Further, the German conceptual historian argues that in its national form, collective memory offers an adequate form of self-identification, which enables the collectivity to stand as a “historical exception” (ibid.). However, he (ibid.) also insists upon the totalitarian


The interview was conducted in Madrid (2005), according to the interviewers: “during Koselleck’s first professional visit to Spain” (in: Koselleck 2016: 127). It originally appeared in Spanish in Revista de Libros, no. 111, in March 2006. Only ten years after this interview receives attention from conceptual historians ‘at the other side of the Pyrenees’. 7 See e.g.: Skinner’s “History and Ideology in the English Revolution” (1965) and Michael Freeden’s “Ideologies and conceptual history” (1997).

3.2 Koselleck on Concepts and Identities


idea of collective identity and adds that those social actors8 , who proclaim to be the guardians of the national identity and memory by “instilling trust and a sense of safety” should be suspected. Beyond the German “horizon of experience”, Fernández Sebastián and Fuentes ask Koselleck on the comparability between the Spanish and the German historiographies, specifically on both nationalist and fascist ideologies and regimes of the 20th century. According to Koselleck, the differences among the dictatorships are not only linguistic and national but are also registers of internal identitarian divisions based upon specific forms of collective remembrance and mourning. From the conjuncture between language and ideology flourishes a determined fragmented identity. In his view (ibid.: 114), the fragmentation of society upon questions of national memory is not necessarily a disadvantage because “to accept that memory is divided, is better than trying to make up a single common memory”. His imperative of a “divided memory” is worth quoting at length (ibid.: 116; emphasis added): “The rule I follow in this subject consists of always preserving differences and debating differences without masks. This way everyone has the chance to keep their independence and respect toward others based on mutual recognition. Recognition by and of both sides assumes that there is an upfront predisposition towards peace. But if you deny the independence of others then you are immediately under pressure to suppress them. I believe that insisting on difference is the best way to contribute to peace and to common memory, given that memory is divided. It seems to me that this should be the norm, the general rule in this sort of subject. This is a criterion that could apply to all Europe, to Israelis, Poles, Germans, and so on. I think that, by extension, this would apply to the Spanish as well. In my judgment it’s the only way.”

Even though Koselleck does not speak of consensus, he mobilizes the language of multicultural liberal politics for depicting the hypothetic democratic treatment of differences. Mutual recognition “without masks” is for Koselleck as important as it is for Charles Taylor (1992: 72) for finding affinities and compatibilities among cultural identities. Being aware of the homogenizing and ethnocentric tendencies in the demand for recognition of equal worth, Koselleck and Taylor (ibid.: 73) argue for a liberal “willingness to be open to comparative cultural study of the kind that must displace our horizons in the resulting fusions”. Both authors also take distance from the liberal “veil of ignorance”, which is paradoxically a similar metaphor to the recognition without masks. “Insisting on 8

Koselleck (2016: 113) defines the political actors framing “the collective identity” as building “the German seven P’s”: professors who produced collective memory, priests, politicians, poets, press…”.


3 Translation as Method

difference”, Koselleck (2016: 111) claims that a comparison (or translation) of national historiographies can only take place through a grammar, a sort of metalanguage, “capable of incorporating historical and social differences reflected in language”. The meta-language enabling comparison renders concepts translatable. However, this plurality in the politics of collective mourning at the national level leaves one question unsolved: How does difference become the meta-language of collective memory, or mourning? Koselleck notes that, due to colonial expansionism, European languages are de facto no longer solely European. Thereby, he suggests that the former colonies are historically and culturally ‘closer’ to the old metropolises than European nations are from one-another. He also notes that a comparison (and translation) of political concepts and identities suits better to postcolonial contexts than it does among European nations. According to Koselleck, colonialism related world regions and conceptual production. Yet, the significance of the circulation of concepts and meaning between the ex-Motherlands and the postcolonies is only as a footnote to the interview. It appears as a patronizing advise for the project Iberconceptos.9 Koselleck’s desired recognition of differences without masks at a national and international level differs from the Differenzbestimmung he traces between concepts and identities. He avoids elaborating on the phenomenological relation between concepts and identities by focusing rather on monolinguistic conceptual production. He does not solve the difficulty of comparability and translatability among historiographies. In other words: From what should differences be de-veiled to be(come) comparable? Being too cautious towards conceptual comparison, Koselleck does not develop on the limits of the meta-language in recognizing differences. Moreover, his liberal utopia is challenged by other uses of the ‘mask’ as metaphor of identities and by asking if differences remain differences without masks? In other words, how can collective identities deprive 9

Iberconceptos is a research project put in place Fernández Sebastián in 2005, which deals with the conceptual production of political concepts at both sides of the Atlantic. The purpose of such a post-national historiography, which compares the concepts’ trajectory among Spain, chosen Latin-American countries (such as Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, and Peru) and Brazil, is also to create transversal conceptual histories (Fernández Sebastián 2007). It is interesting to note, that Fernández Sebastián localizes the requirement for a transnational historiography at the 21st century, and yet uses concepts that historically respond to the Spanish Imperial times, such as Iberoamerica. The name derives from Hispanoamerica, a concept created to designate the colonies of the Spanish Crown. To my knowledge, this concept does not circulate as cultural self-definition nor as geographical designation in any of the ‘studied’ countries.

3.3 Benjamin on Translatability


themselves from the mask, if the mask is the only way through which mutual recognition (in the national, postcolonial context) can be attained? If the collective attachment cultivated through national identity endows affiliation, the survival of the national particularity still depends on the national culture. This implies a defence against foreignness and a conservative definition of culture, which Koselleck seeks to avoid yet, one which he (ibid.: 110–111) still describes as a necessity of central European nations. Since cultural homogeneity is fictive, or in words of Koselleck, ‘fragmented’, a conceptual history of identities cannot reinforce the artificial continuity between culture and language as articulated in nationalism and totalitarianism. Beyond uniformity, translation precisely addresses Koselleck’s Differenz by entangling identities and concepts without falling into the culturalist traps of the politics of identity and by avoiding the perils of finding equivalences.10 Translation neither solves nor negotiates differences. It neither seeks to unveil differences. Instead, translation illustrates the contingency and vulnerability of the ‘foreign’ and the ‘proper’. In words of Benjamin (2002: 257): “all translation is only a somewhat provisional way of coming to terms with the foreignness of languages”. However, this contingency in the encountering with foreignness requires a normative prescription for dealing with it. To trace the relation of power between the dominant and the non-dominant cultural identities thus means understanding translation beyond recognition, or cultural dialogue, and to rather approach it as a site of identification, contestation, and exclusion of the foreign.


Benjamin on Translatability

In “The task of the Translator” (2002), Benjamin describes the journey, through which foreign elements are incorporated into the proper culture. He offers no definition of translation as a noun, but instead depicts it as the passage from the unknown into the known. Thereby, he highlights its functionality and performance. Following the Romantic tradition, Benjamin’s attention is captured by translation as a virtue. ‘Translatability’ or the ability to be translated traces a relation of affiliation, which is defined as being essentially productive. In his words (2002: 254): 10

The politics of identity are discussed in the chapter on multiculturalism. See also: Avigail Eisenberg’s and Will Kymlicka’s edited volume Identity Politics in the Public Realm (2011). For a critique to these liberal politics, see: Alana Lentin’s article “Post-race, post politics: the paradoxical rise of culture after multiculturalism” (2012).


3 Translation as Method “Translatability is an essential quality of certain works, which is not to say that it is essential for the works themselves that they be translated; it means, rather, that a specific significance inherent in the original manifests itself in its translatability. It is evident that no translation, however good it may be, can have any significance as regards the original. Nonetheless, it does stand in the closest relationship to the original by virtue of the original’s translatability; in fact, this connection is all the closer since it is no longer of importance to the original. We may call this connection a natural one or, more specifically, a vital one.”

Through translation, the original meaning is passed on as a virtuous residual. As an inherent value of “certain works”, translatability creates an intimate relation between the foreign and the proper; the original and the translated. This “closest connection” expresses “the innermost relationship of languages” (ibid.: 255). Translation is no external intrusion of the original as in the case of the replica or imitation. Instead, it reactivates meaning internally. It builds the passage to the original’s survival and, therefore, to culture’s afterlife. This means that translatability constitutes a relation of life. Linking translation to culture and history, Benjamin turns away from a description that characterizes it as the appropriation of foreignness. It is neither a total assimilation nor a one-directional incorporation. Translation does not domesticate the alien but is rather a fecundation. As he notes (ibid.): “The concept of life is given its due only if everything that has a history of its own, and is not merely the setting for history, is credited with life”. Beyond literary criticism, in Benjamin’s view, translation surpasses its hermeneutical purposes. Related to historical time, it avoids the original’s disappearance, or its cultural annihilation. In this sense, Benjamin (2002: 255) uses translation, on the one hand, as a concept for history and, on the other hand, as “manifestations of life”. Translations are bearers of life, but also their end is life. In his words (ibid.): “in the expression of its nature, in the representation of its significance”. This tautology illustrates the dependency between translation and culture. Building up on Herder11 , Benjamin (ibid.: 261) suggests that without the dynamics that translation brings into culture, language would remain imperfect. The circulation of concepts and their meaning are intrinsic to cultural development. As a source of life and as a site of convergence among languages, translation articulates them into what Benjamin (ibid.: 256) calls: the “kinship of languages”. The attained familiarity should however not be confounded with


See chapter Translation and Culture.

3.3 Benjamin on Translatability


lineage. In his words (ibid.): “the concept of ‘kinship’ […] cannot be defined adequately by an identity of origin between the two cases”. Kinship denotes the transmission of meaning, which alters the identity of the original. Related to one another “like a fruit to its skin”, the original’s unity between form and content are “transplanted into a more definitive linguistic realm” (ibid.: 258; emphasis added). This rearticulation localizes the concept’s meaning beyond provenience. Since translation radically transforms the original concept (Rensmann 2012: 25), it cannot be traced back to a unique etymological source. In other words, its singularity ceases to be measured upon originality to become rather dependant on translatability, or on the ability to circulate and to transgress the linguistic boundaries considered natural. Hence, Benjamin abandons the idea of an authentic (cultural) self. Beyond authenticity, he emphasises on the movement inherent to culture noting that through translation, the foreign becomes proper, as well as the proper becomes foreign. Translation thus operates as an analytical tool or as a compass of culture’s fertility, i.e., as one of the “most powerful and fruitful historical processes” (Benjamin 2002: 256). Thereby, the attained relation between the entities illustrates “how identity formation is inseparable from questions of translatability” (Stephanides 2003: 46). Benjamin’s approach to translation depicts cultural identities beyond genealogy. The “concept of ‘origin’ remains indispensable” (Benjamin 2002: 256), yet not identical. The authority of the original is transferred to the translated (Benjamin 1970: 21) since the original survives only through transformation (ibid.: 20).12 Therefore, Benjamin (2002: 260) notes: “instead of imitating the sense of the original”, a translation “must lovingly and in detail incorporate the original’s way of meaning, thus making both the original and the translation recognizable as fragments of a greater language, just as fragments are part of a vessel”. Translation is therefore no longer a tool that verifies the concept’s origins. It rather takes the form of a proactive interruption ensuring renewal. In Benjamin’s words (ibid.: 257): “For just as the tenor and the significance of the great works of literature undergo a complete transformation over the centuries, the mother tongue of the translator is 12

This mutation is found in the canon of ‘world literature’ and the life of a literary masterpiece. In the labelling of a work as ‘classic’, translations play a decisive role. It is through the trajectory undergone by the original meaning that the work becomes a component of the universal history. As Aranda (2008: 52) states: “Universal literature gains when national literatures are translated”. The label of classic is gained in retrospective, i.e., after the intercourse with second and third languages has occurred.


3 Translation as Method transformed as well. While a poet’s words endure in his own language, even the greatest translation is destined to become part of the growth of its own language and eventually to perish with its renewal. Translation is so far removed from being the sterile equation of two dead languages that of all literary forms it is the one charged with the special mission of watching over the maturing process of the original language and the birth pangs of its own.”

Allowing cultural endurance, translation intervenes in the constitution of culture itself. Culture is conceived as the outcome of historical interactions and interrelations. Moreover, the (ex)change between the domestic and the alien (and vice versa) becomes constitutive of culture. Benjamin thus associates translation to an emancipatory potential: It converges cultural differences into a cosmopolitan language, to which (a part of) all the languages belong. In Benjamin’s words (2002: 258), the “language of the translation” envelops the original and the translated as “a royal robe with ample folds”. Within this ontological framework, the translator releases from “his own language that pure language which is exiled among alien tongues, to liberate the language imprisoned in a work in his re-creation of that work” (ibid.: 261). The translator sets free the content from the original connecting it to other languages through their performative fraternity, which is common to all languages in “what they want to express” (ibid.: 255). In this context, translation functions as “a metaphor for power relations in which culture, not the word, sentence or text is the unit of translation” (Aranda 2008: 45). Defined as an emancipatory act and as a cosmopolitan virtue, which “proves its worth in the interest of the pure language by its effect on its own language” (Benjamin 2002: 261), translation is associated to a notion of an anti-patriotic freedom. It incorporates differences into a cosmopolitan form of belonging, thereby, including foreignness into the constitution of the self. This entanglement “signifies a more exalted language than its own and thus remains unsuited to its content, overpowering and alien” (ibid.: 258; emphasis added). The transcendence of the particularity or the cultural idiosyncrasy can only occur through alienation. Hence, alienation is necessary for emancipation. Quoting the German philosopher Rudolf Pannwitz (1917), Benjamin (ibid.: 261) formulates following prescription for translation: “Our translations, even the best ones, proceed from a mistaken premise. They want to turn Hindi, Greek, English into German instead of turning German into Hindi, Greek, English. Our translators have a far greater reverence for the usage of their own language than for the spirit of the foreign works.... The basic error of the translator is that he preserves the state in which his own language happens to be instead of allowing his language to be powerfully affected by the foreign tongue.”

3.3 Benjamin on Translatability


How does this practice “affect” or relate foreignness to the original? In other words, how does toleration (a synonym for suffering) occur? Since translation involves a moment of dispossession from both the mother and the foreign tongue, it also influences and affects the notions of the proper and the alien. Pannwitz (1917 in: ibid.) describes this process as: “indicizing, graecizing and anglicising German instead of germanising Indic, Greek and English”. From this perspective, the translator embodies a cosmopolitan vocation. The translator transcends contingency and vulnerability and transgresses contexts, languages, and cultures. Translation enriches and broadens culture (Benjamin 2002: 240). As Benjamin (ibid.: 256) puts it: “For in its afterlife –which could not be called that if it were not a transformation and a renewal of something living– the original undergoes a change”. The interrelation among languages created by translatability bears the promise of renewal and, therefore, ensures history. In Benjamin’s words (ibid.: 262): “the extent to which a translation manages to be in keeping with the nature of this [reciprocal, TM] mode is determined objectively by the translatability of the original”. Related to social history, translation enables narrating culture and identities beyond the nationalist fear of alienation condensed in the German concept of Überfremdung. This concept of the 18th century denotes a hostility against cultural differences, which are conceived as external to the common national identity (Kirkness 1998). Also called acculturation13 , Überfremdung refers to the foreignization of the native culture through invasion. This conservative perspective is expressed in the anxiety towards foreign penetration in one’s own civilization. This “fear of the barbarians”, which builds a common reference to modern political thought (Todorov 2010: 26), is found already in Fichte’s statement ([1808]1922 in: Kirkness 1998: 412) that: “Eine Überfremdung der Sprache kam einer kognitiven Überfremdung der Sprachnation gleich”. In this context, translation means no liberation, but an alienation of the mother tongue. The linguist Alain Kirkness (1998: 411) quotes the German artist Wilhelm Kolbe (1823) to illustrate this point: “denn jede Beeinträchtigung durch Fremdes könnte potentiell zu einem grundlegenden Strukturwandel zu Preisgabe der Eigentümlichkeit oder sogar zum Aussterben der


Being a current concept in the social sciences within Latin American discourses, acculturation stands for the phenomenon of renouncing one’s own culture for adapting into an alien one, which is considered dominant (Mujica Bermúdez 2002). This process presupposes the annihilation of the ‘hosting’ culture, which is being translated (Mancheno 2015).


3 Translation as Method betroffenen Sprache führen. Dies ließ wiederum schließen, dass die Sprachgemeinschaft, deren Spiegel sie war, ihre nationale Identität und Selbständigkeit partiell oder ganz verloren hatte.”

Benjamin offers a different approach to heritage and tradition. As the xenophobic association of migration to contamination of the domestic is replaced by the requirement to deprovincialize one’s own culture, also, the uncontrollable foreignness is contravened by the link made between freedom and the transgression of one’s own cultural horizons. Understanding translation as an act of fecundation allows formulating a migrating sense of cultural identity. Emphasising on the convergence of differences, Benjamin offers a mode for “rethinking cosmopolitics in the vernacular”, i.e., “political translations that reiterate, and add layers of meaning to, cosmopolitan claims; just as these claims subvert parochial limitations and confront human rights violations” (Rensmann 2012: 1). As Spivak (2000: 22) suggests, in the post-national formation of culture, “translating from idiom to standard even as it resists the necessary impossibility of translation, travels everywhere”. However, if translations are conceived solely as productive activities that satisfy the “intercourse with foreign languages” (Schleiermacher 1813 in: Lefevere 1992: 152), does it mean that all differences are translatable? Where does the untranslatable begin? Or: What is the untranslatable? The limits in the translatability open an abysmal distance marking those differences which should (not) be translated. According to Benjamin, the (im)possibility of translatability lies on the original’s value. In his words (2002: 262): “The lower the quality (Wert) and distinction (Würde) of its language, the greater the extent to which it is information, the less fertile a field it is for translation, until the utter preponderance of content (Sinn), far from being the lever for a well-formed translation, renders it impossible.”

Cultural differences are untranslatable not because of their inherent difficulty, but because of the “looseness with which meaning attaches to them” (ibid.). These “prototypes of their form” (Urbild zum Vorbild) (ibid.: 263) are unfruitful or bearers of emptiness. Incapable of reproduction, the untranslatable is erosion of culture and lack of meaning. It is condemned to perish or to cultural death. Defined as the absence of equivalents, the prototype lies outside history, where no resemblances nor reconciliations among differences are possible and no meaning circulates. Without translatability, there is no familiarization; relations of kinship, or attachments cannot be traced without fraternity.

3.4 Benjamin on Fidelity


Whilst translatability creates relations of meaning, untranslatability entails negative connotations associated with the foreignness or the encountering with the radical difference. Without familiarization, there is no recognition. Hence, the untranslatable marks the limits of the translatable and risks turning into the intolerable. Translatability thus depends on the value allocated to foreignness by the domestic. Applied to social history, these dynamics illustrate that translation affects national historiography, as well as the national production of concepts by either including or excluding (un)translatable differences into and from the national narrative. The counter-concepts (Koselleck 2006: 166) translatable and untranslatable build a normative frontier equivalent to the Schmittean model delimiting fraternity from enmity. Further, as Ivekovi´c (2006) notes, the untranslatable is in a relation of dependency to the translatable as the “bared life” is in relation to the political life of the citizen. Defining translatability via the untranslatable thus means that translation builds more than a passage into cosmopolitics. It rather functions upon cultural identities as a regulative passage. So how are the frontiers of translatability traced?


Benjamin on Fidelity

Benjamin’s entanglement between translation and freedom is analogous to the complementarity between the liberty to travel and the freedom of movement. In translation, the original gains historical relevance because more connotations are attached to it. Yet, migration also means the abandonment of the known and familiar. The original’s afterlife is loosened from the context, in which it emerged, and it is alienated from the agency that cultivated it. The translated meaning is estranged from the historicity and the utterance that brought the original to light. In his analysis on aesthetics, Benjamin (1970: 3) suggests that the mechanical reproduction of the original work empties it out from singular history and alters the ownership “in the situation of the original”. Mimicry, as for example, the picture of a painting, functions antagonistically to translation since it does not deprovincialize one’s own culture. Understood as a virtue related to freedom, translation avoids reproduction. Yet, what happens if translation and reproduction are undistinguishable? Benjamin’s hosting plea for translation acknowledges the alienating force inherent to culture yet oversees that adding meaning to the original work does not necessarily improve it. Translation discloses the potential of becoming a violent limitation serving “domestic agendas” (Venuti 1998: 67). Also, Koselleck’s


3 Translation as Method

precaution with the danger in a totalitarian language that partially reproduces the original entails a critique to the consumption of differences in terms of cultural appropriation or assimilation. The ontological frontier determining the translatable/untranslatable differences also classifies them as either possessing or lacking the ability to be translated, i.e., to be resemblant. If the untranslatable is excluded from translation, conflict, as a possibility in the encountering with cultural differences, is blurred out. Therefore, the impact of untranslatability goes beyond language. Benjamin’s cosmopolitan understanding of translation risks homogenizing and standardizing languages and cultures. Yet, it cannot be universal if nontranslatable differences are excluded. The paradox inherent to translation is that transcending one’s own culture depends on the ability to translate oneself. Therefore, translatability implies a predisposition or ability to be culturally transformed by assimilation, integration, or toleration. In this sense, the cosmopolitan incorporation becomes conceived as the difference’s task. This allocation of responsibility results in the ontic ambiguity between, on the one hand, a desire for freedom through the transcendence of originality and, on the other, a suffered alienation. According to Benjamin (2002), the translator is faithful, if the original is worth a translation. So which differences are translatable and what does it mean for another to become untranslatable? And whom should the translator be faithful? Since fidelity legitimates the translator’s task and defines the untranslatable, the mobilized attachments may involve censorship, i.e., servile uses of translation. Cultural censorship involves a conscious and planed manipulation of the ‘original’ message and the author’s intensions, that highly controls the access to differences (Bassnett/ Trivedi 2002: 5–7). This social practice manoeuvres the translation’s outcome through a previously established goal (Aranda 2008: 54). Censorship is a political impact on translation that exacerbates the pedagogical and pastoral character of culture (Lefevere in: Bassnett/ Trivedi 2002: 77). Yet, the convergence between translation and culture in censorship is not definitive.14 Besides, the dynamics of appropriation and dispossession of meaning are not exclusive to censorship. In fact, Benjamin (2002: 262) acknowledges that the “enormous danger inherent in all translations” lies at “the gates of a language”, which “expanded and modified may slam shut enclose the translator in silence”. Speechlessness renders the translator invisible. The outcome is a subjectless translation. 14

Through social dynamics, and contradictory interpretations, the classical book Kama Sutra has either been partially accepted or rejected inside and outside of India (see: Bassnett/ Trivedi 2002: 6–7). For further examples on cultural censorship see: Spivak (2005).

3.5 Fanon on Migration as Translation


Yet, the erasure of the agency goes beyond indifference and passivity. It produces in Sartrean words “bad faith” (Gordon 1999: 3). The figure of the zombie works as a metaphor for the alienation inherent to translation that produces an artifact of the original (e.g., copy). In the impossibility to articulate common belonging, i.e., in the absence of relation, the difference as zombie is associated with hostility. The zombies’ absence of gender, lack of age, and the unneeded sunlight embody an alienation from human history. Zombies ensure their afterlife not through reproduction, but through infection. As differences without history, zombies are untranslatable. Yet, their unproductivity is not only incompatible with the norm. Untranslatable differences can also be associated to a threat or an act of betrayal. Identifying the convergence of differences in social and conceptual history, translation becomes a political tool related to the freedom or the singular liberty to travel among languages, but also to the consumption of (or by) the foreign. The authentication of the many meanings of concepts that denote differences among identities or the verification of their conceptual history renders identities vulnerable (Koselleck 2006: 58). Yet, the violence and power exerted at the frontier between the translatable and the untranslatable differences may be counteracted by the critical unveiling of the terms that trace, decide, and regulate the translatability.


Fanon on Migration as Translation

In Black Skin, White Masks (2008), Fanon explains how racism is articulated and reproduced by and within language. The power and violence in/of language are discussed in his depiction of the migration of the indigène15 to the colonial metropolis. In this transplantation, Fanon identifies a transformation of identity, which is comparable to a foreignizing understanding of translation. Dislocated from the country of origin, Fanon explains, migrants experience translation daily. The transgression of the foreign into the proper is a distinction that takes in Fanon (2008: 9) the geography of the centre and the periphery: “There is the city, there is the country. There is the capital, there is the province”. Appiah (1996: 30) describes this experience through a fictive dialogue on the customary uses of language: 15

Translated from the Castilian concept Indio, indigène denotes the colonial subjects from the former French colonies in the Maghreb and the Caribbean (Guadalupe and Martinique). In words of Spivak (1993: 189), the concept of indigène presents an ethno-cultural agenda, an “obliteration of third world specificity”, as well as a denial of cultural citizenship.


3 Translation as Method “Imagine yourself on Angel Island in the 1920s. You are helping an inquisitive immigrant from Canton to fill in an immigration form. Name, it says. You ask her name. She tells you. You write it down. Date of birth. She gives it to you (according to the Chinese calendar, of course, so you have to look up your table for translating from one system to another). Then there is an entry that says Race. This you do not have to ask. You write ‘Oriental’. And your interlocutor, because she is inquisitive, asks politely: ‘What are you writing now?’ (After all, until now, everything you have written has been in response to her answers.) Disingenuously, you say: ‘I am writing down where you are from.’ ‘Ah yes,’ she replies helpfully, ‘Canton, I was born in Canton. How did you know?’”

In Appiah’s example, already the filling out of registration sheets requires a translation of one’s identity into the language of the ‘hosting’ culture. This dialogue functions as a prototype of the “experience at the border” (Anzaldúa 2012); or the event, in which differences are preselected according to their translatability.16 The checkpoints determine upon the access or banishment of the difference from the hosting nation. The history of migration shows that people falling into the category of minorities are more vulnerable to be displaced.17 Yet, the same history demonstrates that the migration of minorities is determined by the self-proclaimed majority. Moulding the experience of migration into a minoritarian history, the regime of translation18 , which functions as the gates of the nation-state, also transforms the migrated identity into a minority. However, how exactly is the asymmetry between the sedentary-majority and the (coming) minorities traced? The self-decentring process linked to migration transforms language into a field of power. Expressed in language, the transformative impulse unfolds cultural 16

Fanon’s biography shows that Appiah’s dialogue is not an individual anecdote. After having migrated to France, Fanon adapted his name of birth into Western standards. Consequently, academic audiences usually ignore Fanon’s middle name Omar. Nowadays, this translation and cultural censorship are found in the omission of Appiah’s first name Kwame. In both cases, the authors veiled their non-Western names. 17 Fanon and Benjamin were members of so-called minorities and were forced to migrate. By virtue of birth, and in legal terms (solis sanguinis), Fanon was a French colonial indigène and Benjamin was a Jew. Both identities were politically considered a betrayal of the European totalitarian cultural norm. Fanon left Martinique for higher education to Paris and afterwards to Lyon. Afterwards, he migrated for practicing his medical licence to the other French colonies Algeria and Tunisia. In his writings, he continually reflects upon the experiences of his travelling identities in being called French, migrant, Black and mulatto. Against his will, Fanon died in the United States. Neither Benjamin returned to his country of birth. Once he was forced into exile, he committed suicide. 18 For a definition of the translation regime see the introduction to this book.

3.5 Fanon on Migration as Translation


identities. In Fanon’s words (2008: 8): “To speak means to be in a position to use a certain syntax, to grasp the morphology of this or that language, but it means above all to assume a culture, to support the weight of a civilization”. Language is a powerful mechanism in defining identity, and the articulation of this definition decides upon the ability of differentiated identities to take part in the public realm. This approach allows defining identity as a migrating process and not as a fixed entity. The identifying power of language, as well as the changing relation among language, culture and identity has been worked out by Ludwig Wittgenstein (1958), for whom, learning a language means “a training”. In his words: (1958: 4): “we do not only learn its grammar, but also to perform it”. For the sake of communicating meaning, Wittgenstein identifies a social need to agree on the designation of concepts as sort of “measurement”. He explains that (ibid.: 88): “If language is to be a means of communication there must be agreement not only in definitions but also (queer as this may sound) in judgments. This seems to abolish logic, but does not do so. —It is one thing to describe methods of measurement, and another to obtain and state results of measurement. But what we call ‘measuring’ is partly determined by a certain constancy in results of measurement.”

If collective identity is articulated in concordance to “measurable” linguistic agreements, does this mean that a history of concepts has more to do with nature, as with language? Do Appiah’s uses of the ‘Oriental’ in the last quotation respond to such a “measurement”? Or as Wittgenstein asks (1958: 230): “If the formation of concepts can be explained by facts of nature, should we not be interested, not in grammar, but rather in that in nature which is the basis of grammar? —Our interest certainly includes the correspondence between concepts and very general facts of nature. (Such facts as mostly do not strike us because of their generality.) But our interest does not fall back upon these possible causes of the formation of concepts; we are not doing natural science; nor yet natural history—since we can also invent fictitious natural history for our purposes.”

Similar to Fanon (2008: 25), for whom “[t]o speak a language is to take on a world, a culture”, for Wittgenstein, the familiarization attained through the usage of concepts creates the grammar, through which communication naturally flows. This however does not imply that concepts mirror nature. It is by getting used to their meaning that these compose, what Wittgenstein (1958: 83) calls, “forms of life” (Lebensformen). A form of life underlies an agreement upon linguistic and behavioural practices. The attained “consensus on linguistic and non-linguistic


3 Translation as Method

behaviour” builds the “frame of reference we learn to work within when trained in the language of our community” (ibid.: 11). In “The Fact of Blackness”, Fanon (2000: 258) offers a similar description by stating: “A slow composition of my self as a body in the middle of a spatial and temporal world—such seems to be the schema. It does not impose itself on me; it is, rather, a definitive structuring of the self and of the world—definitive because it creates a real dialectic between my body and the world”. Expressed in language, the dialectic between the self and the world is productive insofar as it brings about life. “Forms of life” are the source, from where language obtains its meaning as a communication tool. Yet, Fanon (2008: 25) also uses the metaphor of the “retaining-wall between a language and a group” to illustrate the normativity implicit to the concept of racism. Fanon (1967: 17; 25) analyses how racialized concepts function as identitarian measurements, as well as how identities are ordered and reordered within a landscape of a variety of belongings through racialized concepts. Thereby, he indirectly applies Wittgenstein’s vocabulary of the ‘measurement’ to his study of racism.19 According to Fanon (2008: 30), racism is expressed in language, because language is the bearer of possible identity’s transformations. Racialized language creates fictive collective identities that dispossess the individual of an identity of her own. Racism negates singularity. In his words (2008: 32): “the object of racism is no longer the individual man but a certain form of existence.” Fanon dates the vicious, but functional and productive interweaving between racism and language back to the colonialization of the world in the 16th century. He describes colonialism as a process of appropriations and dispossessions of languages and cultures that sets up a hierarchical grid determining the value of identities. Since the experience of colonialization, racism mediates the relations among identities (Fanon 1967: 40). In other words, the colonial encounter with differences marks the racialization of language. As Ashcroft (2001: 311), in line with Fanon’s interpretation of history, states: for understanding the implication between race and language, “we must go back long before the emergence of race as a category of physiological discrimination, to the uses of language in ‘othering’ the subjects of Europe’s colonial expansion.” Racism does not only reveal that language functions as a source of power and violence, but also that it creates (mis)representations of identities, which through familiarization, become forms of existence (Fanon 2008: 1). The concept of race 19

Although Wittgenstein did not explicitly refer to race and racism, his writings on language are inevitably related to these subjects. See: Richard A. Jones’ Black Book. Wittgenstein and Race (2013), and Peg O’Connor’s Oppression and Responsibility: Wittgensteinian Approach to Social Practices and Moral Theory (2002).

3.5 Fanon on Migration as Translation


sets into motion “a familiar but dangerous metaphysics: economy of representations” (Harris 2016: 210). It fulfils the task of identification of differences. In Fanon’s interpretation, articulated into a regime of identification, race turns into a powerful –ism. Fanon describes the intertwining between racism and culture through an analysis of the customary usages of language. He (1967: 37) explains that the universality of racism is rearticulated in the nationalization of language by stating that: “Literature, the plastic arts, songs for shopgirls, proverbs, habits, patterns, whether they set out to attack it or to vulgarize it, restore racism”. The persistence of racism is due to its renewal, precisely through language. Approaching race as language, as Hall (1992) and Angela Harris (2016) explain, means that skin colour is a signifier, which has its meaning in a culture. The meaning of skin color is not always the same; it changes with the context. In a similar manner, Fanon notes that (1967: 32): “Racism has not managed to harden. It has had to renew itself, to adapt itself, to change its appearance. It has had to undergo the fate of the cultural whole that informed it”. The vulgarization, or the popularity of racism through culture is not defined as a structure, but rather as a violent mutation. In his words (ibid.: 37): “Racism bloats and disfigures the face of the culture that practices it.” Racism functions as the grammar that reifies historical and geographical distances among identities by alienating them from a singular history. As Bhabha (1994: 47), referring to Fanon’s approach, notes: “What is interrogated is not simply the image of the person but the discursive and disciplinary place from which questions of identity are strategically and institutionally posed”. From his analyses on the adaptability of racism in language, and on its sociological and psychological impacts, Fanon deduces that identities are “overdetermined from without” (Bhabha 1986: xxvi). In Fanon’s words (2008: 9): “Every colonized people—in other words, every people in whose soul an inferiority complex has been created by the death and burial of its local cultural originality— finds itself face to face with the language of the civilizing nation; that is, with the culture of the mother country. The colonized is elevated above his jungle status in proportion to his adoption of the mother country’s cultural standards.”

According to this description, identity is not a matter of intrinsic traits, but one of “external mutation” (Shohat 2012: 74). The colonized identity is articulated in the racialized selfhood, as well as in the collectivity, which derives from such a conception. Whilst the colonizer produces history, the colonized (or the translated difference) is considered the objectivized subjectivity, or the timeless identity


3 Translation as Method

determined from without. However, this overdetermination is neither fatalistic nor essentialist. While Fanon (1967: 18) considers racism the “superstructure” of colonial and postcolonial societies, he does not universalize the manifestations of racism. This indicates that the processes of racialization are not definitive. In the foreword to one of the translations of Fanon’s book, Bhabha (1986: xxvi) explains: “It is one of the original and disturbing qualities of Black Skin, White Masks that it historicizes the colonial experience”. Moreover, Fanon points to the paradox that despite the globalization of the colonized experience, the identity of the colonized is approached as an exception. In Bhabha’s terms (1986: xxiv): “What is this distinctive force of Fanon’s vision that has been forming even as I write about the division, the displacement, the cutting edge of his thought? It comes, I believe, from the tradition of the oppressed, as Walter Benjamin suggests; it is the language of a revolutionary awareness that ‘the state of emergency in which we live is not the exception but the rule’. We must attain to a concept of history that is in keeping with this insight.”

Fanon’s cultural analysis provides no master narrative for ‘measuring’ identities. He rather identifies a dialectic relation defining the colonial subjectivity, “who is historicized as it comes to be heterogeneously inscribed in the texts of history, literature, science, myth” (ibid.: xxvi). In doing so, he describes the becoming of identities beyond affirmation. Instead of arguing for recognition, he approaches identities in terms of negation. As Bhabha concludes, Fanon’s critique on history is based on his depiction of colonial identities that transgressively (trans)figure history (ibid.). For Fanon, the identity’s translation does not only involve a familiarization (which is a synonym for accommodation), but also a violent incorporation (a synonym for integration) of differences. The transplantation of meaning runs the risk of adopting a form that resembles more a threat to survival, than life. Defined as a destructive, but productive dependency between the norm and the deviation, or the colonizer and the colonized identities, Fanon offers an understanding of cultural translatability beyond proactivity. He includes power as a variable among cultural differences, or to what one could refer to as: “the migrating sense of identity”. Culture and identities renew not because of the harmonization of differences within the cosmopolitan language of translation, but through the violence of existential comparison. Therefore, in his view, racism is comparable to an act of total translation.

3.6 Fanon on Untranslatability



Fanon on Untranslatability

Fanon describes the migration of people from the colony to the metropolis as an ontological passage. Through colonial history, identities mutate. In his words (2008: 3): “The black man who has lived in France for a length of time returns radically changed. Generally speaking, his phenotype undergoes an absolute, definitive mutation”. In a footnote added to this quotation, he continues: “By this we mean that the black man who returns home gives the impression of having completed a cycle, of having added something that was missing. He returns home literally full of himself.” Such an ontological mutation transcends individuality. The adoption of the foreign language, which, from the perspective of the colonized, is the proper language, presupposes “a shift and a split” of singularity (ibid.: 9). The migration is therefore equivalent to a baptism that has implications on the political-body and on the migrant’s body: It changes the identities of both. Exploring the politics of language in the Antilles, a former French colonial region, which nowadays compose the French Overseas Departments (France d’Outre-mer), Fanon explains the relation between the colonial and the colonialized identities along the color-line question. He (ibid.: 25) suggests that: “The Antilles Negro20 who wants to be white will be the whiter as he gains greater mastery of the cultural tool that language is”. He also adds (ibid.: 8) that: “The Negro of the Antilles will be proportionately whiter—that is, he will come closer to being a real human being—in direct ratio to his mastery of the French language”. The Black man is not only obliged to be Black, but “he must be black in relation to the white man.” The black man, as Fanon (ibid.: 163) puts it, is “comparison”. Focusing on the violence of comparison among differences, Fanon suggests that identities gain their meaning, not because of what they contain in essence, but in their shifting relations. As Bhabha (1986: xxv) notes, Fanon does not raise the question of identity ontologically, i.e., about “Man’s being”. Instead, he relates the colonizer’s experience to the Hegelian understanding of identity as a struggle between the master and the slave. According to Bhabha (1994: 45), Fanon’s central thesis in Black Skin, White Masks is that:


Fanon’s (1967: 17–8) uses of the French term nègre (Negro) neither refer to phenotypes nor to a ‘culture’ proper to all Black individuals around the world. He uses the concept in a political manner by including agency and singularity into the analysis of racialized identities.


3 Translation as Method “the question of identification is never the affirmation of a pre-given identity, never a self-fulfilling prophecy—it is always the production of an image of identity and the transformation of a subject in assuming that image. The demand of identification—that is, to be for an Other—entails the representation of the subject in the differentiating order of otherness. Identification […] is always the return of an image of identity that bears the mark of splitting in the Other place from which it comes.”

Fanon suggests that through colonialism, identity results in an alienation/identification paradox. In Bhabha’s words (ibid.: 46): “what is so graphically enacted in the moment of colonial identification is the splitting of the subject in its historical place of utterance”. Tradition, cultural heritage and cultural belonging are dislocated “so that the subject speaks, and is seen, from where it is not” (ibid.: 47). Therefore, Bhabha (1986: xxv-xxvi) describes Fanon’s decolonial approach to humanity and humanism in the following manner: “Fanon […] changes what we understand by a political demand and transforms the very means by which we recognize and identify its human agency. Fanon is not principally posing the question of political oppression as the violation of a human essence of the liberal-humanist (‘How does colonialism deny the Rights of Man?’); nor is he posing an ontological question about Man’s being (‘Who is the alienated colonial man?’). Fanon’s question is not addressed to such a unified notion of history nor such a unitary concept of Man.”

Inquiring the problem of the “colored man in the white world”, Fanon (1967: 17) speaks of an ontological wound that represents the partition of humanity. He suggests that the alienated identity, forged through colonialism, is condensed into the Black experience. In his view (2008: 6), the designation Black underpins an antinomy. Black is without the contradiction of its meaning (white) senseless. The ma(r)ked difference is not equally human, but a déviation existentielle (existential deviation) (Fanon 1952: 11). And this experience of non-existence is mostly expressed in language. The conflict inherent to the Black identity results from the colonial semantic heritage mobilized for defining identities as differences. According to Fanon (2008: 25), the uses of languages that reinforce colonial patterns prove that oneself is “measured up to the culture.” To speak European/colonial languages is a sort of “honorary citizenship” (ibid.). He adds that (ibid.): “Historically, it must be understood that the Negro wants to speak French because it is the key that can open doors which were still barred to him fifty years ago.” Hence, language offers a restrained access to contemporaneity. Analysing racism not only as ideological uses of language, but also as a powerful mechanism in the shaping of identities, Fanon approaches the Black Question

3.6 Fanon on Untranslatability


beyond the quest for recognition. He (ibid.: 169) abandons the utopia of mutual recognition in favour of the im/possibility of “making oneself recognized”. In his words (2008: 21): “Man is human only to the extent to which he tries to impose his existence on another man in order to be recognized by him”. He also adds (ibid.): “There is nothing comparable when it comes to the case of the black man. He has no culture, no civilization, no ‘long historical past’”. From his perspective, cultural incompatibilities and untranslatabilities cease to be ethical problems, which have their roots in identity itself. These are rather approached as relations of power and analysed through non-translatability, or non-recognition. Fanon’s (1967: 3) critique on recognition shifts the quest of identity’s fulfilment towards “a theory of inhumanity” that has following question at its core: “Who are they, those creatures starving for humanity who stand buttressed against the impalpable frontiers (though I know them from experience to be terribly distinct) of complete recognition?”. Colonial representations of identities are totalitarian since they block the capacity to articulate or assign own meaning. These representations alienate selfassertion, hence, the capacity of “being-for-itself” (Fanon 2008: 169). Yet, the collective identities imposed by racism also succumb to the “subjectivism of experience itself” (Gordon 2007: 6). Misrecognition does not result in a condition of speechlessness. Fanon rather identifies a complementarity between identity and alienation: Alienation is not identity’s opposite but inherent to it. Bhabha (1986: xxviii-xxix) explains this point by quoting a hypothetic dialogue between a Black student and a white professor in Black Skin, White Masks: “‘You’re a doctor, a writer, a student, you’re different you’re one of us.’ It is precisely in that ambivalent use of ‘different’—to be different from those that are different makes you the same— that the Unconscious speaks of the form of Otherness, the tethered shadow of deferral and displacement. It is not the Colonialist Self or the Colonized Other, but the disturbing distance in-between that constitutes the figure of colonial otherness — the White man’s artifice inscribed on the black man’s body. It is in relation to this impossible object that emerges the liminal problem of colonial identity and its vicissitudes.”

The designation Black originates from a structure that denies Blackness in humanity. Blackness is the untranslatable difference regarding the white norm. Racialization allows no historical affiliation. Hence, the recognition of the “universality inherent in the human condition” is affected by the inability to articulate authenticity (Fanon 2008: 3). In their asymmetric encounter, as Fanon notes (ibid.: 172): “The white man, in the capacity of master, said to the Negro, ‘From now on you are free’”. Rewording the misrecognition of the self, he (ibid.: 3) also writes:


3 Translation as Method

“The Black man wants to be white” and “the white man slaves to reach a human level”; “both are sealed in their blackness and whiteness”. The untranslatability of the Black experience thus stands for non-recognition. Fanon’s definition of Blackness condenses the colonial relations of power implied in the translation of differences. Due to the ontological partition, which he (1967: 20) describes as a civilizatory wound, identities are allocated in the “zone of being and nonbeing” (Fanon 2008: 2). The zone of nonbeing represents the untranslatable, where humanity is questioned. The lethargy associated with it affects notions of liberty and freedom: Between Blackness and whiteness, there is no flourishing “into the universal consciousness of self” (ibid.: 169). Moreover, the configuration of the foreign (Blackness) in accordance with the values, beliefs, and representations of the proper (white) culture is a violent act. In Fanon’s view, freedom is not conceived as authenticity. He neither defines racism as the absence of freedom. Instead, he illustrates how racism adapts into culture thereby, affecting identities while obstructing freedom. In the following quote, Fanon (ibid.: 113) illustrates the contingent relation among language, culture, and identity in the circulation of popular literature (comic books), hence, of cultural representations: “In the Antilles—and there is every reason to think that the situation is the same in the other colonies—these same magazines are devoured by the local children. In the magazines the Wolf, the Devil, the Evil Spirit, the Bad Man, the Savage are always symbolized by Negroes or Indians; since there is always identification with the victor, the little Negro, quite as easily as the little white boy, becomes an explorer, an adventurer, a missionary ‘who faces the danger of being eaten by the wicked Negroes’.”

Fanon shows that in the evaluation of differences among identities, sameness and otherness are onto-political operations. Choosing an identity is not a private matter. It rather responds to a trajectory of meaning. As Harris explains (2016: 210): “I am free to suit an identity only to the extent to which I get to move within the complex interplay between what I am and what is forced upon me” as the proper identity. Identity ceases to be “primarily about fidelity to an individual’s lived experience, or a personal right to choose one’s own labels, to become rather a terrain of political contestation, in which bodies stand in both for power and for history” (ibid.: 212). By foreignizing and domesticating (non-white) differences, the white identity is (re)affirmed as the dominant culture that decides upon the translatability of non-whiteness treated as a timeless foreignness. The norm also decides upon the survival of heritage and traditions. Since the identity of other, in terms of

3.6 Fanon on Untranslatability


difference, is blocked, conceptual production remains alien to it (Feres Júnior 2003: 14). In Fanon’s words (2008: 149): “Cultural imposition is easily accomplished in Martinique. The ethical transit encounters no obstacle. But the real white man is waiting for me. As soon as possible he will tell me that it is not enough to try to be white, but that a white totality must be achieved. It is only then that I shall recognize the betrayal.— Let us conclude. An Antillean is made white by the collective unconscious, by a large part of his individual unconscious, and by the virtual totality of his mechanism of individuation. The color of his skin, of which there is no mention in Jung, is black. All the inabilities to understand are born of this blunder.”

Explaining differences through the history of the indifference, Fanon traces a history of identity through the history of the non-translatability. He approaches the translatability of minorities from a non-minoritiarian point of view. The question of minorities ceases to be a state of emergency, to become rather a state of emergence, in which the regime of translation can be identified and deconstructed. Analysing the relation between language and culture through racism is not about victimization. It implies concerns of loss and privileges, as well as of fidelity and betrayal of the identity considered the unchanging original. Identity is bearer of life when it attains familiarization and recognition. It also entails “the enslavement” created by the “cultural imposition” (ibid.: 148) or “the ultimate misrecognition of Man” (Bhabha 1986: xxvii). Bhabha (1995: 83) refers to this as a “double language”: “making possible and making trouble, both at once”. From this perspective, minorities thus carry the burden of a “double optic, at once fighting on a terrain already mapped out” and of “being an identity for which we have as yet no proper name” (Eagleton 1988 in: Harris 2016: 207).


Translation and the Question of Minorities

The reconstruction of concepts ma(r)king differences through translation addresses the Koselleckian Differenzbestimmung between conceptual and social history. Based on the productive relation between translation and culture that is defined by Benjamin (2002) as translatability as well as in Fanon’s (2008) analysis of the adaptability, hence, the translatability of racism into language and culture, translation can be defined as a political tool that deals with differences: It ensures the survival of the original and is an act of violence, through which identities are created. Translation either generates life or condemns differences to cultural death. Whilst Benjamin argues that translation fertilizes culture, Fanon explains that culture is contaminated by racism. In his words (1967: 32): “to study the relations among culture and racism is to raise the question of their reciprocal action”. Both processes take place in language, which is understood as a field of power, where conceptions of the ‘original’ and ‘authentic’ are reconstituted. Thereby, both philosophers historicize the migration of cultural meaning. However, they evaluate the mutation of identities proper to translation differently. Benjamin and Fanon depict a displacement of meaning proper to the constitution of culture, which is described as the fluidity between freedom and alienation. These two sides of translation are also at the core of the identities’ (trans)formation. Benjamin (2002: 258) suggests that translatability incorporates the proper and the foreign languages into the “pure language” of translation, ensuring culture’s afterlife. Translation allows the foreign to come through the familiar and maintains the original meaning by expanding it. This cosmopolitan view is counteracted by Fanon’s depiction of the migration from the colonies to the colonial metropole, as an ontological passage that ensures the survival of the white colonial identity. Beyond an affirmation, Fanon includes conflict to the procreation of (cultural) life. In his words (2008: 8): “to speak is to exist absolutely © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, part of Springer Nature 2023 T. Mancheno, Ma(r)king the Difference,



4 Translation and the Question of Minorities

for the other”. In the colonial encounter between identities, to speak as otherness is an alienating act. (Un)translatability, or the (un)familiarity with non-white differences is contingent on the colonial norm. In both perspectives, translation submits identities to mutation beyond a oneway assimilation. Applied to the study of the debates, the entanglement between Benjamin’s and Fanon’s thoughts on translation will allow describing and understanding “the way in which ‘minority’ groups translate the dominant culture and are reciprocally incorporated into that culture through a process of translation” (Stephanides 2003: 46). Thereby, the conceptual history of multiculturalism becomes the history of the translation of identities.


Translation: Moral Imperative or Colonial Question?

The analytical framework on translation, culture and identities developed in the last section will guide the compared reconstruction of three intellectual debates. Focusing on the relations between conceptual and social history, the comparison highlights the translatability of differences in each debate. The pattern narrating the (trans)formation of identities suggests that these constitute translational practices. This Deutungsgeschichte renders the question of ‘bridging the difference’ or the common symptomatic treatment of differences, central to historiography. In other terms, the enunciation of differences found in the three debates creates relations of meaning that render them comparable. These affiliations or, in Benjamin’s words, relations of parenthood among the debates include inter-linguistic transformations of concepts and their meaning. Since translation articulates the need to comprehend differences, it entails both a social imperative and a social diagnosis. Moreover, translation facilitates the access to knowledge outside traditional boundaries (Rajan 2001: 68) and, therefore, implies an epistemic rupture with nativity or with the culture considered national (Neumann/ Nünning 2012: 1; Ricoeur 2006: 4). To translate means to alter the frontiers of tradition or, as James Clifford (1988: 24) suggests: “what we name history is already a translation of the past”. Reshaping culture, translation subverts the category of the original by enabling meaning to emerge elsewhere (Bassnett/ Trivedi 2002: 2). Used as a figure of history, it shows patterns rendering differences recognisable and, thereby, resemblant to the cultural norm. In other words, “the site of translation is tradition or heritage itself” (Stephanides 2003: 45). Applied to the analysis of the Valladolid Debate, the Jewish Question and the multicultural debate, translation enables formulating a migrating sense of differences and the ‘proper’ identity. Compared as acts of translation, the quantitative

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, part of Springer Nature 2023 T. Mancheno, Ma(r)king the Difference,



5 Translation: Moral Imperative or Colonial Question?

and normative distinction between the norm and differences will be reformulated as the distinction between the target and the source, or between the foreign and proper cultures. The difference’s translatability will be depicted in the relation to the unquestioned identity, or the questioning cultural identity. Hereby, translatability will explain the regulations of differences.1 According to Richter, the translatability of political concepts is obstructed by problems of communication and comprehension’s barriers. Therefore, he (2005: 10–11) suggests asking first: “What happens when the attempt is made to translate the basic political concepts of one society, phrased in its natural language, to another society with an altogether different history, set of institutions and religions, political culture, and language? The barriers to comprehension by both translator and audience are formidable. What is basic to the source polity is alien to the target of the translation, another society, the natural language of which may differ fundamentally from that of the source. So too the manifold experiences and expectations which have shaped the basic political concepts being translated may find little or no resonance elsewhere. Do all these considerations make the translator’s task impossible? This is what has been suggested by some theories, based on linguistic or cultural determinisms. Yet it is worth investigating the possibility that a more likely outcome is partial understanding combined with some misunderstanding of what is being translated in a more or less creative adaptation to the new context. It is here that the ‘multilayered process of translation and appropriation’ […] merits analysis.”

The reconstruction of multiculturalism I pursue deals with the translatability of political concepts and situates the questions of minorities in the Spanish colonial empire in the 16th century. Thereby, I intertwine modern cultural identities with the encounter with the difference named ‘Indian’. Discussing the semantics of Las Casas and Sepúlveda, I will map the colonial differentiation of humanity. The prototype of the “domestic-alien”, the figure of the Indian, will be related to the figure of the Jew before the rise of Zionism, i.e., between the 15th and the 19th century, as Jews were defined as non-Western. To that time, anti-Semitism was target against both Semitic cultures. Jews, along with Moors (as Muslims were called to those days) and, later, Roma and Sinti were expelled from central Europe. The category non-European was applied to non-Christian communities. Jewishness was considered a separate nation and nationality and was treated as an impediment to full citizenship. Jews did not have freedom of movement and could settle only through permission. When admitted, they could not buy land or 1

The two hermeneutic dimensions of translation: the ability to create historical threads and to subvert cultural uniformity are described in the introductory chapter.

5 Translation: Moral Imperative or Colonial Question?


houses. In the major cities, they were compelled to stay in assigned areas called ’ghettos’, which they could only leave during the day. Besides, Jewish people were highly restricted in their occupations. Most jobs were forbidden to them, with the exceptions of trading and money lending. By relating this European violence to the history of colonial violence, I will interweave translation and identities explaining fidelity and familiarization as historical sources of racism. Situating minorities in the intersection between survival (salvation) and condemnation (genocide2 ) redefines multiculturalism as a biopolitical question. Translation illustrates the relations of power between identities and shows that in the so-called Indian Question, the Jewish Question as well as in multiculturalism, the attempts at regulating differences oscillate between survival and violence. In short: the question of the cultural difference is the question of life and death. If (mis)translations imply violence, why should multiculturalism benefit from it? Translation emphasizes upon the migrations of meaning from one context into the other and the export-import of meaning in the history of concepts. Thereby, the translational approach to the question of the difference brings back the political dimension into the discussion on multiculturalism.


For a comparison between the situation of Jews and Blacks at the beginning of the 20th century, see: Aimé Césaire: Discours sur le colonialisme (1955) and Fanon (1967; 2008). Dated to 1948, the concept of genocide also applies retrospectively and not without controversy to the 25 million indigenous people who were killed during the colonialization of the American continent. Its epistemic and moral uses are discussed in The Historiography of Genocide (2008), a volume edited by Dave Stone, especially in the chapters on “Genocide and Modernity” by Dirk Moses and “Genocide in the Americas” by Alfred A. Cave. See also Grosfoguel (2013). The uses of genocide are again today highly relevant in the international relations between Namibia and Germany. For an analysis on the continuities between the Herero and Nama genocide and the Holocaust see: Jürgen Zimmerer (2011) and his article in the above-mentioned volume.


Translation in the Valladolid Debate

Also known as the ‘Indian Question’, the Valladolid Debate marks the beginning of transcontinental historiography. The contextualization for the reconstruction of this debate initiates in the medieval concept of the barbarian, which is central to Las Casas’ and Sepúlveda’s semantic fields. Subsequently, the concept of the Indian will be employed as catalyzer for historiographical (ex-)changes in the 16th century. Following Koselleck and Pocock, both concepts will be treated as figures of the difference that illustrate the intertwining between the religious and secular visions of history. Further, the Valladolid Debate will be contextualized in the field of transcontinental communication and legislation it reaffirms: The colonial space labelled The Indies will be first localized within the horizon of colonial representations that reduces foreignness to Eurocentric-Orientalism. Secondly, the invention of The Indies will be reformulated as entailing the prototype of constitutional patriotism. In the third section of this chapter, Las Casas and Sepúlveda will be discussed as the ‘founding figures’ in the colonial legislation of this transcontinental geopolitical space, and as the official translators of the difference’s nature into the language of the metropole. The illustration of these analogies will be followed by an analysis of the Valladolid Debate’s central question: The soullessness of the Indians. I will argue that this question implies an ontological translation, which constitutes the first paradigm in the history of the translation of the difference; that of the colonial translation. Moreover, I will contend that by redefining the categories of identity and origins, the Valladolid Debate creates a colonial relation between the American and the European continents. For this aim, I will discuss the humanism inherent to the Valladolid Debate in relation to the Eurocentric character of global historiography.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, part of Springer Nature 2023 T. Mancheno, Ma(r)king the Difference,



6 Translation in the Valladolid Debate


The Barbarian as a Hermeneutical Problem

The concept of the barbarian is one of the first among multiple descriptions in the history of the phenomenological encounter with the cultural difference. Etymologically, the barbarian expresses the recognition of the non-understanding of linguistic differences. As Tzvetan Todorov in The Fear of Barbarians (2010: 14) suggests: “As everybody knows, the word itself comes to us from Ancient Greece where it was part of common usage, especially after the Persian War. It was contrasted with another word, and together they made it possible for the population of the whole world to be divided into two unequal parts: the Greeks (or ‘us’), and the barbarians (the ‘others’, the foreigners). In order to recognize whether a person belonged to one or other group, you resorted to the Greek language: the barbarians were all those who did not understand it or speak it, or spoke it badly.”

The concept indicates the “lack of meaningful difference (it sounds all the same: ‘bar bar bar’)” (Boletsi/ Moser 2015: 14). Yet, the concept is not only descriptive. Its usage denotes ‘ignorance’ but also ‘miscommunication’ (ibid.). Therefore, its semantic impact goes beyond the realm of language. Articulating the incommensurability of knowledge, the concept of the barbarian responds to the experience of untranslatability, which is analytically equivalent to the recognition of the untranslatable. Implying the presence of a non-comprehensible entity or a creature, the concept’s usages are also phenomenological. The latent misrecognition implied in the identification of the barbarian constitutes it as a polemic concept with cultural, political, and economic implications (Martínez/ Santamaría-Benz 2004: 561). The uses of the barbarian by Las Casas and Sepúlveda highlight its double function: It is administered with equal vigour to disqualify humanity and denounce inhumanity. According to Anthony Pagden (1982), this normative duality inherent to the concept is also expressed in a geographic manner. In his words (1982: 18–19): “In the eyes of the Greeks, they themselves were the first, and the only true, city dwellers. All the other races of men remained literally ‘outside’, where they lived in loose-knit hordes [...], and consequently alien to any virtue.” Situating the barbarian in the intersection between language and social history, John Pocock (2005) undertakes a reconstruction of the Roman Empire’s decline along this collective noun. Whereas the anthropological definition of barbarism localizes the –ism as a temporarily prior state, and normatively opposed to civilization, Pocock (ibid.) suggests that the appearance of this figure is central for the conception of the modern world.

6.1 The Barbarian as a Hermeneutical Problem


In the introduction to the fourth volume of his series Barbarism and Religion (2005), entitled with the unusual sequence of concepts: Barbarian, Savages, and Empires, Pocock writes (ibid.: iii): “Barbarism was central to the history of western historiography, to the history of Enlightenment, and to Edward Gibbon himself: as a concept it was central to understanding its converse, civility, and deeply problematic to enlightened historians seeking to understand their own civil societies in the light of exposure to newly discovered civilisations hitherto beyond the reach of history.”

From a Hegelian perspective, this dialectic relation between the proper and the foreign identity appears evident. Yet, by emphasising on the historic and semantic articulations between the civilized and the barbarian, Pocock does not subsume the two into an antithetical relation. Instead, he constantly interrogates the temporal and normative opposition between barbarism and civilization. Building up on Edward Gibbon’s thesis on the decline of the Empire as constitutive for modern history, Pocock (ibid.) describes the complementarity between civilization and barbarianism in terms of translation. According to the conceptual historian, the adoption of the concept of the barbarian functions as a translation of the meaning of backwardness into human history and therefore, into the definition of humanity. Reconstructing the analytic and temporal correlation between the concepts, he (ibid.: 14) explains that the civilizing of the barbarian is crucial for the transition “from herding to trading by way of farming”, as well as for “the replacement of the (ancient religious) world by civil society and commerce” (ibid.: 3). Thereby, Pocock emphasises the simultaneous significance of barbarism and civilization for each of the noun’s definitions. From the perspective of Ancient Greece, Koselleck argues in favour of a similar interpretation by contesting the temporalities associated with the notions of barbarism and civilization. In his words (2006: 164 in: Vogt 2015: 128): “the present contemporaneousness of Hellene and barbarian is perceived in terms of noncontemporaneousness of their cultural levels”. The coexistence of both concepts expressing property and foreignness is ambiguous. Even if these appear to build irreducible oppositions, hence, a negative complementarity, the concepts are not integrated within a unique understanding of history. As reported by Koselleck, the barbarian is a concept that stands for the Ungleichzeitigkeit des Gleichzeitigen or, as Peter Vogt translates (2015: 128): The noncontemporaneousness in the contemporaneousness. The dependency between barbarism and civilization permits defining the barbarian as what Koselleck (2006: 166; 175) identifies as a ‘correlation-concept’


6 Translation in the Valladolid Debate

(Korrelationsbegriff ). In other words, the phenomenological appearance of the barbarian presupposes a modern mind. From this perspective, the employment of the concept of the barbarian responds to a modern modus operandi before modernity, or what Koselleck (ibid.: 120) ideal-typically refers to as Sattelzeit. Yet, the barbarian does not only constitute an unintelligible entity, but also a condition, or better: a state, which does not correspond to the linear path of progress. The barbarian’s temporal ambiguity constitutes a paradox: While the denunciation of barbarism is a modern rhetoric move, barbarism is not modern. In Koselleck’s words (ibid.: 164): “Wir finden also, modern formuliert, ein relatives Fortschrittsmodell, das aus der vergangenen Geschichte und aus dem Vergleich mit den gleichzeitig lebenden Barbaren die Einzigartigkeit und Einmaligkeit der von den Hellenen erreichten Zivilisationsstufe erkennen läßt. Aber der Weg führt nicht in die Zukunft. Das Ergebnis, nämlich der Bürgerkrieg, ist nur noch zu beschreiben in medizinischen Kategorien der Krankheit, weit entfernt davon, einen weiteren Progreß in die Zukunft hinein zu erschließen. So fehlt denn auch bei Thukydides ein allgemeiner Oberbegriff, der die vergangene griechische Geschichte als Prozeß eines Fortschritts zusammengefaßt hätte.”

The modern application of the barbarian does not imply that the concept’s meaning is modern. Considering that it neither entails the idea of the future, nor suggests (linear) progress, Koselleck excludes this concept from his lexicon on the fundamental modern concepts: Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe (1972–1997). However, its employment is relevant for modern (and postmodern) political languages. Therefore, the modern application of a pre-modern concept illustrates the relevance of Christian eschatology to modern political concepts (Vogt 2015: 130). In opposition to the grammar of reason and technical progress, the concept of the barbarian is framed by religion and belongs to the semantic field of perfectio. Yet, the concept also fulfils the task of illustrating the defectus, as well as the distance and estrangement from the true religion. Embedded in an asymmetric temporal ambiguity oscillating between progress and regression (Koselleck 2006: 166), the diachronic conceptual history of the barbarian provides an account of the repetitive temporal and ontological passage, or the translation of theology into modern history. As a metaphor for illuminating this passage in historiography, Koselleck identifies in the concept of the barbarian a symptom-concept. The barbarian marks a crisis in the transition from a religious into a political community. In his words (ibid.):

6.1 The Barbarian as a Hermeneutical Problem


“Wir finden hier schon jene asymmetrische Beziehung, die zwischen Fortschritt und Rückschritt herrscht, die dem ewigen Wechsel des irdischen Daseins eine gerichtete, zielstrebige Bewegung entgegensetzt, die in anderem Kontext modern anmuten kann. Aber dieser Fortschritt—profectus in Richtung auf die perfectio—ist auf das Reich Gottes bezogen, das nicht mit dem zeitlichen Reich in dieser Welt verwechselt werden darf. Der Weg zur Vollkommenheit läßt sich nicht nach Jahren zählen, sondern nur in der Seele: »perfectio non in annis, sed in animis«.”

The German conceptual historian describes the religious conception of the world as existing in permanent distortion. The lack of communication between the self and the world is unable to establish the modern relation between the self and the mundane future, which unfolds as projection and development. In the theological order of history, the exchange (Handel) and the speech (Sprechen) are not guided through political ideas, but exclusively towards salvation. Similar to Pocock’s reconstruction of barbarism and civilization in the context of the late Roman Empire, in Koselleck’s interpretation of the Greek theological order, the relation between decadence (barbarism) and perfection (redemption) builds a temporal correlation. As a correlation-concept, barbarism mobilizes a register of meaning that contains the eschatological distance from civilization. Barbarism entails a difficulty for religion, the Church, but also for historiography. The barbarian constitutes the symptom of a crisis, which is defined in terms of a collective suffering or sickness. Quoting Otto von Freising, Koselleck notes (ibid.): “Auf diese Welt bezogen sind für Otto v. Freising Aufstieg zur Vollkommenheit und Niedergang—meist verbal umschriebene—Korrelationsbegriffe: Je elender diese Welt, desto näher das Heil der Auserwählten. Aber die Zukunft ist nicht die Dimension des Fortschritts, sondern des Weltendes, dessen Vorzeichen immer wieder gesucht und immer wieder von neuem gefunden wurden.”

Freising, who is known for having introduced the Latin translation of Aristotle into what consequently became German philosophy, was also a chronicler. He was particularly interested in writing the history of the Roman Empire in Henry’s IV time, in which he clearly identifies a double crisis: a crisis of faith and a social crisis. Following St. Augustine’s theological cartography, in Chronica sive Historia de duabus civitatibus (1146), translated as Chronicle or History of The Two Cities (1883), the Bishop of Freising Otto I conceives the world as a dichotomy. The communication of the two metaphysical worlds: civitas dei represented in Jerusalem, and civitas mundi represented in Babel is articulated in the civitas permixta. In Freising’s teleological description, the world’s duality


6 Translation in the Valladolid Debate

is at constant risk. His view establishes a determined “‘mode of perception’ in medieval historiography”, in which the realm of the sacred and the profane are in a permanent state of conflict (Bagge 2002: 6). The mundane history contaminates holiness and, therefore, endangers the redemption of humanity. In this apocalyptic prognosis, the presence of the Antichrist on earth interrupts the Final Judgment (ibid.: 7). He embodies the apocalypse, and the apocalypse marks his presence. In medieval historiography, as Sverre Bagge (ibid.) explains: “The explanation of […] changes are usually sought in particular qualities in the persons or objects that bring them about thus tend to be tautological.” There is, however, a vertical communication between the sacral and the mundane, which is metaphysically justified through the soul’s existence. As a guarantee of God’s authorship of the human, the soul counters mundane contingencies in the path towards salvation. The concept of the soul constitutes more than an artifact of the human. It is a metaphor for the translation of the divine into the human body. Hence, the division of the world is applied to the dichotomy of the human body. In the theological cartography of the world, the soul becomes the synonym for humanity. The soul represents the particularity and distinctiveness of humans from other beings. In short, the soul embodies the humanity of humans. Do barbarians have souls? The question of the soullessness poses a heuristic problem to religious anatomy. How does the soul ‘relate’ to the barbarian? Both concepts respond to different, even opposing registers of meaning and temporalities, yet appear together in the same historical moment. Therefore, the ontological distinction between civilization and barbarism is, at the same time, an irreducible temporal correlation between antagonistic languages and identities. Solving this heuristic asymmetry is precisely the topic which guided the Valladolid Debate during the 16th century (1550–1551). Known in oral history as the controversy upon the soul or the soullessness of the colonial subjects of Spain, thereafter, referred to as the Indians, the Valladolid Debate is framed by the ambiguity of the Ungleichzeitigkeit des Gleichzeitigen. In this sense, Koselleck’s and Pocock’s analysis on the historical and epistemic juxtaposition between civilization and barbarism establishes the analytical prologue to the analysis of the debate between Bartolomé de Las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda. The Valladolid Debate marks the transition from the pre-modern and religious based to the colonial meaning of the barbarian. Mobilized by both Spanish Dominican friars for antagonistic purposes, the concept of the barbarian functions as a semantic precursor, and ‘historical antecedent’ of the concept of the Indian (Martínez/ Santamaría-Benz 2004: 561). The conceptual reconstruction of the antagonistic, yet changing and migrating conceptual history of the barbarian

6.2 The Indian Question: the Birth of Transcontinental Historiography


enables reflecting upon its impact in the transition from theological into social history (Koselleck 2006: 14).


The Indian Question: the Birth of Transcontinental Historiography

In the 16th century, the barbarian is transplanted from the hierarchic and dichotomised religious view of the world and resituated in the political order constituted by colonial cartographies. The appearance of the Indian catalyses the discursive ‘productive rupture’ caused by the transition in the difference’s marking (Differenzbestimmung). This concept adds a layer of meaning to the cultural difference as trope to the one first established by the concept of barbarian. At the same time, it is catalyzer for the first paradigm of translation, or the colonial translation. Reconstructing the affiliations of meaning among the barbarian, the savage, and the Indian, Pocock (2005: 3) traces a transcontinental conceptual history of temporal and social differentiation. In his view, the concept of the Indian is used for evaluating the degree of differentiation between Europeans and nonEuropeans and, therefore, it already responds to a transcontinental historiography. Moreover, he (ibid.: 4) identifies a temporal ambiguity proper to the concept of the Indian due to its mutation in the 20th century into the postcolonial concept of the ‘Indigenous’. In Pocock’s words (ibid.: 3): “[T]he ‘savage’—meaning the hunter-gatherer—though preceding the shepherd barbarian in the order of stadial theory, was paradoxically a figure of modern history; the more so if we speak of the ‘invention’ of the savage, following the conventions of a postmodernism in which nothing happens to exist other than the creation of fictions. As Europeans, who believed they had no prehistory but that of patriarchal shepherd clans, took to the sea and mastered every arm of the global ocean, they everywhere encountered peoples who might be thought hunter-gatherers, or who practiced those blends of village horticulture and fishing or hunting we now have in mind when we use the term Indigenous (or describe them by one of the many names such people have found for themselves).”

Pocock (ibid.: 3–4) diagnoses that the “will to describe such peoples as ‘savages’ (and so sub-human)” reinforced a “complicated and disastrous history”. Whereas theology excludes the figure of the barbarian from eschatology, colonial history includes the stage of barbarism into historiography within the broader terms of savagery. Yet, the figure of the barbarian, so as the figure of the savage, covers


6 Translation in the Valladolid Debate

the histories of non-European peoples (Pocock 2005: 168). In other words, the inclusion of the ‘savage’ into European historiography implies the negation of non-European histories. Upon this logic, members of the First Nations (before European occupation) are relegated into “the category of ‘savages’ defined as the first stage of human development” (ibid.: 4). This ‘modern’ historiography is nowadays articulated in the (non-)contemporaneousness of the transnational concept ‘Indigenous’. The ‘other’ temporality attached to the traditional and contemporary versions of names invented for describing members of the First Nations reaffirms the colonial description of the world. The anachronism attached to ‘Indigenous’ responds to the falsification in the method of experimentation applied for justifying European expansionism: Commemorated as voyages of discovery, and transmitted as such in global history, colonialism, in fact, signified a covering of the world. The colonial gaze veils the historicity of America, Asia and Africa before European presence. Also, according to Pocock’s description (ibid.), the European colonial gaze invents the savage once the steps, which were considered essential to progress in terms of agriculture and commerce, were not ‘found’ outside Eurasia, i.e., “in the Americas, Polynesia or Australia (the historisation of sub-Saharan Africa is a somewhat subsequent process)”. This violent description detects the absence of culture and communication in the non-European regions of the world. The non-verification of civilization as understood in Europe legitimizes colonialism. Its absence became synonymous to the ‘findings’ of savagery in the colonies. The noun of discovery justifies colonialism by presenting it as a glorifying event, which is reformulated as self-evidence or providence. Discovery also indicates that those undiscovered remain in the darkness. The literary translation of colonialism into discovery thus manifests the entanglements between a religious and a mundane historiography; translation changes from representing a religious monologue to develop into an exchange of cultural meaning. As Else Ribeiro Pires Vieira (2002: 97) explains: “‘Re’ and ‘trans’ are recurrent prefixes that locate translation at a remove from monological truth in the direction of a transformative recreation of inherited tradition”, i.e., of history. In this sense, the colonial relation established through the translation of the ‘Old World’ into the ‘New World’ (Pocock 2005: 167) creates the space, in which to write the transcontinental imperial history of colonialism. Ribeiro Vieira (2002: 97) further advocates that translation is “theorized as ‘uma desmemória parricida’ / ‘a parricidal dis-memory’”. The hyphen in dismemory elucidates to the amputation of history caused by colonialism, i.e., the epistemic divorce from tradition. Yet it also reveals ‘the dual positionality’, or

6.2 The Indian Question: the Birth of Transcontinental Historiography


corporality, implied in the translation: Redefining colonialism as the scientificreligious covering, instead of discovery, involves remembering and paradoxically recovering non-European histories. Discovery in fact should be remembered as the violent veiling act. This signifies that the colonial relation created by the colonial translation presupposes the presence of two entities, i.e., that of the veiling gaze and the veiled body. Paraphrased as an ‘anthropophagic hyphenation’ (Ribeiro Vieira 2002: 97), the transnational project of colonial translation “unleashes the epistemological challenge of discontinuity but reunites threads into a new fabric”. In Ribeiro Vieira’s words (ibid.), the project of translation “murders the father, means in his absence yet reveres him by creating a continued existence for him in a different corporeality. Also, in the space of ‘trans’ is the notion of ‘translation as transfusion of blood’”. This anthropophagic metaphor suggests that colonialism “both separates and unites”. As Ribeiro Vieira (ibid.) further notes, the colonial relation, or transfusion of meaning “moves translation beyond the dichotomy source/target and sites original and translation in a third dimension, where each is both a donor and a receiver—a dual trajectory ...”. The metaphor of the transfusion of blood grasps the entanglement of religious and global history. It also refers to the laws entitled ‘purity of blood’ (Limpieza de Sangre), which were the fundament for the colonial legislation and created correspondences between blood and rights, as well as between religion and politics.1 Within colonial landscapes and geographies, names and identities migrate in a circular manner. By relating the pre-colonial uses of the concept of the barbarian in the Roman Empire to its colonial application in the 16th and the 18th centuries, Pocock (2005: 171) traces a forced transplantation of this figure from 1

This dispositive of colonial power dictated by the Spanish colonial empire in the 18th century limited the access to political and economic power in the colonies based on the idea of pure and contaminated blood. Justifying the racialized stratification of humanity, this jurisdiction criminalized ‘mix-raced’ and ‘same-race’ sexual contact by prescribing genealogies of degenerations. The well-known paintings of the ‘castas’ are a violent visual representation (even propaganda) of how apparent blood differences became physiognomic differences. On them, the ‘purity of blood’ is represented at the centre of the paintings by a white-male Spaniard. Blackness is represented as the lowest stratification of blood. The Spaniard takes the place given to Jesus in religious paintings. However, in Europe, the whiteness of the Spaniard is contested. In the countries of America, Limpieza de Sangre took different national forms and implications regarding racism and classism. Yet, in every country on the other side of the Atlantic, a Spaniard is considered European, hence, white. See: Castro-Goméz and Grosfoguel 2007; for an analysis of Dominica, today’s Dominican Republic, see Lyon 2018.


6 Translation in the Valladolid Debate

European historiography into The Indies. Thereby, he also points to a misidentification in the non-European difference’s marking. Paraphrasing the philosophers and scholars of the 18th century, Pocock (ibid.: 167) notes: “Jurists were anxious to explain […] that the state of nature was a theoretical model, operative at any moment in history and requiring identification with none; but if asked whether there had been or now was any moment in time or space at which humans might be seen in this state of being, they not uncommonly adduced the ‘savages’ of America, supposed as roaming an earth which they had not appropriated and consequently living without government.”

Discussing the definitions of the ‘state of nature’ in the 16th century, the conceptual historian (ibid.) suggests that the writings of Vitoria and Las Casas illustrate how easily the absence of language and religion were adopted to justify colonial occupation. He identifies a historical amputation, a violent veiling act and a colonial transplantation of the figure of the barbarian that renders it transhistorically significant: The figure of the barbarian (de)limits civilization and the ‘modern form of being’ human. Pocock further relates several definitions of ‘backwardness’ for highlighting the adaptation of colonialism into modern history. Additionally, Feres Júnior (2002: 19) discusses the changes from premodern into modern modes of difference-marking and draws a similar conclusion. He identifies a migration of meaning from old into new ascriptions of differences and notes (ibid.) that, while the semantic association between ‘othering’ and ‘backward’ “was secondary for ancient Greek thought, theories of historical development became the main source of ethnological categories in the modern era”. This transition or translation presupposes the expansion of the concept’s meaning through the export and adaptation into different vocabularies. In its mutation, the concept of the barbarian mobilizes a register of meaning, which contains the historical asymmetries defining its complementary-concept of civilization. The synchronic appearances and temporal correlations between the counter-concepts barbarism and civilisation identified by Koselleck, Pocock, and Feres Júnior introduce a problem of chronology. It seems necessary to enquire: When does the modern era begin? And what does the application of the concepts of the barbarian and the savage in the 16th century imply about the modern regime marking differences? Pocock (2005: 42) narrates modern history as the sequence of the “acts of appropriation, by which individuals had possessed themselves first of the fruits of the earth, then of the flesh and skins of wild animals, then of the lives of beasts capable of domestication, and finally of pasture and arable land.” In his view

6.2 The Indian Question: the Birth of Transcontinental Historiography


(ibid.: 167): The “stadial histories of west European social theory” are formulated as “a multiple and consensual process” that enabled the modern ‘way of life’. Progress is defined by both the acts of appropriation and the appearances of the cultural difference. In Pocock’s words (ibid.): “The Spanish need to schematise the strange multiplicity of American societies was one of these enterprises [of appropriation, TM], and its role in shaping others could be further investigated.” Pocock (ibid.: 167–8; emphasis added) applies Gibbon’s interwoven history between barbarism and civilization for evaluating modern forms of differencemarking and concludes that: “What needs emphasising, however, is that the stadial sequence shaped in Europe— some derived from Greco-Roman antiquity—were designed to meet European (including British) needs and dealt with European phenomena. It is important to the study of ‘barbarism’ and ‘savagery’ that the schemes existing by the eighteenth century were effective in explaining Eurasian history, but failed to provide a history of ancient America, with the result that it became marginalised or alienated [from global historiography]. To understand this we must consider how the stages through which society has passed were shaped in the Old World and failed to fit the New.”

Defining “‘barbarism’ as a concept both ancient and modern”, Pocock (ibid.: 2) hints that its appearances throughout history transgress forms of historiography. Thereby, the history of barbarism modifies the “classic character of historiography” (ibid.: 91). The barbarian bridges the temporal and normative distinction between biblical and modern historiography, as well as between the history of the Church and the history of the Republic (Pocock 2005: 63). Travelling along semantic and temporal borders and orders, the concept responds to a transhistorical temporality. This perspective considers modern history as the constant reformulation of the difference. Pocock (ibid.: 64) describes the contracts of property that frame the conceptual history of the barbarian as: “Enlightened theses of appropriation, exchange and the growth of manners [which] could be set forth in the context of absolute and enormous monarchy as in that of constitutional or republican politics”. The barbarian relates the “humanist inheritance of biblical chronology” to the modern “ideology of commerce and politeness” (ibid.: 77). Pocock’s transhistorical definition of the barbarian entails more than another description of the transition of the Roman Empire’s decline to modernity. The barbarian is subject of history. He states (ibid.: 17): “The initiative is with the barbarians, who ceases to be an external nuisance and becomes a force making for change; and the history that needs to be written is the history of the barbarians themselves”. He seeks to alter the normative oppositions that traditionally


6 Translation in the Valladolid Debate

guide philosophical thinking by contesting the purity and virtuosity of political concepts. Pocock’s approach goes beyond conceptual history and enables instead “the history of persecution […] to be sought in that of philosophy rather than of idolatry” (ibid.: 31). Against Hobbes’ and Locke’s dominant “sharp distinction between the feral ‘state of nature’ and the state of ‘civil government’”, Pocock (ibid: 168) notes that the development of agriculture and commerce required for civilization were precisely dependent on the ‘negative community’ represented in the ‘state of nature’. The analytical connection he traces between the ‘two worlds’ is worth quoting at length (ibid.): “We have reached a point where humans in the theoretical ‘state of nature’ could be identified with the Americans, with ‘savages’ and with hunters. This came about because the rights of men in civil society were increasingly identified with property— there is this much substance in the thesis of possessive individualism—and therefore with appropriation. The state of nature—of negative community in the earth as wilderness—was a means of describing appropriation by supposing a time when it was not; a time not described in either biblical or mythical history, through capable of being identified with moments in one or the other. It was accidental, though at the same time crucial, that the scheme also furnished a means of accounting for ‘savage’ society at a moment when English and French settlement in North America was leading to encounters with hunting peoples that supplemented a literature previously Spanish. It was this that led to the formation of the concepts famously systematised by John Locke, in a thesis that has been considered fundamental to the process of expropriating indigenous peoples.”

Pocock’s reconstruction of the figure of the ‘barbarian’ and the ‘savage’ in Europe from the 14th to the 16th century enables approaching the history of the question of the cultural difference from its inception from a transcontinental perspective. He situates the cultural difference not only within an imperial, but also within a colonial context and shows that through European expansionism, the concept of the savage evolved into a figure of modern history. In this comparative perspective, the translation of the barbarian (of the Roman Empire) into the savage of the 16th century presents a problem for historiography: The transcontinental encounter between Europe and the Caribbean marks the confrontation with a new, non-European reality that had to be communicated in the mother-national tongue, Spanish. The confrontation between the savage and the empire is, in Pocock’s words (ibid.: 167): “deeply concerned with the enormous problems of fitting the New World into a European vision of history”. Hence, it frames a hermeneutic problem, which requires translation.

6.2 The Indian Question: the Birth of Transcontinental Historiography


Yet, in Pocock’s definition, the barbarian represents the experience of the untranslatable. As he states (ibid.: 89): “the aesthetic experience of the barbarians is such as to render them incomprehensible to the modern mind—and, we may add, to render the modern aware of this historical distance”. In his description of colonialism as a succession of appropriation acts, the colonial gaze alters historiography by transplanting the barbarian from theology into history. In the troubled relationship between language and history, the barbarian stands for the decline of civilization existing as a latent possibility within civilization itself. Even if the innate corruption associated with the barbarian is timeless, the figure catalyses paradigmatic historical changes (ibid.: 25). In Pocock’s words (ibid.: 92): “The barbarians invade and subvert—though we know they may also renew—not only the territory and fabric of the Roman empire, but the manner of its history and the style of the historian”. The reconstruction of the concept is an act of re-appropriation of the barbarian, which is either reaffirmed by the dominant historical actors and languages or altered through the historiographer’s intellectual appropriation. In the following quote, Ribeiro Pires Vieira (2002: 97–8) similarly describes colonialism as an act of appropriation and as a historical amputation, which cannot be traced back to a unique origin: “the colonial dilemma is not one informed by Christian scruples as to what may come after death, but has to do with the duality, plurality of the origin and, accordingly, of the cultural identity of […] both civilized and native, both Christian and magic; a culture that grew out of the juxtaposition of not two but many civilizations and which carries to this day the paradox of origin.”

The barbarian’s transplantation from religion into Eurocentric historiography implies that the barbaric difference cannot be solved by teleological condemnation. Instead, it is reformulated as a textual (aesthetic) and literary (empirical) difference to be either included or excluded into and from European history and humanity. In Ribeiro Vieira’s (2002: 97–8) words: The “ontological question of the sixteenth-century ecclesiastical debates” “pronounces difference” and inscribes the difference into “the Western canon”. The ontological judgment and legal trial upon the difference’s nature implies an ontological authentication, which is crystallized in the debate upon the Indians’ soullessness. Entailing the biopolitical question: The sovereign right to decide upon life and death (Foucault 1976: Cours du 17 Mars), the Valladolid Debate secularizes the barbarian and transforms theological condemnation into a political


6 Translation in the Valladolid Debate

duty to (d)enounce the difference. Observed from this perspective, the colonial concept of the Indian is the regurgitation of the barbaric difference. The translation of the barbarian into the Indian generates voicelessness. This silencing reintroduces the ‘anthropophagic metaphor’ that explains the coloniality in modern historiography. According to Pocock (2005: 31), the ingested difference entails a register of colonial landscapes of persecution. In other words, the colonial anthropophagy is articulated as persecution. The ‘reverted barbarism’ implied in the colonial anthropophagy of the difference thus manifests the migration of the theological meaning of the barbarian into colonial geographical orders. The colonial geography traced and designated by Columbus’ created the political geography of The Indies. This classification re-invented the continent-region, as well as its heterogeneous inhabitants. In short: The Indies created the Indian. However, Columbus did not arrive somewhere. He occupied a place and the territory and matched it to his imagined geography. This overlapping authorized colonial settlements to be considered natural artifices or copies of the Motherland. As Bassnett and Trivedi suggest (2002: 5; emphasis added): “the metaphor of the colony as a translation, a copy of an original located ‘elsewhere’ on the map, has been recognized”. In this sense, the hypostatization of Columbus’ disorientation and geographical error marks the beginning of the Eurocentric disorientation in global history and, therefore, the globalization of the colonial representation of the European difference. ‘The’ Indian is invented through the circulation of the Orientalized image of the first European colonies. Its usages draw diasporas of people anachronically together under a single term. Indians inhabit their own homeland; yet their relation of belonging to their own land has been alienated from them. Its conceptual history thus responds to the invention of a domestic-foreign and Orientalized diaspora.2 Whilst Columbus’ voyages for expropriation and enslavement achieved the fundaments of the postcolonial world order, the translation of the barbarian creates another relation with time. During the Enlightenment, the treatment of the barbarian did not decrease. Moreover, the secularized historiography transforms the meaning of the soul into reason (Vogt 2015: 131). Thereby, the question of the soullessness becomes synonym to the capacity to reason.


For a further discussion on the Orientalization of differences see the last sections of chapters 7 and 8.

6.3 Translation in the Colonial Context: The Original Appropriation


Its adaptability into diverse contexts reinforces the inability to distinguish between religious and racialized utilization of the barbarian. However, its function of marking the difference from modernity remains contemporary. In other words, the untranslatable foreignness of the difference is a modern judgement. While the incapacity of equal recognition can only be denounced by the modern mind, the description appropriates the barbarian. In this sense, the identification of the barbarian is a modern and a violent act. The diachronic appearances of the barbarian throughout history imply two hermeneutical attitudes: The imperative to identify differences and the difficulty to translate the foreignness into proper terms without violence. Yet, the instability inherent to the barbarian’s ‘subliminal presence’ destabilizes the “normative opposition, it is meant to reinforce” (Boletsi/ Moser 2015: 17). To paraphrase, the entanglements between the theological and the secular history that identify and localize the colonial difference as the ‘Indian’ are equally embodied in the cosmopolitan figure of Columbus. In the next chapter, the discussants Las Casas and Sepúlveda will be described as an extension of Columbus’ gaze, i.e., as translators facing the hermeneutic problem of ‘capturing’ the true nature of the barbarians of the ‘New World’ and transmitting its truth to the metropole. Thereby, the redefinition of humanity and civilization set into motion by the Valladolid Debate will be submitted to analysis.


Translation in the Colonial Context: The Original Appropriation

Almost 100 years after Columbus’ arrival to the island of Ayiti (Hispaniola), home of modern-day Dominican Republic and Haiti, the circulation of letters between the Indies and Castile already informed on a regular basis clericalpolitical decisions in the metropole. As Hernán Cortés arrived in today’s Mexico in 1519, within only a few months, he reported to Charles V over his astonishment with the local civilizations (Second Letter 1866). Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, an officially appointed colonial agent for whom Cortés was initially employed, was instructed about Cortés’ personal plans in Mexico as soon as his letter addressed to Charles V attained Cuba. The letter was lost before it reached Spain. However, it was rewritten in Cadiz and handed over to the King, the same year that Cortés took over Montezuma’s kingdom. Cortés’s plans in Mexico made evident the problem of governing from a distance, from the other side of the Atlantic. The difficulty was to control and


6 Translation in the Valladolid Debate

administer peoples and the extraction of resources, as well as the increased possibilities of political betrayal by colonial agents themselves (Buey 1992: 307). Building upon English historians3 on the British Empire, the historian on Hispanic America, Pedro Cardim (2016: 101), summarizes the geopolitical problem of enactment, which is condensed in the concept of the colony, as followed: “From the point of view of those in central government, the incorporation of African, Asian, and American lands called for significant political and jurisdictional adaptation. Just as had been the case when additional European territories were incorporated into the Habsburgs’ dominions, it became necessary to find a constitutional place for extra-European lands. Royal authorities were forced to find the most appropriate position, in constitutional terms, in which to situate their American, African, and Asian holdings. They also sought to establish a form of government suited to such lands, for it was evident to all that this would be essential to maintaining the political stability of the two Iberian composite monarchies.”

Cardim defines the incorporation of extra-European territories into the metropole’s jurisdiction as the fundamental challenge of international politics. The incorporation of lands outside of Europe into the imperial legal system presupposes an annexation, or the creation of a “constitutional place for extraEuropean lands.” The colonial nomos4 is necessary for political power. To be specific, colonialism requires the creation of a shared space. The common space, or the place of resemblance implies a legal adaptation and an appropriation of the colonies. This legislation implies the transplantation of Europeanness or the Europeanization of the colonies. In order to transfigure the original culture, colonialism adapts into many manifestations. One of these expressions is the colonial architecture on the shores of the American, Asian, and the African continents. Constructed in Europe’s ‘image and likeness’, the architecture and the infrastructure of the harbour-cities articulate no cultural negotiation, but rather a violent rupture of Europeanness from vernacular architectures.5 The transnationalization of colonial architecture 3

Long neglected from colonial historiography, the Spanish legal history of the 16th and 17th centuries is today analysed through the lens of the much more studied English colonial history of the 17th and 18th centuries. See e.g.: John Elliott: “The seizure of Overseas Territories by European Powers” (1998); and Anthony Pagden: European Encounters with the New World: from Renaissance to Romanticism (1993) as well as his article “Fellow Citizens and Imperial Subjects: Conquest and Sovereignty in Europe’s Overseas Empires” (2005). 4 For a conceptual analysis of nomos and res publica in the works of Arendt and Schmitt see: Mancheno 2016. 5 For an analysis on the colonial urban planning of Mexico’s port cities such as Veracruz, see the volume edited by Ita Rubio: Organización del espacio en el México colonial: puertos,

6.3 Translation in the Colonial Context: The Original Appropriation


and infrastructure communicates a particular sense of belonging. As Anne Stoler (1989: 137) points out: “colonial cultures were never direct translations of European society planted in the colonies, but unique cultural configurations, homespun creations in which European food, dress, housing, and morality were given new political meanings in the particular social order of colonial rule.” The import of colonial architecture and infrastructure, including that of the European languages, into the colonies did not seek to verify “the Europeanness of Europe” but was rather the “new constructions of Europeanness” (Stoler 1989: 138). The translation of Europe’s originality created a transcontinental Eurocentric narrative of cultural belonging that includes spaces of Western resemblances, or Europeanised enclaves and enables transnational bounds of affiliation, fidelity, genealogy, and loyalty to flourish. The transcontinental narrative of belonging created through colonial expansionism is central to the history of the translation of the cultural difference. Colonialism meant a spatial and legal translation of non-European lands into Europeanness. This adaptation redefined the value of cultural attachments and enabled mobility for Europeans within a transcontinental sense of belonging. Europeans who migrated to the colonies did not renounce to the known. The European experience is not the exile. Instead, it implied the promise of cultivating sameness in the ‘unknown’ by domesticating differences. In this colonial cultural geography, Europeanness became the original culture, or the target language, into which differences are translated. The legislation of the colonial relation between the Indies and Europe during the 16th century signified the historicization of the annexation. The colonial legislation required a patriotic bound for linking the two sides of the Atlantic. For this aim, the identity of white settlers was defined in a relation of fidelity to the metropole. Yet, as Cortés’ biography highlights, since the colonial idea of ‘homeland’ was defined outside common soil (territorial proximity) and blood (genealogy), the premodern constitutional patriotism between Spain and The Indies could not rule out betrayal. Soon after his migration to Cuba, Cortés understood the value of a legal narrative that relates to both sides of the Atlantic. In his second letter to his King in 1520, Cortés apologized the delay in correspondence and justified his disobedience as well as the political betrayal of his superior Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, which implied a treason to the Crown. He argued that his acts served ciudades y caminos (2012). The colonial application of urban space as a social and racial frontier is also found in former German colonies. For an analysis of Dar Es Salaam see my interview with Oswald Masebo (2016) conceived within the Podcast-series #Nachwort for the Centre of Research on Hamburg’s Colonial Legacy.


6 Translation in the Valladolid Debate

the ultimate project of Spanish expansionism. In the same letter, he baptized the occupied territory of contemporary Mexico as the New Spain of the Ocean, stating the following: “From what I have seen and understood about the similarity between this whole land and that of Spain, in the fertility as well as in the size and the cold climate, and in many other things, it seemed to me that the most convenient name for this land was New Spain of the Ocean Sea” (Cortés 1522 quoted in Rabasa 1993: 117). The affiliation between the continents is conceived through natural resemblance. Familiarity is traced, although the comparison seems impossible, hence, it is rather imagined. In his second letter, Cortés writes (Second Letter 1866: 110): “I will endeavour to describe, in the best manner in my power, what I have myself seen […]; since even when we who have seen these things with our own eyes, are yet so amazed as to be unable to comprehend their reality […]; and it seems to me but just to my Prince and Sovereign to declare the truth in the clearest manner, without saying anything that would detract from it, or add to it.”

The name New Spain referred to the topographic difference6 as well as to the cultural renewability of Spanishness in Mexico. Marking his appropriation, Cortés’ second letter included a map of the city of Tenochtitlan. With the name New Spain, the colonized territories became the natural extension of the imagined Spain, which was submerged in the wars of the Reconquista, and at the misogynist Inquisition (Buey 1992: 303). As the Spanish colonial territories expanded all the way to the territory that is today known as Honduras, the legality of the colonial annexation as well as the fidelity of the colonizers to the metropole remained central political issues. The Spanish Crown supported Cortés’ violent political project for ten years. Yet, by the time of his death in 1547, Cortés’ public figure, just as in Columbus’ case, had been forgotten. By then, the Bishop of Chiapas and translator of Columbus,


In reason of the reconstruction undertaken in this research, which will take us to the multicultural question, it is particularly worth noting that in his description of Tenochtitlan, Cortés (1866) adopts the concept of the mosque as a metaphor to describe the local architecture. During the Reconquista, these buildings represented the most salient cultural difference of Spain and the Spanish identity. As one of the most important political strategies in the Hispanization of the nation, the mosques were transformed into Catholic churches. The same procedure of architectural replacement was applied for the colonization of contemporary Mexico and Peru. In strategic areas of The Indies, salient religious temples were demolished, and in their place, churches were erected.

6.4 Translating the Gentile into the Indian


Las Casas, had published his polemic chronicles in Spain condemning the violence of the colonizers against the colonized.7 His writings were directed against Cortés political strategies, but mostly against the chronicler Sepúlveda, who was notoriously Cortés’ intellectual supporter and spokesman (ibid.: 322). As the translator of Columbus in the Spanish language and history, Las Casas expands Columbus’ gaze and tongue.8 The biographies of Columbus, Las Casas, Cortés, and Sepúlveda mirror the legal and cultural ‘parenthood’ constructed between the continents for the creation of the transcontinental colonial narrative and shared space. The (af)filiation among the male actors built the gate for a gendered reconstruction of the first centuries of the colonial history linking Europe and the Americas. However, the discussants of the Valladolid Debate are not a mere replica of the first-generation colonizers, as they are more than violent occupiers and chroniclers. The political and intellectual voices of Las Casas and Sepúlveda transgress the intimacy of the politicized letters and discuss the future of international relations in a court room (Hanke 1965: XIII). Thereby, the discussants transformed the question of the difference into an event of global significance.


Translating the Gentile into the Indian

The official debate called by the Spanish clerical authorities in 1550 crystalized a historiography of imperial manhood and the regime of translation sustained by it. Interrogating the legitimation of the practice of violence against the Indians, the debate foresaw a reform of the colonial administration of people considered foreign to the culture and identity of the metropole. The Valladolid Debate was the first public discussion within the Catholic Church since 1492. It occurred during the time of the Reconquista, as the clerical authorities in Castile declared Spanish the unique tongue9 of the Empire. Yet, 7

Las Casas wrote his famous publication A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies after his arrival to the Americas between 1539 and 1547. It was however published only ten years later in 1552, in Spain. For biographies of Las Casas, see: Lewis Hanke’s Bartolomé de Las Casas. An Interpretation of His Life and Writings (1951) and Lawrence Clayton’s Bartolomé de las Casas. A Biography (2012). 8 The first version of Columbus’ diary of his first voyage that is accessible is the one transcribed and commented by Las Casas in 1530. 9 I use the noun ‘tongue’ in this context to distinguish this historic moment in the long history of the nationalization of the Spanish language, which is highly represented in Franco’s national banishments of other languages from the public sphere.


6 Translation in the Valladolid Debate

the controversy also raised questions on diversity on a transcontinental scale.10 Mapping the migration of the concepts describing, differentiating and forging ontological distinctions among humans, the debate fulfills a domestic as well as an international function. As the foreword11 of the debate’s original transcription states: “Here is contained a dispute, or controversy between Bishop Friar Bartolomé de las Casas, or Casaus, formerly bishop of the royal city of Chiapa which is in the Indies, a part of New Spain, and Dr. Gines de Sepulveda, chronicler to the Emperor, our lord, in which the doctor contended: that the conquests of the Indies against the Indians were lawful; and the bishop, on the contrary, contended and affirmed them to have been, and it was impossible for them not to be, tyrannies, unjust and iniquitous. Which question was examined and defended in the presence of many learned theologians and jurists in a council ordered by his Majesty to be held in the year one thousand and five hundred and fifty in the town of Valladolid. Year 1552.”

How accurate were Las Casas’ description of the cruelties committed by the Spaniards in the colonies? Were these as morally condemnable as he argued? Or were the cruelties rather the result of the ‘just war’ as Sepúlveda continuously sustained, hence, authentic Christian acts against the infidels and pagans? In order to prescribe the future Spanish-Christian behaviour towards non-Christians in New Spain, the church and the Crown required a redefinition upon the difference’s nature. The Spaniards Dominican friars and colonial chroniclers, Bartolomé de Las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda were invited to present their arguments in front of a religious Castilian court in Valladolid, a small city located near Madrid, in which the clerical power of that time was concentrated. Higher members of the Church, missionaries, chroniclers as well as previous pioneers were invited in to take part at the debate that was prolonged for one year until 1551. The religious trial brought the two theologians to discuss upon the Indians’ (in-)humanity. The possession of New Spain had been legitimized (as the property of Spain) by defining the local population as barbarians, or creatures without a soul; hence, outside the realm of the human. On the one hand, Sepúlveda reaffirms this religious view. On the other hand, Las Casas followed 10

For a description on the Reconquista as a European project see: Grosfoguel 2013. To my knowledge, there is no complete translation of the Valladolid Debate either in German or English. The translation of the preface written by de Soto (1552b) can be accessed at: The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. The further translations are made by me if not quoted otherwise. In the cases, in which no direct translation is offered, a summary of the ideas follows each quote.


6.4 Translating the Gentile into the Indian


the humanist ideas of the School of Salamanca, one of the oldest universities in Europe, and formulated moral judgements on the applications of violence. Francisco de Vitoria, who taught Las Casas, criticized Cortés for his cruelty and held him and his peers responsible for the corruption of Christian values, already before the Valladolid Debate took place. In 1536, Charles V appointed Sepúlveda as an official chronicler of the Spanish Crown.12 Yet, Sepúlveda was never in a transatlantic ship. For his argumentation, he solely drew upon third voices, mostly on Cortés’ literary production about the found differences offered in his chronicles. Sepúlveda’s official voice was legitimated twice: by the military and religious powers. On the contrary, Las Casas was a traveller-chronicler himself, who argued from a position outside political power. His source of legitimation was his title as Bishop of Chiapas.13 Inspired by the sermons of the Spanish Dominican friar Antonio de Montesinos in modern day Haiti, Las Casas thought of himself as the (Spanish) voice of the Indians. He saw himself in the position of the translator of the Indian’s cause. Conversely, Sepúlveda thought of himself as the advocate of the colonizers’ cause. He had no translator’s task, nor a moral duty to justify his judgment on the difference’s nature. In short, his writings were directed solely to the metropole. The Valladolid Debate was organized as an oral trial, during which colonial enterprises were suspended by decree of Charles V (Martínez-Castilla 2006: 114). The jury was composed of a group of theologians and jurists such as Domingo de Soto, Bartolomé de Carranza, and Melchor Cano as well as experienced colonizers such as Pedro de la Gasca. By reason of the quantity of arguments presented, de Soto was charged to transcribe the central theses of the discussion. The transcription of Sepúlveda’s twelve theses and Las Casas’ fourteen


Sepúlveda was also translator of Aristotle into Spanish and educator of Philip II. For Sepúlveda’s biography see: Bell’s Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda (1925) and FernándezSantamaría’s The State, War and Peace: Spanish Political Thought in the Renaissance, 1516–1559 (1977). Less renown than Las Casas, Sepúlveda has remained an important reference for conservative and nationalist Spanish historians. As Buey (1992) notes, during Franco’s regime, many historians gloried his logic for being ‘developed’ and ‘modern’. For a discussion on the fascist historiography in Spain during the 20th century, see: Buey 1992. For a contemporary humanist interpretation of Sepúlveda see the article of the Spanish historian José-Manuel Pérez-Prendes (1993). Sepúlveda is also an important source in Carl Schmitt’s theory of enmity and anti-humanism. 13 This title did not allocate him political power in the metropole. In 1511, Las Casas had already requested an audience with the King. It was not until 1552 that the Castilian Bishop agreed to meet him (Hanke 1965: XII).


6 Translation in the Valladolid Debate

theses was provided to the discussants for written responses. Before publishing, Las Casas added 31 propositions to the document. Known also as the controversy of Valladolid, its content was neither solely analytic nor religious. It was of importance to the Catholic Church as well as for global history. Yet today the debate is remembered neither locally in the urban space of the small city14 , nor as an event of national significance. There is no full register of the participants to be found. The significance of the Valladolid Debate for colonial legal history extends beyond Ibero-American confines. For historians and political thinkers dating globalization from the second half of the 15th century, the debate stands for a grounding moment for international law and human rights (Grosfoguel 2014; Dussel 1991). It motivated coeval discussions on the antagonism between local populations and white-European settlers, inspired European anti-colonial thinking, political movements, and represented a founding moment for Humanism. Dealing with the in/capacity of acknowledging equality before the Christian law, the controversy regulated equality and justice on a transcontinental scale. It framed the conception of international rights and justice (Hanke 1965: xix; 1974: 7). At the same time, displaying the unyielding connection between colonial cartographies and the hierarchization of humanity, the historical debate frames the understanding of history. It demonstrates that the colonial topographic survey of the world coincided hand in hand with a verification of humanity (Grosfoguel 2013: 84). Sepúlveda and Las Casas’ theses on the (ir)reconcilability of differences between European and the colonial subjects of New Spain resettle the limits of humanity by reallocating notions of virtues and vices along the barbarian-civilized distinction. The redefinition of humanity implied the denunciation of the inhuman by the human, suggesting that the decision upon the ‘fair’ and proper treatment of non-Christian by Christian-Europeans denotes a hermeneutic problem. The trial on the ontology of the colonial difference from the distant position of the invasive European (civilized) identity redefined also its opposite: inhumanity (or barbarism). The new distinction of the concepts framed both the identity of the colonizers and the identities of the colonized. 14

The Church’s House (Colegio San Gregorio), where the Valladolid Debate took place, currently houses a private museum. Only a small commemorative plaque at one of the interior walls of the museum commemorates the event. The dedication goes to Las Casas alone. The debate was taken to the cinema in 1992 by the French filmmaker Jean-Daniel Verhaeghe. In the adaptation La controverse de Valladolid, the debate is presented as a theatre play. This arrangement of the scenery (mise en scène) places an emphasis on the discursiverepresentational event, as well as to the public format of its political staging (Inszenierung).

6.4 Translating the Gentile into the Indian


The discussants claim to be logical in their argumentation and to transmit historical veracity by analysing the colonial difference through philosophy with Aristotle and evaluating it through religious-based law with St. Augustine. Furthermore, Las Casas and Sepúlveda describe the ‘new’ barbaric distinction through comparisons with previous encounters with differences in the history of Spain, such as with Jews and Moors. In doing so, they mobilize a register of adjectives that prescribe the proper treatment and behaviour towards the colonial difference and trace diachronic trajectories of meaning that differentiate non-white identities at the intercontinental scale. The religious-based distinction between faithful and infidels is readapted in the Valladolid Debate into an interrogation of the reasons for the absence of Christianity in The Indies. Both discussants abandoned the premise that colonized people are unfaithful (gentiles), yet not necessarily infidels. Adapted initially as a collective noun for referring to both non-Jews and foreigners, the religious concept of the gentile is transformed into the politicized figure of the infidel during the Reconquista (James/ Burgos 2022). The concept of the infidel emerged from the complementarity between the faithful’s authenticity and the gentile’s corrupted nature (Noetzel 1999: 10). Yet, its employment shifted in the Valladolid Debate. The figure of the gentile permitted the discussants to identify the colonial difference within a religious cartography and to allocate it in the colonial space of The Indies. In doing so, Las Casas and Sepúlveda translated the religious concept of gentiles into the colonial difference, meaning ‘Indios’, also written Yndio in the debate’s original transcription. This collective identification of the difference also determined its future accommodation in the colonial empire. In this sense, the colonial translation of the difference relied upon its possible fidelity to the norm. According to Sepúlveda, the danger of betrayal does not decrease after conversion. Sepúlveda (1552: 287) considers that gentiles are heathens and pagans and that converted subjects remain a latent source of treason to the moral and political order of the colonial empire. Las Casas argues that gentiles are savages. Savagism functions as a condition, signifying that it is not necessarily eternal. The incapability of self-education is what keeps the savage in the state of nature (as well as the difference, different). Yet, since the savage can be educated, the gentiles can also be converted. There are two loci speaking in the name of the religion, however, drawing antagonistic conclusions upon the future treatment of colonial subjects. Seeking to regulate international relations, the Valladolid Debate entailed the promise of a common future. The victor of the dispute set the grammar for dealing with the


6 Translation in the Valladolid Debate

difference that implied decisions on the planning and regulation of people on a global scale. In the colonial order, which is both religious and worldly, the gentile is positioned in a relation of permanent dependency vis-à-vis the faithful and ‘true’ believers. The concept of the gentile permits the discussants to reformulate the relation of dependency between the colonizer and the gentile in terms of tutelage. Therefore, colonialization itself is not the subject of inquiry. Moreover, the debate is constituted by an evaluation of the gentile’s ability or inability to adapt into the colonizers’ culture. Within secular historiography, the colonial translation of the difference ceases to be an inexorable event to develop rather into a social imperative. Since the difference’s foreignness and soullessness may no longer be condemned or saved through divinity, the conversion becomes a problem to be solved in the world through humans. The conversion of the gentile into Christianity thus metamorphoses into a moral duty, which intersects religious redemption and worldly development. At the same time, betrayal presents a constant danger in the translatability of the Indians into Christians. Las Casas and Sepúlveda evaluate the possibilities of the ontological migration from the realm of the corrupted nature into the authenticity of Christianity. Thereby, they discuss the transformation of the ‘foreign’ into the ‘proper’ and relocate religious concepts into historiography. The translation’s goal lies in the religious conversion. Las Casas and Sepúlveda describe the present and advocate the future. Both individuals function as civic actors, who contain the contingency of the future. They also act as witnesses and lawyers of the difference’s ‘true nature’, which is mapped and identified in the collective noun of ‘Indio’. From this perspective, while the Debate dealt with the moral and political legitimation of colonial violence and brutality, it also legitimized colonialism. To put it more bluntly, in the Valladolid Debate the difference was reappropriated, or ingested. The Valladolid Debate marks the transition from biblical language into transcontinental history. In this transition, the encounter with the difference is no longer a revelation, but rather an identification that is articulated in European languages. The semantic employed for referring to the non-European peoples is subsumed into the homogenising Castilian concept of Indios. Besides, both discussants use this topographic concept in a normative manner: Indios are either good or bad as a collective. In the trial about the difference’s nature, the degree of foreignness is constantly historically and culturally redefined. The name functions as a common denominator for questioning the humanity of the local populations of the Americas. However, the identification of the difference already transpired with a European

6.5 The Valladolid Debate: Toleration and/as Cannibalism


concept and a Eurocentric-Orientalized geography. Is there a more patriotic act than such an authentication of humanity through the white-male European gaze and tongue?


The Valladolid Debate: Toleration and/as Cannibalism

Las Casas and Sepúlveda argued upon the necessity of intervention for translating non-European peoples into Christianity. The unavoidable intervention emphasised on the obligation of education and communion. The transmission—or the one-way export of ideas and concepts from the metropole into the colonies—is embodied in the colonial agents who migrated from the Old World into the New World. Male Catholic Spanish and European colonial agents and missionaries acted as cultivators in the transition from nature into culture. Thereby, the transformation of the colonies into artificial extensions of the true religion and faith of the metropole was fulfilled. Redefined as a moral duty, the missionary’s task represents a pre-formulation (Vorbegriff ) of the national virtue of patriotism. In quoting Las Casas, Hanke (1951: 9; emphasis added) suggests: “the missionary urge to carry to far places and hereto unknown men the great message from Christendom—the faith”. Missionarism replaces messianism in the evolution of history. Responding to Koselleck’s temporality of modern political concepts, the mission civilisatrice (civilizing mission) is a task anchored in the future. Its impact is meaningful only in the colonial geography, in which the missionary travels, i.e., displaces himself, into the ‘dangerous, and unknown overseas’. The figures of the man of nature: the savage and the barbarian become identical. Both are depicted in opposition, yet in dependency, to the man fashioned by culture represented in the figure of the colonial missionary, or to quote Sepúlveda’s (1961): “the cultivator of human virtues”. In addition to “virtues”, Las Casas (1552a: 387–9) employs the noun of “cultivation” and “reason” to characterize the missionary. Reason is defined as man’s predisposition to cultivate, or the devotion to teach the savage. In his Reply X, Las Casas comments (ibid.: 393): “omnis Christini actio: nostra est instructio”. The task of the good Christian is to teach. The concept of reason appears together with nouns such as “customs”, “values” and “civilians”. Collectively, these concepts could be subsumed nowadays under the overarching concepts of culture and civilization. Although these do not appear in the Valladolid Debate, the discussants offer a detailed description of the colonial masculinity of the missionary, who


6 Translation in the Valladolid Debate

embodies the ‘homemade’ virtues and values. Depicted as the social carrier of the knowledge to be spread, the European missionary disseminates the culture he represents. His teaching power is, not only at a metaphorical level, intrinsically related to his masculinity. He is the prototype and the carrier of the authentic humanity, and of the moral responsibility to teach into freedom. The paternal relation he has to the colonial subjects ensures his masculine power. Las Casas and Sepúlveda emphasise upon the European’s man advantaged hermeneutic position as a translator. Whereas, according to Las Casas, the missionary’s moral duty is to educate the savage into civilization, Sepúlveda (1552: 291) argues that the colonizer’s task is to educate the subjects to be human. Both positions condense two hermeneutic attitudes: That of discerning the ‘eaters’ (the barbarians or savages) and of ‘eating’ (the difference) through conversion. Following the logic of a one-way translation, the conversion of the ‘natural man’ surmounts to a proto-national, but also to a post-national duty: with his responsibility, the missionary and the colonizer personify cosmopolitan actors. Following the universalism implied in cosmopolitanism, Las Casas appeals for the tolerance of the infidels. His argument suggests that the unintentional idolatry presents no ‘real’ harm towards God. In his words (Reply IV, 1552a: 363; emphasis added): “la blasfemia que resulta de la idolatría de per accidens, la cual los idólatras no pretenden contra Dios hacer, antes estiman que con ella le adoran y sirven, aunque en la verdad es blasfemia resultante de la idolatría de per accidens tamen, hoc est, preter idolatrarum intencionem. Y désta trata Sancto Tomás en la dicha questión 94. La cual no es punible por algún juez puro hombre, en los infieles que nunca recibieron la fe […]; empero, no los pune por ella la Iglesia, pues en ellos los tolera, puesto que son sus súbditos y lo podría muy bien y fácilmente hacer.”

Quoting Thomas de Aquinos’ Summa contra gentiles (1264), Las Casas proposes that by tolerating the infidels, the Church may then easily turn them into its subjects. He also quotes St. Augustine, who—in his earlier writings—defends the notion that the adoption of the true faith should develop from within, i.e., without external compulsion. In Augustine’s scheme, whereas the Church constitutes the tolerating ‘subject’, the ‘object’ of tolerance is the blasphemy conducted per accidens, or by the gentiles’ ignorance of the truth. Las Casas indicates that the authority of the Church was greater than the one attainted by the biblical philosophers of the 16th century. He referred to the mœur proper to the ‘universal church’ and offered a concrete example of the prudent and tolerant attitude towards infidelity. In his words (Reply X, 1522: 391): “Since

6.5 The Valladolid Debate: Toleration and/as Cannibalism


the universal churches costume was to not baptize the children of the unfaithful against the will of their parents: so should we abstain from doing so ourselves.”15 Dating back to early Christian writings, the concept of tolerance is administered for dealing with religious differences and functions as a preventive attitude towards conflicts due to those differences. Building primarily a peaceful concept, tolerance is related to the religious principle of credere non potest nisi volens, which holds that only faith based on inner conviction is pleasing to God. Faith cannot be forced. Passive adoption of tolerance is also found in the Cicerean definition of toleration. Yet, this definition is attached to the body. Cicero adopts the concept of tolerantia as a “virtue of endurance, of suffering bad luck, pain and injustice of various kinds in a proper, steadfast manner” (Forst 2007). The concept of toleration establishes a relation between the religious community and God via faith. It thus functions as universal grammar for defining humanity and humanist behaviour. While promoting humanism through tolerance, Las Casas also illustrates the dependency of the gentiles (or the object of tolerance) towards their instructor and translator, i.e., that of the missionary. The moral imperative of the missionary, as of the translator, is to find equivalences of meaning in the target language, and thereby to disseminate the Bible in the target culture (Venuti 1995: 23). For the aim of conversion, the instruction and indoctrination are far more important than subjugation. Following this premise, Las Casas learnt many languages, in which he held collective baptisms. Las Casas’ universalism unfolded into pragmatism. His credo for tolerance was paraphrased into the imperative to: “Open the doors and receive them in peace. Do not harm them, but receive them as tax-payers” (de Soto 1552a: 231; own translation). In addition, his universal understanding of tolerance is accompanied by the political applications and abuses of intolerance, which are already found in St. Augustine’s philosophy of love and freedom. Confronted with the increasing rivalries between Roman Catholics and the so-called Donatists, St. Augustine related the concept of toleration to the one of intolerance by arguing that the usage of force could also be interpreted as a Christian duty for the sake of saving the soul. Accordingly, ‘individual conscience’ can and sometimes must be subjected to force. Thereby, Augustine suggested that the proper use of force combined with the ‘right’ teaching can “shake men loose from the wrong faith 15

The original quote states: “Y Santo Tomás, en la 2a 2e , q. 10. art. 12, arguye también, per locum ab auctoritate negative, diciendo así: la costumbre de la Universal Iglesia es de gran auctoridad, más que los dichos de algún santo, Jerónimo o Augustino; pues la Iglesia no acostumbró a baptizar los niños hijos de los infieles contra voluntad de sus padres; luego nosotros no lo debemos hacer”.


6 Translation in the Valladolid Debate

and open up their eyes so as to accept the truth—still ‘from within’” (St. Augustine A.D. 408: Letter 93). From this point of view, love and freedom were not contradictory to intolerance but rather complementary. In Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias Occidentales (1552b) (A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies), Las Casas’ adoption of ‘intolerant’ describes a sort of awakening from within. He depicts the Indians as tolerant and denounces the barbaric intolerance of the Spaniards. Condemning “the unbearable work of the mine” (“enviar los hombres a las minas a sacar oro, que es trabajo intolerable”) (1552b: 39), he also notes (ibid. 57; own translation): “and when it was possible, they tolerated the tyrannies and servitude of the Christians” (“y cuando les era posible toleraban las tiranías y servidumbre de los cristianos”). Thereby, the humanist intellectual exchanges the positions of the tolerant subject and the one, who suffers barbarism. Augustine’s handling of (in)tolerance is highly ambiguous due to the tight relation between tolerance and violence. Building upon this ambiguity, Thomas Aquino formulates strong limits and conditions for toleration, especially against any form of heresy. Following this restrictive line of thought, Sepúlveda argues that teaching humanity to the unfaithful is useless (quoted in de Soto 1552a: 230–1). In his fifth Reply, Sepúlveda (1552: 301) traces no substantial difference between the barbarian, the savage, and the gentile. Since the barbarian derides humanity and, thereby, also the laws of evolution, the cultivation of the spirit is pointless. In his perspective, the duty and right of the colonizer is to destroy the barbarian, who endangers the order of the Catholic empire. In his controversial book Democrates Alter. Or, on the Just Cause for War against the Indians (also known as Democrates Secundus), which was presented during the Valladolid trial but remained unpublished until 189216 , Sepúlveda applies the foreignness of the colonized peoples to legitimize the practice of violence against them. In the fictive dialogues between the characters of Democrates (articulating Sepúlveda’s own intellectual position) and the German Leopold (representing Las Casas’ position) composing this work, Cortés appears as a hypothetical voice. The 16

Sepúlveda’s original manuscript was written in the Latin vernacular. Although its content was presented during the Valladolid Debate, it remained unpublished until end of the 19th century. Secondary sources suggest that Las Casas provoked this censure (see: Buey 1992: 320; Martínez-Castilla 2006). A fragment of Sepúlveda’s book appeared first in Boletín de la Real Academia de la Historia, Vol. XXI (1892). The translation into Spanish is made by Menéndez y Pelayo in 2006. Originally translated for the Introduction to Contemporary Civilization in the West by the Columbia University Press in 1961, this fragment is now available online, yet the pages are unnumbered.

6.5 The Valladolid Debate: Toleration and/as Cannibalism


second character is introduced quoting Cortés’ testimonies about “those lands to the west which were completely unknown to the ancient inhabitants of our world”. By the time Sepúlveda wrote his Cause in the 16th century, the chronicle was already a central source for colonial propaganda (Cheyfitz 1997: 110). The manuscripts were the most powerful media for making public the situations in the colonies (Murray 1994); but were also wielded as the interlayer of the colonial mapping of the world, or as the source of information of what Cheyfitz (1997: 121) terms ‘the domestic fantasy’. Composed in the vernacular Castilian, the chronicles modified the religious modus in narrating history. The historical events recorded in the chronicles altered the path of history. Thereby, the chronicles also transformed the legitimation of power. Constituting the first European intellectual production about the colonized territories, the chronicles substituted the holy word with the testimony of actors and witnesses of history (Murray 1994: 5). These became the most important archive of the transatlantic encountering and of the chronology of conquests, colonial battles, and wars (Buey 1992: 321; Murray 1994: 6). The chronicles’ language was the first translation of a world that remained unknown for the majority of the population in Europe, while, at the same time, becoming indispensable for European economies and households. The circulation of the chronicles offered access to the ‘tasting’ of the colonial difference to the people in the metropole. The chroniclers were European men, who followed and documented with detail the developments of the invasion and colonization of The Indies. Written from the perspective of the colonizers’ Christian gaze, in these sources, the truth of the events and the legitimacy of the conquest were highly related (Buey 1992: 334; Pocock 2005: 171). Yet, as the case of Las Casas and Sepúlveda display, the chronicler required neither official appointment nor his presence in the conquered territories to compose chronicles. The ‘truths’ about the difference’s ‘authentic nature’ produced by these manuscripts were corroborated during the Valladolid Debate. Thereby, the division of labour between the object of research and the subject of knowledge production was also reified (Grosfoguel 2013: 84). This debate traces an ontological cartography, which distinguishes between the tolerant subject, who instructs the difference to be human, and the object to be tolerated, i.e., the difference. The ‘evidence’ of cannibalism precisely fulfils this task. The circulation of information about the existence of cannibalism in the Spanish colonies persuaded the people in Castile of the heuristic and hermeneutical problem of comprehending the difference without being consumed by it. Therefore, as Sepúlveda (1552: 289) argues, the evidence of cannibalism solves this


6 Translation in the Valladolid Debate

problem: if cannibalism was inherent to the local population, their humanity was questionable. The fear of cannibalism justified the existence of a radical differentiation between the colonized people and the colonizers and enabled questioning the humanity of the former from a humanistic perspective. Reformulated into a political agenda, this equivalence results in Sepúlveda’s imperative, which connotes that fighting against the cannibals’ inhumanity is a human task. In his depiction of the Indians as cannibals, Sepúlveda (ibid: 291) condemns the difference to perishing. His depiction functions as a denunciation, in which cannibalism is adopted for formulating a moral sentence and the justification for war. His (1961: n.n) violent differentiation and comparison between the new barbarians and the humans has been translated in the following sense: “Compare, then, these gifts of prudence, talent, magnanimity, temperance, humanity, and religion with those possessed by these half-men (homunculi), in whom you will barely find the vestiges of humanity, who not only do not possess any learning at all, but are not even literate or in possession of any monument to their history except for some obscure and vague reminiscences of several things put down in various paintings; nor do they have written laws, but barbarian institutions and customs. Well, then, if we are dealing with virtue, what temperance or mercy can you expect from men who are committed to all types of intemperance and base frivolity, and eat human flesh?”

The historian Alejandro Coroleu (n.y.: 4) translates the same passage from Sepúlveda’s Old Spanish into contemporary English in the following manner17 : “Now compare these qualities of wisdom, inventiveness, magnanimity, temperance, humanity and religion with those little men in whom one can scarcely find the remains of humanity, who not only lack culture, but who do not even use or know of the written word, lack written law, have barbaric institutions and customs, and do not preserve monuments of their history, but only a certain obscure and vague memory of some facts recorded in certain paintings. As for their virtues, if you want to know of their temperance and meekness, what can one expect of men given over to all manner of passions and loathsome fickleness and prone to feeding on human flesh?”

Sepúlveda applies the concept of cannibalism as a time-catalyser that divides civilization from barbarism. The cannibals not only represent the most primitive nature of the human, but also the anti-natural. The slight variations in the translations highlight a delineation of the cannibal in time and value: The first


The translation is quoted from an online text prepared by Coroleu as an instructional anthology for his master class on Spanish imperial history at the University of Warwick, unfortunately without any year references.

6.5 The Valladolid Debate: Toleration and/as Cannibalism


quote emphasizes on the biological differentiation between humans and cannibals, as well as on the ‘archaic’ character of the difference; the second quote is formulated in a language comparable to social theory. The ‘cultural inferiority’ is portrayed as a ‘vague memory’ or a cultural artificiality, perhaps even an ideology. The lack of possession of “any monument to their history” is paraphrased into the lack to “preserve monuments of their history”. Likewise, the application of ‘virtues’ differ substantially. In the first translation, “those who eat human flesh” are outside the realm of virtues. In Coreleu’s translation, Sepúlveda refers to the vices (or negative virtues) of those ‘feeding human flesh’. The adoption of ‘eating’ may refer to an individual action, while ‘feeding’ is necessary a relational concept, which entails a feeder (also cultivator) and a nurtured. In that respect, the second quote involves a moral denunciation of the lack of culture and the absence of virtues. It implies a devastating critique on parenthood, which seeks to block cultural renewal by policing the nurturing and the education of younger generations. Cannibals are unaware of the sacred value of the body, which is the worldly representation of God. By transgressing this regime of representation, cannibals not only injure God, but are traitors to the godly gift of life (Bassnett/ Trivedi 2002: 1). As traitors, practitioners of cannibalism must be defeated. In essence, cannibalism, as the empirical evidence for the lack of faith and compassion, justified war and genocide. The violence towards cannibals develops into a necessary condition for human evolution. Based on Aristotles’ Politics18 , Sepúlveda (1552) argues that the colonial subjects, born barbarous by nature, violated natural law. In this regard, there were legal and natural reasons for defending their servitude (servidumbre) (Sepúlveda 1552: 291; 325); however, as Schmitt (2006: 3) points out, not their enslavement. Sepúlveda concludes (1961: n.n.): “…that the Spanish have a perfect right to rule these barbarians of the New World and the adjacent islands, who in prudence, skill, virtues, and humanity are as inferior to the Spanish as children to adults, or women to men, for there exists between the two as great a difference as between savage and cruel races and the most merciful, between the most intemperate and the moderate and temperate and, I might even say, between apes and men.”


Aristotle’s argumentation on natural slaves in Politica (Bk I: Ch. 2: 1128 quoted in Schmitt 2006: 103) states: “For that which can foresee by the exercise of mind is by nature intended to be lord and master, and that which can with its body give effect to such foresight is a subject, and by nature a slave; hence master and slave have the same interest.”


6 Translation in the Valladolid Debate

Sepúlveda claimed to unveil what he considered the ‘untrue nature’ of the colonized, yet he subsumed the civilizations in America to an artifice. He claimed to offer an empirical and analytical evidence of the difference’s inferiority. The mission to unveil (via description) the primitive instincts of the culturally foreign goes hand in hand with a moral condemnation. His fixation with the praxis of anthropophagy highlights that tight connection. Sustained with cannibalistic tales and traveller’s journeys, Sepúlveda’s hermeneutic impulse to describe and classify non-European peoples entails an imperative for intervention. Though cannibalism, Sepúlveda condemned the original inhabitants of The Indies as infrahuman and, in doing so, he legitimized their future inhuman treatment. He sustains this argument with the theological imperative jus ad bellum, which converts war into the ultimate ‘just cause’ (1552: 291). The just cause neutralizes violence if it is applied for humanitarian ends such as saving the true faith, spreading civilization, and cultivating human virtues. Thereby, Sepúlveda justifies the benefits of violence twice: through the moral supremacy of the conquerors, as well as by natural law. Anthropophagy designs an inhuman practice. It negates the humanity of the eaters of human flesh and of those being consumed. This concept allowed localizing non-European peoples in a cartography that legitimizes external domination. Cannibalism situates The Indies as a place, where material and intellectual dispossession is justifiable. Cannibalism evolves into a euphemism, or better: a metaphor for describing the lack of civilization outside of Europe. Applied politically, the concept (and its evidence) permits the misrecognition of differences. The abysmal distance between the ‘known’ and the ‘foreign’ is due to the difference’s nature. Hence, the colonizer has no moral responsibility in understanding ‘it’. Moreover, maintaining the heuristic distance becomes essential for the safety and survival of the colonial power. In this sense, the cultural difference between Indians and Europeans can neither be converted nor assimilated. For Sepúlveda, translation is impossible. Although Las Casas and Sepúlveda formulate detrimentally opposed political advice, both emphasise upon the heuristic distance required in dealing with the difference. Las Casas argues in favour of persuading the difference of the truth in their own language, thereby, creating a distanced relation of dependence between the conscious missionary and the unconscious subject who undergoes the translation. Sepúlveda yearns to eradicate the unspeakable difference. The heuristic distance may be summarized in the following sense: whereas Las Casas’ solution implies a government through tutelage, his opponent appeals for the government through institutionalized terror.

6.5 The Valladolid Debate: Toleration and/as Cannibalism


Trapped in the metaphor of cannibalism and in the ritual of the baptism, the difference’s incapacity to speak, hence, to name and to baptize is a common feature in both argumentations. The discussants seek to block the transmission of knowledge from the older to the younger generations in the colonies. Thereby, they seek to avoid biological and cultural reproduction and to prevent the miseducation and corruption of the future generations. In this sense, the Valladolid Debate institutionalizes the difference’s speechlessness by the means of political obliteration. El-Tayeb (2011: xxvii) describes the process of externalization of foreignness from the definition of Europe as “the relationship between racial memory and amnesia”. The active amnesia consists of creating a humanistic narrative of colonialism, which “is rarely framed in relation to the long history of the racialization of religion in Europe”. The translation of the difference into the civilized discussed in the Valladolid Debate is already a question which negates extra-European humanity and seeks mimicry. Las Casas’ plea for the conversion of the difference into Christianity, and Sepúlveda’s cause for its unachievable translation refuse extra-European humanity. In other words, both argumentations presuppose that the histories of the non-European peoples originate with European colonialism. In this sense, the history of humanism is tightly related with the colonial translation, or ontological trial, carried out by Las Casas and Sepúlveda. The moral and legal ambiguity of the Valladolid Debate is precisely illustrated in its further reception. The discussants’ antagonistic positions are interpreted within the barbarian-civilized scheme, i.e., between a humanist and ethical Las Casas and an anti-humanist and immoral Sepúlveda.19 On the one hand, Las Casas is considered a Rousseau avant la lettre and is an important source for Montaigne’s humanism. His chronicles influenced anticolonial movements in the metropole of Holland’s colonial empire (Grosfoguel 2014), and his plea for the convertibility of Spanish colonial subjects into Christianity accorded him the name of “the Apostle of the Indians”. He is also the founding thinker of the figure of the ‘noble savage’, which became a popular motive of European literature from the 17th century onward. Further, Las Casas’ argumentation on the fairer treatment of colonial subjects in the name of the Divine Law is mentioned among the intellectual contributions to Abolitionism (Fredrickson 2012), and he figures as intellectual source of the first-generation


For a critique on Sepúlveda see: Buey 1992. For a critique on Las Casas see: Schmitt 2006 and Wynter 2003.


6 Translation in the Valladolid Debate

Latin American theologist-philosophers of liberation.20 Nowadays his writings are quoted as a source in the critical definition of the concept of ‘race’.21 On the other hand, Sepúlveda has been described as both: humanist and antihumanist (Schmitt 2006: 102). Las Casas labelled Sepúlveda “sower of discords and enemy of humanity”22 (Schmitt 2006: 102). The apparent paradox in a humanist thinker, who puts forward inhuman arguments, inspired Carl Schmitt to quote, in Nomos of the Earth ([1950]2006), the Valladolid Debate. According to Schmitt (2006: 104), judging Sepúlveda as inhuman or immoral entails an anachronism, since: “The inhuman-humanitarian distinction did not stand out as primary, although the higher European civilization did become a standard justification for colonization.” Then, he adds (ibid.) that during that time: “practically speaking, discrimination based on biological arguments was unknown”. Schmitt suggests that the duality in Sepúlveda’s conception is compatible with the respublica Christiana, “with its distinction between the territory of Christian peoples and that of heathens or non-believers”. In this colonial geography, the savage is not inherently inhuman, but rather ignorant of his humanity. Freeing the savage from his untrue condition is a moral task, which includes the earned punishment for not receiving in exchange the cultivation (Schmitt 2006: 109). As he notes (ibid.: 102–103): “Sepúlveda presented the natives as savages and barbarians (with reference to Aristotle), in order to place them outside the law and to make their land free for appropriation. […] This Aristotelian argument was inhuman in its outcome. But it derived from a particular concept of humanity: the higher humanity of the conqueror.”

Schmitt (ibid.: 104) alludes to “[t]he coherence of this two-sided aspect of the idea of humanity”, in which the epistemic arrogance that places Indians hors l’humanité (outside humanity) guarantees to Christians the title of discovery and property over the colonial territories (Ibid.: 103). Las Casas’ argumentation contains the same paradox: his plea is not only a grounding moment in the intellectual 20

See José Carlos Mariátegui’s 7 Ensayos de Interpretación de la Realidad Peruana (1928); and Enrique Dussel’s Método para una filosofía de la liberación. Superación analéctica de la dialéctica hegeliana (1991). For a recent analysis of Las Casas as humanist see the book of the French Philosopher Nestor Capdevila (1998). 21 See the entries on ‘race’ (James/ Burgos 2022), ‘Frederick Douglass’ (Sundstrom 2022) and ‘colonialism’ (Kohn/ Reddy 2022) in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 22 The original quote in Las Casas, also quoted by Schmitt (2006: 102), states: “Sembrador de discordias y enemigo de la humanidad”.

6.5 The Valladolid Debate: Toleration and/as Cannibalism


history of humanism, it also legitimises the collective evangelisation, proselytization, and conversion into Christianity of non-Western peoples worldwide. His argumentation conveys that through conversion, Indians cease to be a collectivegeneric noun and evolve into individual owners of a Christian name. As faithful Christians, Indians would be free. Las Casas’ humanism is, therefore, deeply missionary (Wynter 2003). Following this interpretation, decolonial thinker Sylvia Wynter (2003: 269) summarizes the Valladolid Debate: “as a dispute […] between two descriptive statements of the human: one for which the expansion of the Spanish state was envisaged as a function of the Christian evangelizing mission, the Other for which the latter mission was seen as a function of the imperial expansion of the state; a dispute, then, between the theocentric conception of the human, Christian, and the new humanist and ratiocentric conception of the human, Man 2 (i.e., as homo politicus, or the political subject of the state).”

Las Casas and Sepúlveda agree on the suppression of the difference as essential for the transmission of civilization. The application of violence against the colonized is a necessary component in the development (but also survival) of humanity. Hence, violence is not just a means for cultivation. Under the same paternalistic logic, the failure in adopting civilization is attributed to the difference’s deviant nature. In this context, the uses of violence are justified in a tautological sense: as evidence of mundane progress and of the colonizers’ cultural supremacy. The discussants’ rhetorical strategies thus demonstrate, as Rainer Forst in the entry for ‘Toleration’ in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2017) explains, that Christian values, which form the core of several modern justifications of toleration, are Janus-faced, i.e.: “always bound by the superior aim to serve the ‘true’ faith”. The Valladolid Debate demonstrates that the survival of the colonial power depends upon the conversion, for this forced ‘evidence’ justified the supremacy of Christianity and therefore legitimized occupation, while ensuring loyalty to the invaders. Las Casas and Sepúlveda define conversion as the path to collective freedom, as well as to individual liberty. Reworded as translation, the conversion of the difference positions Europe as the original cultural identity. The process of assimilation to the colonizer’s culture amounts to a domestication, which could not be fulfilled without the missionaries’ task. The Valladolid Debate reinforces the male historical figures of the


6 Translation in the Valladolid Debate

encomendero23 (by Sepúlveda) and the missionary (by Las Casas) as the legitimate transmitters of Christianity. According to the discussants, the missionary personifies the colonial attempt to translate the colonized into a civilized man. He is the translator of the man of nature into the history of civilization. Acting literally as cultural translators, the colonial agents, such as Las Casas himself, had the task of educating and cultivating the Indians into Christians, i.e., the task of Bildung. Missionaries thus embodied the moral duty and human responsibility to indoctrinate into freedom. The civic task of cultivation is carried out in the name of the Spanish nation and for the survival of the empire. The task, or better, the mission of the male colonial agent is to ensure the survival of the colonial, political, and cultural power. The colonizer’s task, as the discussant’s speech-acts indicate, is directed towards the future. In this sense, their duty constitutes a patriotic act. These figures are public servants and carriers of civilization and Spanish legacy. Described by Las Casas and Sepúlveda in terms of inferiority, the local population of The Indies are defined as incapable of both cultivation and governing themselves (Arendt 1944: 68). In order to overcome their natural condition, the non-Catholic, non-Spanish speakers required the intervention of a second nature/culture, a second language and religion, which was regarded not only as the original, but also as superior in sophistication, morality, and degree of cultural complexity. The transformation/translation of the difference is not an exchange between equivalents. It stands for the metamorphosis of the natural man into the human-Christian-European. Thereby, conversion attains the meaning of the birth of non-Europeans as humans and reaffirms colonialism as the sole path to leave ignorance and cannibalism. The controversy frames and is framed by the humanitarian-civilizing approach to global history that understands colonial expansion as evidence of a fatality for development. In this sense, the Valladolid Debate resignifies the scientific concept of discovery analytically and morally. Las Casas and Sepúlveda reaffirmed Columbus’ white supremacist gaze and fear of being consumed by non-Europeans: Colonialism was no contingency, but providence of European superiority (Schmitt 2006: 108).


The encomendero was the beneficiary of Indian forced labour and received tribute or personal service. In exchange, he was supposed to provide religious education. Due to the precarious situation in the encomiendas, the system based on a concession of land and compulsory labour, the Indigenous population declined considerably (Almeida de Souza 2006). Las Casas is well-known for opposing this system.

6.6 Redefining the Difference’s Translatability



Redefining the Difference’s Translatability

The Valladolid Debate seeks to resolve the hermeneutical challenge of comprehending the difference for governing and administering its exploitation. In the colony, the encounter between the man of nature and the civilized man is transformed into a hermeneutical problem. The nature of the former is unveiled through description. However, the natural man also evolved into a recognizable figure, who presents either a danger or an enrichment for the dominant culture and occupying power. The debate’s theological and epistemological motivations thus delivered political answers as a result of the fact that the hermeneutical challenge of recognizing the difference is a political question. Independently of the outcome about the true nature of the colonized, the controversy revisited the body politic on both sides of the Atlantic. It reshaped the colonizers’ duties towards the colonized as well as the policies concerning transcontinental migration and reproduction laws. The debate restructured the legitimacy in the application of force and colonial violence over the colonized body, so as the possibilities of communication and contact with those differentiated bodies. The debate about the humanity of the difference implied a global restructuration in the division of labour. Questioning the systematic human exploitation in the plantations of the Caribbean and Mesoamerica, the Valladolid Debate includes an economic dimension. As Schmitt—in his reading of Sepúlveda—hints, the cultural transfiguration of the local population is moved by a deep economic interest. In Schmitt’s words (2006: 103): “to deny Indians human qualities had the practical aim of obtaining a legal title for the great land-appropriation”. Quoting de Vitoria (1532), he (ibid.: 107) further states: “Concretely speaking, this was the basis of the moral and juridical conclusion that all the Spaniards’ rights vis-a-vis the barbarians also were valid in reverse - they were reversible asjura contraria [contrary laws], as rights of barbarians vis-a-vis Spaniards, i.e., they were unconditionally reciprocal and invertible. If Christians and non-Christians, Europeans and non-Europeans, civilized peoples and barbarians have equal rights, all concepts necessarily are reversible. Consequently, such a legal title (occupatio bonorum nullius [non-possession of goods]) was of no more use to Spaniards than if the reverse had been the case, i.e., if Indians had discovered them: non plus quam si illi invenissent nos [no more than if they had found us].”

Schmitt (ibid.: 107) concludes this analytical explanation about the “irrational right of discovery” with the hypothetical example of reciprocity of facts, to which he adds the following pejorative judgement: “Today, however, this claim


6 Translation in the Valladolid Debate

has the ring of an all-too abstract, neutral, apathetic, and, thus, ahistorical exaggeration”. The epistemic arrogance in his clarification of de Vitoria’s principle of reciprocity denotes the historical impossibility, even parody, in reasoning a non-European humanism, or in composing a global history from a perspective that decentres Europe. Following this logic, the Valladolid Debate reaffirmed the order put in place by the colonial gaze. It defined humanism by redefining the limits of humanity. In the first part of the controversy, Las Casas and Sepúlveda redefine humanity by quoting Augustine, Aquino, and Aristotle. In its second part, the discussants refer to events in social history and compare the encounter with the foreign identity to older domestic encounters with differences. Borrowing from distinctions traced among Christians, Jews, and Muslims (named Moors) in the 14th and 15th centuries, the discussants relate the history of New Spain to Spain. Thereby, the ‘new’ difference between Christians and Indians is evaluated through familiar concepts, associative chains of meaning, and historical references that express previous encounters with non-Christians, gentiles, or infidels. In his Reply IV (1552a: 363–4; emphasis added), Las Casas traces the following comparison: “The blasphemy punished by the church is the one made on purpose by the unfaithful Moors and Turks through mockery and disavowal, or defamation of the faith: in order to prevent that those, who would receive it, receive it (it is worth knowing) by speaking badly about our redemptor Jesus Christ, or about his saints and church. And it is about this blasphemy that St. Thomas speaks in that article. 8. Question 10. There declares Caietano: and the professor Vitoria in his lecture of the same passage. Then St. Thomas does not understand that by means of any blasphemy it is possible to do war against the infidels. Then, as our apologia proves, Sepúlveda is misled. Everything else that St. Augustine claims or confuses in his epistles and decrees is claimed in a grievously, inept and false sense, for he goes only considering the judgments and doctrines of the saints in order to covering up, color, or shave his pernicious doctrine.”24


The original passage of Las Casas ([1552a]1997: 363–4; emphasis added) states: “Mas la que pune y castiga la yglesia es aquella que los infieles moros y turcos cometen de proposito: escarneciendo, y desautorizando, o infamando a la fe: para impedir que los que la recibiran no la reciban (conviene saber) diziendo mal de nuestro redemptor jesu Christo, o de sus santos, o de su yglesia. Y desta habla Sancto thomas en aquel ar. 8. q. 10. Como alli declara el Caietano: y el doctissimo maestro Vitoria en su letura de aquel octauo arti. Luego no por toda blasfemia entiende Sancto Thomas que se puede contra los infieles hazer guerra. Luego engañado esta el doctor Sepulveda como mas largo va probado en nuestra apologia. Todo lo demas que allega, o arreboruja el reverendo doctor de Sant augustin en sus epistolas, y decretos allega la ynepta y falsamente y es todo frivolo, porque no anda sino considerando las sentencias y doctrina de los santos para encobrir, o colorar, o afeytar su ponçoñosa doctrina.”

6.6 Redefining the Difference’s Translatability


In this passage, Las Casas offers a differentiated analysis of the motives behind blasphemy and betrayal. He compares religious differences, which are, however, ethnically traced. In his scheme, ‘Moors’ and ‘Turks’ are untranslatable differences. No further distinction is required for illustrating the collective nouns. Las Casas insinuates to argue as a historian in opposition to the ideologist Sepúlveda, who is unable to distinguish between conscious and ignorant infidels and is driven by violence. Sustaining that the conversion of Indians into faithful Christians was not only possible, but also desirable, Las Casas was aware that their labour had to be analytically and pragmatically distinguished from the economic category of slavery. Arguing with Aristotle, Las Casas does not seek to supress the institution of slavery. Instead, he elevates the Indians above it. As a result of the fact that they were ‘saved’ while being portrayed outside the realm of barbarism, the vacuum of labour force created after the conversion of the Indians was to be refilled by the supply of ‘authentic’ slaves. In his apologia for the Indians, Las Casas pitted the humanity of the Indians against the humanity of Black-Africans. Despite the resistance wars carried out by former enslaved peoples, which transpired at the beginning of the 16th century in Haiti, where Las Casas was settled, he proposed to Carlos V in 1516 that every colonist should possess four slaves: two men and two women (Almeida de Souza 2006: 27). Supporting the shipping of people from Africa into The Indies, Las Casas theoretically and pragmatically perpetuated the tricontinental market of slavery. In the evaluation of the possibilities of cultural conversion, Las Casas pitted The Indian Question against the Black Question: The liberation of the Indians from slavery requires the ontologization of the concept of slave. The transportation of human beings reduced to labour force meant the dehumanization of the original inhabitants of the African continent, who, in the violent process of deportation from their own homelands and the following transplantation into the Spanish West-Indian colonies, were rendered into slaves. In other words, the solution to the Indian Question required the translation of the Black body into a colonial product. Therefore, as Grosfoguel (2013) notes, the recognition of the Indian’s humanity globalized anti-Black racism, in other words, the Valladolid Debate holds responsibility for the ontological reduction of Black-Africans to the history of the enslavement. In Grosfoguel’s words (2013: 84): “The decision to bring captives from Africa to enslave them in the Americas was directly related to the conclusion of the 1552 Valladolid trial. Here begins the massive kidnapping and captive trade of Africans that is going to be enforced for the next 300


6 Translation in the Valladolid Debate

years. With the enslavement of Africans, religious racism was complemented with or slowly replaced by color racism. Since then, anti-black racism became a foundational constitutive structuring logic of the modern/colonial world.”

As the conqueror in the Valladolid Debate, Las Casas is both a subverter of colonial order and reproducer of colonial violence. Anchored in the intersection between moral denunciation and racism, his plea establishes an ontological hierarchy, which enables the comparison between Spaniards and Indians upon the common basis of anti-Black racism. Both Sepúlveda and Las Casas act as translators of an unknown difference, who prescribe the contact with racialized (non-white) identities. Thereby, they establish new relations of power and relocate the right to mistreat. Claiming that conversion is the path to the redemption of the colonized as well as to the verification of Christian supremacy, Las Casas and Sepúlveda reduce the difference to the inhuman within the human. To put it another way, the difference’s description already entails the minoritization of the difference. For both discussants, the difference is equivalent to a minority, what differs is its capacity of transformation, i.e., its translatability into the original non-differentiated norm. Las Casas and Sepúlveda convey from a single locus that evaluates the translatability of differences into humanity. In both cases, the cultural assimilation (which is a synonym for conversion) presupposes a radical alienation of the difference from itself. The difference is rendered a ‘foreign proper’ for rendering ‘it’ human. This aggressive process, which occurs as an ontological trial, can be reformulated as anthropophagy. Such a violent translation presupposes that the familiarity with the difference is attainable through the suppression of the local cultural identities. The loyalty attained through the differences’ domestication ensures the survival of the colonizers’ culture and power. Thereby, conversion and enslavement are portrayed as necessary for the freedom of colonizers and colonized. Weighing the translatability of Indians into Christians, both argumentations translate the Indian into theology and international right. In the words of Schmitt (2006: 106–7): “the humanitarian concept of ‘discovery’ so laden with history in the modern view”, “or the right of civilized peoples” have been decisive “in European international law.” Defining the freedom of the colonized as dependent on cultural conversion, or total assimilation, the Valladolid Debate highlights the relation between culture and translation in the empire. Yet, it also showcases the tight relation between the conception of secular freedom, colonialism, and enslavement. In other words,

6.6 Redefining the Difference’s Translatability


the colonial translation of the difference reframes historiography by intersecting religious redemption and worldly ‘development’. In the encounter with the non-Western, the cultural difference is overcome only insofar the “otherness of the original” is not as strange as to impede its familiarization. To rephrase this idea, cultural fidelity requires a certain affinity (and affiliation) between the proper and the difference to take place. Judging upon the nature of the non-white body, the discussants hint that the distance between the proper and the foreign, i.e., between European and Indians, can only be overcome through total translation. Thereby, the ontological trial performed by Las Casas and Sepúlveda link translation and empire not only in a metaphorical sense: As Douglas Robinson (1997) points out, the intrinsic potentiality to expand and standardize languages and cultures establishes translation as a valuable imperial tool. Also, Schmitt (2006: 9) points to a geography of resemblances within the empire and concludes: “The Spanish right to intervention was deployed especially on behalf of those Indians who had converted to Christianity.” The Valladolid Debate, thus not only relates, but also affiliates Europe and the Americas through Hispanic American historiography, while, at the same time, disaffiliating Africa from global history, and the Black Question from social history as well as from the history of humanism.


Translation and the Jewish Question

This chapter focuses on the second case of study: The Jewish Question. As with the previous chapter, this reconstruction also intersects conceptual history and social history. Both dimensions of the Jewish Question will be reconstructed through the analysis of the debate between Marx and Bauer in the 19th century. The Jewish Question will then be redefined in terms of a conceptual dilemma and a social paradox. First, it will be situated within national history and historiography; more specifically, in the tension between the nationalization of culture and the minoritization of identities. Thereby, I will describe the debate as the modern paradigm of translation. For this aim, I will approach the problem of historicizing the Jewish Question and its significance to history and modern historiography. Thereby, the following two dimensions will be outlined: The national character of the Jewish Question and the transnational character of the public ma(r)king of Jews as the national difference. Secondly, I will centre on the discussants’ semantics for illustrating the notion that the public denunciation of the difference entails a transformation of identities. In the third section, the following question will be pursued: How do the discussants argue for the translation of the Jew into citizen? This process will be explained by approaching translation as emancipation. In the fourth section, the translatability of Jewishness will be compared to the translatability of the ‘Indian’. Thereby, the Jewish Question will be situated between the nationalization of memory and colonial amnesia. The chapter concludes with an introspection of the affiliations between the Jewish Question and Orientalism, which localizes the Jewish Question between colonial and postcolonial history.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, part of Springer Nature 2023 T. Mancheno, Ma(r)king the Difference,




7 Translation and the Jewish Question

The Jewish Question in National Historiography

The Jewish Question is inscribed in national historiography and constituted an event of national significance. Since the formulation of this social-religious question coincided with the constitution of the modern nation-state in Europe, its politicization, or in Bauer’s (1843) terms its ‘popularity’, mobilized concepts belonging to the field of modern political concepts such as citizenship, nationality, and national minorities (Arendt 1951; Mufti 2007). In Part One of her book The Origins of Totalitarianism, entitled ‘Antisemitism’, Arendt (1951: 3–120) reconstructs the Jewish Question in its articulations with national history and European history. Yet, she also highlights the spatial and historiographical ambivalences inherent to this Question. According to Aamir Mufti (2007: 2, 8), the Jewish Question condenses “the experience of citizenship” and national belonging. He reformulates the cultural crisis and conflict over the national difference articulated in this Question as the political moment that puts “the figure of the secular citizen subject itself” at stake. Contemporaneous to the nationalization of language and the institutionalization of civil rights, the Jewish Question illustrates the cultural constitution of the nation and the translation of the citizen as a subject of rights. Buden (2008: III) explains the interweaving between culture and translation from the following perspective: “[S]ince language and culture are the very essence of nation for the German Romantics, its ultimate purpose was to build a German nation. However, it is due to this context-based teleology of translation that transcends the purpose of communication and the horizon of an allegedly pure linguistic practice that German translation theory is also seen as nationalistic. Indeed, it reduces translation to an auxiliary practice of nation-building.”

German Romanticism defines translation as the task that contributes to the nationbuilding, or in German: Bildung. Privileging ethnocentrism, translation allows building a national culture (Buden et al. 2009: 199) while also ensuring its survival. According to Buden (et al. 2009: 199) and Ivekovi´c (2008a), this linguistic patriotism frames modern historiography. Anderson’s (1983) description of the nation as an “imagined community”, which is the dominant definition of the modern cultural collectivity in the social sciences, emphasizes two features: the national cultural homogeneity, and the textual understanding of culture. As a metaphor, the “imagined community” suggests that national identity is primarily created as a literary praxis, through which the

7.1 The Jewish Question in National Historiography


‘cultural we’ is invented, written and reproduced. The imagined boundaries of the nation are built through collective narratives. Its textual composition implies that: “communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness but by the style in which they are imagined” (Anderson 1983: 6). Anderson suggests that it is the continuity in the political community, what he refers to as “nation-ness” (ibid.: 4), which distinguishes the value and significance of nations. The historian (ibid.: 11) describes the paradigmatic change in historiography set in motion by the constitution of modern nations in the following sense: “[W]hat […] was required was a secular transformation of fatality into continuity, contingency into meaning. […F]ew things were better suited to this end than an idea of nation.” This nation-ness is, however, not completely disassociated from theological patterns. Anderson (ibid.) explains the co-existence of two conceptions of history as followed: “If nation-states are widely conceded to be ‘new’ and ‘historical,’ the nations to which they give political expression always loom out of an immemorial past”. The correlation of both temporalities enables the constant renewal of the nation. In a similar sense, Balibar (1997: 153) quotes Fichte’s Fifth Address to the German Nation (1808) stating that national language is “the essence of the social bound(ing)”, which never ‘is’, but rather ‘becomes’ (Die Sprache, die niemals ist, sondern ewigfort wird). Implemented as self-referential source for national development, the national language creates the idea of the nation, which is both a proper name and a common good. Building upon Herder’s linguistic patriotism, Anderson (1983: 68) clarifies the politicization of what he refers to as the “splendidly eng-European conception of nation-ness” during the 19th century. Linked to, as he expressed, “a private-property language”, linguistic patriotism is also related to nationalism and capitalism.1 In his words (ibid.: 67): “‘national print-languages’ were of central ideological and political importance”. Since the nation emerges from the canonising of language, national identity appears as a natural result from the relationship among the nation, translation and culture. In the national paradigm of translation, the translator thus faces both a foreign language and a cultural foreignness (Buden 2006). Bearing an undecipherable character to strangers and yet, a self-evident meaning for its members, the nation’s originality lies in the fact that its cultural heritage, i.e., its specificity 1

From a Marxist perspective on history and politics, Anderson explains the significance of the national language used in newspapers as the result of a complex ‘print-capitalism’. See: Anderson 1983: mostly chapter three with the ambitious title “The Origins of National Consciousness”. See also: Hobsbawm 2005.


7 Translation and the Jewish Question

gained through history, cannot be translated. The nation’s singularity is national uniqueness. In the words of Fichte (1808): der Deutsche, die Deutschheit. Anderson (1983: 18) further describes national culture as characterized by an “original insular obscurity”. The “modern myth” or the “truthfulness of the fictiveness” of nations presupposes that only nationals can experience the nation as real. In the national form, culture is self-referential: Solely members, who have access to the codes, customs and tradition building up the collectivity by jurisdiction (Anderson 1983: 204) may experience and be part of the nation. From the non-national’s point of view, culture remains fictive. In other words, whereas nations are to nationals their own image, i.e., what establishes them as to what they are, these remain fictive to foreigners and aliens.2 Following the German Romantics, Koselleck (2006: 432) elaborates on the translation problem [Übersetzungsproblem] posed between German and French national history. He implies that the ‘functional equivalents’ for concepts in the other language only exist in the form of isolated ‘components of meaning’. In his words: “die Ländergeschichten zeigen, dass sich funktionale Äquivalente der Begriffe häufig nur für einzelne Bedeutungskomponenten finden lassen”. Both Fichte (1922) and Derrida (1998: 1) express that the untranslatability of culture is typified in the figure of the national. The ‘German’ or ‘Frenchman’ is someone who is cultivated by his national language as well as cultivates and preserves his language. Nationality does not reduce national culture to the passive acquisition of rights. It articulates the ‘historical marriage’ between culture and the rights and duties of citizens. Nationality thus expresses the artificial cultural complementarity between the national subject and the subject of rights (Mancheno 2016). Buden (2008: III) analyses the cultural competition among nations in defining national identity and refers to a political agenda proper to German Romanticism. He indicates that Humboldt and Schleiermacher are thinkers, who “imagine foreignizing translation as a nationalist practice that can build a German language and literature and overcome the cultural and political domination that France exercises over German-speaking lands”. In the binary scheme distinguishing between nationals and non-nationals, translations are tools, which—blurring out differences—facilitate the constitution 2

Note in this context the motive of the “unknown soldier”. Despite his namelessness, this public figure constitutes a nationally known identity (Anderson 1983: 7, 9–10). The phenomenological absence of his masculine body is filled with a sacral presence in the public space. Identification and masculinity are central elements in the Western-centric genealogy of nations’ narratives. For a discussion on the gendered conceptions of the nation see: Ivekovi´c 2003.

7.1 The Jewish Question in National Historiography


of the national body. Applied as instruments for assimilation, translations absorb cultural differences into the dominant culture. The assimilation of non-national differences is unavoidable for the survival of the national culture, as well as for the conceptualization of the modern citizen, which is not accidentally, also the national. Yet, translations also exacerbate the irreconcilability between the cultural norm and the non-domestic differences. The potential of conflict among national identities and those, which become differentiated as non-national or as untranslatable increases. Therefore, the nation requires a regime that controls the affiliation and fidelity to the respective cultural community. As Chatterjee (1982: 4) suggests: “The classification of people by culture is the classification by nationality”. In this cultural regime, nationals embody nationality. This attachment is acquired at birth and apprehended through the modern tongue. The nationalized body gives birth to the idea of national originality. In the form of cultural citizenship, nationality is essential for the nation’s cultural renewal. Nationality is bearer of national meaning, or what Derrida (1998: 1) refers to as “the absolute habitat of monolingualism”. According to Chatterjee (1986: 4), nationality permits the aesthetization of the nation into a narrative that renders cultural belonging ‘universally particular’. The national culture is apprehensible through a privileged system of political and cultural re-presentation. Balibar and Wallerstein (1991), as well as Stuart Hall (1992; 2000) agree upon a depiction of the nation’s form as the literary production of a homogenous identity. Since literary production is necessary in forging a national sense of belonging, the intellectual exercise of historicising the nation implies an analysis on the public adoption of language. The authors scrutinize the power of monoculturality and the politicised application of the national culture by analysing the intellectual production on national historicity. Through a critical reading of the nationalization (Balibar/ Wallerstein 1991), or popularization of culture and language (Hall 1992), the authors point to a sort of ‘viscerality’ of culture. From their point of view, the nation’s textuality is not only considered fiction, but also an artefact. The artificial body—also termed the ‘body politic’ (Stoler 2017)—is re-presented in the territorial boundaries of the nation, as well as in the corporality of the human body. To put it another way, the cultural authenticity and irreproducibility of the nation culminate in the nationalization of the (political) body or the body politic. The idea of the nation implies a spatial-temporal junction, which conflates projection, decision, action and (spiritual) becoming (Balibar 1997: 153). According to Buden (2008: VII), the “regime of fidelity”, which goes along, politicizes fidelity as patriotism. This national identification signifies that: “[a] translator


7 Translation and the Jewish Question

can never be simply faithful to a ‘true’ meaning of an original text but rather to some values of its context as well as of the context of his or her translation”. The regime also moulds the culturally non-national or the non-translatable. In Buden’s (ibid.) words: “Translation never encounters the untranslatable as such—for it only ever encounters the untranslatable that has been made untranslatable. ‘Made’ means here contextually foreclosed, i.e., foreclosed under the particular regime of fidelity. Thus, what from the perspective of translation appears as untranslatable is in fact its foreclosed context. It doesn’t consist of the words of a foreign language that can still be learned and translated; it is neither an excluded value waiting to be readmitted nor a suppressed truth that, by deploying a special technique, we can disclose and make conscious … but it can be encountered nevertheless. What fidelity has foreclosed, only a betrayal can encounter. What has been made untranslatable, only a translation as an event of betrayal and emancipation can (re)create. This is how translation helps ‘newness’ to enter the world.”

The encounter with the untranslatable entails the experience of betrayal to the ‘proper’. This transgression, which occurs in the translation, functions as a metaphor for explaining the difficulty posed by the Jewish Question for national historiography. The minoritized difference within an imagined community encompasses a challenge or critique to the national monoculturality, hence, to the model of political affiliation. The Jewish Question intervenes national historiography exposing the totalitarian history of the nation-state and revealing the transnational history of national minoritization. The difficulty of including or excluding the question of minorities from national history mirrors the problem in defining the Jewish Question either as a national question, or instead, as a question of minorities. Consider the following paradox: Is the encounter between the German and the Jew inherent to the national narrative? Or does it rather stand for the encounter between the national and the untranslatable, or the radical foreign? These options result in either the nationalization or the foreignizing of Jewishness. Reformulating this decision as the act of translation unveils the meaning of betrayal for social and conceptual history. In the last quote, Buden suggests that due to social construction of differences, the final judgment upon the encounter is contingent. In other words, the conflict upon the inclusion of the difference into national historiography is never finally solved. He describes the encounter between the cultural norm and the difference as a changing boundary. In his words (2008: VII): if “[t]he relation between the translatable and the untranslatable is the irreducible binary relation

7.1 The Jewish Question in National Historiography


that no translation can escape”, then it “takes the form of an encounter and is fully contingent, for the very site of this encounter, the boundary between translatable and untranslatable, is contingent too.” The encounter is thus understood as a ‘translational practice’, which is inherent to the renewal of national culture and identity. In a Schmittian sense, this indicates that the mar(k)ing of the difference appears as a constitutive moment for both the national (ex-)communion and (ex-)communication. In short, the ‘translational practice’ transforms the limits of property of the ‘national-private’ language. The question of minorities, which is constitutive of the Jewish Question, condenses the asymmetry between the national norm and the difference. Staging a political and historiographical difficulty, the Jewish Question implies an act of translation. The evaluation of ‘the’ Jews’ capacity to be translated, i.e., their translatability, or untranslatability into national citizens, is determined by their potential of betrayal to the cultural norm. From this perspective, the Jewish Question is definable in a twofold sense; it builds a minoritarian historicity, as well as the history of minoritization (Deleuze/ Guattari 2005: 470). In German, this paradox is articulated in the formulation of the Jewish Question as “Historien einer Minderheit” (Raz-Krakotzkin 2002: 201). Hence, the Jewish Question is simultaneously national history and histories of minorities. The entanglement of these two historiographies conveys, as Amnon RazKrakotzkin (2002: 200) writes, that the Jewish Question is always “bi-national”. It entails the specific history of a minority within the history of a dominant culture. Representing both a component of national history and a critique against national historiography, the Jewish Question is constitutive of modern history, which (in the case of the German nation) transforms cultural belongings into legal titles of membership (Arendt 1951: 13). As a result of this double meaning of national belonging, the Jewish Question seeks synchronizing the history of minorities to national history both historically and politically. In her analysis of the Jewish Question, Arendt emphasizes on the internal plurality of histories inhabiting the Jewish Question. The numerous histories of the Jews in the Jewish Question unsettle national historiography based on cultural uniformity and intensify the heterogeneity of the ‘Jew’ in ‘Jewishness’. Altering the monoculturality and territorial rigidity of the nation from both a historical and a normative perspective, the Jewish Question suspends the linearity of modern time. Its formulation implies a crisis of identity. Etymologically, the singularity of the Jewish history, and its distinction from national history, is articulated in the concept of ’diaspora’ and «Exile» (Clifford 1994). These concepts illustrate Jewish history and historiography throughout transcontinental political


7 Translation and the Jewish Question

geographies offering alternative conceptualizations of political spaces and forms of belonging. Their spatial and temporal connotations situate the Jewish Question into a transnational context (ibid.: 328). Mufti (2007: 2) explains the historical tension between the history of minoritization and national historiography in the following sense: “the diasporic and exilic ‘ground of Jewish identity’” does not only define “Jewishness as the very disruption and disaggregation of the categories of identity”, but also positions Jewishness in—between “secularism and critique”. Likewise, according to RazKrakotzkin (2002: 201), the territorial dislocation implied in the Jewish Question illustrates a disturbance in the sequence from theology to modern history. In his words (ibid.): “Das bi-nationale Bewusstsein, das für die Erörterung der Geschichte von Eretz Israel/Palästina im 20. Jahrhundert unabdingbar ist, verweist also auch auf die Schwierigkeit, die dem Versuch innerwohnt, jüdisch Geschichte als eine autonome oder immanente zu definieren. Gleichzeitig offenbart es aber auch den Begriff ‚Exil‘ und das Bindeglied zwischen Theologie und Historiographie.”

The ambiguous relation between the historicity of Jewish history (or the history of Jewish minoritization) and national historiography lies in the tension between history and theology. Mufti (2007: 2) suggests that being “problematic of secularization and minority in post-Enlightenment liberal culture”, the Jewish Question is “the question of minority existence”. As an ontological question, it manifests the following tensions (Mufti 2007: 7): “[T]he purported indifference of the liberal state and the troubling difference of the Jews; anxious and impossible claims about the autochthony of the people; the irrationality of bureaucratic rationalism; the uncanny (unheimlich) inflections of the mother tongue in ‘alien’ hands; ‘mature’ subjectivity and the force of tradition; patriotism and the terror of divided or ambiguous loyalties; and the recurrent spectre of Hebraism in modern literature and culture.”

The “crises around the meaning of Jewishness” include claims of cultural authenticity and linguistic patriotism. The “literary dimension of this crisis” (ibid.: 2) condenses further questions on the “affiliation with the modes of critique produced out of them” (ibid.: 4). Therefore, Mufti (ibid.: 7) concludes: “It is in the eruption of such crises around the meaning of Jewishness that we get the earliest elaborations of minority cultural practice as a critique of dominant culture and its majoritarian affiliations.”

7.2 Translation in the National Context: Bauer and Marx


The Jewish Question as discussed by Marx and Bauer entangles secularism and critique. Discussing the possible transformations of religious differences, both discussants redefine fidelity and betrayal and avoid questions of economic and social redistribution. Moreover, the contingency of betrayal is adopted for associating the difference (Bauer) or the Jewish Question (Marx) with a problem or a latent danger for the German nation-ness. Marx and Bauer formulate a critique upon the incompatibilities of Jewishness to the national identity, implying Germanness. In both argumentations, the religious identity is depicted as antagonistic to the authentic political identity. Formulated around the definition of culture and its limits, the Jewish Question contests the meaning of Jewishness in particular, and of national identity in general. In the next chapter, I will discuss the terminology employed by Bauer and Marx for describing the required transformation of the difference as a solution for the crisis of national identity, and for attaining a common definition of Germanness.


Translation in the National Context: Bauer and Marx

The intellectual dispute between Marx and Bauer on the Jewish Question (1843– 1844) considers several historiographical tensions. Neither of the discussants profess to composing a history of the European or German Jews. Yet, both engage in a critique emerging from the intersection between national minorities and secular-modern historiography. Hence, Marx and Bauer problematize the relation between secularism and religion. The discussants describe an unsolved relation between the state and religion, and therefore a tension among secular, Christian, and Jewish historiography. Based on Hegel’s critique of Christianity and Judaism, as well as on Ludwig Feuerbach’s thesis The Essence of Christianity (1881), Marx and Bauer argue in favour of a shift in the criticism of religion [Religionskritik] towards a social critique [Gesellschaftskritik] (Monod 2008). Consequently, the discussants contrast the modern definition of the nation with religious conceptions of community. As in the Valladolid Debate with Las Casas and Sepúlveda, Marx and Bauer engage in a redefinition of the limits of the ‘common’. In the second debate, the boundaries of the common coincide with the confinements of the nation. Writing within a young Germany, both authors contextualize the Jewish Question as a national question simultaneously occurring in several European countries and


7 Translation and the Jewish Question

the United States. The Jewish populations living within European nation-states compose the questioned difference. Bauer’s Die Judenfrage (1843), and Marx’s response Zur Judenfrage (1844), which was translated into “On the Jewish Question” ([1972]2009), are essays of sociological and historical importance for understanding the connections between the modern state and Christianity in the Western world. On the one hand, Marx unveils this theological-political correlation through his critique of the discrepancy between national rights (of the bourgeois society) and human rights (or “the human emancipation”). On the other hand, Bauer formulates an appraisal of the incompatibilities and irreconcilabilities between national rights and group-based rights, which he dismisses as privileges. Both positions are assessments to the democratic state; more precisely, to the authenticity of the democratic state. While Bauer appeals for a renewal of the democratic state through the emancipation of Jews, Marx argues in favour of the larger emancipation from religion, i.e., a political, instead of a religious, emancipation. According to Bauer and Marx, religion represents a pre-modern state. Yet, the evolution from religion into politics, and the natural (and temporal) opposition between the “religious” and the “political” (identities) are subverted by Bauer’s employing of the dialectic concept “Christian State” (1843: 3), and Marx’s (1844) ironic utilization of the same term. The “Christian State” bears the following dilemma: Does it stand for an achieved division of politics from religion such as a secular state? Or is it rather the religious tolerance proper to the Christian State that enables Germanness (without Jewishness) to ‘survive’ in the form of national culture? The anti-Semitic potential of the debate goes beyond the discussants’ personal political choices and theoretical motivations.3 The debate rather offers a diagnosis of the semantics adopted for describing Jewish people in the 19th century from the perspective of the national culture, the German state, and Christianity (Monod 2008). Hence, the Jewish Question canalizes what Nowotny (Buden/ Nowotny 2008: 200) calls the “epistemic attitude” towards Jewish people. Even if Nowotny applies this premise for the Jewish Question in the Shoa’s/Nakba’s aftermath, his analysis is equally valuable for the debates in the 19th century. Even during that time, the Jewish Question implied an epistemic approach, which creates a hermeneutic relation with the difference. Nowotny 3

For a critique on the semantic reproduction of anti-Semitism in Marx see the work of Edmund Silberner: “Was Marx an Anti-Semite?” (1949), and his book Kommunisten zur Judenfrage. Zur Geschichte von Theorie und Praxis des Kommunismus (1982). See also Helmuth Hirsch’s Marx und Moses. Karl Marx zur « Judenfrage» und zu Juden (1980).

7.2 Translation in the National Context: Bauer and Marx


(Buden/ Nowotny 2008: 200) summarizes the attitude towards the Jewish minority in “the question of the testimony”: “[D]ie Frage der Zeugenschaft [hat] weitreichende epistemische und politische Konsequenzen: Es lässt sich nicht einfach über Zeugnisse sprechen wie über ein beliebiges Thema, schon gar nicht in einem allgemeinen Sinn; sehr viel eher geht es darum, sich zu ihnen zu verhalten, in ein spezifisches epistemisches, politisches, soziales und sich über die eigene Situierung verständigendes Verhältnis mit ihnen einzutreten.”

The attitude towards the difference is a form of communication. It involves a circulation of meaning, which has an impact on the ‘lived’ history of individuals ‘read’ as Jews. The question of minorities is not constructed around the witnesses but rather through a relation to them. In this sense, the witnesses of history are also actors in it. Together with the motif of the testimony, and the trial that goes along with it, the motif of betrayal allows describing the impact of the Jewish Question upon modern historiography. In fact, the Jewish Question appears simultaneously in several young central European nations (Arendt 1951: 13). In each case, the national majority submits the falsity or genuineness of the Jewish difference and (identity) to public debate. A politicized evaluation of the difference’s degree of belonging to the cultural norm takes place. The authentication of the ‘Indian’, which, in the case of the Valladolid Debate, was carried out in the name of the empire and religion, is followed by an authentication of the difference that takes place in the name of the nation and national culture, including civil law. The religious denunciation, and colonial condemnation of the savage’s infidelity turn into the political denunciation and legal sentence of the national enemy. In short: The Jewish Question entails the identification of the national betrayer. Bauer and Marx compose within a context, in which the Prussian state regularly redefined the civil rights of Jews through contradictory public laws. For example, in 1812, Jewish people were declared Prussian citizens for the first time. This advancement was revoked only four years later and was enforced through the law prohibiting Jews from working in public services.4 Discussing upon the incompatibilities between religious affiliation and political membership, Marx and Bauer seek a solution to the ambiguous social position, and legal administration


This discriminatory law affected Marx’s father. He converted to Christianity in order to be allowed to continue practising his profession as a lawyer (Monod 2008: 166).


7 Translation and the Jewish Question

of Jews. In this sense, their debate is a catalyser for the politicization of the figure of the Jew as the national difference par excellence (Arendt 1951: 280 f). Marx and Bauer redefine the epistemic attitude towards ‘the’ Jew through temporal and analytical comparisons that establish hierarchies. In Noworty’s words, comparisons function as ‘testimonies’ about the social and cultural value accorded to the minority prosecuted by the majority, even if the voices of the accused are not heard. Moreover, Marx and Bauer draw comparisons between Jews and non-Jews. Non-Jews are interchangeably depicted as Christians and Germans, as European and Western. ‘The’ Jew is not conceived with the ‘veil of ignorance’, which Las Casas grants to the Indians. On the contrary, both German thinkers engage in deconstructing the ‘innocence’ of the Jew. To this effect, they analyse the situation of Jewish minorities in the Western world and compare national legislations. Both denounce a discrepancy between the status quo and the possible consolidation of the democratic or free state. Their debate is a social critique that identifies a national crisis, in which both conclude that religion is to blame. They designate the responsibility to religion for the breach in the German democratic state: Whereas Bauer argues against Judaism, and more precisely against Jewish people living in Europe, Marx criticizes religion in both manifestations: Judaism and Christianity. Finally, both discussants denounce anachronisms in social history and in the uses of political concepts. As it happens with the voices of Sepúlveda and Las Casas, Marx and Bauer are not only witnesses of history, but also historiographic informants. The Valladolid Debate provides an account of how missionaries and chroniclers framed transcontinental history. Marx and Bauer’s debate present an account of how the study of society is framed by the historian’s gaze. Whereas the chroniclers claimed objectivity through experience and reason, Marx and Bauer claim objectivity through the scientific treatment of society. The German philosophers approach society, and the Jewish Question, as a ‘social thing’. The paradigmatic change in history and historiography is mirrored in Bauer’s (1843: 3) claim to reformulate the Jewish Question, or in his words ‘the Question of the Jews’ [Judenfrage], as partial interrogation of the greater national question. In the chapter ambivalently entitled ‘The Correct Posing of the Question’ [Die richtige Stellung der Frage], which is also translatable as the ‘right place’, ‘status’, ‘situation’, or even ‘the correct attitude towards’ the Question, Bauer (ibid.: 4) compares the Jews’ situations within European nations historically. The first section in his historic-ethnological comparison is dedicated to Spain and the second to Poland.

7.2 Translation in the National Context: Bauer and Marx


The German thinker attempts at any cost to exclude Judaism and Jewish people from modern (and Christian) history. He thus traces their existence through negativity. Yet, the absence (in Spain) and presence (in Poland) of Jews narrate a transhistorical and European Jewish history, which he cannot ignore. Undermining the synchronic meaning between the Christian state and the Jewish populations in Europe, Bauer illustrates Judaism and the Jews as being a people [Volk] disproved of history. In his hasty historical revision on Spain, Bauer (1843: 5) negates any causality between the expulsion of the Jews into exile in 1492 and the decay of Spain. However, he paradoxically suggests that the negative national development was due to the fact that generalized “intolerance [Intoleranz], slavery [Unfreiheit] and fear of persecution [Verfolgungsangst]” had become the government’s principles. Bauer (ibid.: 6) then turns to the other periphery of Central Europe: Poland. In this case, in the reconstruction of the Question of the Jews, the motif of the exile is replaced through the motif of the ‘invasion of foreign elements’ [eindrängen eines Fremdes Elements]. Bauer concludes that the success or decay of the Christian state and of the Jews inhabitation was the merit of that state alone (ibid.). Whereas the Christian state’s capacity of historical cultivation [geschichtliche Bildungsfähigkeit] embodied the nation-building, Jews are depicted as stagnated in theological time, as well as incapable of adaptation into the national tempo and identity. To quote Bauer (ibid.: 5; own translation): “Jews are oppressed because they have first oppressed and fought against the wheel of History”. Jews are pictured as incapable of historical transformation. Illustrating the national difference, Bauer (1843) situates ‘the’ Jew in an archaic past. In doing so, he shifts the argument on the anachronism of the Jews into their own guilt. Acting against the transformation [Veränderung] and movement of history [Bewegung der Geschichte], Bauer depicts Jewishness as ‘being in debt’ or ‘being at fault’. In his words (ibid.: 5): “Gebt also den Juden die Ehre, dass sie den Druck, den sie erlitten haben, durch ihr Wesen verschuldeten”. In his view, it was the incapacity of the Jews to become free, which stood against national development. Their synchronization into the national history was the Jews’ duty and responsibility [Verpflichtung]. Inverting the relation oppressor-oppressed, Bauer reformulates the Jewish Question. He replaces the figure of the Jew as the passive sufferer [Dulder] of oppression with the figure of the Jew as an active agent of social stagnation. From his point of view, the Jewish Question is equivalent to ‘the Question of the Jews’. Moreover, the minority’s problem becomes a national concern caused by the minority. Bauer proclaims the following (ibid.: 1): “Wenn die Sache der


7 Translation and the Jewish Question

Juden eine populäre geworden ist, so kann es nicht ein Verdienst ihrer Verteidiger, sondern nur daraus zu erklären sein, dass das Volk den Zusammenhang ahnet, in welchem die Emancipation der Juden mit der Entwicklung unserer gesammten Zustände steht”. According to Bauer, the “popularity of the Jewish Question”—what he depreciatively refers to as the “Jews’ ‘thing’”—was not due to the merit of its apologists. Instead, its popularity was credited to the national suspicion towards the dependency between the emancipation of the Jews and the development of the majority’s condition. Furthermore, he (ibid.: 2) holds “the apologists of the Jewish emancipation” responsible for rendering Jews and Judaism impermeable to critique. In his words (ibid.), Judaism (and being Jewish) in comparison to Christianity (and being German) implies enjoying “the privilege of immutability [Unveränderlichkeit], invulnerability [Unverletzlichkeit] and irresponsibility [Unverantwortlichkeit]”. In an article analysing the debate between Marx and Bauer, Jean-Claude Monod (2008: 167) quotes the polemical thinker and Zionist Moses Hess (1841) to summarize Bauer’s identification of the Jews with the difference of nation-ness: “[T]out est présenté comme ayant sa source dans la théologie juive, comme le fruit d’un refus religieux ou « national » de toute assimilation. Une telle façon de renverser la ségrégation menée dans et au nom de « l’État chrétien » en auto-exclusion imputée à la religion juive était déjà dénoncée en 1841 par Moses Hess dans La Triarchie européenne : « aujourd’hui encore, notait Hess, on entend bien des gens parler de la ‘nationalité’ juive comme d’une chose qui empêche leur émancipation. [...] Mais au lieu de permettre aux juifs de sortir de leur isolement, on leur a même, l’esprit aveuglé, fait grief d’une situation dont la législation chrétienne était responsable.”

Monod explains that Bauer’s denial of the emancipation of the Jews is articulated as having its own justification in Judaism. Both: the Jews’ impossibility to assimilate into the national culture, and the impossibility of the state to assimilate the Jews, were due to the (religious, and even national) “nature” of Judaism. Bauer’s condemnation of the Jews and Judaism presupposes the benevolence and neutrality of the Christian state. On the contrary, Hess argues that such a depiction of Jewish identity impedes the Jews from leaving their isolation and contributes to blaming them for a situation, which is the responsibility of the Christian state. Bauer thus inverses the segregation caused by the Christian state into auto-segregation. The concept of segregation implies a negative diagnosis of the existence of Jews in the modern nation-state. Producing an artificial, spatialized homogenization, the concept’s adoption depicts the minority as responsible for their own

7.2 Translation in the National Context: Bauer and Marx


deviant, peripheral and parallel habitat (Mancheno 2011). This context creates the popularized wording “Jewish nationality” (Bauer 1843: 4–5). Bauer claims (1843: 12) that “the Jews rightly speak about the fence of law, or the law as fence [Zaun des Gesetzes], since their own law dictates that they fence themselves off from the national peoples [Völkern]”. He (ibid.: 11) traces a geography, in which Jews inhabit in a “dishonourable” and “outclassed” state. Finally, he (ibid.: 5) argues that Jews exist “outside” the “rules” of national culture as Judaism builds the opposition of “the Christian world”, which is manifested in the Christian state. Upon this logic, Jewishness constitutes the difference of nation-ness. Thereby, the religious affiliation—the unchosen innate identity, as Bauer himself admits in his later anti-Semitic work Das Judentum in der Fremde (1863)—is held solely accountable for the incapacity of the Jews to be(come) liberated. His descriptive-comparative analysis of Jewishness concludes with a theological parable, which emphasizes once more the Jews’ own responsibility in their social exclusion. He (1843: 9; own translation) compares the Jews in the Christian states to “Epicurus’ Gods, who inhabit the gaps of the world [Zwischenräume der Welt]”. Emphasizing the spatial-temporal foreignness of the Jew, Bauer’s cartographies of being suggests that there is no Jewish contribution to modern history (ibid.: 10), just as there is nothing modern in being Jewish (ibid.: 12). To these connotations of Jewishness, Bauer (ibid.: 11) adds yet another layer of meaning, which situates the Jew in a racialized understanding of ‘the Orient’. He translates the figure of the domestic-foreign Jew into the unknown-foreign Oriental by claiming that both are people without history, disproven from the ability of cultural renewal. He suggests that the atemporality of the ‘Oriental Being’ is proper to both entities and concludes that the Jew is ‘naturally at home’ in ‘the’ Orient.5 Articulating the roots of anti-Semitism (against both Muslims and Jews), Bauer (ibid.) completes his racist analogy in the following sense: “Im Orient aber hat der Mensch noch nicht gewusst, dass er frei und vernünftig ist, also auch die Freiheit und die Vernunft noch nicht als sein Wessen gekannt”. “In the Orient”, he claims: “the human still did not know that he was free and reasonable; besides, his/her being still did not know freedom nor reason.” At the end of the chapter “On the righteous position of the Question”, Bauer (ibid.: 12) compares Jews to nature and natural landscapes. 5

For a further discussion on the Orientalization of European Jewishness see the last section in this chapter.


7 Translation and the Jewish Question

In depicting the difference, Bauer clearly follows Sepúlveda’s argumentation in that both naturalize the difference. The difference is unfree because it cannot be free. The difference carries the (de)fault of being (different). In Bauer’s view, Jews are incapable of becoming free by reason of their identity. Reducing Jewishness to a radical foreignness, Bauer opposes Jewish emancipation without articulating this claim as his own denial or his own incapacity to translate. Instead, he notes (ibid.: 3) that: “the emancipation of the Jews can only take place under the condition [Voraussetzung] of a total transformation or mutation [Umänderung] of their being [Wesen].” Bauer emulates Sepúlveda in rendering the difference untranslatable. He (ibid.) applies the incapacity to reason and the absence of culture and development as arguments for situating Jews and Jewishness outside of national history. Thereby, the difference’s foreignness, which for Sepúlveda is equivalent to the theological original sin, is ‘socialized’ by Bauer. In the modern form, the difference’s original foreignness is archaic; yet its form is equivalently constituted to the norm: alike to Germans, Jews also build a nationality. Through this equivalency, Bauer expiates the non-Jewish cultural norm from the responsibility of improving the minority’s situation. In his view, the Jewish Question and Judaism are not state’s issues. Bauer (ibid.: 3) reduces the Jewish Question to the emancipation of the Jews from their religious nature and thereby reformulates it as the minority’s private matter (and manner). Marx precisely criticizes Bauer’s uncritical attitude towards the cultural norm. Whereas Bauer commences with an appraisal of the religious ‘critique-less Jew’, Marx (1844) introduces his essay “On the Jewish Question”, with a critique to religion and to the state’s religion. The first formulates a fulminant judgement to the difference, the second engages in a constructive assessment to the cultural norm. The discussants share the believe that religious emancipation is inseparable from political emancipation. Yet, Marx inverts Bauer’s banishment of the Jewish Question into a private matter, suggesting that the Jewish Question, and the question of the emancipation of Jews should be treated as symptoms of a national crisis. This crisis was not due to the minority’s incapacity to be secular, but rather to the failure of the majority, or to the incompleteness in the state’s performance. In his broader work, Marx creates distance from religion. Already in his doctoral thesis ([1841]1902), he states with Prometheus: “In a word, I hate all Gods”. Dealing with the question of religion, his response to Bauer is not considered a seminal text among his publications. Yet, his essay involves a political rather than a religious treatment of the difference’s questioning. Marx (2009: 21) defines the

7.2 Translation in the National Context: Bauer and Marx


Jewish Question as a “profane question”. According to Monod (2008: 168), it even constitutes for Marx a “meta-political question”. Countering Bauer’s confusing claim on the secularization of Jews as being indispensable for the emancipation of the German state from the Jews, Marx undertakes two conceptual critiques. Firstly, he criticizes the Christian state and secondly bifurcates the meaning of emancipation. He questions the political and institutional assimilation of the Jews into the national identity, and the social requirement of religious emancipation itself. Monod (2008: 168–9) explains Marx’s inversion of the treatment of the Jewish Question in the following sense: “L’émancipation des juifs n’est plus alors un problème spécifique, c’est le point de départ d’une réflexion qui engage le rapport de la société contemporaine aux fondements réels de l’aliénation religieuse et politique, le rapport de « l’homme religieux en général à l’État politique », et du défaut d’émancipation que traduirait l’existence de la religion comme telle.”

According to Monod, Marx treats the emancipation of the Jews not as a specific problem, but as the departing point for a critique on the relation between the contemporary society and the real foundations of religious and political alienation. This indicates a critique of the relation between the ‘religious man’ and the political state. Monod describes that Marx’s rhetorical strategy reformulates the critique of religion into a critique of the manifestations of religion as a social question. From his point of view, Marx suggests that religion can be translated into the absence of emancipation insofar the meaning of religions is equivalent to the absence of political emancipation. Since religion is described by Marx as both a symptom of political alienation and decay, the tension between religion and emancipation ceases to be the minority’s problem and converts into a state’s issue. In doing so, Marx diversifies the actors and the referents for emancipation. In Marx’s (2009: 20) words: “The political emancipation of the Jew or the Christian—of the religious man in general—is the emancipation of the state of Judaism, Christianity, and religion in general”. His response to Bauer includes a critique to secularism and religion, as well as a secular approach to the question of minorities. Monod (2008: 168) explains Marx’s dialectical assessment in the following sense: “[I]l ne s’agirait plus ici d’émanciper les juifs dans l’État existant (même si cette étape doit être défendue là où elle n’est pas encore atteinte), ni même de dépasser l’État chrétien au profit d’un État athée, […] mais d’émanciper la société contemporaine de sa dimension marchande-capitaliste et de l’État bourgeois qui la fait prospérer, et en ce sens, suivant le périlleux système d’analogies qui soutient le raisonnement,


7 Translation and the Jewish Question

d’émanciper la société contemporaine du « judaïsme pratique », dialectiquement lié au christianisme éthéré et « sublime ».”

In his argumentation against the Christianity of the state, Marx does not focus on the emancipation of the Jews, nor in replacing the Christian state by an atheistic state, instead he focuses on the emancipation of the contemporary society from its mercantilist-capitalist dimension, so as from the bourgeois state, which allows it to prosper. In his hazardous system of analogies, overcoming bourgeois society surmounts to overcoming religion in both manifestations: the ‘profane form’ of Judaism and the sacrality of the ‘Christian State’. The emancipation of society entails for Marx both the emancipation of society from ‘practical Judaism’ and from ethereal and sublime Christianity. Further, Marx (2009: 25) identifies a contradiction in the republican purpose of creating a single, common interest as the basis of a patriotic commitment to the public good, and yet to obligate its nationals to abandon their religious freedom. According to the philosopher (ibid.: 27), the prescription of emancipation made by Bauer to the Jews is already motivated in another religiosity: The “state religion” defines the “right to own property” as the “public good” (Marx 2009: 20). In doing so, Marx applies his broader critique of private property to the liberal (and secular) division between the public and the private sphere. His secular treatment of the Jewish Question does not, however, imply that he avoids an analysis of Judaism. Evoking the ‘viscerality’ of culture in its national form, Marx describes the differentiation between the religious man and the citizen (or national) as the symptom of the state’s decomposition. He thus criticizes both the state and religion. He states the following (ibid.: 22; emphasis original): “The decomposition of man into Jew and citizen, Protestant and citizen, is not a deception practised against the political system nor yet an evasion of emancipation from religion. It is political emancipation itself , the political mode of emancipation from religion.” In opposition to Bauer, for Marx, the divergence between religious identities and political identities is complementary: Identities, and their attachments are neither contradictory nor mutually exclusive. In the following passage, Marx (ibid.: 21–2) mobilizes spatial semantics for depicting the asynchronous coexistence of the religious subject in the civil society: “Man emancipates himself politically from religion by expelling it from the sphere of the public law to that of private law. Religion is no longer the spirit of the state […]. It has become the spirit of civil society, of the sphere of egoism and of the bellum omnium contra omnes. It is no longer the essence of community, but the essence of

7.2 Translation in the National Context: Bauer and Marx


differentiation. It has become what it was at the beginning, an expression of the fact that man separated from the community, from himself and from other men.”

In disagreement with Bauer’s application of spatial connotations as indicators of the segregating nature of Jewishness, Marx’s spatial connotations outline the lack of synchronized development. In his view, the artificial private-public division creates a schizophrenic civil society, which is incapable of creating brotherhood and sisterhood beyond religious attachments. Marx (ibid. 22) suggests that the state does not liberate itself from religion. Instead, the state should emancipate itself from the “state religion” “by giving recognition to no religion and affirming itself purely […] as a state”. The democratic state is the religion-less state, also labelled the authentic, or ‘real state’. In his words (ibid.): It “does not need religion for its political consummation” and loses both its “political attitude towards religion” and its “religious attitude towards politics”. The state emancipates itself from religion by establishing the indifference or the absence of relation with religion. However, the state is not “completely emancipated from religion, because political emancipation is not the final and absolute form of human emancipation”. “Political emancipation”, Marx continues (ibid.: 21), “is the final form of human emancipation [but only, TM] within the framework of the prevailing social order”. Probably due to the urgency in responding to Bauer, Marx (1844) partially replaces religion as the principal source of alienation in his essay Zur Judenfrage. Instead, he focuses on the alienation caused by the state and notes that religious emancipation is a necessary historical stage for human emancipation. In this essay, Marx does not develop on the internationalizing aspects in his own theory on history and his vision on politics. He rather suggests that solving the question of minorities at the national scale is antecedent to the constitution of the cosmopolitan political actor: the proletariat. In this sense, Marx’s depiction of the religious state, in opposition to the democratic state, forms a step in-between the bourgeois project of a national community and the global revolution. Focusing on the situation of Jewish minorities, Marx discusses the diachronic existence of religion in contemporary western ‘free states’. Similar to Bauer, he (2009: 22) selectively compares the social status of Jews and Jewish laws in Germany, France and the United States6 . He (ibid.) then draws a relevant diagnosis

6 Written only ten years earlier, Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835) is one of the important references in Marx’s essay.


7 Translation and the Jewish Question

indicating that religious discriminations are signs of the imperfection [Unvollkommenheit] of the state. From this perspective, Marx engages in a deconstruction of the Jews as problem. In a Lascasian sense, Marx denounces the German state as what we would today describe as a ‘failing state’. Although he was not an apologist of Jewish emancipation, his critique entangles criticism to proto anti-Semitism. Yet, his argumentation is not disproved from violence. As in the case of the Valladolid Debate, in the debate between Marx and Bauer, the main question is the difference’s translatability. Submitting ‘the’ Jew to comparison and differentiation, both discussants transform the collective identity into a synonym for national minority and a minoritized history. The political existence and participation in the modern society depends on their willingness to adopt the national (Bauer), or authentically political (Marx) identity. In this sense, both discussants act as translators of the Jews as the difference of the German identity. Both imply that the voices of Jews should not be heard or that they are untranslatable and indecipherable. The discussants translate their idiom and religion into the non-Jewish norm and, thereby, suggest rendering the difference ‘understandable’ in the language of the nation(al majority). The Jewish Question articulates the regime of translation that seeks to emancipate differences from their foreignness to assimilate them in the ‘authentic’ culture. This debate articulates several national crises of representation: Who is the ‘true’, and authentic, subject of national history?, whose political language is the fitter?, whose culture should survive? and also: who constructs the cultural norm? This debate shows that the ma(r)king of Jewishness as the difference of the German national identity is central for the construction of the ‘national’. Yet, how are Jews translated into Germans? And which are the consequences of such a translation for the transnational history of minorities? These questions will be addressed in the next chapter by redefining translation as emancipation.


Translation as Emancipation

The telos of emancipation guides the Jewish Question by projecting a social and political transformation. The emancipation of Jews appears as synonymous of an improvement of their situation in the respective nations they inhabited. In German, this formula is expressed as civic improvement [bürgerliche Verbesserung] (Dohm 1781: 2). Emancipation foresees the integration of the Jewish community into the civis as full citizens. Guided by the ideas of the Enlightenment,

7.3 Translation as Emancipation


the emancipation of Jews envisages amendments in constitutional law and public policy. In this context, Christian Dohm (1781: 1) speaks of a bourgeoisification [Verbürgerlichung] of Jewish populations. Both the nation and the minoritarian identity are conceived towards development. The Jewish Question is thus inscribed in the eschatology of modernity that includes the idea of the cultural uniformity of the nation as well as the project of cultural modernization, or what Koselleck calls Sattelzeit 7 . Yet, the reconstruction of national historiography through the Jewish Question puts another light upon modern political concepts, as well as on conceptual production. The ‘Christian state’, which is handled by Marx and Bauer, illustrates an inner contradiction and contestation of meaning between politics and religion, so as between secularism and nationness. In this sense, Mufti (2007: 12) explains that the Jewish Question constitutes an “exemplary site for the writing of the problematic of national culture, minority existence, and representative selfhood”. It manifests the complementarity between the historical and the cultural renewal that (in)forms the nation. More specifically, Chatterjee (1997: 32) argues that Marx’s concerns with the Jewish Question unveil the problematic in the idea of the German nation and society, which are conceived as an “exclusive domain”. Chatterjee (ibid.) suggests that by “retaining to the traditional idea of civil society”, Marx captures “the conflicting desires of modernity that animate contemporary political and cultural debates.” Further, he (ibid.) identifies a contradiction in Marx’s employment of the concept, arguing that “the actual ‘public’ will not match up to the standards required by civil society and that the function of civil social institutions in relation to the public at large will be one of pedagogy rather than of free association.” According to Marx’s opponent, Bauer, there is no lack of compatibility between the modern idea of civic society and ‘the people’ [Volk]. Moreover, he does not regard the contradiction in the republican pedagogy of the majority and the liberal privatization of differences. In Bauer’s argumentation, the emancipation (progress) of the Jewish difference is ‘naturalized’ as archaic. Thereby, the Jewish Question itself already articulates an inherent ambiguity proper to modern political concepts, such as civil society, the people, or the public. However, in Bauer’s view, the ambiguity is not due to the double standards in state’s secularism, but to his own definition of Jewishness, which impedes Jews to match up with Christianity. Bauer, but also Marx, presuppose that the religious man and the (male) citizen are cultural opposites. The religious identity inflicts harm to the national 7

For a definition of Koselleck’s Sattelzeit see section 6.1.


7 Translation and the Jewish Question

(Bauer) and political (Marx) identity. Whilst Bauer excludes non-Christian religious attachments from the definition of German nationality, Marx excludes religious attachments from citizenship. Therefore, both seem to ask: How can a man be loyal and faithful to his fellow man in his struggle for equal rights among all men if he is only fighting for his rights as a member of a specific religion? This question is intrinsically related to both the history of modern concepts and to the political realization of freedom. Whereas for Bauer, Jewishness poses an obstacle for the realization of the citizen’s autonomy, Marx argues that the state, just as much as religion, obstructs human emancipation, and therefore, authentic freedom. In both cases though, in Marx’s defence of emancipation and in Bauer’s anti-Semitic denunciation, the Jewish and the national identities exclude one another. Mobilizing semantic violence for the difference’s depiction, the emancipation of the Jews implies either a political and a moral condemnation (Bauer) or a political accusation (Marx). Whereas Bauer condemns the Jews, Marx accuses religion. Yet again, the antagonism between the religious and the national form of belonging is contradicted by the figure of the Christian state. The entanglements between modern historiography and the Jewish Question demonstrate that the constitution of national identity implies a translation. After the colonial encounter, the Jewish Question manifests the popular expectation of the transformation of people belonging to the Jewish religion into faithful citizens of the culture considered national. ‘The’ Jew stands for the difference in the necessity of mutation due to religious affiliation. Beyond morality and theology, in the post-imperial form, the translation of differences implied in the Jewish Question is guided by the idea of mundane progress. In this case, the translation does not redefine humanity, but rather the limits of political membership and cultural affiliation to the nation. In other terms, translation appears as emancipation instead of conversion. For Marx and Bauer, the solution of the Jewish Question involves a translation of religious membership into the secularized membership in its national form. The religious man shall become the citizen, i.e., an active, political member of the nation. The citizen is not only integrated, but also culturally assimilated. Marx’s and Bauer’s act of translation lies in the prescription of an individual motivation to abandon the unchosen, religious identity in favour of the national or international ‘authentic’ identity. Self-released from parochial and religious attachments, the difference is released from the distinction that obstructs its assimilation into the political community.

7.3 Translation as Emancipation


In contrast to the Valladolid Debate, the translation does not materialize as an act of initiation requiring guidance of the experienced or the masters. The difference’s mutation does not occur through the patronage of the original identity. Instead, it develops through an immanent or conscious act that emphasises the individual willingness of cultural mutation. The difference is transformed into the national through the alienation of foreignness, i.e., from its foreign character. In this sense, the translation of the difference into the norm is conducted through manumission, signifying that the responsibility for the mutation is no longer situated on the target culture (or the cultural norm), but on the source (or the difference). This self-estrangement is considered an act of loyalty to the national culture (Bauer) and to human emancipation (Marx). Whilst in its colonial modus operandi, translation is allocated to the missionary, in its national form, this task is attributed to the patriotic citizen. The missionary is exchanged by the figure of the patriot. In the translation’s paradigm proper to modern historiography, the translator’s task surmounts to the capacity to assimilate the foreign into the target culture.8 However, both male figures, the missionary and the patriot, act as agents of the majoritarian culture, or in Buden’s words (2008: V): “faithful cultural translators—able to select between the useful foreign and the destructive foreignness.” Their common functionality or purpose unfolds in the transformation of the difference’s foreignness. In other words, both perform an alienation. Only then may differences be incorporated into the dominant or proper culture. Therefore, both debates are comparable and historically related upon their paternalistic interventions. Koselleck (2006: 220) defines the patriot as the “historical figure of the Political Enlightenment” [Leitfigur der politischen Aufklärung]. He adds that it is “an exclusivist-concept [elitärer Begriff ] with generalized validity [Allgemeinheitsanspruch]”. This definition of the figure of modern history mobilizes colonial heritage. In fact, the patriot’s task is the secular missionary’s responsibility to nationalize. Reaffirming the ‘original’ culture, the patriot and the missionary act as translators. These actors are not only concerned with cultural interpretation, but also with the survival of the majority. As Buden (2008: V) notes, loyalty is the virtue common to the patriot and the translator. It ensures the survival of the culture considered national and therefore original. Quoting Terry Eagleton’s The Idea of Culture (2000), Buden (2008: 31 f) adds that: “It is not by chance that Culture and Colonialism have the same etymological root in the Latin word colere, 8

This paradigm in the history of translation is discussed in the section on Translation studies in Chapter 2.


7 Translation and the Jewish Question

‘which can mean anything from cultivating and inhabiting to worshipping and protecting. Its meaning as ‘inhabit’ has evolved from the Latin colonus to the contemporary ‘colonialism”.” In a similar manner, Benjamin’s (2002: 258) depiction of the German Romantics illustrates the convergence of the missionary and the patriot in the figure of the translator. He states: “The Romantics […], more than any others, were gifted with an insight into the life of literary works—an insight for which translation provides the highest testimony. To be sure, they hardly recognized translation in this sense, but devoted their entire attention to criticism-another, if lesser, factor in the continued life of literary works. But even though the Romantics virtually ignored translation in their theoretical writings, their own great translations testify to their sense of the essential nature and the dignity of this literary mode.”

Benjamin adopts the concepts of ‘testimony’ and ‘criticism’ as evidence for the nationalization of literary production. In his view, both concepts explain a dignifying transformation in the understanding of culture and history. Yet, the meaning of testimony and criticism, which are also speech acts, was already central to the chroniclers’ times. In the Valladolid Debate, Las Casas and Sepúlveda occupy the positions of the historical witness, the colonial adviser, and the moral condemner simultaneously. Each position mobilizes an understanding of testimony and criticism, which determines the difference’s translatability, as well as the possibilities of the difference’s co-existence. In their debate, Marx and Bauer readjust the difference’s translatability. Central to the history of the secularization of the state, the Jewish Question transforms the impacts of the social critique or moral ma(r)king of the difference. The authentication, or its ontological trial, materializes as a denunciation. As the debate demonstrates, the critique of the Jewish difference is nationalized for a non-Jewish public. Marx’s and Bauer’s redefinition of membership as nationality without Jews exemplifies the paradigmatic change from colonial into a patriotic translation. This transition corresponds to the geopolitical and discursive change from colonialism (or colonial expansion) to nationalism. Schmitt (2006: 104) describes this transformation in modern historiography in the following manner: “Only when man appeared to be the embodiment of absolute humanity did the other side of this concept appear in the form of a new enemy: the inhuman. The expulsion of the inhuman from the human was followed in the 19th century by an even deeper division, between the superhuman and the subhuman. Just as the human presupposes

7.3 Translation as Emancipation


the inhuman, so, with dialectical necessity, the superhuman entered history with its hostile twin: the subhuman.”

According to Schmitt’s description of racist violence, there is an ontological hierarchy, which first distinguishing between the human and the inhuman (or non-human), and then turns into the political distinction between the human and the subhuman. The inversion of the in(fra)human—also pre-human that appears in the savage and the barbarian—by the subhuman implies a new form of hostility. In this secular form, national membership replaces religion for justifying the limits of humanity. The meaning of fidelity and membership becomes political; yet the betrayal or treason to the nation remains equivalent to acts outside the realm of the human, this time, as subhuman acts. In Schmitt’s scheme, the distinction between humans and subhuman is also classified and decided upon membership. The division between believers and gentiles is reworded in terms of nationals and non-nationals. Just as the gentiles entailed the potential for betrayal, non-nationals are associated with the potential for treason. This regime of fidelity is particularly visible in Bauer’s (1863: 29) argumentation, who in his later work undertakes an enquiry on what he describes as the jüdische Natur. The Jewish population living within the young German nation is depicted as potential betrayers, hence, as a danger to freedom. ‘Whose freedom?’—one may ask. In his account, the difference’s existence already constitutes a betrayal. In Bauer’s words (Bauer 1843: 2): “a betrayal to humankind” [Verrat an die Menschlichkeit]. The violence in this tautological (or theological) judgement suggests a fatality, i.e., a death sentence. In short, Bauer’s adoption of the concept ‘Jew’ is semantically affiliated with Sepúlveda’s treatment of the ‘Indian’. Whereas Bauer deepens the Jewish difference by emphasising upon its untranslatability, Marx scrutinizes religious differentiation. He criticizes the translatability of national rights into civil rights and the limits of nationality as political membership. Thereby, he denounces the notion of citizenship as the outcome of national originality. In his words (Marx 2009: 17): “There are no citizens in Germany”. In a rhetorical move similar to the one applied by Las Casas, Marx depicts both the minority and the majority in need of salvation. Conversion appears in Marx’s semantics in the form of political and human emancipation. Marx act as a translator between the religious and the democratic state, or between, what Buden (2008: V) identifies as “the barbaric German masses (the hoi polloi) that must be cultivated by means of his translation.” Arguing with the same token as Bauer, Marx’s defence of the emancipation is a “compradorial one. Not only does [he,


7 Translation and the Jewish Question

TM] treat a part of its own society as a colony that must be translated from its original barbarity into culture. [He] acts too as an agent—a translator—of foreign values that alone are capable of cultivating this society” (ibid). The antagonistic logics of salvation and condemnation of the colonized, which were at core of the Valladolid Debate, are rearticulated in the Jewish Question in the logics of emancipation and alienation. The figure of the Jews is either banished from the Christian state (Bauer) or assimilated into a democratic-nonreligious state (Marx). In both translations, the Jew is situated as the non-national within the nation. As Arendt (Mancheno 2016) explains, ‘the’ assimilated Jews represent the limits of the ‘new’ national political identity; at the same time, the limits of national membership become equivalent to the limits of humanity. In the paradigm proper to the nation’s form, the translation’s regime changes from conversion via instruction into the regulated isolation of differences from the imagined community. Paradoxically, the ‘recognition’ of the Jewish Question banishes Jewish minorities from the imagined community. The difference is no longer domesticated, but instead assimilated and ceases to exist as such (Ivekovi´c 2008b). In the Jewish Question, the discussants do not seek mimicry, but the disassociation of different loyalties to coincide with the monocultural fiction of national identity. In other terms, the incorporation or translation of the Jewish difference alienates it from its foreignness in the name of a collectivity, which is exchangeable with humanity and civic life (Arendt 1951: 274); both concepts functioning as synonyms of civilization. In the second debate, the difference ceases to be “a transparent representation of an essence” residing within a foreign identity (Venuti 1995: 20). The difference’s ‘nature’ is not ‘discovered’, but as Venuti (ibid.) notes, it is rather treated as a “strategic construction”, which is valuable and compatible (or not) for the constitution of the cultural self. Therefore, the difference’s value remains contingent upon the national culture into which it is translated. Transpiring at the service of the mother tongue and in the name of the national identity, the translation functions as an act of cultural misappropriation. The translator’s authority lies in the national language and the translation is carried out in the nation’s name. Both translation regimes: conversion and emancipation seek to blur out differences from identities marked as alien. Yet, these identities enable the cultural (or civilized) norm to survive. Their existence legitimizes the empowered position of the majoritarian identity as translators. This indicates that in both modus operandi, the limits of civilization are reinforced by the difference ma(r)king.

7.4 On the Translatability of Jewishness into National History


The Jewish Question is an insightful catalyser for the transformation of the religious concept of fidelity into the political concept of loyalty, and from infidelity into betrayal. The debate turns the distinction between believers and infidels into the political antagonism between nationals and traitors. According to Thomas Noetzel (1999: 12), this antagonism is an “ontological difference” between the authentic and the inauthentic. The caesura in historiography between a minoritarian (unauthentic and subhuman) and a majoritarian identity (authentically national and human) also illustrates the Arendtian aporia in human rights: The question of minorities is a political question that mobilizes representations of differences as identities. Hence, the Jewish Question frames the possibilities of mobility (and translatability) of differentiated identities as well as of their integration in national historiographies at a transnational scale. Approaching the Jewish Question through “this mutual alteration, this translation” (Mufti 2007: 9) highlights the entanglement between the history of minorities and national history.


On the Translatability of Jewishness into National History

Both the Indian Question and the Jewish Question are testimonies of a crisis in historiography. Whereas the first presents a problem to the interests of the Colonial Empire, the second poses an impediment for secularism. Minoriticization constitutes a seizure in both the colonial-imperial and the national historiographies. Moreover, the Jewish Question adds a layer of meaning to the difference as trope, revealing that both social questions are registers of the colonial/transcontinental and national/transnational ma(r)king of differences. The idea of civilization, which later functions as an equivalent for the Enlightenment (Vogt 2015: 131), is central to both controversies which affect and connect the history of peoples marked as the difference. Furthermore, the names ‘Indians’ and ‘Jews’ entail the history of a dispute with Christianity. To rephrase it, Christianity is in tension with both: The Indian is the difference from the Christian-European, and the Jew constitutes the salient difference from the German citizen in the Christian state. Deleuze and Guattari (2005: 456) define the “minoritarian phenomena” as “nationalitarian” and suggest that minorities “work from within [the nation, TM] and if need be turn to the old codes to find a greater degree of freedom”. This internal “minoritarian work” includes achieving politics of national remembrance and mourning, at a national and a transnational level. This perspective positions minorities not only as central to national history and modern society, but


7 Translation and the Jewish Question

also to the modern conception of freedom. Yet, as Palonen (2016: 174) notes, the problem in achieving a minoritarian culture of remembrance, which ensures freedom, lies in the fact that the concepts administered to mark the difference have to be readjusted for constituting a semantic field of international politics of remembrance. Discussing the authorship in national historiography, Arendt (1951: 54) criticizes that some prescriptive applications of the Jewish Question pretend to classify the intellectual production into the Jewish perspective—or the perspectives of the diaspora—and the non-Jewish perspective. In her view, this epistemic cartography is reductionist since, it erroneously traces a normative difference between Jewish thinking and anti-Semitic proposals. In her research, she explains instead that both perspectives are found as endemic and external arguments. Arendt (ibid.: 289) further notes that Jewish history and anti-Semitism are not systemically part of national history. Instead, these are banished into another device or artifice: The Jewish Question may be considered national legacy of Western countries, Jewish historiography and the minority’s history though are excluded from national history. Arendt (ibid.: 360) describes the history of the nation-state as “the tragic endeavor to conform through differentiation and distinction”. This drama is yet interrupted by the Jewish Question, which “turns into a catalyst of social unrest”. The Jewish Question entails the history of the differentiated social status of the Jew within the nation (ibid.: 53). It visualizes a regime of differentiated membership; yet the Question as such does not challenge national monoculturality. The reception of Christian von Dohm’s publication Über die bürgerliche Verbesserung der Juden (1781) exemplifies the ambivalences in the representation of the national norm, or the authentic culture caused by the nationalization of the Jewish Question. The political thinker of the Berlin Enlightenment scene, and instructor of Wilhelm von Humboldt, Dohm, composed what he referred to as the “unfortunate history of the Jews” (Dohm 1781: 3; own translation). Circulating around 19th century Europe, his work offers social diagnosis and a political prescription for dealing with the Jewish difference. Writing from a non-Jewish perspective, he (ibid.) denounces the Jews’ situation in the European nation-states as the result of “the leftovers of the apolitical (unpolitische) and inhuman (unmenschliche) judgments (Vorurteile) of the dark ages (finsteres Jahrhundert), which are perpetuated in the present as indignity (unwürdig fordauern)”. Following a Lascasian argumentation, Dohm adopts the concept of indignity. He describes the status-quo of the Jews through their former inhumanization (Entmenschlichung) caused by the majoritarian society. In doing

7.4 On the Translatability of Jewishness into National History


so, Dohm unintentionally banishes the Jewish communities to the realm of the inhuman, where agencies and voices are unintelligible. Unsuited for transcending the violence in the difference’s depiction, Dohm’s statement entails both a moral defense of Jewish populations as well as a political judgment on the value on Jewishness and, therefore, anti-Semitic proposals. This political ambivalence reveals the unclear distinction between civic/bourgeois arguments and anti-Semitic ideologies (Raz-Krakotzkin 2002). A similar ambiguity between enlightenment-based arguments and the racialization of humanity is manifested 60 years later in the debate between Bauer and Marx. The requirement of historical renewal, which is important for both German philosophers, joins Sepúlveda’s fatality in the difference’s acculturation. Marx and Bauer perpetuate Las Casas’ and Sepúlveda’s vision of attaining the absence of differences. According to Marx, emancipation responds to a notion of linear and positive development and to a future, in which differentiation no longer exists or has become irrelevant to political membership. This suggests that for Marx and Bauer, the Jewish Question is rather the Cause for the German nation. Discussing the crisis of representation and of nationness, Arendt (1951: 360) notes that the concept Volksgemeinschaft builds a semantic register of exceptionality. The concept’s untranslatability also appears in Koselleck’s analysis on the particularity of Germanness. According to both authors, the German nation is sustained in the foundation of a ‘living organization’, whose reproducibility is grounded in the ‘unlikeliness of men’. In Arendt’s words (1951: 360): “Nazi propaganda concentrated all these new and promising vistas in one concept which it labeled Volksgemeinschaft. This new community, tentatively realized in the Nazi movement in the pretotalitarian atmosphere, was based on the absolute equality of all Germans, an equality not of rights but of nature, and their absolute difference from all other people.”

The strategies implemented for the creation of national identities—in Koselleck’s (2016) terms, identitätsstiftende Konstruktionen—are based on sameness. These are also accompanied by the difference’s disqualification condensed in the name ‘Jew’. According to Arendt (1951: 86), the non-representability of the Jew in the ‘national’ or cultural norm is manifested in the following manner: “The main point about the role of Jews in this fin-de-siècle society is that it was the antisemitism of the Dreyfus Affair which opened society’s doors to Jews, and that it was the end of the Affair, or rather the discovery of Dreyfus’ innocence, that put an


7 Translation and the Jewish Question

end to their social glory. In other words, no matter what the Jews thought of themselves or of Dreyfus, they could play the role society had assigned them only as long as this same society was convinced that they belonged to a race of traitors. When the traitor was discovered to be the rather stupid victim of an ordinary frame-up, and the innocence of the Jews was established, social interest in Jews subsided as quickly as did political antisemitism. Jews were again looked upon as ordinary mortals and fell into the insignificance from which the supposed crime of one of their own had raised them temporarily.”

Arendt’s depiction of the Jew as a difference in permanent interrogation explains the politicization of cultural differences at a national scale. Jews are associated with suspiciousness categorically as a result of their religious affiliation; yet also historically their presence has been framed by suspiciousness. The trials against national citizens of Jewish origins seek to prove their loyalty, and to authenticate or verify the nature of Jewishness. The persecutions of Jewish officers, who were frequently accused of espionage—among which the Dreyfus Affair (1894– 1906) is only the most known case—are testimonies of the condemnation of Jews to treason. The violent identification of the traitor Jew negates individuality. It reduces Jewishness to the question of knowing how, and when, to mask or unmask one’s origins. In this context, Arendt (ibid.: 66) speaks of the “ambiguities in the social existence” of Jews as the impossibility to decide if the “betray with the secret of his origin” may (or may not) entail “the secret of his people as well”. The nation’s fictive narrative demands a form of fidelity, which is shaped into the virtue of loyalty. However, loyalty is normatively ambiguous: It can either be mobilized as a collective defense against a common foreign threat, or if different forms of affiliations become contradictory (Appiah 2018). This double meaning suggests that loyalty is contingent; it depends upon the potential of betrayal (Kleinig 2022). In short, national fidelity depends on the fear of betrayal. The secularization of virtues and vices goes hand in hand with national historiography. Once culture becomes the source of belonging, the fidelity to that culture, as well as its conservation become crucial for the literary production of national identity, and for the constitution of the public (Buden 2006). In this sense, the debate between Bauer and Marx illustrates that the secularization of fidelity ‘nationalized’ the fear of betrayal. Buden (2008: V) explains this shift in the regime of translation in the following manner: “(B)ased on the normative idea of fidelity, translation becomes simply a means of cultivation, a cultivation tool”. However, like fidelity, national loyalty is accompanied by the obligation to ‘conquer’ those, who are infidels or

7.4 On the Translatability of Jewishness into National History


unattached to the same bounds of filiation. This cultural expansiveness submits the difference to public debate. In his definition of monoculturality, Anderson (1983: 86) recognizes an affiliation of meaning between the figure of the missionary and the patriot and thereby, a continuity from colonial to national history. He argues that ‘naturalization’ characterizes the ‘national identification’, which derives into an ‘official nationalism’. Considering the migration of this concept, Anderson discusses transhistorical similarities between naturalization and “the popular national movements” and suggests that (ibid.): “(While there is a certain analogy with, say, the Hispanization of the Americas and the Philippines, one central difference remains. The cultural conquistadors of late nineteenth-century […] were proceeding from a selfconscious Machiavelism, while their sixteenth-century Spanish ancestors acted out of an unselfconscious everyday pragmatism. Nor was it for them really ‘Hispanization’—rather it was simply conversion of heathens and savages.)”

Describing the transformation of the missionary into the patriot, and the distinction between Hispanization and naturalization in a sentence within brackets, Anderson avoids a substantial comparison between colonial and national historiographies. He circumvents addressing the reasons and implications in the paradigmatic change, but mostly, he omits the relation colonial/religious conversion and national/secular ‘naturalization’. Instead, he (ibid.) speaks of “two opposing political orders, one ancient, one quite new”. However, the transition from one cultural figure into the other is crucial for understanding similarities in the racialization of the 16th and 19th century (Zimmerer 2011: 19–20). Applying the conceptual transformation from religious fidelity into political loyalty and from infidelity into betrayal, Marx and Bauer trace incompatibilities between particular-based forms of belonging that either constitute or disarrange the ‘national’ identity. Both thinkers canalize through rhetorical strategies the fear of treason at a national scale. Moreover, the debate manifests the complementarity between loyalty and treason that allowed the suspicion of Jews to metamorphize into state’s principle (raison d’état) and anti-Semitism to become the national culture. Following Mufti (2007: 2), the Jewish Question illustrates that betrayal is “problematic of secularization and […] liberal culture as a whole and therefore cannot be understood in isolation from the history of […] modern Europe”. In the 20th century, the historical suspicion and persecution of Jewish peoples based on their religious affiliation unites the ethnicization of differences. Ethnicization substitutes local regimes of minorization by explaining what Arendt


7 Translation and the Jewish Question

(1951: 58), quoting Adolf Hitler, identifies as the phenomenon of “the supranational because intensely national Jew”. However, Arendt (ibid.: 290) also notes that the entanglement between the national and the minority’s history is overshadowed by the moralizing exploitation of Jewish history. Aggressive currents of Zionism handle the distinction between Christianity and Judaism “as indispensable for the definition of Jewish history as national history” (Raz-Krakotzkin 2002: 201). Thereby, the dispute over Jewish (and minoritarian) history as a component of Western national history is not resolved; it is rather translated into a national problem. Hélène Bertheleu (2007: 10) discusses the contemporary inflationary uses of the term ethnicization and explains that, while suggesting a scientific-based description of differences, the concept’s employments depoliticize the possible conflict among differences. In her words: “Derrière ce qui semble être une règle de prudence scientifique, le succès […] du terme « ethnicisation » trahit diverses inquiétudes et notamment cette idée de dérive et de relations « pathologisées », comme si les phénomènes ethniques constituaient en eux-mêmes une menace pour la « société » qui n’est autre ici que la nation.”

As a category that differentiates, ethnicization appears in lieu of an actual explanation. Functioning as a mistranslation, the concept pathologizes differences and relations with them. It presents ethnic affiliations as a danger to ‘society’, which is equivalent to the nation. This depoliticized approach to the analytical correlation between minorities and national historiography has two consequences: Ethnicization undermines the significance in the public accusation of the difference’s deviation from the cultural norm and it fragments the question of the difference. Arendt (1951: 66) describes the depoliticization of the question of the difference, or the ethnicization of Jews, as the moment in which: “Judaism became a psychological quality and the Jewish question became an involved personal problem for every individual Jew.” This alienated identity, or as she calls it, “the new Jewish type[,] had as little in common with the feared ‘Jew in general’”. According to Bertheleu, the ethnicization of differences creates forms of belonging, which are not only defined as archaic and socially dysfunctional, but also as incapable of political agency and theoretic production. In her words (Bertheleu 2007: 10): “une forme d’appartenance jugée archaïque et à laquelle personne ne devrait céder, ni les membres du groupe minoritaire, ni les membres du groupe majoritaire, et encore

7.4 On the Translatability of Jewishness into National History


moins les chercheurs. L’« ethnicisation » est perçue et comprise comme un dysfonctionnement social, comme un processus regrettable qui survient lors des moments de crise, qui pervertit en quelque sorte des rapports sociaux qui seraient, en fait, de nature économique et auraient dû s’exprimer plus clairement de façon politique. On considère ainsi à tort que la « couleur » de ces rapports sociaux n’est ethnique que par détérioration et de façon superficielle, tout comme d’ailleurs l’expression publique (quoique faible) de ces groupes minoritaires n’est ethnique (i.e. culturelle ou religieuse) que parce qu’elle ne sait pas ou ne peut pas être politique. Une telle approche, lorsqu’elle est épousée par la sociologie, risque fort de produire cette étrange « sociologie sans acteur ».”

Bertheleu signalizes in the misuses of ethnicization an epistemic and a political problem. Especially in moments of crisis, ethnicization portrays the difference as a national problem. Its (mis-)appropriation also insinuates an unproductivity in ethnic attachments for members of the majority and the minority, but especially for social thinkers. The existential differentiation attained through the concept of ethnicization frames an epistemic attitude towards the difference. Ethnicization renders the question of (cultural or religious) minorities superficial by masking economic disparities. Differences are explained culturally and are (reduced to) ethnic questions as they cannot be political. Concluding, Bertheleu suggests that this epistemic attitude risks formulating the strange “sociology without an actor”, which characterizes the debate between Marx and Bauer. Comparing the history and the rights of Jews in Western nations, both discussants tacitly intertwine the Jewish Question to the history of modern nation-states. Yet, Marx and Bauer also mobilize fear and suspicion against Jews. They agree upon the impossibility of an ‘authentic’ secularization, or a ‘true’ emancipation from religion. Whereas Bauer holds the Jews responsible for their historical jetlag or underdevelopment, Marx accuses the Christian state of instigating Jewish anachronism. Both argumentations nationalize, and thereby, naturalize the hostility against the difference. Read through Arendt (1951: 66), both discussants handle ethnicization as a criterion for national differentiation transforming Jews into “a social group whose members shared certain psychological attributes and reactions, the sum total of which was supposed to constitute ‘Jewishness.’” Reduced to foreignness, cultural or religious differences evolve into alien elements. Ethnicization risks pathologizing differences and to function as a euphemism for the racialized violence in the differences’ public accusations. In this context, Arendt’s (ibid.: 86) expression of the ‘race of traitors’ remits to the marking beyond cultural differentiation. The politicization of religious and


7 Translation and the Jewish Question

cultural differences derives into the racialization of Jewishness, which cannot be explained by ethnicization. In an article entitled Race-Thinking before Racism, Arendt (1944: 41–2) addresses the relation of meaning between race and the nation extensively, noting that: “From the very beginning, racism deliberately cut across all national boundaries, whether these were defined by geographical or linguistic or traditional or any other standards, and denied national-political existence as such. Race-thinking, rather than class-thinking, has been the ever-present shadow which accompanied the development of the comity of European nations, until it finally grew to be the powerful weapon for the destruction of those nations.”

Arendt offers an insightful description of the Europeanization of biological racism ‘at home’. However, the history of this domestic racism, which, while being nationalized also became international, is rooted in colonial history. Partially acknowledging this legacy, Anderson (1983: 68) responds to his own question of: “What were the origins of this [national, TM] dream?” with the tentative answer: “Most probably, they lay in the profound shrinking of the European world in time and space […] caused initially by the Humanists’ excavations and later, paradoxically enough, by Europe’s planetary expansion.” This association implies that the cultural competition in defining the nation’s originality mobilizes a history of Eurocentric colonial translation. Chatterjee (1997: 32) reconstructs the affiliation of meaning between the ‘colony’ and the ‘nation’ and traces a continuity from colonial to modern history that he localizes in the nation’s historical renewal. As he notes (ibid.): “These institutions embody the desire of [the] elite to replicate in its own society the forms as well as the substance of western modernity. It is a desire for a new ethical life in society, one that is in conformity with the virtues of the enlightenment and of bourgeois freedom and whose known cultural forms are those of secularized western Christianity.”

Explaining the history of the nation-state in India through colonial layers of meaning, Chatterjee compares the “nationalist elites in colonial countries” with the figure of the (secular) citizen. Both actors seek to create “new institutions of secular public life” (ibid.). His description of the secular state is not far from Marx’s critique of the German Christian state. Marx and later Arendt (1951: 50) identify the violence in the exchangeability of civil rights with national and human rights. However, their critiques do not

7.4 On the Translatability of Jewishness into National History


grasp the transhistorical significance of the Jewish Question. Both omit historical continuities among the regimes of translation, or the rendering ‘alike’ of differences. Their assessment of the totalitarian state and the nationalization of rights excludes the circulation of the difference’s meaning throughout history (Zimmerer 2011: 16–19). Yet, it is precisely the referent’s mobility that renders the concepts of culture and minority political. In other words, the renewal of the ‘people’ and the ma(r)king of the difference are complementary. The reconstruction of the Jewish Question through translation situates the difference into a wider context than the national, but also in transcontinental history. Such an approach moves back and forth in history for tracing the difference’s historiography in relation to national historiography (Zimmerer 2011: 21) and includes the journey of the changing referents applied to mark differences. The resemblances in the “naming of the difference” (de Certeau 2000: 227), as well as in the prescription for its mutation, connects the Valladolid Debate to the Jewish Question. Both exclude the difference from the discussion. The ‘Indian’ and the ‘Jew’ are banished from the definition of the majoritarian identity. This ‘exile’ of meaning creates an “antagonistic dependency” or, what de Certeau (ibid.) refers to as “a dynamic relationship between the familiar and the strange”. In his words (ibid.): “It is the same idea of difference that links what is familiar to what is strange.” This means that the alien to the symbolic order of language and culture establishes a relation between the outside and the inside. This “place of interplay” is conceived as the “inherent dynamism of every society” (ibid.). Marx and Bauer follow this pattern by situating the Jewish difference in the interplay between the domestic and the foreign: Translatability is traced through comparisons and distinctions from both the norm and other minoritized identities. Thereby, the discussants reinforce the translation regime verifying the difference’s nature. As the conversion imperative, the emancipation of the Jews renders particular attachments and the loyalty to the cultural norm incompatible. Submitted to a mutation of existence, the minoritized identity represents the limits of civilization and the nation, while at the same time, constituting an independent history. This genealogy of violence can be traced with (and against) Arendt (1951: 290), who, referring to totalitarian exclusion of Jews from the nation that culminated in the dramatic architecture of the Holocaust, notes that the radical ‘solution’ of the Jewish Question begins with the estrangement (or isolation) of the difference from the debate, continues by alienating the difference from its foreignness, and ends with its exile and extermination. This causality of death had already been justified by Sepúlveda and Bauer.


7 Translation and the Jewish Question

On the contrary, Marx emphasizes on the significance of the Jewish Question for the nation and, only four years later, in The Communist Manifesto (1848), he remarks: “The working men have no country”. If the revolution is made by those disproved from a fatherland, then why does Marx not link the situation of Jewish people to his idea of the stateless proletariat? In short: What happened to Marx’s internationalism in his analysis of the Jewish Question? Marx (2009) proposes to evaluate modern states’ performance based upon the condition of the respective national minorities. However, he does not discuss the color-line in the United States nor the movements for independence in the French colonies. He thus omits the transnational context of nationhood, colonialism, as well as the meaning of scientific racism from his own analysis. In doing so, he dismisses the correlations of meaning among the Jewish Question and the history of non-Jewish minorities and overlooks the simultaneous discussions on Blackness in Europe. However, precisely the circulation of meaning between the Black Question and the Jewish Question illustrates the identification of the difference through the “changing same” (Gilroy 1991). For example, as Sander Gilman (1984: 291) notes, the depiction of the ‘Jew’ as “radical difference” from the national identity borrows racist analogies and homologies from the ‘mulatto’. This racialized identity is considered ‘valuable’ insofar it refers to a non-white human being, who has the capacity of adaptability, yet the incapacity to reproduce culturally (Gilman 1986: 7). In his later work on Jewish diasporas in Western states, Bauer (1863: 10) reformulates his depiction of the immutability in the “nature of the Jew” as the “white Negro”. He mobilizes the conceptual and epistemic legacy of the racist stratification of humanity, and the colonial mapping of the world. Likewise, his opponent operates within the colonial cartography that positions Black people at the bottom (Fanon 2000). In the publications that followed his essay “On the Jewish Question” (1844), Marx (1862: in Gilman 1984: 291) exploits the “the Black Jew” to refer to Ferdinand Lassalle.9 In doing so, he betrays the


This racist statement has been discussed by the Marxist thinker Gilman (1984) and the German thinker Wulf Hund (2018). Already in the title of his paper on Marx’s racism, Wulf reproduces violence. Both critiques emphasize on Marx’s Jewish identity, although he took distance from any religion. If Judaism is the problem (and Marx was ‘accused’ of being a Jew several times), then the critical voices perpetuate Bauer’s definition of ‘the’ Jew, and ignore the violence of comparison in his statement, which should rather be thought in its postcolonial context, instead of pathos. For a critical discussion of Marx’s relation to Jewishness and Blackness, see: HaCohen 2018.

7.4 On the Translatability of Jewishness into National History


possibilities of human emancipation, or his own expectation in the ‘authentic’ cosmopolitisation of politics. The discussants’ personal convictions and biographies aside, it is rather the intersections between the Valladolid Debate and the Jewish Question which are significant. The silenced relation between the two debates and the Black Question constitutes the transhistorical and transcontinental historiography of the difference(-marking). It is upon the silencing of the Black Question that the question of minorities can be raised. In other words, the exclusion of the Black Question from the debates is the basis of a tacit fragmentation of humanity that allows treating minorities as original exceptions to the white cultural rule. The regime that legitimizes the ontological fragmentation or differentiation also decides upon the translatability of minoritized identities into the white, European, and Christian norm. At the same time, the translation regime excludes Black people from the reconstitution of ‘the people’ and the nation. However, as Mufti (2007: 2) proposes, the comparison among regimes regulating the mobility of ‘culture’ and ‘identity’ permits correlating minoritized histories. This implies acknowledging that Blackness as “Jewishness disrupts the very categories of identity because it is not national, not genealogical, not religious, but all of these in dialectical tension with one another” (Boyarin/ Boyarin 1993: 721). Moreover, as Mufti (2007: 6) notes, the affiliation between the Black difference and the Jewish difference as traced through European lens “dismantle[s] the anticomparatist impulse of much of Jewish studies since its founding in Germany in the Wissenschaft des Judentums in the early nineteenth century.” The reconstruction of the Jewish Question through a comparative perspective situates its exceptionality into the larger conceptual and social history of “the ‘question’ of the Jews’ status in modern culture and society” (ibid.: 2). According to Mufti (ibid.: 10), this epistemic shift acknowledges that “the manner in which the Jews of Europe became a question, both for themselves and for others” has implications to “the crises and conflicts of the projects of modernity in European and non-European, specifically colonial and postcolonial, settings”. This means that the debate upon the Jewish difference in the 19th century rearticulates the colonial difference of ‘the’ Indian, and ‘the’ Black and readapts them to a national difference. Moreover, by being depicted as the new ‘domestic foreign’, the idea of the Jew is situated in-between the colonialized and the secular citizen. More than formulating a genealogy of differences, the meaning co-relations among minoritized and interrogated identities replace the monocultural idea of the nation with the politics of translation and the translatability of identities. The comparative approach to the regimes tracing European differences disseminates knowledge on the majority’s expectations and epistemic attitude vis à vis the


7 Translation and the Jewish Question

adaptability of differences. It also unveils the common cultural norm guiding the promise of transformation of non-white ‘minorities’. Thereby, it acknowledges the existence of power relations previous to the translation.


Redefining the Jewish Difference Through Orientalism

The regimes of translation articulated in the Valladolid Debate and the Jewish Question exemplify the adaptability of racism, which is condemned by Fanon (1967) in his speech entitled “Racism and Culture”. In it, he (ibid.: 36) describes how colonial racism rearticulates into the Jewish Question and the Black Question. Thereby, he illustrates that the translatability of differences discloses old and new strategies implemented for the “minoritization of language, culture, and memory” (Mufti 2007: 7). Similarly, Mufti (ibid.: 10) localizes the transhistorical significance of the Jewish Question in relation to national history, in “the implications this being put in question” has for literary, philosophical, popular-cultural, and political responses to that question. The Jewish Question illustrates the regime of translation in modern times. Yet, the migration of the difference’s meaning at the level of form, content, “and literary institution” (ibid.: 11) is transhistorical. The national regime of translation situates the Jews in a crisis of representation between colonial and postcolonial historiographies. This indicates that the Jewish Question mobilizes (post-)colonial meaning, thereby, altering the definition of the “selfhood in a colonial and postcolonial society” (ibid.: 2). In Mufti’s words (ibid.): “the terrorized and terrifying figures of minority” are conceptual catalyzers of “the crisis of modern secularism, and of postcolonial secularism in particular”. Likely, Chatterjee (1999) (re)situates the difference in the postcolonial context and points to the colonial legacy in political membership and national representation. From his perspective, the secular state, or what he (1999: 254) calls “the politics of secularization”, homogenizes historiography, culture, and identity, but also reframes the coloniality in the difference’s mar(k)ing to the point that: “contrary phenomena such as religious revivalism, fundamentalism, and the rise of new cults have sometimes also been explained as the consequence of the same processes of mechanization or segmentation.” Mufti (2007: 2) describes the globalization of this ambiguous historicity as composed by a “set of paradigmatic narratives, conceptual frameworks, motifs, and formal relationships concerned

7.5 Redefining the Jewish Difference Through Orientalism


with the very question of minority existence, which are then disseminated globally in the emergence, under colonial and semicolonial conditions, of the forms of modern social, political, and cultural life.” Fanon attains a similar conclusion noting that the Jewish Question canalizes modern and postmodern manifestations of colonialism that no longer demand the space of the colony to be effective. Systems of cultural representations and hierarchies of identities no longer require the presence of colonial agents and colonial infrastructures (Fanon 1967: 38–9). Yet, the control over the marking differences remains unaltered (ibid.: 36). The travelling history of the Jewish Question is particularly visible in Bauer’s translation of the Jew into the racialized European idea of the ‘Oriental Being’. Read through (and beyond) Said’s lens of Orientalism (2003), Bauer’s existential comparison is affiliated to older as well as with contemporary regimes of translation. According to Said (2003), Orientalism is not a geographic concept nor a ‘place’ but rather a relation erected through the conceptual opposition between the ‘Occident’ and the ‘Orient’. It is a vague and general concept that “connotes the high-handed executive attitude of nineteenth-century European colonialism” (Said 2003: 2). He (ibid.: 3) also notes that: “Orientalism can be discussed and analyzed as the corporate institution for dealing with the Orient—dealing with it by making statements about it, authorizing views of it. Describing it, by teaching it, settling it, ruling over it: in short, Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.”

Orientalism is a Eurocentric prescriptive-perspective upon the non-European difference that frames the ‘Orient’ by the colonial imagination of a natural authority over non-European peoples. Bauer’s depiction of the Orient as the place of difference fulfills this function. Localizing the Jew in this Western fiction, he states (Bauer 1843: 11; own translation): “The Orient is the natural habitat of the Jew”. In his colonial mapping, the West is free from the ‘weigh of tradition’, religious thinking, while the ‘Orient’ is stagnated in them. At the same time, Bauer (ibid.: 2) notes that Christianity, in the form of the Christian state in the West, transcends religion since it is capable of critique. Segregating Jewishness from the Western Christian world, Bauer also territorializes religion. Simply put, he ‘Orientalizes religion’ (Anidjar 2006: 58). This epistemic attitude blocks cultural transfer between the norm and the difference. The colonial cartography is the outcome of a translation undertaken without exchange.


7 Translation and the Jewish Question

Gil Anidjar (2006) criticizes that, likewise to Bauer’s, Said’s employment of the concept of secularism is territorialized. Both associate secularism with Christianity’s development into the Christian state in the West. Thereby, secularism is depicted as hosting the opposition between “the ‘religious’ Orient” and “the (secular) West” (ibid.: 67). In this scheme, the Christian state becomes equivalent to the secular state. The West is per definition freed from religion and distinguished from non-modern and non-Christian societies, which are not incidentally non-European. Therefore, the very distinction between ‘the religious’ and ‘the secular’ is a colonial geo-epistemic distinction. In the association of the West to the ‘authentic’ and ‘original’ modern identity, this world-region is conceived in opposition to the Orientalized difference. Besides, Christianity constitutes the cultural norm that traces the Oriental difference and the Christian tolerance, proper to the secular state, renders secularism potentially universal. Banished by Bauer to the colonial construct of the ‘Orient’, the Jew is also excluded by Marx (2009) in his critique of Bauer’s critique of the Jews’ emancipation. In this text, he formulates a response to an anti-Semitic critique without altering the exclusion of Jews from the discussion that creates their identity as a ‘Jew’. This distancing of the questioned identity increases the discussions upon the difference, thereby politicizing it (Buden/ Nowotny 2008: 200). Marx and Bauer reify the uniformity of national history by affirming its nonJewish authorship. Arguing that Jewishness has to be abandoned for the sake of national development, Marx claims that a secularization is a necessary mutation for being a political citizen. Bauer expect this mutation to take place for being consider national. In this sense, more than reconfiguring the limits of the nation, the mutation implied in the Jewish Question redefines the difference as a matter of non-Jewish public domain. Discussed as a symptom of decay, the presence of the difference is reduced to an impediment (or threat) for progress. As such, the difference offers no enrichment to the ‘host’ culture but is rather conceived as a problem requiring self-sacrifice. Upon this logic, Bauer (1843: 3) formulates his violent imperative: He expects from the Jews to emancipate themselves through the self-sacrifice of their ‘obsolete traditions’ (veraltete Traditionen). Jewish emancipation, as the translation of the difference, expresses the necessity to synchronize Jewishness to nationality and Jews into citizens. Addressing the (post)colonial heritage in this violent process of assimilation into Western standards, one may ask, what is a culture without tradition? And what is a nonoutdated tradition? At the same time, it seems necessary to ask: What makes

7.5 Redefining the Jewish Difference Through Orientalism


the everlasting contemporaneousness of the Christian, or secular state? These questions seek for a historicization of the West. The cultural norm submitting the difference to the trial of authentication is the same ‘majority’ or target culture that evaluates the assimilation. Verified in a binary schema of fidelity and betrayal (Noetzel 1999: 13), the minoritized identity can only lose. Either way, the non-Western (or Orientalized) difference remains in debt to the norm. The difference remains a being in debt. “The interesting thing about this evolution”, as Fanon (1967: 37) notes, is that “the commercial undertaking of enslavement, of cultural destruction, progressively gave way to a verbal mystification. […] [R]acism was taken as a topic of meditation, sometimes even as a publicity technique.” The diagnosed untranslatability of Jewishness into the national identity (Bauer) and political membership (Marx) illustrates that the difference interrupts the monocultural ‘romantization of the people’ (Arendt 1944: 50), which is created by the national narrative. Entangling secularism and contemporaneousness in the West, Bauer condemns the Jewish difference to immutability. However, this means that contradictory temporalities coexist in the nation and intersect with national history. The hierarchy of worth and dependency between barbarism and civilization reappears in the Jewish Question as the relation between cultivation and contamination. In Buden’s (2008: III) words: “[A] nation, expressed through its language as its very essence, gives up a part of its natural purity, uniqueness or originality and accepts contamination by the foreign in order to achieve the state of culture.” However, he adds (ibid.: VII): “what today is seen as a new linguistic or cultural quality that would enrich the nation and therefore should be ‘imported’ by translation, can tomorrow become its opposite, a quality that destroys its very essence and should remain untranslatable. What one translator perceives as a constructive foreign, another can declare to be a destructive foreignness. [W]here there is ambiguity and arbitrariness, there must also be hegemony and political power to decide ultimately what is and what is not translatable.”

The idea of cultural contamination, which is a synonym for infection, is highly selective. It presupposes the difference’s infertility or its non-reproducibility into the norm. The minoritized, and in Fanon’s (1967: 38) words “the inferiorized” difference, cannot be represented, instead it must be assimilated. In this context, it is interesting to note, that in the preface of Orientalism, Said (2003) quotes Marx with the following sentence from The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852): “They cannot represent themselves; they must be represented.”


7 Translation and the Jewish Question

The racialized idea of the ‘Orient’ as the region of religion in opposition to the secular West is intrinsic to German coloniality as articulated in the Jewish Question and beyond. Reproduced through language in a long tradition of European racism, this cultural manifestation of colonialism reappears among debates in Europe as a token. Within the right-left spectrum, politicians, intellectuals, and journalists mobilized the trope of an ‘Orientalized foreignness’, which should be translated into a ‘secular’ identity in order be ‘hosted’, hence, enabled to inhabit the West. The recurrent opposition between “the ‘religious’ Orient” and “the (secular) West” illustrates that the employment of concepts and comparisons, with which the Jewish minorities were confronted in the 19th century, have not expired. Changing their referent, these concepts fulfill, frightening enough, a comparable function ma(r)king the ‘new minorities’ in the Western world (Clifford 1994; Spivak 2002). The returning violence suggests that Eurocentric conceptions of ‘religion’ and ‘religious identities’ remain central to the definitions of the West as well as to multiculturalism.


Translating Multiculturalism

This chapter first describes certain aspects of Western societies that have engendered the constellations entitled multicultural. Secondly, it focuses on Kymlicka’s and Taylor’s uses and misuses of multiculturalism. In the third section, this politicized noun will be situated in the history of the difference’s ma(r)king. Further, recognition will be reformulated as the post-national paradigm of translation and tolerance as the translator’s new virtue. The final section relates the Valladolid Debate, the Jewish Question, and multiculturalism through the Muslim Question.


Multiculturalism and the Migrating History of Minorities

In the 21st century, the concept of minorities describes the presence of nondominant cultural groups in Western democracies. Applied in plural, it addresses postcolonial diasporas, as well as the new migration patterns from the Global South to the Global North (Clifford 1994; Mufti 2007; Spivak 2002). The need to regulate minorities provides account of the lasting tension between human rights and national rights, which is at the core of the nation-state (Arendt 1951). Historically, minorities shift between cultural norms and cultural exceptions. Since the Jewish Question, the pluralisation of the minority’s conception is one of the main semantic transformations of the difference’s question. Furthermore, the totalitarian anti-Semitic ‘solution’ has been rearranged into a complex body of democratic, liberal, as well as pluralistic institutions and policies that regulate the relations between the cultural majority and the respective cultural minorities at the national and international scale. The concept of minorities diversifies the referents of discussions on multiculturalism that seek a consolidation of democratic societies and global governance. This model allocates different rights and © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, part of Springer Nature 2023 T. Mancheno, Ma(r)king the Difference,



8 Translating Multiculturalism

obligations to groups within a nation according to their ethnic background (Song 2017). During the last years of the 20th century, the ‘problem of minorities’, or of ‘minorities as a problem’ in the Western world has been reformulated into the controversial concept of multiculturalism. The acknowledgment of a plurality of identities co-existing within the nation implies a specific understanding of democracy (Forst 2017). In fact, according to Taylor (1992) and Kymlicka (2007b) democracy is a requirement for multiculturalism. This political concept was formulated by Western, English-speaking literature produced especially in Canada (Song 2017). As an operational concept and as an adjective, it appears in The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is equivalent to the constitution. Multiculturalism (re)claims a positive understanding of cultural differences and offers a liberal understanding of identities by assuming a primordial distinction between the private and the public dimensions of identity (ibid.). From this perspective, the differentiation or fragmentation of political membership based upon private differences is not only useless for political theory but also contraproductive for democracy. Religious minorities are not essentially negative radical differences (as in the previous debate). The multicultural society rather seeks for a harmonization of differences and places emphasis on state’s intervention. As in the case of the Dominican priests Las Casas and Sepúlveda in the 16th century and the German philosophers, Bauer and Marx, in the 19th century, also the intellectual debate between Kymlicka1 and Taylor2 reformulates the difference from a non-minoritarian perspective. For almost thirty years (1992– 2018), the Canadian philosophers discussed about the moral and legal meaning of multiculturalism, as well as its political efficiency. Finding the ‘right’ equilibrium between the state’s regulation and the difference’s self-determination, their debate also verifies the difference’s belonging to the national identity. In this sense, the multicultural debate is symptomatic of a greater crisis of representation, identity, and the limits of civilization. The boundaries of the political community are those of the multicultural nation-state. Revisiting national representation, Kymlicka and Taylor discuss the relation between religion and politics arguing that multiculturalism entails both a crisis


Kymlicka’s most known contributions are Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights (1995), Politics in the Vernacular: Nationalism, Multiculturalism, Citizenship (2001) and Multicultural Odysseys. Navigating the new International Politics of Diversity (2007a). 2 Taylor’s known publications on this issue are Multiculturalism and ‘The Politics of Recognition’ (1992) and A Secular Age (2007).

8.1 Multiculturalism and the Migrating History of Minorities


and a critique of secularism.3 The cultural tensions between faith and philosophy, as well as between religion and democracy are situated in what Taylor identifies as A Secular Age (2007), and Kymlicka the New Politics of Diversity (2007a). Both publication titles highlight that multiculturalism operates within a new temporality of democracy. Taylor (1992: 27) describes this interrelation in the following sense: “Democracy has ushered in a politics of equal recognition, which has taken various forms over the years, and has now returned in the form of demands for the equal status of cultures and of genders.” From a more proceduralistic perspective, Kymlicka (2007a: 18) suggests that: “liberal multiculturalism rests on the assumption that policies of recognizing and accommodating ethnic diversity can expand human freedom, strengthen human rights, diminish ethnic and racial hierarchies, and deepen democracy.” Multiculturalism does not challenge the political system in place but seeks to increase the stability of its democratic configuration at a supranational level. Kymlicka (ibid.: 14, 15) labels this institutional landscape “the governance of ethnic diversity” or “the “internationalization of multiculturalism”. From his point of view, “[t]he current framework of norms and standards has undoubtedly helped some historically marginalized groups, most notably indigenous peoples in Latin America, and […] has helped to legitimize claims-making by ethnic groups as normal and legitimate part of democratic politics”. Nevertheless, he (ibid.: 15) is also “increasingly convinced that the status quo is not sustainable”. It is significant, as Balibar (2004: n.n.) states: “to note here that, just as Europe historically has ‘invented’ the institution of the modern border and projected it all over the world, it has also ‘invented’ the notion of language as closed identity (idiom) and projected it onto the linguistic practices all over the world.” Anderson (1983: 81) characterizes the same globalization of the European ‘model’ of the independent national state as a process due to exo-European imitation. Emphasizing on repetition rather than on expansionism, he hints that “by the second half of the nineteenth century, if not earlier”, this model “was available for pirating”. Following Benjamin, Anderson’s usage of ‘piracy’ for explaining the reproduction of the national model outside Europe marks a normative distinction: In opposition to translation, the ‘copy’ does not enable the survival (or an extension) of the original in different terms. The reproduction of the national model outside of Europe is rather considered a defective copy. ‘Piracy’ affects the 3

See for example: Religion and Politics in Comparative Perspective: The One, The Few, and The Many (2002) by Ted Jelen and Clyde Wilcox, as well as Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide (2011) by Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart. Both works develop upon the hypothesis about an undesacralization of the world.


8 Translating Multiculturalism

mobility of the ‘authentic’ form of democracy, as well as of those national identities, which—translated into a cultural and national membership—become the legitimate identities. The nation’s monoculturality formalizes the membership to modern political societies. Yet, while this ‘universal particular’ (Balibar/ Wallerstein 1991: 6) globalizes national history, it also globalises the question of minorities. In other words, the imitation of the nation’s model reproduces the central component of its modern historiography: the ambivalences towards national/transnational minorities present in the Jewish Question. Acknowledging the defectiveness of liberal democracies regarding the unsolved question of minorities, Kymlicka (2005) and Taylor (2007) allude to the fact that the nation’s monoculturality is not applicable as a cultural membership, but rather only as a political membership. Both discussants argue in favour of multiculturalism for being capable of allowing differences to co-exist under a secular and tolerant pluralism, as well as diversifying the meaning of nationality. In the multicultural state, membership does not require the nationalization of language and culture, instead it necessitates the nationalization of differences. In other words, the multicultural state includes different manifestations of cultural identities into the definition of national identity. Therefore, multicultural-national membership mirrors a plurality of cultural heritages, also defined as the value of traditions, which are then translated into national and civil rights (Taylor 1992: 68). Multiculturalism neither involves conversion nor assimilation. It rather pursues the inclusion (and exclusion) of minoritarian historiographies into and from the national narrative. In opposition to the politics of identity, cultural attachments neither compete with one-another nor corrupt the national unity. Moreover, these are related to one another through hyphens. In this multicultural model, the Franco-Canadian case establishes the rule (Taylor/ Bouchard 2008: 18). Kymlicka and Taylor identify in the ‘bridge’ among differences represented by the hyphen, a fruitful terrain for solving the multicultural question in a democratic manner. In the final report of the Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences created by Quebec’s government in 2007, “in reaction to the reasonable accommodation crisis” (Jukier/ Woehrling 2010: 182), Taylor and the sociologist Gérard Bouchard (2008: 18) express the Canadian national exceptionality in the following sense: “Nous pouvons en conclure que les Québécois d’ascendance canadienne-française ne sont pas encore bien à l’aise avec le cumul de leurs deux statuts (majoritaires au

8.1 Multiculturalism and the Migrating History of Minorities


Québec, minoritaires au Canada et en Amérique). Toutefois, il convient aussi de rappeler que plusieurs pays d’Occident connaissent aujourd’hui des malaises qui ressemblent à ceux qui ont été exprimés à l’occasion du débat sur les accommodements. Quand on compare la situation au Québec avec celle de plusieurs pays européens, on s’aperçoit que plusieurs craintes qui peuvent être justifiées ailleurs ne le sont pas nécessairement ici.”

According to the Bouchard-Taylor Commission Report (2008), the status quo of Canadian multiculturalism is described with the concept of ‘malaise’. The authors trace back the ‘existential deviation’ expressed by this concept to the ambiguous position of French-Canadians in building a local majority, while, at the same time, being a national and continental minority. Bouchard and Taylor hint that a similar contradictory cultural constellation may be found in Europe. Yet they emphasize on the incomparability of the Canadian experience. Found in English and French, the concept of ‘malaise’ entails the polyvalent meanings of discomfort, uneasiness, unrest, and illness, but also of embarrassment. Fanon (1967: 8–13) precisely discusses these symptoms in the psychiatric diagnoses of his patients suffering from colonial racism in Algeria. He notes that the notion of malaise has less to do with a lesion, than with the negative experiences of humiliation and shame. Taylor (1999: 100) adopts both concepts for explaining the “inner connection of feeling and judgment” that compose the “agency and the self”. Moreover, he explains that (ibid.): “the range of human feelings” includes “pride, shame, guilt, sense of worth, love, and so on.” He continues: “Shame is what we feel in a situation of humiliating exposure, and we want to hide ourselves from it […]; guilt when we are aware of transgression.” Further, in Taylor’s (1992: 49) “portrait of the republican model, caring about esteem is central”. Explaining his social employment of shame, he (ibid.: 48) implies that: “Caring about esteem in this context is compatible with freedom and social unity, because the society is one in which all the virtuous will be esteemed equally and for the same (right) reasons. In contrast, in a system of hierarchical honor, we are in competition; one person’s glory must be another’s shame.”

Building upon Rousseau’s social contract, Taylor (ibid.: 49) applies the emotional component of agency and the self to the analysis of modern societies and derives from the individual into the idea of the ‘common self’. Whereas in the premodern hierarchical system, the principles of pride and honor foster privileges and social divisions, in the multicultural society, these virtues are collectivized into


8 Translating Multiculturalism

the national esteem. Taylor precisely localizes this transformation of the ‘common self’ in Canadian multiculturalism. In his words (ibid.): “Characterized by equality, reciprocity, and unity of purpose”, Quebec’s unique “common public culture” (Taylor/ Bouchard 2008: 19) enables multicultural-national unity. This unity, as Taylor (1992: 49) explains: “makes possible the equality of esteem, but the fact that esteem is in principle equal in this system is essential to this unity of purpose itself.” Paraphrasing Rousseau, he (ibid.) continues: “Under the aegis of the general will, all virtuous citizens are to be equally honored. The age of dignity is born.” In this new age of democracy, the telos of liberal societies is still equality, though not as cultural uniformity. Multicultural egalitarian societies require notable emotional and political infrastructures, which—according to the Bouchard-Taylor Commission Report (2008: 19)—are subsumed into the needs to: “créer un sentiment de solidarité nécessaire au bon fonctionnement d’une société égalitaire, disposer d’une capacité de mobilisation en cas de crise et profiter de l’enrichissement lié à la diversité ethnoculturelle. Pour une petite nation comme le Québec, toujours préoccupée de son avenir en tant que minorité culturelle, l’intégration représente en outre une condition de son développement, voire de sa survie.”

The performance of the multicultural, egalitarian society requires solidarity, the willingness to mobilize oneself in the case of a crisis, as well as the capacity of taking advantage from the enrichment tied to ethno-cultural diversity. Furthermore, due to Quebec’s ‘little size’, the authors add the concept integration to the requirements for multiculturalism. Integration, as Taylor and Bouchard (ibid.; own translation) indicate, is essential for the development and survival of a nation, “which is always concern with its own future as a minority”. Thereby, the report notes that the plurality of cultural belongings makes of Canada, and particularly of Quebec, an exceptional case in the West. However, Canada is not solely composed by the co-existence of two European languages. As a nation founded through European-Christian settler colonialism, Canada is also a postcolonial nation. Canada is a country of continuous immigration, which deals with the question of the ‘newcomers’ and simultaneously faces the unsolved question of the ‘Indians’, or in Taiaiake Alfred’s (2010: ix)

8.1 Multiculturalism and the Migrating History of Minorities


words: ‘The Indian problem’. In Canadian democracy, the national ‘issue’ concerning these national members has been reformulated as the question of the Aborigines.4 The public philosopher James Tully believes that Taylor succeeds in articulating Canada’s unique diversity in both a theoretical and a practical manner.5 In an essay on the philosopher, Tully (2016) notes that: “Charles Taylor has been widely recognized for his contributions to philosophy, sociology, history, political science, and linguistics. But to Canadians he has given something more: A way to communicate and live together while negotiating our ethical relationships as citizens of a federation. This is important in Canada, because we are not only Anglophone or Francophone Canadians but also more deeply and differently diverse citizens of nations such as Québécois or Cree or Dene6 —each with a different language, historical experience, and laws.”

Reframing national monoculturality, ‘Taylor’s way of communication’ offered to Canadians is reworded as ‘open secularism’ and is formulated in opposition to a “narrow, or limited European secularism” (Taylor/ Bouchard 2008: 20; own translation). Taylor distinguishes the liberal Franco-Canadian division between religion and the state from secularism and laïcité. Yet, if open secularism defines Canada’s national narrative as not-European, it fulfils a similar function as laïcité. Both concepts express the untranslatability of the respective national diversity or local religious differences. The common emphasis on the historical uniqueness relates the Canadian to the French narrative on national identity and cultural


This semantic transformation is illustrated in the several relabelling of The Ministry for Canadian-Aborigines peoples created in 1880 for the exclusive administration of First Nations. In 1966, the Department of Indian Affairs (DIA) was renamed into the Department of Indian and Northern Development (DIAND). Today, it is called the AANDC—the short form for Aboriginal Affairs Northern Development of Canada. 5 In 1960, Taylor was candidate to the national Parliament. One year later, he cofounded Canada’s New Democratic Party. His co-chaired consultation for the Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences “was pivotal in shaping the Québec government’s policy on cultural diversity” (Baggini 2017). In 2017, Taylor received the Berggruen Prize. 6 Tully’s mentioning of Dene as a Canadian language and nation is problematic since he does not consider the several meanings of the name. The entry in The Canadian Encyclopaedia, written by Michael Asch (2017), notes that ‘Dene’ designates “the political organization that represents the […] northern Athabaskan-speaking peoples and their descendants […] in the settlement of outstanding land and governance issues with the Government of Canada.” In several First Nations’s languages ‘Dene’ refers to the people.


8 Translating Multiculturalism

originality. In this sense, open secularism is the translation of the French nation— expressed as laïcité, or even as “Catho-laïcité” (Laborde 2008: 69)—from the European continent into the Western-American context. In Finding Our Way: Rethinking Ethnocultural Relations in Canada (1998) Kymlicka also emphasises on Canada’s cultural authenticity and originality. This position is underlined in his articles “Marketing Canadian Pluralism in the International Arena” (2004), as well as in “Canadian Multiculturalism in Historical and Comparative Perspective” (2003), in which Kymlicka poses the rhetoric question: “Is Canada Unique?”. In a more recent paper delivered at the conference on “Muslim Women’s Equality Rights in the Justice System: Gender, Religion and Pluralism”, organized by the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, Kymlicka (2005: 1–2) formulates the following diagnosis: “Multiculturalism has played a central role in Canadian political life for the past thirty years. It has not only had an enormous symbolic effect, reshaping our very ideas of what it is to be Canadian, but has also had important substantive effects on the way that public institutions operate. Whether in the schools, media, police, social services, or in the legal and political system, multiculturalism policies and programs have helped make public institutions in Canada more open to the participation of immigrants and ethnic minorities. I believe that these effects have generally been positive, and indeed Canada’s multiculturalism policy is often seen around the world as a success story.”

According to Kymlicka’s description, the meaning of multiculturalism is inseparable from Canada’s recent history, and Canadian identity is inseparable from multiculturalism. This mutual significance temporalizes and territorializes multiculturalism as a harmonic condition proper to Canada. These spatial connotations situate differences called minorities within a local, even parochial context. Since the difference’s disruption juxtaposes the cultural affiliation and the national narrative, Canadian multiculturalism entails the idea of a common language. The political significance of language increases as Canada’s linguistic diversity diversifies the national senses of belonging. Yet, as in the case of the colony and the monocultural nation, also in the multicultural state, language sets the boundaries of national membership. During the 16th century, at the time of the Valladolid Debate, Castilian Spanish replaces Latin as God’s official language on Earth. In the Jewish Question, the German language is conceived as inseparable from the German nation. In both cases, the difference is located outside the ‘proper’ language and associated with

8.1 Multiculturalism and the Migrating History of Minorities


an intelligible foreignness. The idea that the colonial translators, i.e., the missionaries, do not speak Spanish is as inconceivable as the idea that the national missionaries, the patriots, do not speak German. In the three debates, the notion of the domestic is expressed through the nationalization of the territorial concepts of The Indies, Volksgemeinschaft and multiculturalism. Beyond the otherwise comparable parochial character of the debates, Kymlicka and Taylor do not relate the question of minorities at a translational scale, nor do they compare the situation of minorities among nation-states. Instead, both emphasize upon the untranslatability of Canadian multiculturalism. Therefore, whilst the geo-epistemic concepts of the colony and the nation are translatable, and have indeed been translated around the globe, the translatability of multiculturalism remains questionable. In a recent interview with the German newspaper Die Zeit, Taylor (2016) implies that: “Eine Demokratie lebt davon, dass die Bürger ihren eigenen Staat für etwas Besonderes halten und an ihm in besonderer Weise hängen. Über die Entwicklungen in anderen Ländern, wie in Erdo˘gans Türkei, kann ich als Kanadier traurig oder verärgert sein. Aber schämen kann ich mich nur für das eigene Land. Das eine ohne das andere funktioniert nicht: Ohne eine Idee, die alle teilen, lässt sich keine Demokratie lebendig halten.”

Taylor’s description of democracy is close to Koselleck’s conceptual history of Volksgemeinschaft as both emphasise on the originality of national historicity. To the question of “what Europe’s multicultural solution could be?”, Taylor (2016; own translation) consequently answers: “I do not have a patented recipe for you.” Taylor’s and Kymlicka’s epistemic attitudes towards differences emphasise on the Canadian particularity in dealing with minorities. Since both thinkers judge positively this exceptionality, their descriptions of multiculturalism are framed through constitutional patriotism. However, already Chakrabarty’s conceptual reconstruction of the postcolonial nation-state offers an insightful refection on the interdependency between liberal democracy and the question of minorities, which is equally valid for the Canadian case. In his words (2000: 97): “The question has arisen in all democracies of whether to include in the history of the nation histories of previously excluded groups. In the 1960s, this list usually contained names of subaltern social groups and classes, such as, former slaves, working classes, convicts, and women. This mode of writing history came to be known in the seventies as history from below. Under pressure from growing demands for democratizing


8 Translating Multiculturalism

further the discipline of history, this list was expanded in the seventies and eighties to include the so-called ethnic groups, the indigenous peoples, children and the old, and gays, lesbians, and other minorities. The expression ‘minority histories’ has come to refer to all those pasts on whose behalf democratically minded historians have fought the exclusions and omissions of mainstream narratives of the nation. Official or officially blessed accounts of the nation’s past have been challenged in many countries by the champions of minority histories. Postmodern critiques of ‘grand narratives’ have been used to question single narratives of the nation. Minority histories, one may say, in part express the struggle for inclusion and representation that are characteristic of liberal and representative democracies.”

In Chakrabarty’s account, the developments in the history of democracy have had an impact upon both history and national historiography. The gradual inclusion of minorities as full national members and participants is accompanied by the inclusion of ‘minority histories’ into the national narratives. Following a similar pattern to multiculturalism, the proliferation of civic rights in postcolonial nations, such as India, reinforces democratic societies and pluralizes the history of democracy. Hence, the diversification of minorities’ rights within the nation-state is a process inherent to liberal democracies. Reformulating the relation between the cultural majority and minorities, multiculturalism overhauls the historic exclusion of minorities from the definition of the nation. Multiculturalism rewrites national history and offers reforms for repairing the exclusion of national minorities from democratic participation. In other words, seeking to counteract the violent ‘differentiation and distinction’ proper to the nation (Arendt 1951: 360), multiculturalism is projected in the future. This double temporality is not only central for Kymlicka and Taylor, but also to the multicultural debate in general.7 Revisiting the associations of non-national cultural attachments and languages to deviations of the authentic identity, in the multicultural nation, the difference of the national identity becomes a candidate for inclusion in the national historiography and national memory; or, as Kymlicka (2007a: 20) puts it, a candidate for being considered ‘normal’. Chakrabarty’s reconstruction of the postcolonial nation coincides with its multicultural reconfiguration. Referring to Anderson (1983), he mentions the ExoEuropean imitation of this model. Yet, Chakrabarty (2000: 97) does not omit the transnational critique that accompanies national history. Described as a process 7

The fear of losing the national identity due to multiculturalism is a common argument among the right-wing parties of Western nations. The ‘return’ to a monocultural tradition is expressed in Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” and in the name of the German party Alternative für Deutschland.

8.2 Translation in the Multicultural Context: Kymlicka and Taylor


of colonial expansion, the globalization of the nation is reconstructed through the transcontinental history of struggles for ‘inclusion and representation’. This perspective indicates that the diversification of the narratives of the nation is unconceivable without the circulation of cultural and political concepts that create transnational identities, which, in a synchronic manner, unfold locally and nationally. It is precisely this geographic and historic complexity which explains the diachronic appearances of the question of minorities in Western and non-Western democracies. On the contrary, Kymlicka and Taylor disassociate the concept of multiculturalism from historical affiliations of meaning to other multicultural or plural constellations. Canadian multiculturalism is detached from postcolonial relations, so as from relations of power among and within minorities. This narrowed focus ignores the migrating conceptual history of minorities and disentangles the question of minorities from its transnational history and from possible translations. Defining multiculturalism as properly Canadian, the discussants misrecognise the affiliations of meaning among differences in history and geography. Kymlicka’s and Taylor’s applications of multiculturalism focus exclusively on the national narrative created by the imagi-nation of the cultural majority that recognizes and tolerates cultural differences at a national scale. Thereby, multiculturalism is nationalised and reduced to a parochial question. This partial historicity of the difference reduces the diachronic appearances of the question of minorities to national diversity.


Translation in the Multicultural Context: Kymlicka and Taylor

The plural understanding of culture implied in Kymlicka’s and Taylor’s politics of multiculturalism intersects the majority and minorities with the goal of reconciling them in equality (Gressgård 2010: vii). Both philosophers formulate practical and prescriptive ways of dealing with differences: Kymlicka formulates a legal-philosophical approach and Taylor argues from an ethical perspective. The coexistence of loyalties without conflict is central to their debate. Pursuing distributive justice, their aim consists in achieving a moral and institutional order that guarantees differentiated rights. Taylor (1992: 25) reformulates multiculturalism as “the minority rights-multiculturalism debate”, which involves “the need, sometimes the demand, for recognition”. Kymlicka (Kymlicka/ Norman 2000: 2) speaks of the necessity for accommodation of “distinctive identities and


8 Translating Multiculturalism

needs of ethnocultural groups”. Multiculturalism implies the art of finding a balance between the familiar and the unfamiliar. As Taylor (1992: 63) states: “The challenge is to deal with their sense of marginalization without compromising our basic political principles.” Both discussants define multiculturalism as a political need and situate it endemically to Western democracies. In Kymlicka’s words (2007c: 379): “the debates about the treatment of ethno-cultural minorities” are a “familiar feature of the political life of many countries in Central and Eastern Europe”, which have altered the general perception towards respective national minorities. In the multicultural society, minorities are no longer viewed as political enemies, hence, as potential betrayers. As he notes (Kymlicka 2007b: 588): “In the past, this has been an issue in the West. For example, prior to the Second World War, Italy, Denmark and Belgium feared that their German-speaking minorities were more loyal to Germany than to their own country and would support attempts by Germany to invade and annex areas of ethnic German concentration. These countries worried that Germany might invade in the name of liberating their co-ethnic Germans and that the German minority would collaborate with such an invasion.”

Comparing the past ‘general perception’ of minorities in the West to the actual one, Kymlicka concludes that the national and international mechanism of democratic regulation have successfully transformed the national suspiciousness of betrayal associated with minorities, which, before the Cold War, was the rule. Once the suspiciousness is disassociated from the difference, the majority’s attitude towards it changes. This substantial improvement in the treatment of cultural minorities took “[r]elations between the state and minority groups […] out of the ‘security’ box and put [them, TM] in the ‘democratic politics’ box” (ibid.: 589). In this sense, in opposition to Bauer and Marx, Kymlicka argues that the question of minorities is the matter of the (Western) state. This approach implies that the democratic negotiations between minorities and the state promote minorities’ demands, so as the “likelihood that those demands will be accepted” (ibid.). On the one hand, Kymlicka (2007a: 256) hints that the de-securitization of minorities in Western nations is “due mainly to the protective regional security umbrella created by NATO”, which has “played a crucial role in enabling the adoption of multination federalism”. On the other hand, Taylor (1992: 63) contends that the paradigmatic change in the treatment of minorities in the Western world is due to the “recognition of equal value”. In his words (ibid.: 64; emphasis original): “the further demand we are looking at here is that we all recognize the

8.2 Translation in the Multicultural Context: Kymlicka and Taylor


equal value of different cultures; that we not only let them survive, but acknowledge their worth.” From his point of view, multiculturalism enables the possibility of mutual recognition of differences. The Canadian philosophers diagnose a transformation in the epistemic attitude towards minorities caused by a change in the self-perception of the cultural majority. Multiculturalism redefines the cultural norm in national identity. The multicultural treatment of differences mirrors a paradigmatic change in the modus operandi of translation, so as in the understanding of the ‘target’ and the ‘source’ languages. The assimilation of foreignness is replaced by the identification of the differences’ value. However, the translatability of differences depends on the majority’s willingness to recognize their value. Since this recognition occurs within the national language, the translation of the difference is the majority’s task. In his plea for the translatability of differences entailed in multiculturalism, Taylor makes aware of the dangers engendered in the non-translatability. In his (1992: 64) words: “the lack of (perceived) recognition of the equal worth of one group by another” can in fact cause the “break up of multicultural societies”. To this contingent, but tendentious pessimistic diagnosis, he adds (ibid.): “This is at present, I believe, the case in Canada.” As the previous debates, the multicultural question catalyses a domestic crisis. In fact, from the beginning, multiculturalism is in crisis. In Taylor’s opinion (ibid.: 64), this crisis is articulated in the ‘explicit demand’ for ‘external recognition’ of differences at the national and international level. From a much more normative perspective than the one offered by Kymlicka, Taylor (ibid.: 67) contextualizes multiculturalism in the following sense: “The issue of multiculturalism as it is often debated today […] has a lot to do with the imposition of some cultures on others, and with the assumed superiority that powers this imposition. Western liberal societies are thought to be supremely guilty in this regard, partly because of their colonial past, and partly because of their marginalization of segments of their populations that stem from other cultures.”

Instead of using the political concept of responsibility, Taylor employs the religious concept of ‘guilt’ for condemning the colonial legacy of Western nations, as well as for allocating the significance of multiculturalism to Western societies. Denoting passiveness, guilt is already deployed by Las Casas. Both Catholic thinkers emphasise on morals and ethics, instead of politics, for readapting differences into the norm. Taylor (ibid.: 66) carefully reformulates the ‘demand of recognition’ into the premise “that we owe equal respect to all cultures”, adding


8 Translating Multiculturalism

that “this presumption is by no means unproblematic, and involves something like an act of faith.” Taylor’s defence of the differences’ equal worth acknowledges past asymmetric relations of power without necessarily altering actual imbalances. Moreover, in a similar way to Bauer, Taylor (ibid.: 62) traces a geographical distinction between ‘the religious’ and ‘the secular’ and localizes secularism exclusively in the West. Secularism is reconstructed in opposition to what he terms ‘Islam’. As he notes (ibid.): “As many Muslims are well aware, Western liberalism is not so much an expression of the secular, postreligious outlook that happens to be popular among liberal intellectuals as a more organic outgrowth of Christianity—at least as seen from the alternative vantage point of Islam. The division of church and state goes back to the earliest days of Christian civilization. The early forms of the separation were very different from ours, but the basis was laid for modern developments. The very term secular was originally part of the Christian vocabulary.”

In Taylor’s view, Christianity organically evolved into secularism. The convergence of meaning between the terms, at the same time, confines Islam as the Orientalized difference or, in Taylor’s words, the ‘alternative’ to the secular West. He applies ‘Islam’s vantage point’ to describe the Christian origins of secularism. In doing so, in multicultural times, he still portrays the ‘Islam’ as the antagonistic historiography or radical difference of the West. Thereby, the multicultural debate revives the opposition between “the ‘religious’ Orient” and “the (secular) West” which was already central for the Jewish Question (Anidjar 2003: xviii). In his analysis on “the limits of liberal multiculturalism” in the case of Ontario, Kymlicka (2005: 7) operates within a similar geo-epistemic distinction. He describes the Canadian historical difference from Europe, through their respective historical encounters with what he also refers to as “the role of Islam”. According to Kymlicka (ibid.: 7): “But there is another factor that distinguishes Canada from Europe - namely, the role of Islam. So far, I have been discussing ‘non-European immigrants’ as a single category, all of whom are seen as potential bearers of values and traditions at odds with the values of Western liberal-democracy. But as we all know, some non-European groups are seen as more of a threat to these values than others. In particular, throughout the West today, it is Muslims who are seen as most likely to be culturally and religiously committed to illiberal practices, and/or as supporters of undemocratic political movements. This is particularly the case after 9/11, but has been true for several years now.

8.2 Translation in the Multicultural Context: Kymlicka and Taylor


(There is of course a long history of Islamophobia in Europe, dating back to the Crusades, but I think its modern resurgence dates to the Islamic revolution in Iran, with its virulent anti-Western rhetoric).”

In Kymlicka’s ‘politics of multiculturalism’, the question of immigration appears on a regular basis. Considering that Canada is de facto and de jure a nation created by immigration, his fixation on this question seems not only redundant, but also tautological. Kymlicka specifies that migration is not an inexorable problem for Western democracies. Yet, he also distinguishes ‘non-European immigrants’ from European migrants. Furthermore, he converges this postcolonial legacy in a problematic difference, which he then associates to the figure of the ‘Muslim’. To this equivalence, he adds another violent layer of meaning: According to his geo-epistemic geography, in the whole West, Muslims are ‘seen as’ potentially dangerous immigrants. He even argues that Muslims are not only perceived as culturally foreign, but also as potential betrayers of liberalism and democracy, but by whom? His quote entails no subject; or the subject who projects the danger remains untold. Moreover, there is no clear distinction between the harmful, distorted identifications of Muslims and his own descriptions. His depiction thus implies that the Western perception (of Muslims) is the non-Muslim perspective. Kymlicka’s suggested chain of meanings dangerously disassociates the history of Muslim communities from Europe and Muslims from Canada’s national history. The historical exclusion of Muslims from Western traditions refutes the Canadian citizenship to nationals, who happen to be Muslims. It also problematizes their freedom of movement to Canada or implies that both should constantly be controlled and monitored by the state. In the depiction of a conflictive relation between the secular-Christian state in the West and the ‘Islam’, it is unclear if Kymlicka refers to nationals of Arabic countries, practitioners, religious people, or to humans, who are considered foreigners; or instead, if he signifies simultaneously all these categories of belonging. Kymlicka sees no need to distinguish. The philosopher rather claims to describe, from a multicultural reflective distance, the racialization of the Muslim without engaging in a discussion of race. Colonial and alienated identities are subsumed into the same name. In Kymlicka’s account, there is no historical nor cultural entanglements between Europe and Islam. The relation is rather traced through hostility. This reductionist view upon Muslim history in the West empowers Kymlicka to avoid addressing the antidemocratic implications in his argumentation: Firstly, the fact that people are being excluded from democracy and from the West increasingly since 9/11 (by a Christian/Western norm). Secondly, that the media, politicians,


8 Translating Multiculturalism

and right-wing thinkers have promoted and spread notions allowing and legitimizing public segregations and exclusions based on physical attributes that are then associated with danger. Thirdly, that such a racialized profiling of potential betrayers of democracy can be explained through, or related to, Western traditions or even perceived as a requirement for those traditions to survive. Kymlicka describes the Western hostility towards Islam and Muslims (and of Muslims towards the West) neither as the history of persecution nor as the history of the persecuted, as for example Pocock (2005) argues. In Kymlicka’s rhetoric, the figure of the hostile Muslim immigrant reproduces Bauer’s racialized idea of the Jew, who is geographically naturalized, so as Sepúlveda’s employments of the barbarian for describing the inherent violence of the colonized. Therefore, his argumentation concerning the Muslim difference is antidemocratic and racist, as well as analytically and performatively antimulticultural. In multicultural Canada, the relation between the cultural norm and the racialized minorities is not depicted as a dichotomy, however, it remains saliently antagonistic. Kymlicka’s and Taylor’s misuses of Islam positions the Muslim difference as a radical foreignness. Undermining the multiple identities and forms of belonging that are translated into Muslims, both philosophers express an obsession with the secular-Christian norm that remains unquestioned and declare a reductive fiction of the Islam to a Western difference. Thereby, what is described as translational are not the histories of Muslim minorities in the West, but rather the West’s hostility towards Muslims. Erasing the presence of Islam as a religious, linguistic, cultural, or political identity, attachment and tool from the West, Kymlicka and Taylor define secularism as a property of the West. Moreover, both philosophers distinguish Canada’s cultural originality from Europe via Islam. They detach Canada’s history from European history, as well as from any cultural exchanges with Arabic nations. As if this was not enough violence and a celebration of historical ignorance or colonial amnesia, since Muslim communities have lived in Europe since the 13th century, at the end of the quote, Kymlicka anachronically administers a contemporary concept, that of Islamophobia, for describing: the motivation and the consequences of the Crusades, terrorist attacks, and the anti-Western discourse of the head of a Muslim state. He either confounds or applies interchangeably the ‘object’ of Islamophobia. In both cases, Islamophobia is treated as the transnational history of a hostility, which seems to be inherent to the West.

8.3 On the Translation From Indigenous into National Minorities



On the Translation From Indigenous into National Minorities

Canadian multiculturalism offers a new horizon for national identification or a positive vision. As Taylor (2016) suggests, multiculturalism is “a promise anchored in the future”. This normative concept is affiliated to the Enlightenment and endorses modern ideas of national imagination and progress. Its Romantic semantic heritage includes the doctrines of nationalism and patriotism. Beyond assimilation or extermination of differences, multiculturalism exerts another violence over the difference: As a politicised concept, and in Koselleck terms an -ism (2006: 91; 226), multiculturalism entails ambiguous definitions of cultural minorities, which are manifested in the contradictory attitudes of hospitality and hostility towards differences (Derrida 2000: 4). In the history of Western civilization, the enlargement of civic and national rights to national minorities presupposes an act of revelation, which is equivalent to an unveiling act. Kymlicka’s and Taylor’s evaluation of the difference’s historical significance to the Christian cultural norm determines its current worth for the multicultural state. Following Nowotny (Buden/ Nowotny 2008: 199), this verification functions as an intellectual trial. The trial and the testimony bear the paradox of seeking to unveil a reality [“eine Wirklichkeit zur Geltung zu bringen”], which is based on a lost [“die sich auf einem Verlust errichtet”] (ibid.). In the multicultural debate, this lost is manifested in the postcolonial condition of Western nations. Unveiling the appropriation-act behind the translation, Levefere (1992: 1) suggests that a translation is always a selection. In his words: “First of all, why is it necessary to represent a foreign text in one’s own culture? Does the very fact of doing that not amount to an admission of the inadequacy of that culture? Secondly, who makes the text in one’s own culture ‘represent’ the text in the foreign culture? In other words: who translates, why, and with what aim in mind? Who selects texts as candidates to ‘be represented?’ […] If a translation is, indeed, a text that represents another, the translation will to all intents and purposes function as that text in the receptor culture, certainly for those members of that culture who do not know the language in which the text was originally written. Let us not forget that translations are made by people who do not need them for people who cannot read the originals.”

Whilst translation implies a loss of communication with the ‘original’, the reconstruction of the loss implies a selection. This ‘geometry of the loss’ associates the


8 Translating Multiculturalism

translation to the trial. During the hearings, the lawyers (i.e., the difference’s representatives) translate the testimony into the language of the law. The lawyer, who speaks the judges’ language, translates the difference’s testimony. In this analogy, the translator is not only a channel but also the difference’s official voice. In The Differend (1988: 9), Lyotard explains this equation in the following sense: “The plaintiff lodges his or her complaint before the tribunal, the accused argues in such a way as to show the inanity of the accusation. Litigation takes place. I would like to call a differend [différend] the case where the plaintiff is divested of the means to argue and becomes for that reason a victim. If the addressor, the addressee, and the sense of the testimony are neutralized, everything takes place as if there were no damages. A case of differend between two parties takes place when the ‘regulation’ of the conflict that opposes them is done in the idiom of one of the parties while the wrong suffered by the other is not signified in that idiom.”

While the official voice of the trial is the testimony, the official place of the testimony is the trial (Buden et al. 2009: 202). However, Lyotard suggests that the trial neutralizes the testimony, and that the testimony neutralizes the difference as it is translated into the idiom of the lawyer, hence, into the norm. The translator represents the difference by stepping at the place of the difference and articulating the difference’s voice. In the end, the trial renders the witnesses speechless. Again, in Lyotard’s words (1988: 8): “if the author of the damages turns out directly or indirectly to be one’s judge[, t]he latter has the authority to reject one’s testimony as false or the ability to impede its publication. But this is only a particular case. In general, the plaintiff becomes a victim when no presentation is possible of the wrong he or she says he or she has suffered. Reciprocally, the ‘perfect crime’ does not consist in killing the victim or the witnesses (that adds new crimes to the first one and aggravates the difficulty of effacing everything), but rather in obtaining the silence of the witnesses, the deafness of the judges, and the inconsistency (insanity) of the testimony. You neutralize the addressor, the addressee, and the sense of the testimony; then everything is as if there were no referent (no damages). If there is nobody to adduce the proof, nobody to admit it, and/or if the argument which upholds it is judged to be absurd, then the plaintiff is dismissed, the wrong he or she complains of cannot be attested. He or she becomes a victim. If he or she persists in invoking this wrong as if it existed, the others (addressor, addressee, expert commentator on the testimony) will easily be able to make him or her pass for mad.”

Lyotard describes an inversion of the roles of the plaintiff and the accused. In his view (ibid.): The “plaintiff is someone who has incurred damages and who

8.3 On the Translation From Indigenous into National Minorities


disposes of the means to prove it”, yet “[o]ne remains a victim at the same time that one becomes a plaintiff”. By pointing out to the perpetuators, the testifier becomes the victim. As Lyotard notes (ibid.: 10): “The differend is signalised by this inability to prove. The one who lodges a complaint is heard, but the one who is a victim, and who is perhaps the same one, is reduced to silence.” The speechlessness of the victim renders the testimony unintelligible. In this position, the difference is vulnerable to further harm, which Lyotard summarizes as madness. He (ibid.) concludes that: “The survivors rarely speak”. But he (ibid.) also adds: “It is not the same not to speak and not to be able to speak.” Lyotard’s analogy between translation and the trial deals with the silencing of the victims in European historiography after the Holocaust. However, there are parallels to the multicultural debate since speechlessness is comparable to the (un)translatability of differences. One may ask: What language does Taylor use to talk about minorities? In what language does Kymlicka speak about the so-called new minorities? Who are the lawyers and who are the victims? In Taylor’s view (1992: 63), multiculturalism translates colonial injustices into the fair present because the acknowledgment of collective guilt enables moral reparation. Yet, his description of the multicultural design is not as creative as it could be: Taylor and Bouchard (2008: 19) refer to ‘integration’. Kymlicka (2007a: 240–41), who as his peer, describes multiculturalism as a promise, employs the concept of “‘effective’ participation” to describe the advantages of what he calls “the newcomers” (ibid.: 75). For illustrating that the liberal political concept of integration allows recognition, Kymlicka implements the concept of participation. Both philosophers presuppose the agency of the majority or cultural norm in recognizing (Taylor) or accommodating (Kymlicka) the difference. Yet, these concepts were already mobilized in the Jewish Question, as well as in the ambiguous claims of Jewish emancipation and their ‘civic improvement’. The entanglement of minoritarized histories and identities into the multicultural national narrative and the western transcontinental history diversifies the minorities’ referent. Yet, the translatability of First Nations, women, religious, cultural, and sexual minorities into citizens does not alter the discussants’ positions as the official translators of the differences into the multicultural national identity. The geographic proximity among differences that co-exist within the nation becomes equivalent to cultural familiarity but the segmentation of the question of minorities reifies and intensified the asymmetry between the norm and the difference, or between the majoritarian and minoritarian identities. The openness attributed to the multicultural society by Taylor and Kymlicka authenticates the difference. Multiculturalism does not demand cultural homogenization, yet the


8 Translating Multiculturalism

verification of the difference’s belonging to the postnational nation does imply the recognition (Taylor) or allocation (Kymlicka) of a minority status, i.e., the majority’s capacity of hosting the difference. The translation’s goal shifts from conversion (in the Indian Question), and the emancipation from its foreignness (in the Jewish Question) into the hosting of the difference (in the multicultural nation). The difference is more than the nation’s guest. The minorities are no visitors or foreigners. They are neither nationalized nor naturalized citizens, nor national (honorary) guests, who have been invited and will leave (Kymlicka 2017a: 75). In the multicultural debate, it is not the difference, but rather the difference’s foreignness, which is hosted by the majority (Gressgård 2010; Brown 2006). Hosting the foreignness of the difference means recognizing the presence of minorities within the national territory and treating their members as nationals. However, minorities are also conceived as needing constant intervention. Multiculturalism implies a civic attitude towards minorities that treats difference as the nation’s permanent guest rendering minorities vulnerable to public critique. The foreignness remains an ‘enigma’ (Ricoeur 2006: 12) to the majority, which in case of a crisis, e.g., when the rights of the host are threatened, may involve reconsidering, or even revoking the hosting agreement. In this case, the hosted difference turns into the hostage (Derrida 2000: 55). Kymlicka’s “multicultural conception of citizenship” (2007a) depends on the relation, which may or may not be established between the differences and the Western national identity. Neither the concept of multiculturalism nor its application into multicultural politics solve incompatibilities among cultural, religious, and political attachments since their uses suggest a remaining tension among differences. Through the assessment of the difference’s translatability (or adaptability) into the cultural norm, minorities become once more a subject of public debate. Exposing differences to critique turns minorities into a matter of publicity (Appadurai 1996: 56). The multicultural debate about national minorities mentions existing relations of power and promises an improvement in social and political relations. Yet, it neither alters the difference’s unintelligibility nor the geographic conception of foreignness. As Appadurai (ibid.: 57) suggests, the public critiques of differences are “juxtaposed to formulate the special and specific diacritics of the national imaginary and its public spheres”. Multiculturalism reformulates the narrative of the national identity and deals with a crisis of historiography, which characterized the Valladolid Debate and the Jewish Question. The three cases retrace the frontiers of the domestic and validate the difference’s belonging to it. The process of delimitation and reappropriation of

8.3 On the Translation From Indigenous into National Minorities


the ‘national’ and the difference takes place as an intellectual trial, which decides upon the national value of the selected minorities to be, this time, hosted by an imagined majority. In the trials that compose the three debates, Lyotard’s (1988: 8) statement that “[i]t is in the nature of a victim not to be able to prove that one has been done a wrong” is manifested in the essentialization of the difference’s minoritarian position, i.e., as the witnesses of another language and history, who cannot speak by themselves and, therefore, require translators. The Canadian philosophers cause silencing since their prominences have entitled them to act as translators of the differences’ claims into the Canadian identity. Kymlicka and Taylor act as the difference’s lawyers and become the voice of the minorities. Tully’s (2016) description visualizes this silencing violence inherent to multiculturalism, when he states: “I have spent many years in dialogues with Canada’s Indigenous people and I have learned an enormous amount about dialogue from them, but I have also learned from Taylor, in both his writings and his practice.” Defining multiculturalism as an epistemology, Tully analogizes two sources of intellectual production: ‘Canada’s Indigenous people’ and Taylor. But the collective noun silences intellectual authorship. Note also that Tully does not use nationality (as in ‘Canadian’) for describing the national belonging of ‘Indigenous people’. He rather uses the property-form of Canada’s over the populations. Thereby, he prolongs the appropriation act in Pocock’s (2005) conceptual analysis of the barbarian or the non-civilized difference.8 Tully’s quote illustrates that speechlessness mutates into the difference’s absence from its own trial. Different languages and voices are excluded from the debate upon multicultural dignity (Taylor) and freedom (Kymlicka) that precisely concerns them. This logic, which perpetuates social exclusion also decreases the possibilities of the difference’s existence. More specifically, neither Kymlicka nor Taylor mention the actual discrepancy of cultural survival among Canadian nationals. Nowadays life expectancies among Canadian First Nations and settlers still vary dramatically.9 Criticizing this asymmetry of life, the dissent intellectual thinkers, Cheryle Partridge (2010) and Taiaiake Alfred (2010), outline the postcolonial character of Canadian multiculturalism. Alfred and Partridge, who define themselves as


For a detailed description of the barbarian according to Pocock see the first section in the chapter on the Valladolid Debate. 9 In 2011, a study revealed a ten-year difference of life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada (Tjepkema et al. 2019).


8 Translating Multiculturalism

members of the First Nations, explain that in the multicultural setting, the translatability of differences still depends on its representation by the national norm. The integration of minorities takes place in the name of the nation and is carried out in the colonial European languages. Alfred (2010) and Partridge (2010) reconstruct the history of the public education system to explain the ‘one-way translation’ of differences implied in multiculturalism. They focus on Canada’s Indian residential schools (IRS), which were created in 1879 and functioned for more than a century. The last school was closed only in 1996 (Regan 2010: 4). Through the history of the IRS, the authors elaborate on the racist state’s violence exerted in deciding upon who has the right to teach and who doesn’t. The residential schools, which were administrated by Catholic nuns as well as educators employed by the government, estranged children from their families and communities and took away the right of cultural transmission from First Nations’ older generations to the younger ones. The social isolation was reinforced by the interdiction to speak non-European languages in the public institution. By this rule, which was also applied to siblings kept at the same institution, children forgot their mother and father languages and lost the capacity to communicate with their own parents and communities (Partridge 2010: 34). Alfred (2009: 51) argues that because of the inter-generational impact of residential schools, these are not only responsible of kidnapping, but also of cultural genocide. The racist history of this institution shows the longstanding paternalism of the cultural majority towards Canadian minorities. Moreover, as Paulette Regan (2010) suggests, this institution condenses the postcolonial condition of minorities in Canada. Writing, as she notes, from the settlers’ perspective, Regan (2010: 5) describes the violent attitude of state’s agents and missionaries in the schools, who “sought to educate and assimilate Indigenous children into mainstream Canadian society ‘for their own good.’” Acknowledging that the history of racism frames the public school system, Taylor (1992: 69) criticises the harms of paternalism for producing “unjustified judgments of inferior status”. He (ibid.: 66) mentions Fanon’s (1991) definition of the violence exerted by “dominant groups”, “who tend to entrench their hegemony by inculcating image[s] of inferiority in the subjugated”, however, without describing the relations of power among identities, which are central to Fanon. In a pragmatic manner, Taylor argues that implementing multicultural curricula would contribute to the ‘process of revision’ of the historically misrecognized differences. In his words (1992: 65–66):

8.3 On the Translation From Indigenous into National Minorities


“The reason for these proposed changes is not, or not mainly, that all students may be missing something important through the exclusion of a certain gender or certain races or cultures, but rather that women and students from the excluded groups are given, either directly or by omission, a demeaning picture of themselves, as though all creativity and worth inhered in males of European provenance. Enlarging and changing the curriculum is therefore essential not so much in the name of a broader culture for everyone as in order to give due recognition to the hitherto excluded.”

Taylor adds that (ibid.: 66): “[t]he background premise of these demands is that recognition forges identity” and notes that “[t]he struggle for freedom and equality must […] pass through a revision of these images.” According to his description, through the systematic exclusion of minorities from the national Bildung and education, the cultural majority is not ‘missing something’. The deficiency, or problem is exclusively the difference’s own perception. The following questions raise: Who are the subjects of those harmful images? Who are ‘the excluded’, the misrepresented, or the victims of history and historiography? And, paraphrasing Spivak (1988), do they speak at all? Taylor does not offer answers to these questions. Kymlicka’s position regarding these issues is equally ambiguous. In Multicultural Odysseys (2007a), he undertakes a compared conceptual reconstruction à la Skinner of the terms ‘Indigenous’ and ‘minorities’. He deals with the uses of these concepts by groups affected by national differentiation, so as by international institutions. Focusing on their circulation, Kymlicka (2007a: 285f) lists some critiques formulated by the minorities in, what he calls, the ‘post-colonial world’—a geo-epistemic cartography, which astonishingly excludes the West. The minorities’ claims are formulated against the paternalistic attitude of international Western institutions such as the ILO (International Labour Organisation). In this sense, the minorities do speak. However, in ‘their’ speaking, Kymlicka identifies several mistranslations in the uses of the concept of minority. Arguing from the perspective of international institutions, Kymlicka (ibid.: 281) concludes that the ILO’s first attempt to create a differentiated legislation for disadvantaged national minorities was misleading because it associated “New World ‘indigenous’ groups and Asian/African ‘tribal’ groups” upon “a common cultural contempt for their ‘backwardness’”. However, in the last decades of the 20th century, he (ibid.) identifies a change in the legal understanding of the concept: “the more recent notions of indigenous rights are not based on paternalism, but rather on the discourse of internal decolonization, drawing on the logics and tactics of the


8 Translating Multiculturalism

struggle for overseas decolonialization and racial desegregation. These newer conceptions of indigenous rights appeal to injustices involved in the process of colonizing settlement, and invoke rights to internal self-determination as a way or remedying this historic injustice.”

Kymlicka confronts paternalism and multiculturalism suggesting that the first builds the limits and moral requirement of the second. He thus shares Taylor’s expectation that the reframing of the public sphere through multicultural policies will prevent paternalism. In short, both discussants believe that the multicultural reformulation of ‘the public’ avoids paternalistic attitudes towards cultural minorities. At the same time, Kymlicka (ibid.: 285) adds that the ‘narrow’ definition of minorities as a legal category has led to ‘misuses’. Seeking for national and international representation, some minorities adopt the label of ‘indigenous’ even though their history is one of a national difference, rather than one of an identity framed by colonial regimes of translation. According to Kymlicka, the uses of the ‘label’ Indigenous by minorities, who are not Indigenous populations, create an equivalence of meaning, in which the concepts become politically interchangeable. In his words (ibid.: 284–5; emphasis added): “we see an increasing tendency for homeland groups in Africa, Asia and the Middle East to adopt the label of indigenous peoples. An interesting case is the Arab speaking minority in the Ahwaz region of Iran, whose homelands has been subject to repeated state polices of Persianization, including the suppression of Arab language rights, renaming towns and villages to erase evidence of their Arab history, and settlement polices that attempt to swap the Ahwaz with Persian settlers. In the past, Ahwaz leaders have gone to the UN Working Group on Minorities to complain that their rights as a national minority are not respected. But since the UN does not recognize national minorities as having any distinctive right, the Ahwaz have run into a dead end. And so they have re-labelled themselves from a national minority to an indigenous people, and have attended the UN Working Group on Indigenous people instead!”

Kymlicka refuses the translatability of the peoples of the Ahwaz region into Indigenous people. By the same move, he negates the political agency of this minority. He narrates several acts of dis-appropriation experienced by the minority, which constitute a collective colonial condition within Iran, yet he overlooks the significance in the renaming act of a national minority as Indigenous. What perhaps should be explained as a requirement for cultural and human survival, the philosopher reduces to a mere strategic move. In a speech act that recalls Sepúlveda’s comparisons of differences, he (ibid.: 285) adds:

8.3 On the Translation From Indigenous into National Minorities


“This is just the tip of the iceberg. Any number of minorities are now debating whether to adopt the label of indigenous peoples, including the Crimean Tartars (Dorowszewska 2001) the Roma (Banach 2002[...]), or Afro-Latin Americans (Lennox 2006). Even the Kurds—the textbook example of a stateless national minority—are debating whether to re-define themselves as an indigenous people, so as to gain international protection. So too with the Palestinians [...]”.

Kymlicka’s judgment refuses the political agency of racialized minorities worldwide. He denies the correlation between the history of colonialism and the present disadvantages of First Nations, afro-descendants, and other racialized diasporas, minorities, and landless people nowadays with the following cynical question (ibid.): “After all, what homeland minority wouldn’t want the rights currently being formulated for indigenous peoples? This trend for substate nationalist groups to re-defined themselves as indigenous people should not surprise us, since it is in effect simply the flip-side of an earlier trend by which indigenous peoples adopted the label and rhetoric of substate nationalism.”

In a similar manner to Anderson (1983), Kymlicka diagnoses a deviation or a piracy in the contemporary uses of the concept of Indigenous. Whilst the historian diagnoses the non-European copy of the nation’s model outside of Europe, the philosopher identifies misuses in the trajectory of Indigenous and points to mistranslations. Both conceptual reconstructions denounce the inauthenticity of the Original and hold upon authenticity. According to Kymlicka, only the faithful uses of the term may prove the difference’s belonging to the nation and its degree of affiliation to the cultural norm. Kymlicka emphasis on the need to take distance from paternalism without considering that his own critique is paternalistic. Struggles for freedom and equality are not described as situated agencies (hooks 1994: 38–40). Instead, following a Lascasian tradition, the author homogenizes and categorizes the uses of Indigenous. Moreover, he depicts some of its employments by minorities as irresponsible acts, or even as misappropriations. Some minorities are defined as incapable of using names correctly to describe their own history. Their authorship in the intellectual production, as well as their participation in political movements and parties that pursue national recognition and rights are supressed from his analysis.


8 Translating Multiculturalism

Kymlicka confounds and misreads a fight for rights as a fight for privileges. Racialized minorities (national or transnational, diasporic or Indigenous) are entitled to the transformation of their own image—a pedagogic act, which is defined by Taylor as being both a requirement for, and as one of the outcomes of multiculturalism. Kymlicka questions this right by submitting the difference’s capacity to speak to a new scrutiny. The question if the differences are intelligible is reworded into: Can they speak properly? Spivak’s (1988) epistemic question ‘can the subaltern speak?’ does not seek the authentic subaltern difference, as Kymlicka does. Spivak rather notes that the act of speaking requires a two-sided communication, or better: reciprocity. In short, the ability to speak implies the capacity of being heard (Buden/ Nowotny 2008: 199). This geometry allows reformulating the question raised above into: What language does the minority have to speak in order to be recognized or accommodated by multiculturalism? Referring to Spivak’s question, Nowotny (ibid.: 201) emphasises on the double meaning of the ‘hearing’. Moreover, following Lyotard (1988), he associates the juridical/epistemic event of the hearing to translation. According to Nowotny, the trial operates with an idea of transitional justice, which implies a transition or migration of meaning. Both the trial and the translation anticipate as their outcome the reconciliation between previous antagonistic parties. In recent Canadian history, the Commission of Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) exemplifies the analogy between the difference’s trial and the difference’s translation. The TRC was created in 2008 in reaction to the growing public pressure of “over twelve thousand individual abuse claims and several class-action lawsuits filed on behalf of approximately seventy thousand former IRS students against the federal government and church entities who shared joint responsibility for the schools” (Regan 2010: 6–7). The restorative attitude towards historical injustices committed against Indigenous national minorities pursued by the state through the commission is explained in the official homepage of the institution, which functioned until 2015. Therein10 , the TRC defined its legislation in the following sense: “The TRC is not a criminal tribunal and the Commissioners do not have subpoena powers. The Commission will listen to Survivors and others affected by Residential School by way of Statement Gathering and others truth-sharing processes.


This quote is no longer available in the homepage of the Commission. However, it has been quoted by Father Andre Poilievre in his lecture about the TRC entitled “STR8 UP: 10,000 Little Steps to Healing, Inc.” in 2019.

8.3 On the Translation From Indigenous into National Minorities


Once the truth-sharing process is in place, anyone affected by the residential schools legacy will have the opportunity to share his or her experience with the Commission.”

The entry to the TRC in The Canadian Encyclopaedia (Moran 2020) also notes that, while its establishment was “[i]ntended to be a process that would guide Canadians through the difficult discovery of the facts behind the residential school system, the TRC was also meant to lay the foundation for lasting reconciliation across Canada.” According to these definitions, the symbolic role of the commission consisted in restoring the national memory and, thereby, to contribute to the healing of the national identity. The TRC’s course of action foresaw the transition from an untold past into a truth-based, shared future. Committed to a jurisdictional application of human rights, the Commission’s setting also illustrates that such a historical translation is highly dependent on the Survivors’ testimonies. However, in the reconciliation process, the TRC translates the collective indignity into individual pain (Alfred 2009: 42). Thereby, the colonial history of the schools for Indigenous children is detached from their multigenerational effects. In Lyotard’s words, what happens during the hearings is that the asymmetric positions of the majority (accused) and the minority (accuser) are exchanged: The majority becomes the victim of the minority’s accusation. Inverting the party’s positions in the struggle for reparation and justice, the TRC is the place, where the difference, or Lyotard’s (1988) differend, unfolds. Lyotard’s and Nowotny’s (Buden/ Nowotny 2008) critiques to the translation implied in the trial and the testimony enclose a critique to the main trope in deliberative democracy: The uncoerced dialogue or debate. For Habermas (1991), the political debate is conceived as the democratic media that attains impartiality and neutrality. In an ideal case, equality surmounts to the fairness in the chances of participating at the democratic debate. This gathering requires a Rawlsian ‘veil of ignorance’, which ensures the indifference regarding cultural or religious differences. Yet, as Bachmann-Medick (in: Buden/ Nowotny 2008: 34) points out: “Man denke nur an Jürgen Habermas’ jüngste Forderung, dass Religionsgemeinschaften in postsäkularen Gesellschaften ihre religiöse Sprache in eine säkulare Sprache hinein übersetzen müssen, wenn ihre Anliegen zur Geltung kommen sollen.” The postsecular, multicultural society recognizes national minorities, but religious differences need to be translated into the language of secularism to be heard. In other words, the debate upon the difference’s identity may result in a positive discrimination, or in some improvement concerning the minoritarian


8 Translating Multiculturalism

group’s civic rights, however, multicultural-democratic inclusion remains conditioned upon the intelligibility of the difference to the majority. The significance of the minorities’ histories for the postcolonial multicultural society depends on the possibility of establishing a plausible relation with the cultural norm. The judgement, or the trial upon the difference’s value and its translatability, remains the task and duty of the majority. From this perspective, the ideal democratic public debate is the stage, where differences do no longer exist, or if they do, they have no value either because their absence or misrepresentation causes no losses for the majority (Taylor), or because they misrepresent themselves and therefore, misuse the rules of the deliberative game (Kymlicka). In the democratic debate, as in the case of the TRC, participation, i.e., the possibilities of the difference to be heard, are contingent on the majority’s willingness to understand—in Taylor’s language to recognize, and in Kymlicka’s terminology to accommodate—the difference’s demands and voices. Upon this logic, some minorities’ histories are translated into the national memorial sites and chronologies as well as into the multicultural public institutions and civil rights, while other remain untranslatable (Buden et al. 2009: 200). In the postnational, multicultural paradigm of translation, the difference’s authentication combines the cultural expansionism, proper to the Valladolid Debate with the cultural homogenization, proper to the Jewish Question. Translating differences into multicultural nationals, multiculturalism does not diversify the access to politics nor to the definitory power of the political. Instead, the missionaries’ responsibility to translate is reallocated to both the state and the human rights regime. In Kymlicka’s argumentation, these institutions evaluate and ensure the required cultural transformation implied in the translation of differences into national minorities. At the same time, he also depicts the cultural mutation as being exclusively the responsibility of the difference: Whilst in the 19th century Jews had to emancipate themselves from religion, minorities must today consciously and properly use the nouns to describe their history. Kymlicka and Taylor emphasise on a prism of exceptionality for suggesting that Canadian multiculturalism revisits national history and multiplies national historiography. Yet, by verifying the difference, the philosophers implement the difference’s translatability as the boundaries of freedom. Distinguishing liberal multiculturalism as the progressive alternative to European arrangements that accommodate religious and national minorities, Kymlicka and Taylor do not integrate the history of minorities into the multicultural national narrative. Described as organic to Canada’s configuration, multiculturalism turns

8.4 Multiculturalism as the New Public Virtue


into a parochial originality that nationalizes, instead of internationalizing, minoritized histories. This ethno-centric perspective suggests the untranslatability of Canadian multiculturalism, but also the untranslatability (and unfamiliarity) among Canada’s minorities’ and First nations’ histories. In both argumentations, the novelty of multiculturalism lies more in persuasion than in a critical reconstruction of the national history and historiography. In fact, Kymlicka (2005: 2) speaks of the ‘success story’ instead of history of Canadian multiculturalism, which is not far from the meaning of the fairy tale. Together with Taylor, Kymlicka argues for a postcolonial treatment of cultural differences without overcoming colonial regimes of translation. On the one hand, by delimiting the impacts of colonialism and postcolonialism to a condition proper to Indigenous and minorities groups in non-Western democracies, Kymlicka describes minorities and the politicization of this status as mere (cultural) landscapes, thereby, implementing a rhetoric move that recalls Bauer’s (1843) argumentation on the Jewish Question. On the other hand, Taylor violently relativizes the national significance of historical reparation as a matter of exclusive relevance for minorities. In doing so, the philosophers undermine the transnationality and translatability of the minorities’ struggles for civic inclusion and participation, in short: for a civic improvement, at a global scale.


Multiculturalism as the New Public Virtue

The humanist character of multiculturalism emphasized by both public philosophers, Kymlicka and Taylor, neglects the history of the regulation of cultural differences. They do not offer answers to following questions: What exactly must be accommodated or recognized? And are tolerance and national identity synonyms? The collective identity, or cultural composition of ‘the’ people remains one of the central difficulties of multiculturalism. Liberal thinkers from Huntington (1996) to David Miller (2007) suggest that the multicultural conception of society jeopardizes republican principles, as the national conception of the common good is exchanged by a multiplicity of contradictory conceptions. Critical social and political theorists argue that the republican legacy in the multicultural debate impedes a genuine understanding of the cultural difference beyond paternalistic visions of tolerance (Alfred 2010: x; Brown 2006; Partridge 2010). If the minority’s capacity to be transformed into something adaptable or tolerable by the majority depends on the willingness of the majority to recognize differences, then the majority represents a form of ‘we’, which is proper to liberal political thought.


8 Translating Multiculturalism

The cultural norm, which recognizes differences (Taylor 1992: 28), or to which the difference should be adjusted or reconciled (Kymlicka 1995: 6) builds an asymmetry with the ‘other culture’. According to Taylor, tolerance is not enough and, instead, he speaks of recognition. The recognition or misrecognition of the foreign (Taylor 1992: 25) mobilizes ‘one’s’ own understanding of it. Taylor (ibid.: 60, 64) criticizes that the liberal approach, which conceives equal respect upon cultural uniformity, remains suspicious towards collective goals that do not correspond to the presupposed homogeneity. He (ibid.: 61) contends that this form of politics is “inhospitable to difference […] because it can’t accommodate what the members of distinct societies really aspire to, which is survival”. In multicultural societies, the hospitality of difference is as important as the survival of the national identity and culture. On the contrary, seeking to abolish cultural differences is, in Taylor’s terms (ibid.: 64), ‘absurd’. As Fanon (2008), Taylor also draws from a Hegelian understanding of identity based on reciprocity. He underlines the violence caused through the imposition of an ‘alien image’ and describes the alienation of the difference as a distorted selfrepresentation. In doing so, Taylor defines recognition through the consequences of its absence. He implies that misrecognition inflicts harm and is a form of oppression. The incapacity to establish patterns of familiarity among identities can generate inhospitality, or even hostility towards differences. Hence, tracing familiarities among cultural differences is central for attaining human dignity. To quote Taylor (1992: 67): “We learn to move in a broader horizon, within which what we have formerly taken for granted as the background to valuation can be situated as one possibility alongside the different background of the formerly unfamiliar culture. The ‘fusion of horizons’ operates through our developing new vocabularies of comparison, by means of which we can articulate these contrasts.”

According to Taylor, ‘comparison’ enables the passage from the unfamiliar to the familiar. This articulation of cultural ‘contrasts’ allows the differences’ survival, instead of seeking their assimilation into the norm. He (ibid.: 72) formulates a “midway between the inauthentic and homogenizing demand for recognition of equal worth, on the one hand, and the self-immurement within ethnocentric standards, on the other”. Thereby, Taylor (ibid.) claims overcoming the antagonism between civilization and barbarism. Taylor’s definition of multiculturalism diverges from the negative definition of freedom since his usages of culture seem to scape normative designations.

8.4 Multiculturalism as the New Public Virtue


However, cultural sameness remains the source of identification. If, as he (ibid.: 67) argues: “for a sufficiently different culture, the very understanding of what it is to be of worth will be strange and unfamiliar to us”, how do the different values converge in one normative horizon? To put it another way, how does recognition work regarding cultural criticism? Whilst Taylor acknowledges the moral limits of cultural criticism as being significant to the national narrative and as essentially related to politics, his culturalist approach to differences obscures cultural injustices. He addresses the cultural asymmetry, or the absence of equal worth between the majority and the minorities, from a normative approach. Instead, Fanon seeks to understand the differentiation. Reconstructing the history of the asymmetry from the perspective of the difference marked as minority, Fanon (1991) concludes that the struggle for the liberation from this (self-)image must take place in both: the colonizers and the colonized. However, Taylor (1992: 70; emphasis added) indicates that: “real judgments of worth suppose a fused horizon of standards […]; they suppose that we have been transformed by the study of the other, so that we are not simply judging by our original familiar standards.” Moreover, arguing in a pragmatic manner that: “We have reached the judgment partly through transforming our standards” (ibid.: 66; emphasis added), Taylor reformulates Fanon’s critique on the colonial alienation of the difference’s identity. In doing so, Taylor employs recognition as a normative concept, which overcomes racialized hierarchies without acknowledging their power, violence, and historicity. His argumentation on the benevolence of recognition, as the citizen’s new virtue, omits the coloniality in the definition of Black, Indigenous, and white as political identities, which are the fundament in Fanon’s understanding of misrecognition and misrepresentation. To rephrase it, his politics of equal dignity efface the history of colonial violence from the history of the difference’s marking. In short: The history of the regime of translation is banished from his analysis. Meanwhile, Kymlicka (2005: 7) states that familiarity is the source for establishing affiliations and ties of loyalty among citizens. There is no link of blood, but a special relation among members, who being bounded together are courageous enough to render the same sacrifices. In Kymlicka’s (2007b: 590) words: “Put simply, the consensus on liberal–democratic values ensures that debates over accommodating diversity are not a matter of life and death”. Is it really that simple? Insofar multiculturalism discusses the survival of the national culture, and deals with the latent banning of dissenters, and thereby, of incompatible differences, is it not precisely a matter of life and death?


8 Translating Multiculturalism

The rise of public Islamophobia and Muslimphobia nowadays in the Western world (including Canada) demonstrates that in the multicultural post-national constellation, the politicization of the ambivalences between fidelity and betrayal does not expire. The increasing presence of right-wing parties and movements in Western democracies (Lentin 2012: 20–21), along with the securitization of non-European migration (Mezzadra/ Neilson 2013: 3–4) contradict Kymlicka’s diagnosed harmlessness of the multicultural debate. These current “politics of nationalism” (Taylor 1992: 64) illustrate that the lack of recognition of ‘the’ foreignness, and the misrecognition of differences are the rule in Western democracies.11 These developments are manifested in persecutions of those who being “marked as marginal or alien” become suspect of political betrayal (Rorty 1994: 160). More than diagnosing the defeat of multiculturalism, the current revival of nationalism highlights its shortcomings. Insofar in the multicultural order, the hostility towards cultural minorities is justifiable by the difference’s innate unfamiliarity with the norm, recognition remains inseparable from cultural resemblance. Being the social resource that creates affiliations to the multicultural society, or which permits the ‘fusion of horizons’, recognition is, therefore, still embedded in the logic of monoculturalism. This indicates that, while multiculturalism reframes the national character of citizenship, the overlapping between cultural affiliation and political membership subsists unaltered. Moreover, the civic value of recognition functions as the new citizen’s virtue, which—similarly to religious fidelity and national loyalty—cultivates patriotism. Emphasising on the difference between the West and a Canadian ‘us’, both discussants articulate the new patriotism proper to multiculturalism. This patriotism is neither expansionist, nor assimilationist. It is rather canalized as the untranslatability of Canadian multiculturalism, which remains vulnerable to abuses in unethical yet supposedly coherent, cultural patriotic conducts. Articulated from the position of the majority, multiculturalism (as humanism) is not immune to the harms caused by cultural criticisms, which are formulated against the ‘authentic’ culture of minorities (Fanon 1967: 34–5). In other words, multiculturalists may support cultural criticism, for “justice and integrity may require a culture to abandon some of its practices, however long-standing they may be” (Rorty 1994: 160). Multicultural recognition allows reaffirming what


For an analysis on policies and reforms in Western democracies that seek to regulate the constitution of the national body by strengthening upon racialized differences see: Brown 2006 (for the United States), Laborde 2008 (for France) and Gressgård 2010 (for Norway).

8.4 Multiculturalism as the New Public Virtue


is familiar, and repelling what is identified as difference. As Taylor (1992: 71) states, familiarity permits “prais[ing] the other for being like us.” The continuity of the asymmetric relation between the cultural norm and its deviation has consequences in conceptual and social history. The unanswered question of the hegemonic ‘we’ in multiculturalism suggests that recognition is not freed from the Catholic semantic legacy that associates tolerance to a negative condition (or a collective suffering). Multiculturalism entails a paternalistic attitude towards national minorities, which is comparable to Las Casas’ and Marx’s epistemic attitude towards the Indian and the Jew, since the difference is not conceived as forger of the national history and identity. These remain subaltern identities (Chakrabarty 2000: 28), or differences, which either accept or reject the hospitality offered by the dominant cultural identity. Consequently, hospitality depends on the difference’s familiarity to the norm. Focusing on the singularity of the Canadian case, the authors avoid comparisons among minoritarian historicities. Arguing in favour of a cultural specificity, the discussants ignore the history of the question of minorities and the minoritizations of history beyond Canada. This approach atomizes the history of minorities and deals with the difference as a specific problem, or as a national exception. In this constellation, only authentic minorities may receive legal concessions. Taylor and Kymlicka argue that otherwise the universal and national rights would be compromised. Depicting cultural differences in terms of minorities, Kymlicka and Taylor treat identities as cultural units. Yet, the concept of minorities is unable to address the divisions within the minority itself caused by further intersections such as citizenship, class, age, gender, ability, and further normative distinctions (Clifford 1994; Spivak 2002). The renewed homogenizing violence upon minorities caused in the act of translation proper to the multicultural debate diminishes the possibilities for different identities to be manifested in terms of difference. The impossibility to conceive the difference as part of national history thus produces a sort of ‘multicultural invisibility’12 , which is illustrated in the following quote of the foreword’s note to the Bouchard-Taylor Report (2008: 6):


Upon ‘multicultural invisibility’, I refer to the effect caused by the multicultural rhetoric. The exhausting list of minoritarian identities ignores the intersections among them. Multiculturalism does not only fragment the meaning of the concept of minority. By treating differences separately, multiculturalism makes it even harder to explain transversal effects of social issues over several minorities at the same time.


8 Translating Multiculturalism

“Au lieu de nous conformer à la règle courante du masculin générique, nous nous sommes efforcés de recourir à des vocables ou à des expressions neutres qui se rapportent à la fois aux genres féminin et masculin. Cette règle a été appliquée là où c’était possible sans alourdir le texte.”

Concerned with the violence of language, the authors name the significance in visualizing, i.e., in recognising gender differences. The foreword’s note canalizes the recurrent critique made by women—a group, which in the multicultural debate is included in the category of minority (Taylor 1992: 25)—to the male-centrality of political language. Bouchard and Taylor suggest avoiding women’s exclusion by using gendered language. Yet, the same note functions as an immunization shield against critique of sexism and patriarchy. Written by two male intellectuals as a policy proposal and advice for the multicultural regulation of differences in Quebec, the report presents the discrepancy between the political correctness in the usages of language and social history. If the visualization of gender differences is so important that it requires a special foreword, how come that neither Taylor nor Bouchard have the impulse to make women’s voices visible by sharing chairs? The report quotes far less women authors than men. Multiculturalism suggests that the effects of class, race and gender can be avoided and solved through rhetorical (Taylor) and legal (Kymlicka) inclusion. However, by precisely reducing these categories to forms of discrimination that are detached from relations of power that frame them, the hostility in these concepts is neither theorized nor reconstructed. The violence that creates differences as identities and renders a safe hospitality impossible remains unquestioned. Moreover, the historicization of class, race, and gender, so as the social phenomena these create are rendered useless, or even obsolete (Gilroy 2012). According to Lentin (2012: 3), the Canadian multicultural society is depicted as a post-racial society13 , in which color-blindness is considered more a desirable culture to be forged and less a political agenda. In this context, culture becomes the dominant framework for analysing “what would once have been considered problems of social inequality, exploitation, power—in short of politics” (ibid.:


It is worth noting, that the conception of the post-racial society coincides chronologically and analytically with the post-social, post-Fordistic city (Eckardt 2014). This equivalency has important implications on the analysis of the multicultural society: If the ‘social’ is defined through the homogenising economic strategies of the industrial city, the multicultural postsocial city/society involves a critique of the dominant conception of the social, but also of the city disproved from a conception of the common.

8.4 Multiculturalism as the New Public Virtue


10). This detachment decreases the possibilities of multicultural coexistence, as well as of epistemic pluralism (Partridge 2010: 42). By paraphrasing the political content of class, race, and gender into issues of administration (regulation or accommodation) of cultural differences, multiculturalism veils the conceptual history of these concepts as well as the differences’ historiographies. Besides, a social denunciation of the situation of cultural minorities is excluded from the multicultural debate. The reinforcement of liberal principles remains at a rhetoric level that does not dismantle cultural assimilation. In terms of a democratic act, the recognition of differences integrates (Taylor) or tolerates (Kymlicka) non-national, pre-national and post-national identities in the national identity. Still, in this dominant and male-centred identity, the official uses of language and concepts for ma(r)king minorities as difference become more important than the act of making place for different voices. Neither Taylor nor Kymlicka confront domestic forms of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism. The discrepancy between the evolution of language and the situation of minorities reaffirms the political amnesia (Alfred 2009: 53; Partridge 2010), which renders differences vulnerable to public critique. In fact, the omission of postcolonial identities from conceptual production and from the history of multiculturalism flashbacks the violence entailed in the public questioning of differences. Dealing with cultural differences without reconstructing the becoming minoritarian allows Kymlicka and Taylor to define multiculturalism as Canada’s democracy. The accommodation or recognition of differences is the majority’s achievement (Alfred 2009: 51). At the end, multiculturalism rewards the majority for its hospitality and punishes the difference for its barbaric foreignness.14 Questioning the familiarity between the difference and the Western cultural norm, Kymlicka and Taylor translate the former into the second. On the contrary, a non-symptomatic understanding of differences dismantles the ontological differentiation expressed in the political concepts of ‘majority’ and ‘minority.’ Thinking culture and identities beyond the ontological hierarchy entails conceiving the difference beyond authentication. This means localizing the difference in epistemic cartographies that no longer pursue its constant verification. Instead 14

The cycle of violence that externalizes hostility and claims property over the culture of hospitality is viciously illustrated in the brief history of the events that are called by critical migration scholars in Germany “the long summer of migration”. At the beginning, described as the outcome of “Germany’s hosting culture”, the summer ended really fast with the racialization of sexual violence against white-German women in Cologne in winter of the same year (2015). For a feminist discussion on this issue see: Katherine Braun’s article “Decolonial Perspectives on Charitable Spaces of ‘Welcome Culture’” in Germany” (2017).


8 Translating Multiculturalism

of seeking to identify the moderate object of loyalty and patriotism, the more pertinent question seems to be whether cultural familiarity is the only common source of national identification. To put it another way: How may culture be defined beyond the antagonistic model of fidelity vs. betrayal?


The Muslim Difference in Multiculturalism

Next to the questions of Aborigines, Indigenous peoples, newcomers, as well as to the question of gender, multiculturalism includes the issue of religion. Localized at the intersection between religion and politics, multiculturalism conceptualizes the question of the minoritized differences in tension. The tension between democracy and religion is exemplified in, what has been refrained as, the ‘Muslim Question’ or “the Muslim exception to laïcité” (Laborde 2008: 70). Despite the presence of Muslim people in Europe since the 12th century, the Muslim Question contests the (in)compatibility between, on the one hand, ‘the’ Islam and Islam-based cultural practices and, on the other hand, ‘the’ West and democracy (ibid.; Lentin 2012: 20). The utopia of what Laborde (2008: 74), in adherence to Habermas, terms “deliberative laïcité” is dismantled by the public debates on the cultural manifestations of Islam in Western societies and by the European fear towards the unknown Muslim difference. This renewed idea of the foreigner in the West illustrates that the encounter with Orientalized differences is framed through hostility. In political discussions that interrogate the coexistence of Muslims in nonMuslims societies, religious loyalties become the target of violence. In an interview with the local public radio, as well as the newspaper Montreal Gazette after the terrorist attack to a Mosque in Quebec, where six persons were killed and at least eight were injured, Taylor (2018) suggests that Muslim communities have become object of public discussion, and even of attack, because of Canadians unfamiliarity with Muslims’ practices and ‘fashion’. From another point of view, Kymlicka (2010: 106) implies that Muslims have become a target of violence as a result of previous religious-motivated terrorist attacks. Whilst Taylor emphasises on the unfamiliarity of the majority towards differences, Kymlicka holds the difference responsible for the violence carried against ‘their’ practices and for the subsequent cultural and social decimation. As Fanon (1967: 34) argues, in both cases, since ‘their’ culture is depicted as mummified, it “testifies against its members. It defines them in fact without appeal.” Murderous attitudes towards Muslims citizens are rendered explainable through the cultural difference.

8.5 The Muslim Difference in Multiculturalism


If the impossibility of knowing ‘the’ Muslim difference is due to its foreignness to the West, then both philosophers orientalize differences. The dichotomy of the West and the Muslim difference, which is historically peculiar to Western history and identities since the 16th century, inexorably associates the West to secularism and democracy, and the Muslim difference to barbaric elements. However, the Muslim Question also intersects secularism and religion by disturbing the Christian tradition and its entanglements with the history of (Western) secularism. The Muslim Question entails a crisis of civilization in postmodern times. The renewed hostility against the ‘Oriental foreignness’ in Canada can in fact be related to similar European multicultural crises. The transcontinental Western hostility towards national (and transnational) religious minorities treats religion as culture (Laborde 2008), and culture and religion as race (Mufti 2007). The Muslim Question thus reactivates the content of the Jewish Question and the Valladolid Debate in several manners. According to Mufti (2007: 6), there are frightening similarities between the social questions, which he polemically describes as the “hostility from the ‘host’ culture, intense separatism and religious revival, political radicalism, cosmopolitan elites, a cultural taste for transgression, irony, and the irreverent gesture” that “reappear in Europe in the experience of the ‘postcolonial’ migrants, displaced people, and refugees who have largely replaced Europe’s annihilated Jews as the continent’s ‘Other within.’” Also, Wendy Brown (2006: 77) signalises that multiculturalism reactivates incompatibilities between religious affiliations and political loyalty, thereby, replicating artificial genealogies of culture and identity that are in fact political constructions. Consider the following: While Marx and Bauer argue in favour and against the emancipation of Jews from religion for adopting German civic culture, the Muslim Question inquires whether Muslims should emancipate themselves from religion or not—for instance, by giving up the hijab in the public space (Laborde 2006: 357). The Muslim Question examines, if the unveiling of women is prerequisite for considering them (as well as the supposedly oppressing men) national citizens of Western nations, or, if instead, the democratic response of the state should be that religious liberty shall prevail (Laborde 2008: 262). In this sense, the multicultural epistemic attitude towards old and new minorities in the West does not match up with Kymlicka’s (2007b: 589) predicted “desecuritization of ethnic relations”. Instead, the Muslim Question reveals that minorities are associated to potential carriers of illiberal cultures. As Lentin (2012: 18) suggests: “The culturalization of politics effectively means that the


8 Translating Multiculturalism

solution proposed for dealing with the cultural excess of the crisis of multiculturalism is in itself cultural. What we are left with is a pitting of ‘minority cultures’ against ‘universal values’ which deny their own cultural particularism.” In multicultural times, the Orientalized difference is identified upon the usage of the veil, which represents more than a religious symbol. It is treated as a symptom of the difference’s presence within national and democratic boundaries as well as radical foreignness from the secular culture (Brown 2006: 184; Laborde 2008: 36). The veil condenses the fear in Western societies of ‘the’ Muslim, or even in a more generic sense: ‘the’ Arab difference (Fanon 1965: 36). The veil is, as Fanon (ibid.: 35) explains, not exclusively about the women, but about a culture as such. Due to its ‘immediately perceptibility’, the veil is “at once noticed by the tourist”, and it “generally suffices to characterize Arab society” (ibid.). In secular nations, the social anxiety associated with Muslim minorities establishes an epistemic attitude towards veiled women and ‘their’ men. The veil represents a sexual frontier for the male body and a masculine repression over the feminized body. Both connotations presuppose a relation of power and a reaction upon the veil either by domination or precaution (also distancing) (Fanon 1965: 44). The veil is instrumentalized by politicians for differentiating rights and duties as well as for rearranging the limits of the (in)human treatment of the body. For example, debates on the application of the veil in public institutions such as schools, in France (Laborde 2006: 80) and Canada (Taylor 2017), challenge the difference’s capacity to transmit emancipatory knowledge. Through a violent mistranslation, an intimate women’s fashion-(t)issue is turned into a social question located in the intersection of archaism and cultural authenticity (Fanon 1965: 37–8). This reductionist identification converts a private identity’s attribute into the common denominator of its foreignness. The Muslim Question alienates the difference from the West and from the history of secularism, but it also exposes it to public scrutiny. The unintelligible Muslim difference redefines the body of the civilized and secular citizen, in short of the national body. In The Multicultural Dialogue. Dilemmas Paradoxes and Conflicts (2010), Randi Gressgård treats the politicization of the body of the citizen, the bodypolitics (represented in the nation) as well as of the barbarian body. She demonstrates that Scandinavian policies that seek to banish religion to the private sphere still exploit the veil (among other cultural practices such as circumcision) as the ‘clue’ to describe the Muslim difference. The veil’s politicization permits demanding cultural homogenization.

8.5 The Muslim Difference in Multiculturalism


Reduced to an essence of the difference, the veil is adopted to deductively explain, but also to judge, the whole culture. In Fanon’s words (1965: 35): “great areas of civilization, immense cultural regions, can be grouped together on the basis of original, specific techniques of men’s and women’s dress.” Challenging the balance between secularism and religion, the question of the veil highlights the mistranslation of identities, or in Taylor’s semantics, the effects of misrecognition. Considered the salient manifestation of the Muslim difference, the Orientalized veil denotes both: religiousness and foreignness. More specifically, the veil is a metaphor for the absence of secularism and the non-belonging to the West. The ‘unveiled’ (Western) cultural norm fixes a self-image to the difference by demarcating a cultural-religious differentiation that creates an identity. The veil thus localizes the hostility towards the Muslim difference as inherent characteristic to the West. This geographic and normative fissure in the definition of cultural identities, which was already central to the precedent debates, is found in Taylor’s reflections in an open letter published in the newspaper La Presse (2017). Taylor describes, from the perspective of the secular-multicultural Western norm, the Canadian hostility towards the Muslim-foreign difference in the following manner: “Ces gestes sont le fruit d’une minorité de citoyens qui nourrissaient déjà de l’hostilité envers les immigrants en général ou envers les musulmans mais qui n’osaient pas l’afficher préalablement. Le débat a eu pour effet d’atténuer ou d’éliminer leurs inhibitions, en plus d’épaissir les nuages de suspicions et de craintes qui entouraient les nouveaux arrivants dans une partie de l’opinion publique.”

He identifies nuances within the “public opinion”, which he describes as fragmented into nationalist (hostile) and tolerant citizens. At the same time, he addresses the cultural difference interchangeably as immigrants, Moslems and newcomers. Also, in Kymlicka’s (2005) typology of minorities, ‘Muslim groups’ are not conceived as national minorities of the West and are interchangeable with ‘Arabs’ (Kymlicka 2010: 106). Both depictions reduce origins, culture and belonging in the Muslim difference to a religion foreign to the West independently of the citizenship of the victims of Canadian anti-Muslim hostility. Multiculturalism seeks to interrupt the modern monocultural ordering of the nation, yet the Muslim Question retraces a colonial distinction between the West and the Orient. The discussants seek to redefine the difference through democratic rules, yet both hold onto colonial and patriotic strategies that trace normative frontiers between the national identity and the Orientalized foreignness. In-between


8 Translating Multiculturalism

barbarism and civilization, the Muslim difference is held responsible for the manifestations of hostility against it. Laborde (2006: 352) notes that not only members of right-wing parties in the West, but also Anglo-American liberal thinkers and French laïcistes are unsettled “about the pre-modern, oppressive dimensions of the contemporary Muslim revival, and see the hijab as a symbol of female and religious oppression, which gravely limits the wearer’s autonomy.” Several political strategies repeatedly seek to banish women wearing the hijab from entering courts and state administrations offices in France. As Pocock points out, this Western hostility could also be reformulated as the history of persecution. More recently, Taylor (2017) revisited his former agreement upon the veil’s banning from the public space and notes that the reductionism of the veil to religion is unfruitful. Today, he considers that the veil is not a danger for Canadian multiculturalism. Yet, as Fanon (1965) explains, the veil has been for almost a century, i.e., long before the appearances of the concept of multiculturalism, and Taylor’s change of mind in his definition of ‘open secularism’, a highly politicized (t)issue and a colonial strategy. Analysing the question of the veil in Algeria during French occupation, Fanon (1965: 36) suggests: “The haïk very clearly demarcates the Algerian colonized society. It is of course possible to remain hesitant before a little girl, but all uncertainty vanishes at the time of puberty. With the veil, things become well-defined and ordered. The Algerian woman, in the eyes of the observer, is unmistakably ‘she who hides behind the veil’.”

Fanon reformulates the veil from a personal, intimate choice into the contemporary political question. In his view, clothing traditions and marks of fashion function as a revelation. The veil’s intelligibility reveals “the fact of belonging to a given cultural group” (ibid.: 35). Thereby, it is read as a “uniform, which tolerates no modifications, no variant” (ibid.: 36). In this interpretation of cultural expressions, as in Sepúlveda’s and Bauer’s argumentations, the difference is incapable of cultural transformation. This judgement presupposes that the cultural norm is approached through a similar static understanding of identity, or in Fanon (1967: 34) words: ‘mummification’. The Muslim Question illustrates that the modern, liberal culture is defined as the tradition proper to the West without any contact, entanglements, nor even ‘contamination’ with the Orientalized Islam. The difference and the norm are approached through cultural ‘inertia’ (ibid.). A similar existential depiction was

8.5 The Muslim Difference in Multiculturalism


already central for the dichotomist worldview in medieval historiography (Bagge 2002). In the medieval conception of the word, the soul authorizes the communication between two static entities, the mundane and the divine. The soul constitutes evidence of the divine in the human and ensures access to the last judgment. In multicultural times, the passage, or communication, between the ‘known’ and the ‘unknown’ cultures is made possible through recognition. In Taylor’s words, the reciprocal encounter with the cultural difference only occurs through mutual recognition. Yet, the Canadian philosopher also emphasises that recognition depends upon familiarity. Functioning as the active faculty to converge differences into one horizon of values, recognition creates familiarity. Since cultural nearness is achieved through mutual recognition, hostility towards the foreign or alien may be counteracted through social proximity. This argumentation spatializes the difference. The difference should be rendered local(izable), within a near geo-epistemic cartography. The multicultural debate thus operates with an understanding of culture, in which proximity within the realm of the domestic, defines cultural familiarity. The misuses of familiarity and unfamiliarity regarding the Muslim differences are common to the Valladolid Debate, the Jewish Question and multiculturalism. However, there is a difference: Whereas the first two cases build upon testimonies and historical sources, multiculturalism is established upon a complete amnesia of encounters between the Christian West and Muslim Kingdoms. Taylor and Kymlicka formulate an evolutionist understanding of democracy, in which multiculturalism appears as the newest democratic state immanently developed in the Christian West instead of reconstructing the political history of several encounters between a self-named cultural majority and a designed minority. The antagonistic model of culture distinguishing between a ‘known West’ and the ‘Oriental foreignness’ nurtures the suspiciousness associated with cultural differences. The fear of losing the national (mono-, or uni-) culture and identity creates social fragmentation and politicized polarization. In this context, the presence of the veil in the public space (in the West) develops into a symptom of cultural alienation, occupation, or even of decay. As Gressgård (2010: x) notes: “the hostility towards immigrants in Europe is often depicted by minority researchers as a reaction to the perceived threat of a lost national community and identity. The reaction is sometimes articulated in terms of nostalgia for lost origins”. Upon this logic, the unintelligibility justifies hostility against ‘the’ Muslim.


8 Translating Multiculturalism

Through the spatial connotations of cultural sameness and foreignness, multiculturalism perpetuates the colonial division of humanity between a Christiandemocratic West and the non-Western, Orientalized, barbaric foreignness. This division is a wound that has nowadays several urban manifestations. In the German language, the frequent appearances of two concepts: Leitkultur and pogrom testify of a correlation between the identity of the cultural norm and the national territory, so as between cultural differences and ostracism. The concepts presuppose conservative-nationalist, chauvinist-racist attitudes towards differences. The inflationary adoption of Leitkultur (which has misguiding been translated as national culture) and the social phenomena of pogrom have more in common than the implicit and explicit violence their employment and appearances set into motion. These are catalysers for the ‘epistemic wound’ in postmodern societies created through the imagi-nation, which, while considering monoculturality as the originality, also violently repeals cultural differences. In other words, the concepts belong to the semantic field of national monoculturality, which is achieved by defining differences as untranslatable. Leitkultur and pogrom articulate the absence of hospitality and negate the difference’s (right of) existence within the realm of the domestic. The concepts hint at the wish and the act of banishing differences from the nation. While Leitkultur seeks to assimilate differences into the authentic national culture, pogroms manifest the nationalist desire that newcomers do not settle down within the national territory; hence, the impossibility, not only of ‘their’ integration, but also of their survival. The spatial connotations attached to the application of the concepts demonstrate that the act of defining (or delimiting) the ‘proper’ culture, either through political discourse and/or violence, is a highly colonial practice. Moreover, Leitkultur and pogrom mobilize the semantic violence entailed in the concept of the barbarian.15 Negating the ‘innate plurality of life’ within the nation-state (Arendt 1951) and blocking the circulation of cultural differences, both concepts signify the negation of freedom. The cohesion of freedom articulated in these nationalist concepts is found in their relation to the veil’s mistranslations: This artefact or contested (t)issue presents a challenge for the Leitkultur and veiled women are target of pogroms. Since the veil acts upon culture by veiling and unveiling differences, it is considered an intimidating obstacle that requires intervention (Ivekovi´c/ Mostov 2002: 290). The wearing of the veil frustrates the unveiling desires of the colonial 15

In opposition to the savage, who may be kept captive, the barbarian is associated with an uncontrollable mobilization, migration, and violence. Nowadays, the racialized figure of the terrorist is precisely characterized by these elements. For an etymological and conceptual definition of barbarism see the first section of chapter 6.

8.5 The Muslim Difference in Multiculturalism


power, so as the gaze of the empowered identity (Fanon 1965: 44). As Fanon (ibid.: 37) diagnosed for the Indigenous Algerian women, also nowadays, in the multicultural constellation, the veiled woman appears “to assume a primordial importance”: She is considered the natural “intermediary between obscure forces and the group”. Multiculturalism reallocates veiled women: They are positioned as the object of the translation. As Fanon (ibid.: 38–9) explains, the mutation from the Orientalveiled difference into the secular unveiled woman hints that: “the immense role they are called up to play”, i.e., “the historic mission of shaking up” their men, is described to them. Consequently, he (1967: 34) notes that: “[t]he reproach of inertia constantly directed at ‘the native’ is utterly dishonest” for it presupposes that it is “possible for a man to evolve otherwise than within the framework of a culture that recognizes him and that he decides to assume.” Treated by a wide range of Western scholars and media as a symbol of patriarchy, the veil is, at the same time, defined as a symbol of collective mourning and as an instrument of resistance (Fanon 1965: 36–7). In reaction to the violent requirement of conversion, and to the duality of being considered either a translatable or an untranslatable difference (Bhaumik 2017: 98), the veiled woman opposes assimilation to an imposed veilless dignity. Refusing exhibition, she declines her access to the secular public space. Therefore, she refuses to be translated. She rejects translation and being translated or unveiled. The intimate artefact turned into the salient aspect of a different identity is related to non-Western patriarchy, and to the impediment of cultural penetration upon the non-Western women’s bodies. In this sense, the Muslim Question is also a question about gendered identities. However, Ivekovi´c and Julie Mostov (2002: 83) suggest that this intersection is not only valid for this social question since every translation necessarily interrogates the body and, therefore, is genderized practice. Translation is a question of and to the body. To quote Ivekovi´c (2002: n.n.): “Not only is animated corporality the condition of translation, but it makes translation necessary: there is no situation other than translation; there is no pure state that is still untranslated. Even total incomprehension demonstrates this. To imagine a state (of language, or civilisation) before all translation would be like imagining a body without a soul, a pure nature, or biological sex clearly distinct from gender, outside of all mediation. This would mean falling into the nature-culture, sex-gender, female-male, subject-object, interior-exterior dichotomy. It would also mean imagining that, in the dyad, the two terms could be equal, symmetrical, and without any implicit hierarchy.”


8 Translating Multiculturalism

Following Steiner, Ivekovi´c advocates that translation is inseparable from culture. In Ivekovi´c’s words (ibid.): “Culture is first and foremost a matter of translation, even within a given language.” With Benjamin, she also notes (ibid.; emphasis original) that: “The result of a translation cannot but differ from the ‘original’, and will cor-respond to it only in part: it will respond-in-return-with-it.” The affiliation of meaning created between the norm and the difference alters both entities. The Muslim Question, and the other questions of minorities entailed in multiculturalism canalize an immanent critique to the status quo. Just as it happens with a translation, multiculturalism promises transforming the normative asymmetry between the majority and the minority, i.e., between the norm and the deviation, the original and the foreign. Yet, neither end up in the reconciliation of opposite identities and cultures. As Fanon (1967: 34) argues: “The constantly affirmed concern with ‘respecting the culture of the native populations’ does not signify taking into consideration the values borne by the culture, incarnated by men. Rather this behaviour betrays a determination to objectify, to confine, to imprison, to harden.” Fanon further describes the violence implied in the (post)colonial translation noting that: “[p]hrases such as ‘I know them’, ‘that’s the way they are’ show this maximum objectivation successfully achieved.” Another possible outcome of the multicultural translation described by Fanon (ibid.: 35) is ‘exoticism’, which he defines as being “one of the forms of this simplification”, for it “allows no cultural confrontation”. The exoticizing relation or presupposed understanding of differences implies “on the one hand a culture in which qualities of dynamism, of growth, of depth can be recognized. As against this, we find characteristics, curiosities, things, never a structure.” In a similar manner to Fanon, Ivekovi´c describes the politics of veiling and unveiling, which are proper to translation. Ivekovi´c (2002: n.n.) identifies in the ma(r)king of differences a relation of power analogous to the “coming and going of meanings, with the impossibility, and sometimes the inter-diction, of acceding to meaning”. The ‘hegemonistic force’, i.e., the cultural norm possesses and preserves “for itself the codes of exclusive translation, and of all interpretation” imposing “a single meaning by force (all totalitarianism, all fundamentalism)” (ibid.). By controlling the transfer of meaning and further displacements, the cultural norm compresses time. Ivekovi´c notes that this normative limit is violence. The ‘act’ of translation eliminates “alternative histories (along with alternative readings and translations) reduc[ing] them to received history.” In this sense, the violence is expressed in the “reconfiguration of the same”, i.e., of tradition (ibid.). Neither Taylor nor Kymlicka explain the history of multicultural historiography, nor engage in a reconstruction of the history of the Western host-ility.

8.5 The Muslim Difference in Multiculturalism


Instead, both seek persuading the majority (the ‘we’) about multiculturalism. They do not clarify the evolution of minoritarian differences, but instead persuade about the multicultural advantages created for minorities by the majority. Acting as ‘priests of multiculturalism’, the Canadian philosophers indicate that language and belonging are not nationalized. Yet, Taylor’s paradigm in the politics of equal dignity suggests that ‘we’ recognize what is familiar and Kymlicka’s multicultural politics rely upon the affinity among cultural differences. In other words, multiculturalism offers no substantial change in the difference’s historiography vis-à-vis national history. The epistemic attitude towards intelligible and unintelligible identities described as minorities rather perpetuates the indifference, or historical denial of the entanglements and familiarization among historicities of minoritization. Upon this perspective, cultural belonging to the nation is restricted to a one-way ‘contamination’ that allows some exceptional islands of differences to exist next to the norm. Moreover, recurring to cultural patriotism as the explanative force for the originality in Canadian multiculturalism, Kymlicka and Taylor perpetuate a rhetoric strategy, or better: a strategic denial of transnational identities and colonial relations of power. The multicultural landscape reorders the co-existence of differences within the domestic realm. Given that the difference’s value and historical significance increase with the successful identification with the norm, multiculturalism generates multiple narratives of belonging, and genealogies of identity that seek to legitimise (or delegitimise) the historical relation between the cultural majority and the minority. In this context, as in the previous debates, the figure of the testimony becomes central to the renewal of the national and multicultural historiography. However, multiculturalism reallocates the translator’s task: After the missionaries and the national(ists), nowadays, the agents of translation who know how to deal with differences appear in the figure of the multicultural patriots, with their humanistliberal virtues and values of recognition and toleration. Secular and multicultural agents actualize the duty of constitutional patriotism. Still, they are not freed from the history of racism. Dealing with differences, multiculturalism is in fact framed by racism (Lentin 2012: 21). This correlation is illustrated in the example of the Muslim Question and its obstinate debate upon the veil. Whilst Islamophobia and Arabophobia symptomatize the veil as a religious artefact proper to an untranslatable cultural difference, the multicultural difference’s depiction treats the veil as a not-yet-translated (i.e., unfamiliar), religious and foreign identity. The imperative of translation is manifested in both descriptions that seek to render the difference domestic or to nationalize it. This one-way translation treats Western liberal secularism as ‘the’ original or the sole tolerant


8 Translating Multiculturalism

culture. Therefore, it implies a ‘secular condemnation’ of ‘the’ Arab difference (Bhaumik 2017). The history of condemnation and persecution of differences traceable along the Valladolid Debate, the Jewish Question and the multicultural debate illustrates that an open identification with religion other than Christianity poses a problem for civilization, secularism, and democracy, if and only if, the identity is reduced to religious attachments, which are then treated as an innate source of temporal and spatial differentiation, or (auto-)segregation. Framed by racism and colonialism, the epistemic and geographic lines of contestation between the majority and the minority are manifested as reserves and ghettos for non-white citizens, and centres for asylum-seekers for non-white noncitizens. These places are testimony for the fact that the contemporary paradigm of translation encapsulates or even imprisons the possibility to translate the cultural minority into a subject of national historiography. Approaching multiculturalism through translation permits a critique to modernity. The focus shifts from the difference’s authentication into the act of the translator, or the translator’s task. This allows reconstructing the violence in the question of the difference, so as the racist violence that has been adapted into the figure of ‘cultural’ minorities. Instead of defining the difference’s nature or degree of affiliation to the national history, this perspective seeks to reconstruct the history of the difference’s question(ing) through the politics of assimilation, emancipation, and recognition. This implies rethinking the hosting-capacity as an exclusive feature of the majority in multiculturalism from a political viewpoint, not exclusively from a culturalist perspective. This reconstruction does not allocate guilt. Instead, it invites to question Kymlicka and Taylor as to whether the replacement of the fear of differences by the accommodation and recognition of cultural similarities is all we can expect from multiculturalism? If the answer is affirmative, then multicultural reforms are not enough for overcoming the historic asymmetry between the majority and the minorities. Multiculturalism does not deconstruct the difference’s foreignness. Instead, multiculturalism negotiates between the authentic and the situational indeterminacy of foreignness. Multiculturalism operates with ideas of recognition or toleration of differences without realising that what is symptomatic about culture in the West is not the difference (e.g., the veil), but rather the Western debate upon it. As Bhaumik (2017: 100) points out: “The haïk […] moves as a term from a non-European ‘origin’ to its rather allencompassing translation as le voile in French colonial and contemporary discourses.

8.5 The Muslim Difference in Multiculturalism


Perhaps, we can pause to consider colonial mistranslation as an indication of the untranslatability of Islamic practices to certain secular rationalities (Asad; Mahmood). To do so, would be to also recognize the limits of long established colonial narratives [and translations, TM] rather than to render pathological an entire faith.”

To conclude, as Ivekovi´c (2002) notes: “Translation is this […], and yet with a meaning or meanings that are at least derived, even if they remain on the boundaries of the incomprehensible; because even the interdict does not completely prevent—it does not make anything impossible, but makes things otherwise-accessible.”

Hence, translation enables rethinking freedom without falling back into cultural fragmentations of society that seek harmony in a familiar and domesticized diversity.



This chapter offers a summary on translation as a figure of history applied for describing the relations of power in understanding and misunderstanding differences in plural cultural constellations. The first section summarizes the regimes of translation illustrated in the three debates and offers some remarks on the epistemic requirement of historicizing multiculturalism. The second section recalls the main argument and the question of research and synthetizes the politics of translation implied in Canadian multiculturalism.


Historicizing Multiculturalism

The Muslim Question implies an act of translation, which illustrates the relation of meaning among the Valladolid Debate, the Jewish Question and multiculturalism. Its diachronic appearances throughout history testify on the colonial repetition, which changes the referent of the critique, but also reinforces the geometry of power, upon which the translation of the difference is conceived. The layers of meaning about culture and identity that converge in the Muslim Question trace a transcontinental conceptual trajectory (i.e., a migration of meaning), which begins in the 16th century, in the encounter between the Western norm and the non-Western difference, and that is today condensed in multiculturalism. Moreover, the Muslim Question exemplifies that the definition of the West implies a struggle over temporalities and historiographies. In the Valladolid Debate, Las Casas mobilizes the figure of the ‘Moor’, the ‘Turk’ and the ‘Semite’ as a source of ethnic and ontological differentiation from the innocent, but also Orientalized Indian. All these identities are differentiated from the European identity. As Fanon (1965: 37) explains, in colonial times, the colonial agents, who were “committed to destroying people’s originality and […] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, part of Springer Nature 2023 T. Mancheno, Ma(r)king the Difference,





to bring about the disintegration, at whatever cost, of forms of existence likely to evoke a national reality”, “concentrated their efforts in the wearing of the veil”. Rendering the difference visible, the colonial epistemic attitude transforms the veil into the marker of an identity, which is simultaneously transmuted into a matter of public debate. The veil means the exposure, or the public exhibition of intimate differences (ibid.: 44). However, as Munia Bhaumik (2017: 100) notes, this does not mean transparency. Moreover, the haïk “shifts in signification according to the semiotic and perceptual dynamics of space.” In the 19th century, Bauer compares the betrayer religious ‘Jew’ to the figure of the Muslim and distinguishes both from the Christian-German citizen. In Bauer’s racist view, the ‘Arab-Muslim’ appears as the Oriental-natural, which is then treated equivalently to the ‘foreign Jew’. In doing so, Bauer relates both identities that have historically been targets of anti-Semitism. Multiculturalism problematizes the intersections among culture, gender and politics and reveals how differences mark and (de)limit the relation between the state and religion. Multiculturalism challenges some of the premisses of secularism by revisiting the co-habitation of Christians and Muslims. Yet, multiculturalism also creates static cultural identities by retracing untranslatable foreignness. Kymlicka and Taylor oversight the fact that the hostility towards Muslim minorities is not exclusive to Canada. Instead, it is a symptom of Western democracies (El-Tayeb 2011; Lentin 2012), which are also postcolonial nations invented upon a colonial history. By relating multiculturalism to the encounter between the Western and the Non-Western world, also misleadingly defined as the Old World and the New World, the question of minorities is recontextualized in a postcolonial context. Thereby, the transcontinental history of the Western hostility towards the Orientalized difference is connected to the history of humanism and to the humanist idea of hospitality (Derrida 1998; 2000). Moreover, the encounters with cultural differences become central to the definition of culture, as well as to modern history and national identity. The transhistorical and transcontinental history of the West’s hostility towards Orientalized differences implies a critical approach to the history of secularism in the West (Anidjar 2003; Mufti 2007). The translatability, i.e., the conversion of the ‘Indians’, whose descendants call themselves First Nations, is not only a compass for the history between America and Europe. It is also a register of the historiography that narrates how the Christian-secular majority orientalizes and minoritizes differences. In today’s Western democracies, the presence of Muslim

9.1 Historicizing Multiculturalism


minorities in the cities of Europe and North America is symptomatized through this Eurocentric epistemic attitude that marks them as Orientalized differences. Both the veil and the mask are artifacts and metaphors that are associated with transcendence as well as with the concealment of differences. Applied by Fanon (2008) in his analysis of Black identities, the mask veils the possibility of being different. In a language that could also be attributed to Taylor, Fanon (1965) explains the significance of mutual recognition between the norm (majority) and the minority (deviation) through misrecognition. The philosophers agree upon the fact that by pursuing the immersion of the difference into the constant and unchanging majority, the dominant culture seeks the integration of the minority, or of its cultural particularity, into the postcolonial (Fanon) or multicultural (Taylor) nation. Contrary to Taylor though, Fanon analyses the asymmetric relation between the norm and the difference from the Black and from the white gaze. Arguing from this double-perspective, Fanon (1965: 44f) concludes that: “Integration, in order to be successful, seems indeed to have to be simply a continued, accepted paternalism.” Fanon does not offer an ideal definition of mutual recognition, as Taylor does. Instead, he describes its absence from a historical approach and states (ibid.: 44): “There is no reciprocity.” Beyond models of diversity, in which the recognition of some cultural differences among groups is not only possible, but also desirable, the figure of translation intervenes as a reminder of the violence implied in the primordial differentiation. Since there is no reciprocity between the cultural norm and the difference, translation becomes inexorable. In opposition to Kymlicka’s prediction of the disassociation of minorities from the politics of securitization, nowadays Muslim national minorities in the West are associated with politicized forms of infidelity, which are comparable to those attached to the colonial subjects in previous times. In colonial and in postcolonial times, the conversion and translation of non-Christians into Christianity is verified by the (post)colonial norm. In this sense, the political meaning of the difference as trope is condensed in the potential of betrayal, which is attached to it. The renewed hostility in the West towards the Orientalized foreignness visualizes Paul Gilroy’s (1991) concept of the “changing same”. The “changing same” suggests that, more than constituting a mere continuity, the questioned difference is constantly being ‘recovered’ (Gilroy 1991: 114). Gilroy’s concept avoids temporal linearity and rather proves that the repetitive act of translation creates a conjuncture between transformation and sameness. The compared reconstruction offered in this research of a persistent debate upon the non-Western difference in the West between two white-male, Christiansocialized intellectuals illustrates the conceptual history of a “changing same”




(ibid.). By tracing the historical trajectory of meaning and concepts that compose this changing same, this research did not seek to discover the intrinsic value of cultural identities. Instead, it dealt with minorities as a process of cultural becoming. Thereby, Koselleck’s Differenzbestimmung between social history and conceptual history (Begriffsgeschichte) was reoriented towards a historicizing of multiculturalism beyond monoculturality. Reconstructing multiculturalism through translation thus means to deal with the social requirement of naming differences, differently. Translation contests the cultural essentialism celebrated by multiculturalism. In Appiah’s words (1996: 32): “while there is a place for racial identities in a world shaped by racism, I shall argue, if we are to move beyond racism we shall have, in the end, to move beyond current racial identities”. Following Harris (2016), this means acknowledging that the question of race is still at the bottom of the issues concerning cultural differences, and that it cannot and should not be ignored when the presence of a cultural minority is put into discussion. This epistemic attitude requires developing a ‘race consciousness’ instead of promoting ‘colorblindness’ (Harris 2016: 209).


The Politics of Translation in Multiculturalism

The translational approach to history and identities proposed in this research questions the colonial legacy in the ideas of affiliation, tradition, and heritage. It suggests, as Mufti (2007: 10) explains that ‘literary history’ cannot be reduced to the “confines of a single and discrete national culture”. In other words, those ‘discrete entities’ called nations cannot explain the origins of political concepts, which compose their own national historiography, without translation; hence, without differences. Conceptual history and modern historiography are crossnational phenomena that are explainable only “by standing, at least partially and momentarily, outside national identification” (ibid.). This displacement or “dislocation” of cultural identities (Gilroy 1991: 114) implies, as Chakrabarty (2000) suggests, being cautious in operating with notions of originality, authenticity; and instead, to allow singularity in the plurality of identities to be articulated. In his words (2000: 83; emphasis original): “To allow for plurality, signified by the plurality of gods, is to think in terms of singularities. To think in terms of singularities, however—and this I must make clear since so many scholars these days are prone to see parochialism, essentialism, or cultural relativism in every claim of non-Western difference—is not to make a claim against

9.2 The Politics of Translation in Multiculturalism


the demonstrable and documentable permeability of cultures and languages. It is, in fact, to appeal to models of crosscultural and cross-categorical translations that do not take a universal middle term for granted.”

Precisely, the circulation of the difference’s questioning and of its manifestations in the 16th , the 19th and the 21st centuries reconstructed in this research traces an alternative historiography, which supersedes the frontiers of the respective cultural norm. The diachronic appearances of the difference throughout history interrupt the cultural homogeneity and uniformity celebrated by liberal political thought. At the same time, the history in the minoriticization of differences reveals the colonial legacy of multiculturalism: Qualitative differences respond to an ontological hierarchy between the national and minoritarian (nondominant) identities. Manifested and reproduced through language, this hierarchy creates crises of historiography that are discussed by the culture considered majoritarian. The old and new concepts employed to discuss the respective crisis mark differences and sameness. The translational trajectory of the difference affiliates the three debates treated in this research creating a relation of parenthood among them. Their compared reconstruction illustrates rhetorical strategies for minoriticization at a global scale by tracing relations of meaning among translatable and untranslatable differences. Moreover, the compared reconstruction reveals that the concepts mobilized to name minoritized differences have been misused to allocate cultural identities to non-Western geographic regions, as well as to cultural areas outside democracy and secularism. The concepts employed for describing the relation of dependency between the Western cultural norm and the non-Western differences mirror several degrees of historical legitimation: The figure of the Indio, the Jew and the Muslim reappear in our actual political vocabularies, in the figure of the native, the alien or the migrant. All these concepts denote identities in relation to an empowered identity that remains unquestioned. Thereby, the concepts ma(r)king differences unfold cultural identities, which are simultaneously registers of the logics of inclusion and exclusion that have been pursued in the name of culture, but also in the name of the West. The reconstruction of the transhistorical and transcontinental conceptual history of the minoriticization of differences illustrates that their recognition or accommodation implies a systematic segmentation, which is also entailed in Canadian multiculturalism. Just as a translation, multiculturalism expects to overcome the normative differentiation or even cultural estrangement between the norm and the deviation by transforming differences. In this sense, the history of




translation, i.e., the history of veiling and unveiling of an identity’s differences, historically explains the plural cultural constellation entailed in multiculturalism. This conceptual history of multiculturalism found in the Valladolid Debate and the Jewish Question relates the colonial encounter of the Western and nonWestern differences to the struggle for recognition. The resituated historicity of multiculturalism confronts the colonial amnesia in multicultural political thinking and liberal political thought. In this research, translation was implemented as a methodological tool for reconstructing the question of the cultural minorities without reducing culture nor identity to manifestations of national fragmentation. Instead of focusing on the originality of multiculturalism, this heuristic exercise addressed the geometry of power proper to the translation of differences. The analysis of the three debates as translation acts visualized how the cultural norm, which appears throughout history as synonym of civilization, the nation and the secular democracy, operates within a representational scheme that classifies translatable and untranslatable differences. This approach to minorities and to cultural differences in Western democracies enlarged the normative theories delivered by the white-male prominent thinkers of multiculturalism, Kymlicka and Taylor. Benjamin’s definition of translatability and Fanon’s analyses on the translations of racism into language, as well as on the effects of racialized concepts upon culture and identities, enabled to detect the regime of translation (in)forming cultural identities articulated in each debate. Following Lyotard, Buden, Nowotny and Ivekovi´c, the epistemic attitudes towards differences formulated in the Indian question, the Jewish Question, and multiculturalism were explained through the motifs of the trial and the testimony. Both concepts illustrated the difference mar(k)ing, so as its silencing effects. In the case of the Valladolid Debate, the chroniclers delivered by Las Casas and Sepúlveda entail a testimony upon the difference’s nature. The discussants simultaneously act as witnesses and legal representatives, as well as lawyers and judges of the Indians. In the Jewish Question, Bauer testifies against the Jews and Marx testifies against religious affiliations. In multiculturalism, the motif of the testimony appears as the successful normalization, or as the domestication of differences into Canadian multiculturalism: Kymlicka and Taylor act as translators of Canada’s originality in opposition to European and to non-Western nations, as well as translators of the Canadian minorities into the suis generis democratic model. In other words, both discussants testify on the untranslatability of multiculturalism outside of Canada and evaluate the difference’s translatability into the Canadian identity.

9.2 The Politics of Translation in Multiculturalism


The imperative of cultural transformation from unfamiliarity (barbarism) to recognition and toleration is common to the three debates. In the Valladolid Debate, the imperative surmounts to an ontological passage, in which the conversion of the colonial subjects into Christianity is formulated in terms of salvation or condemnation. In the debate between Marx and Bauer on the Jewish Question, this ontological passage reappears in their employments of the concepts of emancipation and alienation to describe the required mutation. The conversion of the Indian into the Christian and her incorporation into humanity are depicted as initiation acts, which the Jew must undergo to become a citizen adapted to the national culture, hence, being considered a national. The translation’s goal thus changes from a colonial-assimilationist to a national-assimilationist project. In the Valladolid Debate and the Jewish Question, the verification of the differences between the majoritarian and the minoritarian identity remains the task of the norm. However, the task to assimilate the difference is readapted from the figure of the missionary into the patriotic duty of the citizen. This historiography suggests that religious emancipation is informed by the conversion of differences into recognizable colonial and racialized subjects. At the same time, colonial conversion appears as a component of the history of secularism. In the multicultural nation, the task of translation surmounts to the virtue of toleration or recognition. The paradigm of recognition and misrecognition guiding the multicultural debate seeks to find a balance between the familiar and the unfamiliar by allocating rights according to cultural identities, i.e., as “group-differentiated rights” (Kymlicka 1995). In this sense, the minoriticization of cultural identities common to the three debates functions as an act of epistemic banishment: The difference resides outside the cultural norm, which is conversely incapable of being altered or redefined. Altering the foreignness of differences, the three debates mobilize colonial geo-epistemic cartographies and ontological hierarchies. Moreover, the compared reconstruction reveals that the depicted differences embody a discontinuity, which is portrayed as a geographic distance. The geometry of power proper to the regimes of translation articulated in each debate mirrors the collective trial or the authentication of the difference’s value for the cultural norm. However, if, as Kymlicka and Taylor suggest, multiculturalism is untranslatable into other national narratives and languages, why is this concept globally employed as a ‘lingua franca’? Why does this English political concept travel? Do the uses of the concept disseminate knowledge about the postcolonial condition of multicultural Western and non-Western societies? The timelessness of multiculturalism blocks its deconstruction. However, as Palonen (2016: 180) suggests, the import of foreign concepts serves minorities to




articulate and visualize local claims at the international level. The circulation of concepts creates international political languages and globalizes the language of democracy (ibid.: 184–185). Also Taylor (1992: 64) suggests that the internationalization of concepts allows minorities to contest national misrecognition through ‘external recognition’. Kymlicka (2007a) shares this view, while also noting that multiculturalism is unconceivable without the worldwide regulation of national minorities. Thereby, Kymlicka refers to the international institutions and treaties that are framed by human rights and democracy. Yet, the international adaptations of multiculturalism may also cause a dehistoricization of the concept. For example, the English concepts gender and race have been imported by the German academic language, as well as into the German political vocabularies. The category class is not included in the transatlantic international political language that bears the potential of the formation of postnational identities (identitätsstiftendes Potenzial). The boundless circulation and adaptations of the concepts gender and race in different national contexts and languages are, however, counteracted by the concepts’ monolinguistic sources. The concepts race and gender are not contextless, but rather correspond to historical singularities. This means that the internationalization of these political concepts mobilizes British history, so as the history of minoriticization of cultural differences by British colonial expansionism. Their import in non-English speaking Western and nonWestern nations is not neutral. Moreover, the implementation of international political concepts articulates differences as imagined in the Anglo-Saxon world. In other words, the concepts of race and gender illustrate a translation regime that defines and evaluates differences according to the cultural rule proper to colonial and national English historiography. Upon this logic, the Canadian concept of multiculturalism1 presupposes that the difference’s value and its historical significance, i.e., its chances of being considered national, increase with the successful identification with the Canadian norm. Multiculturalism is thus central to the renewal of the cultural norm. Multiculturalism generates multiple narratives of belonging, and genealogies of identity that seek to legitimise (or delegitimise) the historical relation of the difference to the norm. The affiliation of meaning or historical continuity among the debates offers insights in the treatment of cultural differences in the Western world. The three


Outside of Canada, the multicultural Canadian experience is comprehended as a component of the North American or Anglo-Saxon national narratives.

9.2 The Politics of Translation in Multiculturalism


debates affirm an asymmetric model of culture that allocates rights and obligations to groups according to their ethnic background. This culturalist frame implies that “a number of different categories have been identified as the potential beneficiaries of targeted minority rights” (Kymlicka 2007c: 384). As a result, this model essentializes identities reducing them to social attachments and culturalized forms of belongings. Following this logic, discourses on diversity in the West reify culture by excluding all other modes of explanation for cultural plurality within the nation (Lentin 2012: 12). Ultimately, multiculturalism reinforces the fictive cultural homogeneity and reduces the problem of the cultural to its toleration. Nowadays, the ontological division between a questioning norm and a questioned difference is expressed in the political categories of newcomers, refugees, and non-documented migrants. Several times, African irregular migrants arriving at European soil have manifested their belonging to the religion of the host country by crossing themselves. Through this praxis, migrating people affirm their familiarity (and translatability) to the European values and norms, i.e., to Christianity, while also marking a distinction from non-Catholic migrants. This act is a declaration of affiliation and loyalty to the hosting postcolonial nations. This example illustrates that the power to translate determines upon the actual and the future possibilities of the difference’s translatability. However, this contingent right of existence goes against human rights and freedom. The responsibility given to the minority for the majority’s attitude upon the collectivized differences goes against self-determination and dignity. Resignifying the Eurocentric and patriotic tasks of colonial conversion, national emancipation, and multicultural toleration as acts of translation of differentiated identities, this research questioned the inclusiveness and exclusiveness of the identity which is entitled to interrogate the difference at the first instance. The reconstruction of multiculturalism through the older debates visualized that the colonial and paternalistic attitudes towards cultural minorities maintain differences vulnerable of becoming subject of public critique. It also illustrated both the transcontinental asymmetric relations of power framing the encounter between the majority and the minorities, as well as the history of hostility, which is composed by the globalized colonial, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic epistemic attitude towards differences. The crisis of identity, and the paradigmatic changes in the history of translation from the colonial Empire to the European nation-state were redescribed as crucial moments in the conceptual history of multiculturalism. At the same time, the paradigmatic moments, which were identified in the debates, were also interpreted as historical layers of the multicultural, secular, Western democracy.




With Koselleck and Pocock, as well as with Benjamin and Fanon, the power in ma(r)king the difference mobilized by the discussants in each debate was redefined in terms of the power of critique in the constitution of minoritized identities. The transcontinental history of the differences’ ma(r)king was traced through a decentred reconstruction of the transgression of identities into matters of public concern. This transition redescribes the minoriticization of identities, instead of differentiating identities from an unquestioned norm. Approaching multiculturalism through the politics of translation thus means both to focus on the history of the concepts producing differences as well as to reconstruct a history of differences beyond an amnestic future. In this sense, the politics of translation are the politics in complicity with minoritized histories and identities. Since colonialism frames the conceptual production, and the forms of life ‘measured’ by those concepts, the conceptual reconstruction of multiculturalism permits to illustrate the ma(r)king of the non-Western, non-white, minoritarian identities as acts of violence. As Balibar (1997; 2011), El-Tayeb (2011) and Solomon (2007) explain, in the policed colonial Empire, the nation-state, and in the multicultural society, the political-epistemic attitude towards differences has an impact on the definition of culture and upon the value of differences. From the 15th century onwards, Indigenous, Jewish, and Black peoples have experienced the violence of being exterminated by reason of ‘their’ culture. The parallels between these minoritized identities and the contemporary situation of Indigenous, Muslim and Black communities in Western democracies and beyond cannot be ignored. Moreover, the omission of the Black Question from the three debates renders tangible the frontier in the translatability of differences into humanity. The acknowledgment of this omission situates the question of the difference in relation to the Black Question in a transcontinental and transhistorical context. Thereby, the problem of culture or of culture as a problem goes beyond comparison and familiarization. In other words, translation allows pursuing the decolonial need of reconstructing (and deconstructing) the ontological comparison, which is equivalent to an ontological trial. Following Bhabha (2003: 207), my comparative approach does not reduce ‘minorities’ to several equivalents. This approach rather suggests that “difference is crucial to the production of meaning and ensures, at the same time, that meaning is never simply mimetic and transparent”. Differences are relevant for the politics of translation, yet not as identifiable and empirical objects of research. Instead, it is the process of differentiation as well as the history of violence in ma(r)king differences that become significant. In Bhabha’s words (ibid.: 206): the “cultural difference is a process of signification through which statements of

9.2 The Politics of Translation in Multiculturalism


culture or on culture differentiate, discriminate, and authorize the production of fields of force, reference, applicability, and capacity.” The difference is described as an ever-changing semantic battle. As Bhabha (ibid.) continues: “cultural difference is the process of the enunciation of culture as ‘knowledgeable’, authoritative, adequate to the construction of systems of cultural identification.” The “problem of [the] cultural” (ibid.), or of culture as a problem, is inevitably related with the production of culture itself. It “emerges only at the significatory boundaries of cultures” (ibid.). Bhabha defines the interrelation between differences and culture in the following sense (ibid.: 207; emphasis added): “The enunciation of cultural difference problematizes the division of past and present, tradition and modernity, at the level of cultural representation and its authoritative address. It is the problem of how, in signifying the present, something comes to be repeated, relocated, and translated in the name of tradition, in the guise of a pastness that is not necessarily a faithful sign of historical memory but a strategy of representing authority in terms of the artifice of the archaic. That iteration negates our sense of the origins of the struggle. It undermines our sense of the homogenizing effects of cultural symbols and icons, by questioning our sense of the authority of cultural synthesis in general.”

Bhabha addresses the issue of difference in culture as a problem especially accurate to modernity. Similarly, Hall (1992) describes modernity as a civilizational cultural project that builds a transition from the non-modern past. Modernity, he suggests, enables an epistemic break with the ‘primitive’. The radical exclusion of the primitive presupposed by modern thinking stands for a “modern problem”, and for “a crisis in cultural identity” (Hall 1992: 471). In Hall’s words (ibid.): the “modernist construction of primitivism” is “the fetishistic recognition and disavowal of the primitive difference”. But this disassociation does not mean the dissolution of the co-relation between the civilized and the primitive. As Hall writes (ibid.: 469): “the primitive returns uncannily at the moment of its apparent political eclipse.” The act of appropriation implied in the hermeneutic impulse to identify the difference has been redescribed in this research as a translation. The translation of differences implies an appropriation carried out by, what Derrida (1986: 20) calls, an ‘objective Sittlichkeit’, i.e., the norm’s religion, tradition, and culture. This objectivized and normalized ‘inner universality’ (absolute Spirit) of the individual subject (subjective spirit) are represented in Columbus’ orientalizing gaze, and in the proper name of The Indies. Reworded in terms of discovery, this historical mistranslation is the equation, which posits and recognizes Europe as the universality entitled to translate.




The appropriation of differences has “constancy, essence, existence, substance” (ibid.: 13), and in Benjamin’s semantics ‘afterlife’. In Derrida’s words (ibid.; emphasis added): “The proper essence, the property of individual subjectivity, far from restricting itself to that end simply choking (étrang[l]er), appropriates itself, becomes what is, possesses itself in the form of its contrary or negation. It possesses itself in that [barbaric, hence unintelligible, TM] form.” Through the appropriation of the difference, the norm can also raise “into its contrary” (ibid.). The inclusion of the (un)translatability of modern and postmodern political concepts and ideas in the reconstruction of their migrating history enables to contest the definition of differences as minorities in multiculturalism. The figure of translation allows intersecting minoritized identities and national historiography. This synchronization creates transnational narratives, which neither seek to unify the cultural plurality of identities into one global historiography, nor to conflate differences into cosmopolitanism. Translation, as a figure of history, captures the act of comprehension and communication of differences in terms of a political intervention. This translational reconstruction of the adaptability of concepts describing differences does not mark identities as different. Instead, this approach scrutinizes the “inherited language”, which places and points acts of dispossession (Dayan 2005: 46). In conclusion, the social critique and the compromise with diversity implied in multiculturalism are counteracted by the orientalizing tendencies, through which non-white minorities are defined, judged, and evaluated in postcolonial contexts. The reconstruction of multiculturalism thus reveals the trajectory of a translational history of Westernism, of what Derrida (1986: 12) calls “the condition of its freedom, of its truth”, as well as of its cultural originality. I believe that a reconstruction of the migration of the difference’s meaning throughout national contexts and histories is necessary for discussing and planning plural-cultural societies. The violence in colonial and postcolonial epistemic attitudes towards differences may be dismantled by the norm through the politics of complicity with minoritized languages and voices. Otherwise, ‘we’ risk repeating the violence proper to ontological hierarchization, which built the grammar of the Valladolid Debate and the Jewish Question. The geometry of power enabling these debates had a totalitarian impact upon the conceptual and social history of hostility at a transnational and even global level. The inclusion of the migration of meaning in conceptual history, as well as in the production of concepts that seek to mirror cultural plurality, such as multiculturalism, could enable to counteract this violence by recovering translational histories of decolonial friendship.


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