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Politics of Translation in International Relations [1st ed. 2021]
 3030568857, 9783030568856

Table of contents :
About the Book
Notes on Contributors
Chapter 1: The Politics of Translation in International Relations
Translation in International Relations
Translation as Transformation
Contributions: The Politics of Translation in International Relations
Part I: Translation and the Politics of (Disciplinary) Language
Chapter 2: Gavagai? The International Politics of Translation
Making Translation Unproblematic
Quine on the Indeterminacy of Translation
The Quest for Regularity as Quest for Certainty
Politicising Translation
Conclusion: The International Politics of Translation
Chapter 3: Conceptual Debates in IR and the Spectre of Polysemy: Intralingual Challenges and the Promise of Translation
Preliminary Reflections on ‘Translation’
Translation as Transformation: Three Core Dimensions
Hermeneutics and Translation
The Multivocality of IR Meta-Theory
The Path of Appropriation: The Agent-Structure Debate
Acknowledgement Without Understanding: Debating ‘Ontology’ in IR
Governing Polysemy: Jackson’s Meta-Theoretical Pluralism
The Promise of a Translational Perspective for IR Meta-Theory
Chapter 4: Remaking the Law of Encounter: Comparative International Law as Transformative Translation
Traditional Translation and International Law’s Claim to Universality
Escaping the Westphalian Trap
Remaking the Law of Encounter: Comparative International Law as Transformative Translation
Comparative International Law as Transformative Translation in Practice
Part II: Translating Across Fields of Practice
Chapter 5: Fashioning the Other: Fashion as an Epistemology of Translation
Heidegger on the World as Vor-stellung
On (Not) Knowing the Other in IR
The Politics of Translation
Of Looking Glasses, Dreams and ‘China’
In Lieu of a Conclusion: The Politics of Fashioning Self and Other
Chapter 6: De/Colonising Through Translation? Rethinking the Politics of Translation in the Women, Peace and Security Agenda
Feminist Knowledge Transfer in the WPS Agenda
Translation as Transfer in Gender Training
Beyond Translation as Transfer
Decolonising the WPS Agenda Through Translation?
Chapter 7: Translating Critique: Civil Society and the Politicisation of Financial Regulation
Introduction: ‘The Critical Attitude’
Translation and Hierarchies of Knowledge
Problematisation (1): ‘You can Explain Everything, Though Only Rarely Someone Cares’
Interessement (2): ‘Finance Watch is an Amazing Help’
Enrolment (3): ‘…We Are Working on It because It Was in the Commission’s Proposal’
Mobilisation (4): ‘At Some Point, It Will Always Crash Again’
Conclusion: Translating Critique
Chapter 8: Social Movements and Translation
Brokers and Framing Processes in Social Movement Studies
The Transformative Potential of Translation in Pro-Democracy and Solidarity Movements
The Disruptive Third Voice of Political Translators: Domination and Positional Misunderstanding
Inequality, Conflicts, and Political Translation in Social Movement Coalitions
Positional Misunderstandings Based on Class, Racialised, or Gendered Hierarchies
Conclusion: Civil-Society-Translation Capacities to Address Migration and Climate Change
Part III: Translating International Relations (IR)
Chapter 9: English and the Legacy of Linguistic Domination in IR
Decolonising International Relations
Decolonising the Curriculum
Can the Curriculum Really be ‘Decolonised’? The Issues of Identity
Can the Curriculum Really be ‘Decolonised’? The Issues of Language
Translating IR: Will It Help with Decolonisation?
Whose Works Should Be Translated?
Can Translation Capture Nuance?
Concluding Remarks: Will More Non-European Voices Overthrow Eurocentrism?
Chapter 10: On the Power of Translation and the Translation of ‘Power’: A Translingual Concept Analysis
Translating Concepts: Begriffsgeschichte Revisited
From ‘Power’ to Powers: A Translingual Concept Analysis
‘Power’ and/in Waltz
‘Power(s)’ and/in the Chinese Edition of Theory of International Politics
Chapter 11: Anarchy is What Translators Make of It? Translating Theory and Translation Theories
The Problem of Equivalence
Translating Anarchy
Conclusion: Theory-Building and Translation as Rewriting
Part IV: Reflections
Chapter 12: The Contingency of Translation
The Social Ontology of Translation
Space and Agency
The Politics of Translation?
Chapter 13: On the ‘Does Theory Travel?’ Question: Traveling with Edward Said

Citation preview


The Politics of Translation in International Relations

Edited by Zeynep Gulsah Capan Filipe dos Reis Maj Grasten

Palgrave Studies in International Relations Series Editors Mai’a K. Davis Cross Northeastern University Boston, MA, USA Benjamin de Carvalho Norwegian Institute of International Affairs Oslo, Norway Shahar Hameiri University of Queensland St. Lucia, QLD, Australia Knud Erik Jørgensen University of Aarhus Aarhus, Denmark Ole Jacob Sending Norwegian Institute of International Affairs Oslo, Norway Ayşe Zarakol University of Cambridge Cambridge, UK

Palgrave Studies in International Relations (the EISA book series), published in association with European International Studies Association, provides scholars with the best theoretically-informed scholarship on the global issues of our time. The series includes cutting-edge monographs and edited collections which bridge schools of thought and cross the boundaries of conventional fields of study. EISA members can access a 50% discount to PSIR, the EISA book series, here http://www.eisa-net. org/sitecore/content/be-bruga/mci-registrations/eisa/login/ landing.aspx. Mai’a K. Davis Cross is the Edward W. Brooke Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University, USA, and Senior Researcher at the ARENA Centre for European Studies, University of Oslo, Norway. Benjamin de Carvalho is a Senior Research Fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), Norway. Shahar Hameiri is Associate Professor of International Politics and Associate Director of the Graduate Centre in Governance and International Affairs, School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland, Australia. Knud Erik Jørgensen is Professor of International Relations at Aarhus University, Denmark, and at Yaşar University, Izmir, Turkey. Ole Jacob Sending is the Research Director at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), Norway. Ayşe Zarakol is Reader in International Relations at the University of Cambridge and a fellow at Emmanuel College, UK. More information about this series at http://www.palgrave.com/gp/series/14619

Zeynep Gulsah Capan Filipe dos Reis  •  Maj Grasten Editors

The Politics of Translation in International Relations

Editors Zeynep Gulsah Capan Faculty of Law, Social Sciences & Economics University of Erfurt Erfurt, Germany

Filipe dos Reis Department of International Relations and International Organization University of Groningen Groningen, The Netherlands

Maj Grasten Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy Copenhagen Business School Copenhagen, Denmark

Palgrave Studies in International Relations ISBN 978-3-030-56885-6    ISBN 978-3-030-56886-3 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-56886-3 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 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. Cover illustration: Niday Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland


This book is the outcome of an international collaborative effort. The editors would like to thank all the contributors for making this edited volume possible. Each chapter offers an intellectually stimulating and novel take on translation. From the outset, the aim of this project has been to open up a discussion on the topic of translation rather than make any claim to finality on it in exploring different ways of linking politics and translation in international relations. The contributors have taken our initial ideas much further than we could then imagine. The book is the result of a series of meetings and collaborations. Three in particular stand out. The first was in April 2016 at the 3rd European Workshops on International Studies (EWIS) held at the University of Tübingen and sponsored by the European International Studies Association (EISA). The second in November 2016 was a workshop, also sponsored by the EISA, in Rapallo, Italy. We presented the book’s introduction in the ‘Translation in/of World Politics’ workshop at SOAS University of London in January 2020. The engagement of all workshop participants has been an important motivation in this project and significantly contributed to the novelty and the quality of the project. We would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers for incisive comments and suggestions. We gratefully acknowledge the excellent support of the Palgrave Studies in International Relations (PSIR) series editors.


About the Book

This volume concerns the role and nature of translation in global politics. Through the establishment of trade routes, the encounter with the ‘New World’, and the circulation of concepts and norms across global space, meaning making and social connections have unfolded through practices of translating. While translation is core to international relations it has been relatively neglected in the discipline of International Relations. The Politics of Translation in International Relations remedies this neglect to suggest an understanding of translation that transcends language to encompass a broad range of recurrent social and political practices. The volume provides a wide variety of case studies, including financial regulation, gender training programs, and grassroots movements. Contributors situate the politics of translation in the theoretical and methodological landscape of International Relations, encompassing feminist theory, deand post-colonial theory, hermeneutics, post-structuralism, critical constructivism, semiotics, conceptual history, actor-network theory and translation studies. The Politics of Translation in International Relations furthers and intensifies a cross-disciplinary dialogue on how translation makes international relations.



1 The Politics of Translation in International Relations  1 Zeynep Gulsah Capan, Filipe dos Reis, and Maj Grasten Part I Translation and the Politics of (Disciplinary) Language  21 2 Gavagai? The International Politics of Translation 23 Benjamin Herborth 3 Conceptual Debates in IR and the Spectre of Polysemy: Intralingual Challenges and the Promise of Translation 43 Torsten Michel 4 Remaking the Law of Encounter: Comparative International Law as Transformative Translation 67 Miriam Bak McKenna Part II Translating Across Fields of Practice  87 5 Fashioning the Other: Fashion as an Epistemology of Translation 89 Andreas Behnke




6 De/Colonising Through Translation? Rethinking the Politics of Translation in the Women, Peace and Security Agenda111 Rahel Kunz 7 Translating Critique: Civil Society and the Politicisation of Financial Regulation131 Benjamin Wilhelm 8 Social Movements and Translation151 Nicole Doerr Part III Translating International Relations (IR) 173 9 English and the Legacy of Linguistic Domination in IR175 Shogo Suzuki 10 On the Power of Translation and the Translation of ‘Power’: A Translingual Concept Analysis199 Ariel Shangguan 11 Anarchy is What Translators Make of It? Translating Theory and Translation Theories219 Fatmanur Kaçar Part IV Reflections 235 12 The Contingency of Translation237 Oliver Kessler 13 On the ‘Does Theory Travel?’ Question: Traveling with Edward Said245 Pinar Bilgin Index257

Notes on Contributors

Andreas Behnke  is Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Reading. Pinar Bilgin  is Professor in the Department of International Relations, Bilkent University. Zeynep Gulsah Capan  is Lecturer in the Faculty of Law, Social Sciences & Economics, University of Erfurt. Nicole  Doerr  is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen. Filipe dos Reis  is Assistant Professor in the Department of International Relations and International Organization, University of Groningen. Maj Grasten  is Assistant Professor in the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School. Benjamin  Herborth is Assistant Professor in the Department of International Relations and International Organization, University of Groningen. Fatmanur Kacar  is PhD Candidate in the Institute of European Studies, Marmara University Oliver Kessler  is Professor in the Faculty of Economics, Law & Social Sciences, University of Erfurt.




Rahel  Kunz  is Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lausanne. Miriam  Bak  McKenna  is Postdoctoral Fellow in the Faculty of Law, Lund University. Torsten  Michel  is Senior Lecturer in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, University of Bristol. Ariel  Shangguan  is Postdoctoral Fellow at the Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University. Shogo Suzuki  is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics, University of Manchester. Benjamin  Wilhelm lectures in International Political Economy at Goethe-University Frankfurt.


The Politics of Translation in International Relations Zeynep Gulsah Capan, Filipe dos Reis, and Maj Grasten

Translation in International Relations This volume scrutinises the politics of translation in international relations. It traces and discusses how ideas, concepts, and practices travel and acquire meanings across sites, disciplines, and events. Translation is core to international relations given the role of encounters and exchange, borders

Z. G. Capan (*) Faculty of Law, Social Sciences & Economics, University of Erfurt, Erfurt, Germany F. dos Reis Department of International Relations and International Organization, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands e-mail: [email protected] M. Grasten Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 Z. G. Capan et al. (eds.), The Politics of Translation in International Relations, Palgrave Studies in International Relations, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-56886-3_1




and boundaries, in making these relations. The volume defines translation as an ontological condition of the international, exploring the methodological ramifications that follow, and how translation is core to global politics. It does not approach translation in its most common (interlingual) sense, translation between different languages. Rather, the act of translation is understood as a recurrent social and political practice in international relations that relates, for instance, contexts and concepts, and always involves change. Translation concerns meaning creation and exchange in and through encounters and multiple worlds. The chapters that follow comprise an evidential claim to an approach to the international that starts from translations. In aggregate, the various contributions provide a roadmap situating the politics of translation in the theoretical and methodological landscape of International Relations (IR). The notion of translation encapsulates important dynamics in and of the ‘international’, including the relationship between the social and semantic and the question of how meaning momentarily gets fixed in the face of uncertainty, contestation and contingency. The ‘international’ is abound with encounters and interactions between different rights regimes, professional knowledges and vernaculars, functional fields, and geopolitical spheres. These interactions structure international relations and how we understand the ‘international’. Interactions not only cross but create boundaries, distinctions, and differences. Interactions constitute the social, creating new relations and political orders, including hierarchies and silences (see Suzuki 2009; Zarakol 2011). Interactions both require and are the space of translations. As such, translation is not a neutral and a-political act. Politics is intrinsic to translations. As shown in the contributions to this volume, translation is a contingent and communicative practice of connecting across space and time (see Chap. 12 by Bilgin on the temporal dimension of translation). Translation is therefore key to international studies. This volume emphasises the transformative dimension of translation for the making of international relations by opening up the ‘black box’ of the concept of translation itself. While translation is core to international relations, it has been relatively neglected in the discipline of IR. In approaching translation as transformation, we understand translation as an interstitial communicative process and exchange. As a communicative exchange, translation is always negotiated and contested, relational and ‘in



the making’ (Renn 2006), and therefore never complete. Translation is a form of continuous re-writing (Lefevere 1992); a contingent, open and ‘ongoing process’ (Derrida 2001, p. 177; see also Chap. 12, Kessler this volume); and, as echoed in this volume, a process of ‘continuous transformation’ (Latour 1986, p. 268). Translation implies a constant reinvention of meaning and possibility of transformation.1 Translation is not a fixed, immutable ‘thing’. This approach to translation offers an intellectual and empirical terrain for making sense of how boundaries between Self and Other are iteratively re-articulated and sameness/difference constructed across the myriad interactions that constitute the ‘international’ (Mignolo and Schiwy 2003; see also Chap. 5, Behnke this volume). Encounters and interactions between different social worlds ‘recast and reconstruct’ these worlds in a process of reciprocal change (Freeman 2009, p.  436). This means that social worlds, polities, and cultures are not pre-given but constituted and made sense of through translation. They are also constantly in translation.2 As the ‘in-between of multiple knowledges’ (Vázquez 2011, p. 29), translation as transformation invites us to study a variety of processes of reconstruction, resignification, and interaction that transcend a narrow transmission model between sender and receiver, original and replica. Our approach departs from traditional conceptualisations of translation, which centre on a process of transfer. This conception of translation has been most important to Translation Studies and its concern with textual equivalence and symmetry between ‘source’ and ‘target’. Equivalence is a function of an assumed shared cultural referent that stands outside all languages as universal foil. The transfer approach rests on the notion of translation as an act of ‘carrying across’ existing cultural and linguistic boundaries and ‘implies that something is indeed transferred, something that presumably remains constant throughout the process and is thus objectively “there”’ (Chesterman and Arrojo 2000, p.  153). Similarly, within IR translation has been approached as a relatively 1  The emphasis on interaction, exchange, entanglements should not be taken to denote a harmony and reproduce the ideal of ‘equal’ exchanges. 2  In the words of Zygmunt Bauman (1999, p. xlviii; emphasis in original): ‘Cross-cultural translation is a continuous process which serves as much as constitutes the cohabitation of people who can afford neither occupying the same space nor mapping that common space in their own, separate ways. No act of translation leaves either of the partners intact. Both emerge from their encounter changed, different at the end of the act from what they were at its beginning’.



unproblematic practice of transferring meaning across given boundaries in a unidirectional fashion. This linear, teleological conception of translation, where meaning remains stable and determinate through the process of translating, obscures the performative effects and politics of translation that are intrinsic to the position of the translator(s), the purpose of the translation, and the process of selecting one version of a particular translation over another (see Chap. 9, Suzuki this volume).3 The Politics of Translation in International Relations takes a different tack, rethinking the relationship between translation and politics: it emphasises the transformative dimension of translation for the making of international relations. In approaching translation as transformation, this volume operationalises a broader conception of translation to capture the multiple meanings and practices that constitute the ‘international’. Translation as transformation is a shared concern across the contributions to this volume in the scrutiny of power and social practices in the production of translation in and through encounters, and a particular focus on translation’s performative effects on (re)constructing meanings and perspectives on the ‘international’. The volume adopts an explicit focus on the context and role of translations, including transnational forces that determine translation decisions, the subjectivity and intentions of translators, and norms, conditions, and ethics of translation. Accordingly, contributions to the volume challenge the conceptual metaphors embedded in the word ‘translation’, that is, trans- (‘across’) latio (‘to carry’), and show how translation holds meanings beyond the transfer metaphor. Translations are powerful producers of knowledge and discourse. This entails a concern with ‘the violence that resides in the very purpose and activity of translation’ (Venuti 1995, p. 18; see also wa Thiong’o 2009). From a more critical perspective, translations are viewed as tools that produce cultural representations and images. These tools may be subject to manipulation by translators to advance specific ideologies or histories through representational distortions and silences. Therefore, sensitivity is required to the radical potential of translations. Vázquez proposes opposing conceptions of translation that differ on the dimensions of role in unequal exchanges and power differentials in play. Translation as erasure 3  In other words, the ‘transfer’ metaphor ‘undermines the self-reflexivity and empowerment of translators, encouraging a sort of amnesia about ideology in translation processes that facilitates the unexamined ascendancy of the values of the dominant powers within a culture and throughout the globalizing world’ (Tymoczko 2007, p. 7).



‘speaks of the coloniality of translation: that is, the way in which translation performs a border-keeping role and expands the territory of modernity’ (Vázquez 2011, p. 27; see also Cheyfitz 1991). In contrast, translation as plurality implies ‘the configuration of dialogues and the thinking of the borders that challenges the modern/colonial system of oppression’ (ibid.). Translation can both be a means of domination and a space for dialogue, resistance, and ‘for thinking and speaking ‘otherwise” (Clarke et al. 2015, p. 39; see also chapters by Michel and Kunz this volume). Translation can both serve to include and exclude. The various contributions to the volume demonstrate both the centrality of translation in IR and how the concept of translation is conducive to dialogue between disciplines and theories. An important dimension of the volume is that its shared concern hosts a multiplicity of perspectives. The contributors draw on a range of scholarship across numerous disciplines including International Relations, International Political Economy, and International Law. The theoretical and methodological universe in which the chapters sit is populous. It includes feminist theory, de- and post-­ colonial theory, hermeneutics, post-structuralism, critical constructivism, semiotics, conceptual history, actor-network theory, and translation studies.

Translation as Transformation We identify three main ways in which translation has been approached in IR, in particular by scholars employing a social constructivist approach. We refer to these three notions of translation as transplantation, transmission, and transformation. Each of these notions comes with a specific understanding of how entities are connected and the nature and location of politics. It is important to note, however, that the threefold categorisation serves as a heuristic. It is meant to be actively engaged with, interrogated, and developed. The categorisation may provide some bearings for work on translation in IR and cognate disciplines, and open up an on-­ going project. Translation as transplantation. The literature that adopts this conception approaches translation as a process where two contexts—context A and context B—are connected. Translation as transplantation aspires to concepts and norms being directly transplantable from A to B.  Here B remains static and passive; it only ‘receives’ concepts and norms from A.  Although translation as transplantation might appear prima facie



a-political in terms of contestation and negotiation, politics unfolds in context A. We find this understanding of translation, for example, in much of the literature on ‘ideas’ and ‘epistemic communities’. The epistemic communities literature addresses questions of agency and how causal and normative ideas spread and guide collective behaviour. The literature brings the functionalist tradition (particularly its focus on functional expertise) together with the more ‘moderate’ strand of constructivism. Communities are characterised as ‘knowledge-based networks’ (Haas 1992, p. 2). Knowledge-based networks of expertise are not a-political; struggles and contestation unfold between or within epistemic communities to deliver the ‘best’ interpretation and analysis of the issue at stake. Put differently, the politics in the ‘politics of translation’ can be located in A. Yet, once a dispute over agenda-setting is resolved, the arising position is transplanted (and without further translation) into policy and public discourses, and the policy choices of legislatures. A different approach animates translation as transmission. This second notion of translation works as follows: if again we imagine translation as an operation between a context A and a context B, translation as transmission concentrates primarily on action in B. This strand of literature is mainly interested in the question of how norms diffuse—how global norms are ‘localised’ or how local norms are ‘globalised’ (see, for instance, Acharya 2004; Brake and Katzenstein 2013; Finnemore and Sikkink 1998; Merry 2006; Risse et  al. 1999; Zimmermann 2017a, b; Zwingel 2016). Translation as transmission locates the ‘politics of translation’ first and foremost in context B. Although it might be implicitly acknowledged that struggle over meaning also happens in context A, this strand of literature foregrounds how different individuals, e.g., ‘norm-entrepreneurs’ (Finnemore and Sikkink 1998), or groups of individuals, such as ‘transnational advocacy networks’ (Keck and Sikkink 1998), ‘networks of government officials’ (Slaughter 2004), and national judges in a ‘global community of courts’ (Slaughter 2003), located in context B struggle over how to interpret and apply a norm or concept from context A in the optimal way. This may proceed through socialisation, defined as ‘a process of inducting actors into norms and rules of a given community’ (Checkel 2005), or ‘cultural validation’ (Wiener 2008) among ‘norm takers’ (Flockhart 2005, p. 14) in context B, understood as target context. Subsequent work has expanded on socialisation in showing how strategies of teaching and learning, coercion, conditionality, and argument are operationalised (see



Schimmelfennig et al. 2006; Risse et al. 2013). Common across much of this work is that the norms themselves appear as if out of thin air. Meaning is already determined and circumscribed, awaiting carriage into another context (see Berger 2018, 2017 for a critique on translation as transmission; see also Chap. 2, Herborth this volume). The politics of norm emergence is presented as a black box, and norms appear as largely uncontested (this is often the case in literature on Europeanisation). In contrast to translation as transplantation, context B is no longer passive or naturalised when we understand translation as transmission. Context B is where the politics in ‘the politics of translation’ takes place. This collection is concerned with a third notion of translation: translation as transformation. Framing translation as transformation highlights the performative and productive dimension of translation as every translation potentially creates something new. This enables engagement with the different meanings created during encounters and interactions, both historical and contemporary, that are central to the formation and transformation of the ‘international’, turning translation into a dynamic and reflexive endeavour. Conceptualising translation as transformation helps reconstruct how in processes of translation some actors are given voice and others silenced, how hierarchies are established and torn down, or how boundaries are stabilised and destabilised. These processes reflect different kinds of transformations and are rooted in specific political projects. Distinct from translation as transplantation and transmission, it is in the process of hierarchising, as the recurrent mediation, negotiation and struggle between A and B, that politics is located. Translation as transformation recognises struggles and contestation taking place in both context A and context B. Doing so, it adds a focus on the practice of translating—the ‘trans’ of translation within the ‘inter’ of international relations—which constitutes the link between A and B. Being multidirectional, translation as transformation problematises neither the ‘source’ or ‘origin’ nor the ‘target’ (i.e. context A and/or B), but the ‘inter-’, the in-between or what Marie Louise Pratt (1992, 2002) has named the ‘contact zone’, meaning a ‘state of in-translation’ (Apter 2006, p. 6; see also Barry 2013). The space between A and B—the ‘inter’—is a semantic space encompassing signs and practices through which polities, policies and humans interact. The state of being in translation not only problematises the fixities that qualify context A and B but also directs our attention towards transformations taking place in and between different contexts.



Such a focus scrutinises then how different asymmetries of power and hierarchies between A and B emerge, unfold, and structure international relations through practices of translating.4 It is through this process that the boundary between A and B is inscribed with meaning, becomes legible and temporarily determinate. Translation as transformation has boundary-­ making effects. This differs from translation as transplantation and transmission which always presuppose a structural and a priori asymmetrical relationship between two contexts that evolves as a unidirectional relationship between source (A) ➔ target (B). In other words, ‘translation is often iterative and multilateral, multivocal not univocal […] What is described as translation is often the result of multiple actors, eroding the distinction between source and target’ (Freeman 2009, p. 441; see also Tsing 1997). Within IR scholarship, translation as transformation has three key antecedents. One is linguistic turn-oriented scholarship (Kratochwil 1989; Onuf 1989; Stritzel 2014). A focus here is international relations as ‘interlingual relations’ (Wigen 2018; Caraccioli et al. 2020; Heiskanen 2020) and how through processes of translating ‘collective interpretations of threats become globally accepted and potentially hegemonic’ (Stritzel 2014, p.  2). Another is International Political Sociology—in particular actor-network theory’s (ANT) perspective on the international as a ‘translation zone’ constituted by ‘chains of translation’ (Barry 2013; Best and Walters 2013; Bueger 2015; Bueger and Bethke 2014; de Goede 2018; Nexon and Pouliot 2013; see also Acuto and Curtis 2014; Bachmann et al. 2014; Clarke et al. 2015). This has been deployed to move norm research beyond the diffusion (i.e. transmission) model, stressing the transformative effects of translating norms (Berger and Esguerra 2019; Berger 2017). Third is the post-colonial concern with how ‘difference’ is translated (Inayatullah and Blaney 2004; Ling 2014; Draude 2017). The volume brings together, builds on, and advances these discussions and traditions to create a dialogue on the politics of translation in international relations for IR scholars to draw on going forward.

4  This analytical step reverberates Appadurai’s (1996, p. 44) idea of ‘landscapes’ which ‘are not objectively given’ in ‘a world in which both points of departure and points of arrival are in cultural flux, and thus the search for steady points of reference […] can be difficult’.



Contributions: The Politics of Translation in International Relations The chapters in this volume address encounters and exchanges between different conceptual debates in IR, different disciplines of international studies, forms of knowledge in international relations, and different ‘ontologies of relations’ and imaginaries of the ‘international’. In particular, the authors approach translation as transformation in examining the role of power and social practices in international interactions and the performative effects of translations on (re)constructing meanings and perspectives on the ‘international’. The contributions to the edited volume demonstrate the variety of ways in which translation as transformation manifests itself in international relations and push forward on a translation dialogue in and between disciplines and theories. Contributors engage with the framework of translation as transformation to question any sense of a unidirectional and ‘value-free’ process of translating. They do so by emphasising the politics, practices of contestation, and struggles involved in processes of translating in international relations. They demonstrate how a focus on translation as transformation can be used in IR scholarship as a device for reconstructing the power and politics embedded in the various knowledge systems and social orders that structure international relations and the discipline of IR. Chapters zoom in on the different processes of meaning-making whether involving language, policy areas and/or fields of expertise underlining the variegated characteristics of semantic fields that are always in the making and under translation. The first part, Translation and the Politics of (Disciplinary) Language, addresses the issue of translation within and between fields of knowledge and the problem of shared meaning in international studies. In particular, the three chapters explore the problem and politics of language within disciplinary debates. They each demonstrate the use of translation to further the critique of positions that hold that theoretical and conceptual deliberations can be neutral, opposing totalising attempts in theorising the ‘international’. Translation makes the problem of reference and representation explicit. As Benjamin Herborth notes in his contribution, ‘the literally powerful tendencies to render translation unproblematic can themselves be read as an instantiation of the politics of translation itself’. Benjamin Herborth proposes in Chap. 2 that to theorise translation is to problematise it. In its quest for certainty and regularity, positivism,



Herborth argues, adopts an understanding of translation as ‘a merely technical exercise the challenges of which can be safely reduced to ‘getting it right”. Herborth’s critique of positivism centres on its core assumptions that meaning can be transferred unproblematically, and the referential relationship between word and object is unambiguous. In similar terms, IR literature on norms understands translation as being unproblematic and without friction, failing to identify how translation is involved in broader processes of social transformation and reflexive interplays of social relations. Herborth turns to Quine’s contribution to the linguistic turn within (post-)analytical philosophy to emphasise the inscrutability of reference and, relatedly, the indeterminacy and contingency of all translations in the absence of shared reference points. Knowledge production is dialogical and situated within numerous social contexts. In a world of difference in terms of language, contexts, and social registers, it is in the active process of translation that reference points are produced. Adopting a hermeneutical perspective, Torsten Michel discusses in Chap. 3 attempts in IR to establish a monosemous metalanguage to create a fixed set of referents to guide meta-theoretical debates. Specifically, the chapter shows how key elements in these debates, such as the agent-­ structure debate, are understood in fundamentally different ways in IR. The chapter addresses the politics of translation within a shared language, what Michel refers to as intra-lingual translation. Discarding the role of intralingual translation negates the inevitable polysemy of key terminology in conceptual debates and the consequences of the multiplicity of meaning for IR (meta-)theorising. Michel underlines the importance to meta-theoretical debates in IR of such an intralingual translational perspective for taking the situatedness of conceptual thought seriously (see also chapters in this volume by Shangguan and Kacar) and for pursuing an openness to partiality and alterity, in a way that does not attempt to appropriate the Other within our own meaning horizon. A translational perspective allows for integrating the intersection of multiple worlds and meaning horizons into meta-theoretical deliberations in IR. In Chap. 4, Miriam Bak McKenna turns to the politics of translation in debates within International Law (IL) on overcoming the discipline’s historic and present problem with Eurocentrism. This manifests in a belief in international law’s universality among international law scholars and practitioners. Drawing on both critical translation and comparative law studies, Bak McKenna argues that the methodology of comparative international law provides a means to move beyond claims to universality



rooted in international law’s colonial history. Historically, Western international legal doctrines and standards were transplanted into non-Western settings through a monodirectional process of domination, reflecting the Western approach to translation as transfer. The idea of international law being homogeneous, singular and universal was created and sustained. A translational perspective on comparison foregrounds encounters and exchanges between partial perspectives on international law and the entanglement of distinct legal cultures in the making and operation of international law. A translational approach to international law reconstructs the inherent multiplicity of voices and agency through which the substance and structures of international law are continuously made and re-made. Part II, Translating Across Fields of Practice, focuses on the role of translation in meaning making and the production and circulation of knowledge in and between transnational fields of practice. The four chapters emphasise the performative aspects of translation at the intersection of different political, cultural, and social fields and hierarchies, and how translation can serve as both a tool of dominance and subjugation and a potential space for emancipation and critique (see also Niranjana 1992; Cheyfitz 1991). The contributors pursue this shared focus in varied approaches to investigating the relationship between translation and the (re)production of hierarchies of knowledge. Andreas Behnke draws in Chap. 5 on Derrida’s work that challenges traditional views on translation in which meaning is put before and beyond language. Derrida argued that meaning does not precede language but evolves through language and in specific (con)texts. ‘How do we translate the languages of others and of otherness into our own conceptual and cultural framework?’, Behnke asks. Traditional IR theories have denied the problem and politics of translation in a multi-polar inter-national world. Approaching cultures as texts and signs always in need of translation, Behnke argues that cultural identities are produced in iterative, open-­ ended and dialectical processes of translation that mediate difference. The chapter focuses on fashion as a medium of cultural translation in which the Other (here, China) as a source of inspiration is imagined and assigned meaning, in a process where the ‘self’ is transformed at the same time. Translation means transformative rewriting where what appeared as an ‘original’ is a product of the act of translating. The ethical element of this postmodern semiotics approach to translation is a critical attention to the agency and responsibility of the translator in discursively constructing the Other.



In Chap. 6, Rahel Kunz draws inspiration from post-colonial and feminist translation scholars who share an intellectual commitment to both reveal the role of translation in the formation and perpetuation of hierarchies based on gender, class, and coloniality, and to identify the conditions of which translation can provide a space for marginalised or silenced voices to be heard. Kunz suggests that we approach translation as ‘a pluri-­ directional process in which languages, people, and cultures are transformed as they move across places’. She compares different gender training initiatives in Nepal in the context of the United Nations’ Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. Disseminating feminist knowledge, the initiatives pursue two different understandings of translation. In one case, translation was approached by international gender experts as a process of successfully transferring international gender norms into local contexts through making local gender experts ‘receivers’ of knowledge. This translation as transfer scenario obscures power relations whilst it (re)produces hierarchies, exclusions, and coloniality. The other initiative pursued an understanding of translation which was transformative of the agency of local actors and created a potential space for dialogue and decolonising. Here, translation as transformation counters the marginalisation of local feminist knowledge and practices. The traditional hierarchy between an ‘original’ and its translation, and sender and receiver, is effectively dissolved and the duality of translation as erasing and preserving difference affirmed (Vázquez 2011). Chapter 7 approaches translation from an actor-network theory (ANT) perspective drawing, in particular, on Michel Callon’s ‘sociology of translation’. For Benjamin Wilhelm, translation denotes the complex process through which knowledge is identified and facts are constructed, actors are turned into stakeholders, and an actor network is ultimately formed. Translation, in sum, is a social and socially contested process of displacement and dislocation through which actors and objects move into new alignments. The chapter deploys the case of Finance Watch, a European pro-reform interest and advocacy group founded in 2011 in Brussels with financial support from the EU in the politicised environment following from the 2008/2009 financial crisis. From its initial problematisation of financial regulation reforms, through alliance construction and denoting itself as a spokesperson for a network of civil society actors, Finance Watch gradually lost capacity for critique as it adopted the routines and language of its object of critique. Here, translation is a communicative exchange in



which different actors and their attending social registers interact and recast themselves gradually. Nicole Doerr also employs a sociological understanding of translation in Chap. 8, but inspired by political participation and social movements studies. This approach to translation focuses on the translator as a broker who exercises agency in intervening and meditating between opposing forces within structures of unequal power relations. Doerr draws on her participant observations of deliberations between global justice activists during meetings in the regional forums of the global civil society initiative, the World Social Forum (WSF). Due to the multilingual and culturally diverse backgrounds of the participants, as well as differences in ideology and social status in the regional forums, the role of volunteer translators and interpreters became instrumental in creating consensus between the different groups. Doerr refers to this as a process of political translation where the translators as brokers interrupt asymmetrical power relations between powerful and disempowered groups of actors in WSF regional forum meetings. The translator is thus not a neutral and invisible facilitator who transfers knowledge and meaning between diverse social groups, but a political actor able to intervene in particular social and political settings by assuming a ‘disruptive third position’. Part III, Translating International Relations (IR), addresses the role of language in the discipline of IR and the transformative effects of translating IR texts between different (national) contexts. Scholars have been increasingly concerned with how to bring ‘non-Western’ perspectives into IR, the lack of theory-building in the non-West, and how to decolonise the discipline (Acharya and Buzan 2007; Capan 2017; Tickner and Wæver 2009). The issue of translation has not been addressed in these debates. Each of the three chapters in this section intervenes in these debates. The contributors are concerned with translation as both being a vehicle for erasure and plurality. In particular, the contributions locate language and translation at the fore of knowledge construction in IR and thereby contribute to a growing discussion on the sociology of the discipline and its role in the making of global order. Chapter 9 addresses the structural issues and power dynamics inherent in translating in IR.  Shogo Suzuki focuses on the role of translation in decolonising the curriculum in IR.  Suzuki argues that translating nonWestern works into English could offer a viable way for pursuing the decolonisation of the curriculum as it would allow otherwise marginalised voices a place in that curriculum. However, translation is not an



unproblematic and neutral endeavour. It carries the risk of reproducing the Eurocentrism that it is tasked to overcome. Suzuki underlines that the structural conditions of and power dynamics involved in translating should be taken seriously. The politics of translation plays out in terms of what gets translated into dominant Western languages and who gets to be represented in syllabi as representative of ‘non-Western’ views. These are inherently political questions, which need further—and critical—engagement in debates on decolonising. The chapter stresses that particular meanings might get lost in translation too. The following two chapters address this concern and its implications for theorisation in IR. In Chap. 10, Ariel Shangguan pursues what she refers to as a translingual concept analysis on the role of translation in IR, inspired by Reinhart Koselleck’s approach to conceptual history, notably the distinction between concepts and words. Given that concepts are important building blocks of IR theories, Shangguan shows the importance of tracing how core theoretical arguments change when theoretical texts and key concepts get translated. The chapter focuses on the Chinese translation of Kenneth Waltz’s seminal book Theory of International Relations, and in particular the translation of Waltz’s concept of power into Chinese. The polysemy of the concept comes to the fore when it is translated. In its Chinese translation, ‘power’ lost its singularity in the sense that it was translated into more than ten different terms that each describes a particular aspect of power. This points to how the transformation that occurs through translation erases certain meanings associated with the concept but also assigns new ones. Shangguan points to the necessity to understand these translational transformations in engaging with IR theory in different contexts. Drawing on the ‘cultural turn’ in translation studies, Fatmanur Kacar discusses in Chap. 11 the problem of equivalence and symmetry in meaning. In particular, she problematises how the concept of anarchy was translated into anarşi in the Turkish translation of Alexander Wendt’s seminal 1992 article ‘Anarchy Is What States Make of It’. Kacar argues that the concept has a very particular meaning in the Turkish context which differs fundamentally from that intended by Wendt. The Turkish concept of anarchy was shaped amidst radical political changes in Turkey, in particular the coups d’états in the 1970s and 1980s which resulted in the juxtaposition of anarchy with terror, and not merely the absence of rules. The word for word and assumed sense for sense translation of ‘anarchy’ into anarşi could not capture this conceptual meaning and particular historicity in



Turkey. Kacar uses this example to discuss the implications for a more explicit focus on the translation of IR texts for theory-building, which begins with problematising translation and the idea of equivalence. In aggregate, the volume explores the promise of translation for international studies and its potential for bringing into dialogue various research traditions. Importantly, the volume pushes forward on the problematisation of the concept of translation. This push is taken further in Part IV, Reflections, where Oliver Kessler and Pinar Bilgin engage with and tie together the contributions to point to ways forward for the study of the politics of translation in international relations. Departing from the linguistic turn in social theory, Oliver Kessler discusses how the contributions variously approach the question of the social ontology of translation and the relationship between space and time in regard to translation. Kessler argues that in addition to the social ontology of translation, the particular politics of translation and how that is imbricated in various space-time relations and hierarchies comprise different dimensions of the contingency of translation. However, he notes that the spatial dimension of the international tends to be privileged over the temporal in discussion of the politics of translation. Pinar Bilgin picks up the theme of the spatial and temporal confines of translation. While most contributions to the volume operate on the basis of a more or less spatial understanding of translation, Bilgin considers the possibility of a chronopolitics of translation and cautions against understanding translation as primarily occurring between pre-given geo-cultural sites. By mobilising Edward W. Said’s ‘travelling theory’, Bilgin argues that we should not overemphasise difference. We should abandon the search for origins as singular sources of ideas to instead acknowledge multiple sources and processes of co-constitution between actors involved in translation over time. These reflections shine a light on how the project this volume represents may progress.

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Translation and the Politics of (Disciplinary) Language


Gavagai? The International Politics of Translation Benjamin Herborth

Introduction To theorise ‘translation’, in International Relations (IR) or elsewhere, is to problematise it. To problematise the concept of translation becomes fruitful partly because one may find it inherently interesting and productive for a variety of other theoretical pursuits, and partly because it takes, at least implicitly, issue with a position which renders translation unproblematic. This is to say that problematising translation is always a dialogical, and never a monological affair. We render translation problematic because we take issue with the consequences of rendering translation unproblematic. Who, then, makes translation unproblematic, and what are the consequences? The chapter seeks to unpack these questions in four steps. In a first step, I briefly review how translation is made unproblematic in contexts as diverse as the literature on international norms, actor-network theory, and, more broadly, in a generalised attitude toward social research

B. Herborth (*) Department of International Relations and International Organization, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 Z. G. Capan et al. (eds.), The Politics of Translation in International Relations, Palgrave Studies in International Relations, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-56886-3_2




commonly dubbed ‘positivism’. In a second step, I discuss in some detail Willard Van Orman Quine’s influential take on the indeterminacy of translation—not in order to assert a somehow foundational status for what is to follow, but rather in order to highlight how it effectively disrupts routinised attempts to render translation unproblematic. A third step discusses these attempts in the broader horizon of a quest for certainty, a longing for knowledge to stand on a firm and solid ground, which contrasts sharply with the reflexive interplay of social relations of translation. In a fourth and concluding step, I discuss the politics of both translation and untranslatability in terms of its inextricably international dimension.

Making Translation Unproblematic A standard answer to the first question—who renders translation unproblematic?—would be: positivism. Positivism has come to serve as a generic umbrella concept helpfully, if sweepingly, denoting folks that take stuff for granted. While stakes in the critique of positivism are rightfully high, and probably higher than those overly fascinated with recent turns to method, practice or anything really that comes with a comforting ring of concreteness would care to admit, sweeping generalisations are unlikely to get us (i.e. problematisers of translation) very far in terms of conceptual clarification. An initial attempt to unpack the notion of positivism is likely to quickly arrive at ways in which meaning is taken to be stable, reference is taken to be unequivocal and unambiguous, and translation, by implication, a merely technical exercise the challenges of which can be safely reduced to ‘getting it right’.1 This may serve as an initial answer to the second question—what are the consequences of rendering translation unproblematic? In a nutshell, rendering translation unproblematic serves to simultaneously render unproblematic that which is to be translated. In the positivist gaze, the object of translation becomes both natural and devoid of resistance to smooth circulation. Translation as transfer, to make use of the distinction helpfully introduced in the introductory chapter to this volume (Capan et al. 2021), writes the politics out of translation. We can, thus, only ever trade in communicative commodities that are transferable without friction. 1   Cf. the critique of trivialisation in Heinz von Foerster (2007) and second-order cybernetics.



Hence, the discussion of positivism in this context is not a purely methodological or metatheoretical one. It is, on the contrary, a short-cut to zoom in on the implicit understandings of politics at stake in various conceptualisations of translation. The burgeoning debate on norms in IR is a case in point. Mobilising norms as ‘ideational factors’ capable of better accounting for international outcomes than ‘material factors’ such as power and interest, the early contributions to the norms debate started with an a priori juxtaposition of norms on one side and power on the other (Keck and Sikkink 1998; Finnemore and Sikkink 1998; Risse et al. 1999). Deviating from earlier attempts to situate norms in the broader context of legal, social, and political theory (Kratochwil 1989; Onuf 1989), the norms literature thus bought into the explanatory routines of a variable-­ centred approach to social research. Such a variable-centred approach to social research, however, is predicated on the possibility of establishing a clear and unequivocal link between theoretically derived hypotheses and empirical observation. This is to say that the referential relation between word and object must be taken as unproblematic. One norm must yield a clear expectation of a particular behavioural outcome, which can then be observed as compliance. Accordingly, when translation enters the picture as translation of global, international norms to local contexts, little room can be left for interpretive ambiguity (cf. Jackson 2006, pp.  19–24). This is why Matthias Hofferberth and Christian Weber (2015) have argued that the norms debate is ‘lost in translation’. They hold that ‘crucial constructivist insights—that norms are negotiated constantly in social interaction and that they cannot be separated from the meanings actors attach to them— has been lost in the attempt to translate broader sociotheoretical claims into neopositivist research designs that would, supposedly, enable constructivists to challenge the established approaches’ (Hofferberth and Weber 2015, p. 76). The result is a deterministic culturalism, which sits uneasily with the ambition to theorise social change against the stifling and static frameworks of neorealism and neoliberal institutionalism. Cultural dopes do not effect social transformation, they are only affected by it—which in turn presupposes that the direction of social transformation is always already known.2 Internal critiques of the norm debate have 2

 The term ‘cultural dope’ is Harold Garfinkel’s (see Garfinkel 1984).



pointed to the fundamentally contested nature of norms (Wiener 2008) or, more recently, sought to democratise translation by allowing for adaptive feedback-loops (Zimmermann 2017). The fundamental coordinates of the norm debate, however, remain centred around a conception of both translation and reference as unproblematic. Perhaps the most prominent alternative account of translation comes from actor-network theory (ANT), which offers a distinct and different theoretical grounding. The core reference is, routinely, Michel Callon’s now-classical article on scallops—or rather on how scientists try to make their knowledge of scallops in St Brieuc Bay practically useful. Callon (1984, p. 196) explicitly frames this as a ‘new approach to the study of power’. He specifically traces how a group of marine biologists involved in a controversy over the conservation of scallops attempts to ‘impose themselves and their definition of the situation on others’ (ibid.). Specifically, Callon (1984) identifies four steps of translation: (a) problematisation: the researchers sought to become indispensable to other actors in the drama by defining the nature and the problems of the latter and then suggesting that these would be resolved if the actors negotiated the ‘obligatory passage point’ of the researchers’ programme of investigation; (b) interessement: a series of processes by which the researchers sought to lock the other actors into the roles that had been proposed for them in that programme; (c) enrolment: a set of strategies in which the researchers sought to define and interrelate the various roles they had allocated to others; (d) mobilisation: a set of methods used by the researchers to ensure that supposed spokesmen for various relevant collectivities were properly able to represent those collectivities and not betrayed by the latter. (p. 196)

Callon’s re-articulation of translation in terms of a distinct attempt to study power by tracing actors breaks with the presumption of unilinear development. Interestingly and unusually, he develops his account of translation not through a success story. It is precisely the failure of the marine biologists which allows him to conceptualise translation sociologically as an open-ended process. If distilled into an analytical framework (as gleaned here from Callon’s abstract) and hailed as the core concept of actor-network theory (Latour 2005), however, the new sociology of



translation runs the risk of confronting an old problem of autology, i.e. it runs into trouble when applied onto itself. There seems to be little concern with the translation of translation (less so in Callon, but rather in the canonised version of his account, see, e.g., Best and Walter 2013). Isolating these four steps may make perfect sense for the purpose of Callon’s study of the scallops of St Brieuc Bay. Abstracting from this particular context and rendering them into a sociological model of translation applicable to a wide and diverse range of phenomena, however, would seem to require precisely such a translation of translation. Absent such conceptual efforts, actor-network theory runs the risk of practicing precisely the flat empiricism that Quine (1969, 2013) seeks to problematise. If this may seem like a very unlikely critique of actor-network theory, consider a distinction between empiricist contextualisation (‘this is how it works in this particular instance’) and the question of how to conceptualise contexts/orders in their different spatial, temporal, social delineations (e.g. Renn 2006). This is precisely where Latour’s and Callon’s commitment to ontological flatness prevents them from understanding translation as constitutive of boundary-drawing mechanisms. In the words of Till Jansen (2017): Because it is the network that constitutes actors and agency, the different ontologies that may have been there at the beginning, are step by step replaced with the ontology of the network. A new, all-dominant ontology arises that consumes the previous plurality of ontologies—which Latour freely admits when he states that ANT could also be called actor-rhizome ontology: there is only the ontology of the actor-network. Actors can be subtracted or added to this ontology by the actor-network distributing agency. But they cannot have their ontology, their way of relating to the world. (p. 201f)

Hence, the two perhaps most common conceptualisations of translation in IR fall short when it comes to articulating translation as transformation, i.e. as imbricated in an ongoing and open-ended process of social transformation. From such an angle, a reflexive account of translation would need to start from an acknowledgment of fundamental difference— in terms of language, contexts or social registers among which translation can be problematic. This is where Quine’s influential account of radical translation, and in particular his insistence on the indeterminacy of translation, comes in.



Quine on the Indeterminacy of Translation The assumption to be criticised here, namely that translation could be unproblematic, operates on the implicit trust that the relation between words and objects can be thought of in analogy to an imaginary museum of all things in which the only challenge remaining is to find the correct nametags for each exhibit. The example is taken from analytical philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine, who capitalises on the rhetorical effect of the thought experiment (invoking absurdity), and discards it as the ‘myth of the museum’ (Quine 1969). Should IR scholars bother to care about such intricacies of theoretical philosophy, is there any value-added to be extracted?3 Quine is interesting to me here not because of an allegedly foundational role of theoretical philosophy in relation to social research. He seems interesting to me rather in that his discussion of translation, in particular, can serve to demonstrate that once we turn to the alleged foundations of a social science that prides itself on its solid foundations, core concepts such as meaning, reference, representation begin to look shakier than both proponents, and critics of ‘positivism’ in contemporary social science appear to presume. Hence, the discussion of Quine will lead back, very briefly, to Carl Hempel’s notion of covering laws, inspiring the quest for empirical regularity as the ultimate goal of inquiry (Hempel 1942). In Word and Object, dedicated to positivist-in-chief Rudolf Carnap, Quine (2013) introduces the problem of translation as follows: manuals for translating one language into another can be set up in divergent ways, all compatible with the totality of speech dispositions, yet incompatible with one another. In countless places they will diverge in giving, as their respective translations of a sentence of the one language, sentences of the other language which stand to each other in no plausible sort of equivalence however loose. The firmer the direct links of a sentence with non-verbal stimulation, of course, the less drastically its translations can diverge from one another from manual to manual. (p. 27)

Quine is quick to reject a simple and obvious line of argument here, namely that translation becomes progressively more difficult as levels of 3  The somewhat notorious language of ‘value-added’ itself encounters a curious problem of translation: the German Mehrwert translates as both value-added and surplus value. In English-language debates of the mysterious value-added the latter connotation is lost—and with it the connotation of dispossession.



abstractness and complexity increase, and moves to an example that is meant to elucidate the indeterminacy of translation even under the most unfavourable conditions. This is more than just a display of nuts-and-bolts research ethics—going for the hard case. By zooming in on examples in which statements correspond immediately to what appears to appear in front of our eyes, Quine also engages with the notorious protocol sentences of logical positivism, critical rationalism and the ensuing disputes.4 Haunted by the linguistic turn it has helped to bring about, custodians of Science took refuge in deictic gestures—the ability to point at stuff and name it. It is precisely at this level that Quine’s discussion of ‘radical translation’ seeks to make an intervention. Quine thus introduces another thought experiment. How would a field linguist, trying to acquire an understanding of a ‘native’ language he is unfamiliar with, go about this task? To Quine, translation is radical to the extent that we are dealing with the ‘language of a hitherto untouched people’ (Quine 2013, p. 25).5 Quine thus imagines a linguist’s interaction with a local informant who would, in an effort to overcome the language barrier, point at things and name them. ‘A rabbit scurries by, the native says “Gavagai” and the linguist notes down the sentence “Rabbit” (or “Lo, a rabbit”) as tentative translation, subject to testing in further cases’ (Quine 2013, p.  25). But testing is difficult. Even if we had an understanding of certain utterances referring to, say ‘rabbit’, ‘animal’, ‘white’, ‘dinner’ or ‘dangerous’, not knowing though which is which, it would be impossible to determine the exact meaning of ‘Gavagai’. Thus, the hypothetical linguist is left with repetition, trial and error. Pointing to another rabbit, saying ‘Gavagai’, observing reactions of assent or dissent and moving on from there. Quine further complicates things, though, making gestures of assent or dissent just as problematic, as the linguist could not possibly know words for ‘yes’ and ‘no’, and accompanying gestures, too, are subject to cultural variation. Considering that such hurdles may be overcome and clear signals of assent and dissent are established, it would 4  The debate famously ends with Popper admitting that observation without theory is impossible. Empirical social science, however, unimpressed, simply preferred to move on. In principle, there is nothing wrong with such an attitude, philosophy of science as an attempt to legislate research seems ill-fated in any case. It’s strangely ironical, though, if precisely those who insist on the capital ‘s’ in science disconnect from broader scholarly debates on science (see Kessler 2012). 5  Evidently a sitting duck for more critical takes on encounters such as Doty (1996) or Sajed (2013).



still be unclear what the speaker of the unknown language is assenting to. Is it the observation of a rabbit, or the fact that someone else went off chasing a giraffe (Quine’s example) or simply an utterance testifying to the impression that this is all really awkward (my example)? Quine draws a hard and fast line between what he calls ‘stimulus’—that which prompts the utterance ‘Gavagai’—and an actual rabbit (or any other object that may serve as an external point of reference for the word). Departing from the behaviourism his choice of language may indicate, stimulus to Quine simply refers to an understanding of the conditions under which ‘Gavagai’ becomes an appropriate thing to say. Beyond the confines of the thought experiment, ‘Gavagai’ thus becomes a crucial example in Quine’s broader discussion of the indeterminacy of translation. As we do not know the language to which ‘Gavagai’ belongs, there is a multiplicity of possible translations into any known language. This is what Quine (1969, p. 38) refers to as the ‘inscrutability of references’. However, the example also serves to demonstrate more generally that not only reference (between word and object) is inscrutable. Sentences, too, always allow for a multiplicity of equally valid translations with potentially different meaning. If indeterminacy were only problematic at the level of the reference of individual and isolated expressions to some object, a quick and easy fix could be available by situating such expressions in the context of an established semantic framework. ‘Mars’ may possibly refer to the fourth planet in our solar system, the Roman god of war and a chocolate bar. This is unlikely to create much confusion (outside the confines of theoretical philosophy), though, because each of these possible uses of ‘Mars’ will take place in the context of a sentence which makes unequivocally clear what it is that we are referring to. Hence, it is important for Quine to insist that entire sentences, too, are subject to radical indeterminacy. This is what Quine calls ‘holophrastic indeterminacy’. The indeterminacy ensuing from all this is ‘radical’ in that rival systems of analytical hypotheses can conform to all speech dispositions within each of the languages concerned and yet dictate, in countless cases, utterly disparate translations; not mere mutual paraphrases, but translations each of which would be excluded by the other system of translation. Two such translations might even be patently contrary in truth value, provided there is no stimulation that would encourage assent to either. (Quine 2013, p. 66)



Even if we acknowledge the inscrutability of references and holophrastic indeterminacy, however, it could be possible to resolve the general problem of indeterminacy by means of introducing a higher-order language which serves as a tertium comparationis, an external benchmark adjudicating among alternative reference options and thus conveniently getting rid of the problem of indeterminacy by climbing up a ladder of abstraction.6 This, too, is discarded by Quine. His arguments regarding the indeterminacy of translation and the inscrutability of reference are directed precisely against logical empiricism (and specifically against the distinction between analytic and synthetic truths). They prepare the ground for his fundamental critique of empiricism, which discards the possibility of adjudicating among alternative theoretical accounts by means of empirical observation and reference to an externally given object. Quine thus leaves us with a paradoxical twist. Formulated firmly from within the tradition of analytical philosophy (and in critical continuation of Carnap’s work), he contributes to a tradition identifying philosophy with a quest for certainty, while at the same time radically undermining it. From the point of view of this particular tradition, securing stable foundations for a view of (social) science rooted in empirical observations of an externally given world and equipped with stable conceptual frameworks had long seemed to be beyond question. Questioning just that is what affords Quine’s discussion of the indeterminacy of translation its classical status. This is why Hilary Putnam can, somewhat ironically, refer to Quine’s work on radical translation in 1974 as being ‘discussed in journal article after journal article and […] the topic of at least fifty percent of graduate student conversation nowadays’ (Putnam 1974, p.  25). Quips aside, Putnam (1974, p. 28) does acknowledge Quine’s argument as ‘what may well be the most fascinating and the most discussed philosophical argument since Kant’s Transcendental Deduction of the Categories’. Somewhat ironically, thus, one of the most thorough refutations of core assumptions of a view of social research as a Science which is predicated on adjudicating among competing truth claims by means of clear and unequivocal reference to an externally given reality comes out of the very debates which can credibly command competence and authority in the scientific discussion of Science. In order to begin to sort this out, it may

6  In Carnap, this is precisely the function of the distinction between object languages and a (logically pristine) metalanguage (see Carnap 1996).



help to zoom in on what is presupposed in the insistence on the scientific character (narrowly conceived) of social research: the quest for certainty.

The Quest for Regularity as Quest for Certainty Consider to this end Carl Hempel’s discussion of the covering law model (Hempel 1942). The covering law model not only puts a premium on the quest for empirical regularities—constant conjunctions—as that which is to be explained, it also espouses so strong a version of the unity of science proposition that the thorny question of the scientific nature of the unity of science proposition is effectively rendered unproblematic. Hempel (1942, p. 35) contends that ‘general laws have quite analogous functions in history and in the natural sciences, that they form an indispensable instrument of historical research, and that they even constitute the common basis of various procedures which are often considered as characteristic of the social in contradistinction to the natural sciences’. What then, to Hempel, is a general law? ‘By a general law, we shall here understand a statement of universal conditional form which is capable of being confirmed or disconfirmed by suitable empirical findings’ (ibid.). Hempel goes on to discuss the implications of the notion of law, in particular the presumption that the ‘relevant evidence’ is readily available. As he considers that to be ‘irrelevant for our purpose, we shall frequently use the term “hypothesis of universal form” or briefly “universal hypothesis” instead of “general law”, and state the condition of satisfactory confirmation separately, if necessary’ (ibid.). General laws are thus introduced as particular types of statements, their universal form being purely linguistic, and the question of if and how they refer to the world is deferred (Kessler 2012). And, if Quine does get it right, there is simply no way of ever catching it up to a clear point of externally validating reference. It has to be postponed indefinitely—a proto-Derridean punchline interestingly disruptive of the paradigmatic order of things. Gavagai, indeed. There would, then, be a simple answer to the initial question of how the problem of translation can be rendered unproblematic: by excluding the world from our considerations and by shifting the quest for certainty from a problem of reference to a problem of internal logical consistency. Such a counter-intuitive solution, radically counter-intuitive in particular for conventionally scientific accounts of social research, however, presupposes in turn a starting point of absolute doubt seeking absolute certainty. Pragmatically (in the pragmatist sense), it is precisely this type of absolute,



Cartesian doubt which gives rise to the quest for certainty. It fetishizes the question of correspondence with an externally given ground at the expense of correspondence to a concrete problem that we are confronted with. This is, incidentally, why Dewey’s (1960) Quest for Certainty comes with the subtitle A Study of the Relation of Knowledge and Action (cf. Herborth 2012). It becomes apparent, then, that a conceptualisation of translation in terms of the unproblematic transfer of stable meaning not only misses out on some of the more mind-boggling intricacies of philosophy of science and language. It is rooted precisely in a series of dichotomies traditionally constitutive of Western thought: not only knowledge and action but also theory and praxis, subject and object, knowing and the known. Translation as transfer, presupposing reference to be unproblematic and indeed scrutable, is thus a Western invention not just in the sense of its intellectual place of origin. It is, moreover, firmly rooted in a series of metaphysical presumptions curiously surviving the decline of metaphysics by ingratiating themselves as common sense. This complicates any attempt to critically confront the transfer model of translation. Clearly, it would be too easy and somewhat self-refuting to simply discard it as a misfit for a more complex social world we seek to study. What precisely could such a misfit entail once the common-sensical option of reference to a given object has become problematic? How can dissatisfaction with translation as transfer be articulated if it can no longer be discarded on account of its insufficiency in referring to a more complex and multi-faceted social reality? Again, Dewey (1960) helps us to raise the stakes by unpacking the quest for certainty as a metaphysical project of logical absolutism which seeks to provide a stable ground by means of externalisation. The stable ground precedes or underlies any specific problem we may encounter. It can never be at stake, because then it could be contested. By implication, the invocation of a ground of absolute certainty stands in the way of imagining even the possibility of translation as transformation. Translation as transformation is predicated precisely on an intellectual sea-change that does away with absolute foundations and embraces the possibilities of becoming and change. There is, however, an implicit danger in any such move to embrace the latter—becoming and change. It may be tempting to juxtapose it, as a positive other, to the stifling image of stable meaning neutrally transferred from one site to the next, thus repeating a gesture already familiar from the literature on international norms. The important point here is not to



give in to the temptation of embracing the possibility of transformation in such a way that it comes at the expense of analysing the way in which social relations of translation figure as social relations of power. The challenge is, rather, to express both the rendering unproblematic of translation and its transformative potential in terms of contingent social forces. This is to say that alternative renditions of translation as problematic or unproblematic, as transformative or imbricated in the maintenance of the status quo, confront us with the question of the politics of translation and its societal embedding. In a final step, I will zoom in on the international nature of both.

Politicising Translation Quine’s discussion of the indeterminacy of translation has served as an unconventional inroad into the concept of translation as an explicit focus of analysis in the study of international politics. To begin with, it has offered counter-intuitive support for a critique of positivism. It has done so, specifically, with regard to the positivist presumption of an unproblematic transfer of meaning and an unequivocal relation between word and object. Even from within the centre of analytical philosophy, an understanding of translation as transfer can thus be called into question. Insistence on a mode of reasoning and inquiry which revolves around the unity of science proposition and a view of empirical testing that presupposes translation and reference as unproblematic, appears problematic even from the point of view of the intellectual tradition which such a project typically invokes as a foundation for its quest for certainty. How and why then, does such a mode of inquiry continue to thrive? The old answer from Frankfurt, pointing to the intimate links between instrumental rationality and positivist science, might be worth reconsidering here. At the very least, it may help to pose the problem of translation as an explicitly political one. It may do so without having to presuppose an external, strongly normative understanding of politics, by shifting our focus to the politics implicit in moves to make translation either problematic or unproblematic (cf. Herborth 2017). In order for social and political research to move beyond an understanding of translation as transfer, we also need to move beyond Quine. A discussion of what, following John Dewey, I have referred to as the quest for certainty has served to raise the stakes. Translation as transfer is predicated on a series of dichotomies—subject/object, ontology/epistemology,



knowing and the known—constitutive of a long and powerful tradition of Western thought. To the extent that analytical philosophy and Vienna Circle logical empiricism were invested in ousting metaphysics from philosophy, they can be mobilised in the critique of a positivist approach to social and political research, as the latter still holds on to such dichotomies in pursuit of a quest for certainty by scientific authorisation. Conversely, translation as transformation confronts us with the reflexive challenge of situating knowledge production in a multiplicity of social contexts from which a multiplicity of world-making references become possible. Such multiplicity confronts us not only, as Quine shows, as a theoretical possibility. It also confronts us as a condition of politics—which falls squarely into a blind spot of analytical philosophy. The discussion of translation has thus at least implicitly leant support to an interpretive approach to social and political research. It has done so by inviting us to focus on connotative relations and communicative connectivities (internal to the process of communication) rather than denotative content—a shift typically associated with more recent theoretical developments in both IR and the philosophy of science. In the tradition of analytical philosophy, Quine had developed his scathing criticism of unproblematic accounts of reference and the word-object relation by means of examples he himself made up. Side-stepping language-in-use not only allowed Quine to remain oblivious of the plausibility of his imagined encounter, it also kept at maximum distance any consideration for the unequal power relations underlying his scenario. Instead of abstract analytical models in which translation can appear to be in principle problematic, we would thus need to situate translation in its specific social, historical and political context. It is from such an angle that Ian Hacking (2002) begins to doubt that a radical mistranslation in Quine’s sense ever did occur. Hacking (2002) reviews a number of intuitively plausible examples of radical mistranslation, such as the following: On their voyage of discovery to Australia, a group of Captain Cook’s sailors captured a young kangaroo and brought the strange creature back on board their ship. No one knew what it was, so some men were sent ashore to ask the natives. When the sailors returned they told their mates, “It’s a kangaroo.” Many years later it was discovered that when the aborigines said “kangaroo” they were not in fact naming the animal, but replying to their questions, “What did you say?” (p. 152)



The anecdote is as effective as it is factually incorrect, even though it has been in circulation and Hacking admits to initially believing it himself. What follows? More precisely, what can we learn from Quine’s abstract delineation of the indeterminacy of translation if in everyday language translation and commensurability are, more often than not, unproblematic and finding an actual instance of radical mistranslation is near impossible? Hacking proceeds to contrast Quine’s analytical account of the indeterminacy of translation with more historically oriented alternatives such as the idea of incommensurability articulated with varying degrees of radicality by Kuhn and Feyerabend, but ultimately rejects both. Quine, he suggests, erroneously holds on to the ‘idea of truth-preserving matching of sentences’. What is more, incommensurability is not an everyday experience. ‘There is perfect commensurability, and not indeterminacy of translation in those boring domains of “observations” that we share with all people as people. Where we as people have branched off from others as a people, we find new interests, and a looseness of fit between their and our commonplaces. Translation of truths is irrelevant. Communication of ways to think is what matters’ (Hacking 2002, p. 171f). But where is the politics in such communication? I think that Hacking is correct in pointing to the near-absolute improbability of the type of radical mistranslation that Quine has in mind. I also think that Hacking is correct in pointing out that commensurability rather than incommensurability seems to characterise everyday language use. And yet, I contend that Quine remains instructive, not as a prompter of historical or sociological studies of translation, but as a reminder that there are, in principle, strong reasons to find successful communication highly unlikely. It is from the point of view of such a deliberate move to make translation problematic that more historically and sociologically attuned accounts of translation can come into view without having to sacrifice, to think with Quine against Quine, the political element of indeterminacy. From such an angle, it is precisely the indeterminacy of translation which foregrounds the need to overcome identity thinking (see Fuchs 2009) in favour of theories of difference. Only then does placing difference before identity not lead to an identitarian reductionism, which places a multiplicity of reified collectivities next to one another only to celebrate that as the hallmark of difference. The import of theoretical reflection on translation would then precisely be a twofold cautionary note, which stays clear of both the surface difference of reified identities on the one hand and the temptation of glossing over any type of difference by means of presupposing an always-already



integrated social whole at a higher level of aggregation. It is precisely such a tendency to prematurely embrace the global and the world that is at the centre of Emily Apter’s thorough critique of world literature (2013). Moving beyond the confines of literary theory, Apter speaks more broadly to theorisation of the whole as one. ‘I do harbor serious reservations about tendencies in World Literature toward reflexive endorsement of cultural equivalence and substitutability, or toward the celebration of nationally and ethnically branded “differences” that have been niche-marketed as commercialized identities’ (Apter 2013, p. 2). From such an angle, it becomes possible to identify a quite fundamental theoretical problem and to sharply distinguish two different ways of addressing it. The fundamental problem pertains to the question of how differently structured social topoi relate to one another (Renn 2006; Jansen 2017). This is to say that the focus shifts to the question of how the production of social order can be conceptualised in terms of encounters in a world of difference rather than integrated rule-following in a world of pre-established harmony. Contrary to a long and powerful tradition in sociological theories of differentiation (see Buzan and Albert 2010), such encounters in a world of difference, too, need not follow a pre-established pattern. Differentiation theory, in a nutshell, can be read as an exercise in social administration, having on offer a distinct and firmly established category for anything and everything we may be confronted with. Retaining a family resemblance with the notion of translation as transfer discussed above and in the introduction, we could refer to such an approach as differentiation as administration. This contrasts sharply with a view that foregrounds translation as an entry point into the different ways in which difference can be encountered. To the extent that the relation between difference and encounter is characterised by indeterminacy and contingency and yet is mediated in ways that can be reconstructed ex post facto as meaningfully motivated, it can be traced and reconstructed as a performative effect of power relations. It is, thus, precisely on account of the indeterminacy of translating between different social registers and contextures that translation comes to the fore as a political category. Retaining a family resemblance with the notion of translation as transformation discussed above and in the introduction we can refer to such an approach as differentiation as politics.7 7  A methodological upshot of this would be to discard stifling distinctions between a fixed micro-level and a fixed macro-level and instead trace how what we commonly refer to as



Conclusion: The International Politics of Translation The concept of translation thus becomes—theoretically and politically— interesting precisely because we introduced it as unlikely and problematic.8 It is precisely the deliberate effort to denaturalise and to defamiliarise translation that sheds light on its critical and transformative potential. At the same time, reading translation as politics is not to embrace without reservation, let alone to celebrate such a transformative potential. The initial setup of this chapter, problematising translation in dialogue with (even if also in opposition to) those who seek to render it unproblematic, would after all be self-defeating if, at the end of a discussion highlighting the inscrutability of reference, we concluded with an all-too-well-ordered distinction between ‘problematisers’ who refer to the right thing and ‘unproblematisers’ who simply don’t. Instead, the literally powerful tendencies to render translation unproblematic can themselves be read as an instantiation of the politics of translation itself. To say that translation in a strong theoretical sense exhibits transformative characteristics, in other words, is not to say that we must tie ourselves in conventionally empiricist fashion to the expectation of observing the proper kind and the proper amount of transformation in the world out there. It is to say, rather, that any potential instance of translation exhibits the potential of social transformation. An analytic of translation incapable of pinpointing how and when such transformation does not occur would forfeit any critical bite. As social theorist Joachim Renn (2006) has noted, social relations of translation manifest themselves across different social registers. They may pertain to a particular form of life where the differentiation between expectation and manifestation, between potentiality and actuality, allows macro-level transformation is expressed in and traceable through a meticulous analysis of particular manifestations (e.g. Costa López 2020). 8  This holds also for a different, similarly influential approach to theorizing translation. In The Task of the Translator/Die Aufgabe des Übersetzers, Walter Benjamin, working through the experience of his own translations of Baudelaire, develops his account of the impossibility of translation as transfer in contradistinction to what he straightforwardly denounces as bad translation. It is the hallmark of a bad translation that it focuses on the translation of the message, of the propositional account. It translates what something is about, but fails to touch upon what is at stake. Almost echoing Adorno’s later critique of identifying thought, Benjamin is concerned with poor translations cutting of what is particular at the expense of what is general, transferable, and easily communicable. A poor translation is thus the ‘imprecise transmission of inessential content’ (Benjamin 1991, p. 2).



for a reflexive form of self-translation. They may pertain to encounters between different forms of life and different social registers in the form of translating fundamental incommensurability into specific incommensurabilities, which allow for communication to move on. And, finally, they may refer to the relation between implicit and explicit knowledge and self-­ understanding, for instance in the encounter between explicitly codified social expectations on the one hand and routinised and habitualised conduct on the other. Across these various dimensions, Renn insists, a tertium comparationis cannot be externally presupposed. The reference points of translation, relation and comparison are rather actively produced in the process of translation itself. To theorise translation in terms of encounters in a world of difference does not presuppose difference as ready-made and waiting for translation. It rather allows us to trace the ways in which differences, boundaries and delineations are continuously produced, reproduced and transformed. This is to say that a political reading of translation, which remains wary of identitarian reductionism, finds itself confronted with a multiplicity of forms of borders, boundaries and limits (Walker 1993). And that, in turn, is to say that if we think of the international not in static terms of relations between pre-constituted and reified political entities, but in terms of the production, reproduction and transformation of social boundaries in a world of difference, the politics of translation is by default international.

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Conceptual Debates in IR and the Spectre of Polysemy: Intralingual Challenges and the Promise of Translation Torsten Michel

Introduction As the various contributions in this volume testify, the role, character and importance of translation can be seen across a large and varied number of themes, issues and fields within International Relations (IR). This chapter focusses on the importance of a translational perspective for a particular genre of academic political writing—the conceptual exegesis within IR meta-theory. In this genre, scholars seek to answer the most fundamental questions about the world we study, ontologically, epistemologically and methodologically (Freire 2013, p. 273). Looking at the publications within this area, past and present, challenges of translation only surface sporadically and very much remain at the

T. Michel (*) School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 Z. G. Capan et al. (eds.), The Politics of Translation in International Relations, Palgrave Studies in International Relations, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-56886-3_3




margins of IR meta-theory. One reason is that meta-theory has been and continues to be dominated by overwhelmingly English-speaking contributions; the challenges it faces concerning the recognition and inclusion of non-English (or indeed non-Western) perspectives, however, are growing and reminiscent of those faced by the discipline as a whole.1 Undoubtedly, with the increasing attention being paid to demands to decolonise IR will come further and more pronounced questions about the interlingual, translational challenges to reflect experiences and bodies of thought outside the Western mainstream. While these interlingual challenges constitute an under-researched area in IR meta-theory in need of more substantive discussions, the focus of this chapter will lie with another translational challenge that has so far received even less attention—intralingual translation. Currently, most contributions to IR meta-theory assume a communicative environment that allows for unambiguous and straight-forward exchanges. To some extent this seems justified. After all, meta-theory is a reasonably well-­established genre, with a broadly agreed-upon subject matter and scholars that mobilise a recognisable set of terminological markers. It appears as if the communication between contributors can, for the most part, flow reasonably unhindered and can mainly, if not exclusively, revolve around the actual substantive debates this genre is concerned with (Davidson 2012, p. 5). As intuitively convincing as this assumption might be, a closer look at the current debates within IR meta-theory paints a different picture. While the subfield of meta-theory has expanded considerably over the last 20 years or so, debates seem to become increasingly diversified and heterogenous (see, for instance, Wesley 2001, p.  453; Holsti 2001, p.  90; Monteiro and Ruby, 2009, p.  35; Jackson and Nexon, 2013, p.  543). While debates may share a commitment to discussing and developing basic conceptual frameworks, the diversity they display reaches beyond disagreements of substance. Indeed, we have reached a point where the assumption of a ‘shared terminology and purpose’ can be questioned (Kristensen 2016, p. 12). The by now apparent polysemy of key terminology and the multivocality of its contributions raise questions regarding the nature of communication within IR meta-theory to the point where the role and nature of intralingual translation should become a central concern.  On the growing debate on ‘decolonising IR’ see for instance Jones (2006), Kuru (2016), Çapan (2016), Zondi (2018) and Rosenau (2019). See also the contributions by Farmanur Kacar (2021), Ariel Shangguan (2021) and Shogo Suzuki (2021) in this volume. 1



As we will see, engaging in reflections on the challenges of intralingual translation will allow for a radically different understanding of the practice of meta-theorising (and its guiding principles) and also alert us more explicitly to its current shortcomings. As the Introduction to this volume (Capan et al. 2021) has already established, within such reflections we will focus on a transformative notion of ‘translation’ in the sense that it concerns a conversational encounter between different worlds, rather than just individual texts or even words—an encounter that affects all parties to the conversation (Freeman 2009, p.  436). Such a perspective requires wider reflections on the nature of language and communication, the process of ‘understanding’ and also the principles that guide our encounter with otherness in conversation. Such a transformative translational angle allows for reflections on how to navigate and practice linguistic diversity— a question that seems particularly pertinent given the highly heterogenous field of IR meta-theory. In order to deliver such a translational perspective, this chapter proceeds in three steps. Firstly, it develops the content of a perspective that sees translation as transformation and establishes the particular angle from which it commences. Secondly, it shows how this perspective resonates within IR meta-theory and how current practices fall short of recognising the intralingual translational challenges in meta-theoretical practice. Finally, we move to an assessment of the benefits and contributions a translational perspective can bring to our understanding and practice of meta-theorising.

Preliminary Reflections on ‘Translation’ When questions of translation surface within IR, they often (and unsurprisingly) revolve around the interpretation and meaning of specific texts (or specific parts of texts). Such questions are mainly concerned with a move from a source text (ST) to a target text (TT) (Munday 2012, p. 8) and while they are central, they only constitute one dimension of translational thought. Translation studies has long been expanding beyond these questions by raising wider concerns regarding the ways in which translational practice is related to manners of communication more broadly, what characterises the act of translation and what norms and principles should guide translational practice (Hermans 1996, p.  25; Kearney 2007,



pp. 154–158; Davidson 2012, p. 2). Within this broader understanding of ‘translation’, one can discern three interconnected dimensions: linguistic, ontological and ethical (Kearney 2007, pp. 147–150). These three dimensions, while heuristically separable, are deeply intertwined. For our discussion here, it is necessary to show what questions arise in each of them and how they are interlinked. Translation as Transformation: Three Core Dimensions The linguistic dimension probably constitutes the most familiar and obvious level of translational practice; it is concerned with the transposition of meaning from one language to another (Malmkjaer 2011, p. 109). Yet, even in this limited dimension, translation is already fraught with problems and challenges of all kinds. The most important debates here revolve around the purpose, and hence the best practice, of translation, e.g. should translations be ‘literal’, ‘free’ or ‘faithful’, should we seek word for word or sense for sense translations (Freeman 2009, pp. 433–434; Nelson 2007, p. 362; Kristal 2014, pp. 33–34)? Answers to these questions almost inevitably leave the act of translation pending between fidelity and betrayal (Davidson 2012, p. 3). The demands placed on the translator to stay ‘true’ to the ST but at the same time deliver the best translation for the TT create either a bias towards the source language or the target language (Davidson 2012, p. 4). Equally challenging questions arise when considering the ‘intent’ of the author who composed it and the way in which we may need to take into account the circumstances under which the text was written (Bassnett 2013, p. 152). Also, with a focus on the receiver, it is far from clear what constitutes central elements of meaning up to the point where scholars debate whether there is actually an enduring essence to an ST that can be conveyed and maintained or whether the act of translation is interpretive and situational all the way through with the ST shifting its meaning depending when, where and by whom it is translated (Freeman 2009, p. 430; Bassnett 2013, p. 152). Even these preliminary considerations lead to a wide array of challenges and open horizons much beyond the task of reproducing meaning from one (con)text to another. In fact, these ongoing debates very quickly reach the point where wider discussions commence that lead us to the second (ontological) and third (ethical) dimension of translational reflection. The ontological dimension opens up in response to the manner in which a text emerges as the output of an agent at a particular time



intending to convey a meaning to others and raises questions about the more general process of ‘understanding’. How is meaning conveyed generally, in what manner does the author and the reader relate to the text and what constitutes and determines ‘successful’ understanding (Freeman 2009, p. 435)? These questions strike at much deeper debates about the nature and process in which human beings come to relate to each other communicatively. On this level, we widen the scope from the question of particular texts to considerations on how languages (in the broadest sense) intersect and on how communicative encounters unfold (Gadamer 2013, pp. 402–407). A conception of ‘understanding’ which is implicit in any translational approach adds a crucial and wide-ranging set of reflections not only about ‘how to translate’ but also on the more fundamental ontological question of ‘what is translation’ (Kharmandar 2015, pp.  75–76) and under what conditions can it take place successfully (and what constitutes success)? Finally, the last and broadest dimension, closely related to these wider ontological debates, is the question of an ethics of translation. Where the linguistic dimension concerns the relation between texts and the ontological dimension explores the nature of understanding between different linguistic environments, this third and final dimension adds considerations on the relation between interlocutors—authors, translators, and receivers (Scott-Baumann 2010, pp. 71–72). It shifts its attention towards the challenge of alterity inherent in all acts of translation (Nelson 2007, p. 362; Kristal 2014, pp. 36–37). It discusses the norms and values guiding the practice of translation and seeks to establish the principles, the rights and obligations, that inform the relation between author, translator and receiver. What we are left with then is a characterisation of ‘translation’ as a problem field that expands much beyond isolated instances of the transfer of meaning. Instead we have to recognise that linguistic, ontological and ethical questions are deeply intertwined and that ‘translation’ if it is to be considered to its fullest extent requires reflections across these three dimensions (Garcia 2008, pp. 73–74). Given this broader scope of translation, it does not come as a surprise that translational thought quickly expanded into and drew upon broader discussions in linguistics, psychology and philosophy (among others) in its attempts to grapple with and address the implications of translational practices (see, for instance, Munday 2012, pp. 8–26). In order to explore the ramifications of these wider challenges, the remainder of this chapter will draw on one of the



most influential philosophical movements that left its mark on translation studies—philosophical hermeneutics. In its very setup, philosophical hermeneutics is concerned with the emergence, transition and transformation of meaning through acts of interpretation within a wider re-­ conceptualisation of human being (see, for instance, Gadamer 2013, pp. 417–423). Its intellectual trajectory from textual interpretation to an ontologisation of interpretation as an existential quality of human life mirrors the move from a technical focus on textual exegeses to wider ontological and ethical questions as they were touched upon above—some might even go so far to say that a philosophy of translation is a natural and maybe even needed addition to or extension of hermeneutic thought (Kharmandar 2015, p. 75; Davidson 2013, p. 69). Hermeneutics and Translation A central concern of hermeneutics lies with the ontological significance of language and the ways in which language and understanding are related (see, for instance, Gadamer 2013, pp.  403–407; Ricoeur 2006). In the broadest sense the movement of philosophical hermeneutics foregrounds the always already historical situatedness in which all communicative encounters take place. Every act of meaning creation and exchange is not only dependent on language (in the widest sense) but also commences from an always already situated perspective. In Gadamer’s (2013, p. 407) words: ‘The linguisticality of understanding is the concretion of historically effected consciousness’. Consequently, meanings do not exist independent of but are created, exchanged and altered in the act of communication (Freeman 2009, p. 437; Warnke 2003, p. 4). From a hermeneutic perspective, the exchange of meanings ‘takes place against a background of context that conditions [them], and this background can include any number of implicit or hidden presuppositions, [and] prejudices’ (Davidson 2013, p. 62). Understanding then is not an isolated process occurring within an individual but emerges in and through conversation (Gadamer 2013, p. 403). This crucial conversational element in pursuit of understanding already provides a direct link to the role and nature of translation as an existential component of human interaction; translation is a crucial element of understanding as it provides the movement that can lead to an understanding of the other in conversation. This holds both across languages but, crucially, also within a language (Kearney 2007, p. 152). Hermeneutics acknowledges the contextual multiplicity of



meanings (i.e. the polysemous nature of our vocabularies) and seeks to develop a position that situates and explores this polysemy as a central element of our existence. Rather than seeking to overcome the plurality and malleability of meanings in pursuit of a homogenously fixed set of referents, hermeneutics provides an ontological position in which the emergence and interplay of these meanings form the core characteristic of human existence (Kearney 2007, p.153). In doing so, hermeneutics widens the scope of translation to considerations of communicative understanding within a given language by recognising that while within a language the signifiers may be the same, what they signify is not given de-ontologically. (Kristal 2014, p. 38; Venn 2006, p. 83). Even within a language, conversations are therefore not unambiguous exchanges of given meanings but rather present translational exchanges in which ‘what is meant’ by the interlocutors emerges only through their conversational exchange. This polysemy of words adds a source of ambiguity to our linguistic encounters (Scott-Baumann 2010, p. 75). This ambiguity is not perceived as an ‘external’ problem stemming from a lack of clarity (and therefore something that could be ‘fixed’) but rather emerges as an ineradicable characteristic of human existence. In other words, while the multiplicity of meanings in our communicative encounters may be widely recognised, hermeneutics conceives of polysemy as an inevitable, and ineradicable component of communicative encounters. Consequently, against this background, hermeneutics considers the act and process of interpretation as a crucial element of understanding to the point where interpretation is ontologised as an existential and not just a situational feature of human existence—in other words, we always relate interpretively to the world around us, encountering ‘an unbounded multitude of possible interpretations’ (Kharmandar 2015, p.  77; see also Hinman 1980, p.  526). The response to such a conception of the intrinsically interpretive process of understanding does not consist in attempts to ‘fix meanings’ and reduce or overcome polysemy but rather requires forms of translation as we seek to negotiate meanings in conversation (Gadamer 2013, p. 403; Davidson 2013, p. 64). Gadamer (2013, p. 402) recognises this explicitly when he says: ‘Thus every translation is at the same time an interpretation. We can even say that the translation is the culmination of the interpretation that the translator has made of the words given him’.2 The translational act that 2

 The same is true for Ricoeur (see Scott-Baumann 2010, p. 74; Ricoeur 2006).



emerges here ‘is a communicative process in which actors inhabiting different social worlds (i) enter into relations with each other and (ii) begin to recast or reconstruct themselves, their interests and their worlds’ (Freeman 2009, p. 436; see also Kristal 2014, p. 31). Within such a conception ‘[t]he task of hermeneutics, then, is to bridge the distance that is opened up between the differences between the world of the reader and the world of the author through the world of the text’ (Davidson 2013, p. 63). Inevitably, this ontologisation of the process of understanding also carries ethical considerations regarding the relationship between self and other (Kearney 2007, p. 153); after all, conversational encounters often happen between interlocutors that differ (often widely) in their resources and social capital. At this point questions arise as to who is allowed to take part in conversations and whose voice is registered and ‘audible’ (Scott-­ Baumann 2010, p.  81). The power differential between interlocutors raises the need for ethical reflection on how conversational encounters should be conducted and what rules and norms govern these encounters (Venn 2006, p. 82). In these hermeneutic core concerns, we can see already very similar themes as outlined above. The act of interpretation in hermeneutics concerning the appropriation of meaning (linguistic dimensions), the description of interpretation as an ontological feature of human existence (ontological dimension) and the concerns regarding the relation between self and other (ethical dimension) all speak to the set of challenges and problems facing the practice of translation. Subsequently, even in this exceedingly brief characterisation of hermeneutics, intralingual translation emerges as a key point of consideration due to the above-noted polysemy of terms even within a single language, especially since ‘[i]n addition to the multiple surface meanings of words, their polysemy is compounded by the fact that they can also have hidden connotations or idiomatic sense which are difficult to detect on the surface’ (Davidson 2013, p. 62). This ambiguity accumulates to the level of sentences and whole texts as ‘sequences of sentences and plots […] are open to multiple possible interpretations and thus can open the texts as a whole to multiple possible meanings’ (Davidson 2013, p. 62). Here arises an intralingual challenge which makes translation a part of communication even within a shared language.



One might ordinarily believe that, between the speakers of a single language, the work of translation is not needed. It should be possible for speakers to communicate their thoughts and wishes effectively and unambiguously, simply because they share a common language. But, there is a difference between the ideal of a perfect language, in which each word would only have a single meaning, and the reality of actual languages in which each word can adopt multiple meanings. The plurivocity of language gives rise to the need for translation within a single linguistic community, even in the everyday interactions between people who use the same language. (Davidson 2012, p. 5)

As a consequence, seamless communication between interlocutors in the same language cannot be taken for granted. We may share large parts of the vocabulary, the grammar and syntax but this alone does not guarantee that meaning is shared unambiguously or understanding secured easily. In cases where we engage with others in an even more distanced manner (e.g. through written texts), the challenge of understanding increases further—the conversation between the interlocutors is here not only mediated through the text but the text itself represents a translational challenge in the sense that ‘the hermeneutical encounter with the text is not analogous with a personified Thou but is rather a process in which the linguistic disclosure of the text opens worlds of meaning before the reader (DiCenso 1990, p. 115).

The Multivocality of IR Meta-Theory Bringing such a translational perspective to IR meta-theory, has a number of benefits relating to all three dimensions developed above. As we will see, while the linguistic dimension (and in particular the polysemy of terms) does play a role in current meta-theoretical debates, the wider challenges of intralingual translation are in need of a more sustained and thorough reflection. Linguistically, contributions to IR meta-theory are most often conceived of as operating with an established terminology which allows intellectual exchanges to concentrate on substance without too much thought about hindrances to effective communication and mutual understanding. This is not to say that conceptual debates remain completely oblivious to translational challenges. Certainly, we find contributions that acknowledge the hurdles of the polysemy of specific terms and seek to incorporate



reflections of competing meanings into their substantive contributions. Yet, the often central search for a unified conceptual framework leads many contributors to strive for a minimisation (and ideally elimination) of polysemy and its effects in pursuit of a conceptual toolset that is as general and universal in scope as possible. In practical terms, however, this goal to establish a widely shared and linguistically secured meta-theoretical approach for IR seems to become more and more unobtainable. While we have seen a marked increase in contributions and a widening and deepening of discussions concerning the key meta-theoretical commitments for IR, the field is more diverse and heterogenous than ever before. Attempts to overcome this diversity continue to be frustrated; as a result, some question the very purpose of meta-theorising and argue for its disbandment (for varying levels of criticism see for instance Halliday 1995, p. 745; Wallace 1996, pp. 315–316; Barkin 2010; or Sil and Katzenstein 2010). Others still see it as a vital part of conceptual thought in IR but ask for further rigour and refinement of the meaning of its core terms. Neither path seems particularly promising—the first since abandoning meta-­ theorising does not absolve IR from meta-theoretical considerations (Reus-Smit 2013, p. 590) and the second because there is no indication that pursuing a path aiming for a linguistically and substantially unified position can be successful. Instead it may be time to consider meta-theorising as an ongoing conversation based on a multiplicity of meanings of its core terms and think through the consequences. Doing so will place the polysemy of its terminology at the centre and asks us to develop a position beyond abandonment and definitional closure. Conceiving meta-theorising as a translational challenge can provide one avenue to develop such a position. Before we provide a sketch of how such a translational practice impacts on our understanding or meta-theorising, it is worthwhile to have a brief look at how IR meta-theory has so far dealt with the challenge of polysemy. While IR meta-theory has recognised the challenge of polysemy to a certain degree, the manner in which polysemy has been addressed, however, also shows that a wider awareness of and reflection on its consequences is mostly absent. We will briefly look at three of the most common or influential ways in which polysemy is addressed before moving to an assessment of the contribution a translational perspective can make in alleviating existing shortcomings.



The Path of Appropriation: The Agent-Structure Debate The first common strategy for responding to polysemy is driven by the aim to minimise or redirect its main problems by means of appropriation. In these cases, the interlocutors focus on attempts to settle meaning in a monosemous manner by substantively positing a specific framework and set of meanings that form the basis for judging alternative conceptions, i.e. their engagement with competing frameworks is limited to reading them through their own set of assumptions and dismissing them as inconsistent or ‘meaningless’. A classic example of this strategy is the exchange between Colin Wight and Roxanne Doty regarding the agent-structure debate. In a series of articles (Doty 1997, 1999; Wight 1999, 2000) both authors engage in a direct exchange on what defines this debate and how best to grasp and respond to the conceptual challenges it poses. They seemingly address the same problem and rely on the same vocabulary to frame what is at stake. Underneath this surface, however, it becomes clear quite quickly that despite using the same terminology, both authors establish fundamentally different horizons of meaning. The central notion of ‘ontology’, for instance, signifies fundamentally divergent meanings in Wight and Doty and subsequently completely different understandings emerge as to the character of the agent-structure debate. In Wight’s conceptualisation the debate rests on a dualistic substance ontology whereas for Doty it dissolves into a question of indeterminate practices characteristic of a monist ontology (Wight 2000, p.  707; Doty 1997, pp.  376–378). These differences continue throughout the exchange, in the notions of ‘practice’, ‘agents’, ‘structures’ and so on. What we are in fact seeing here is the development of two completely separate conceptual frameworks, relying on diverging meanings of core terms to the extent that they establish different systems of signification despite both writing in the same language. The result is two fundamentally diverging conceptions of the agent-structure debate, each presenting a different world or horizon which informs their understanding of the key elements of this debate. This is as such neither surprising nor negative as the individual terms in question and the debate as a whole has always been characterised by polysemy, i.e. the inherent multiplicity of meanings which shape the manner in which this debate can be apprehended. The subsequent engagement between these two authors, however, presents an archetypical example of the failure to recognise the concomitant translational challenge. Their engagement is dominated by



movements of appropriation in which the horizon of meanings of one author is read through and subsumed under the meanings of the respective other. This appropriation excludes the possibility (and willingness) to engage with the other and instead characterises a move to read the other through the limits of one’s own horizon of meaning and take any contradictions as proof of the inferiority of the other’s position. The outcome of such a lack of engagement is inevitable: we see a simple reiteration of positions, the dismissal of the respective other as incoherent and finally an irreconcilable stalemate at which point further attempts of engagement are abandoned. The strategy of reductive appropriation in conceptual debates is bound to fail in producing meaningful exchanges as ‘[t]he movement of appropriation, taken alone, would appear to suggest that the reader would become master of all meaning and thus would take from the text whatever he or she wants to get from it’ (Davidson 2013, p. 63). Attempts to master meaning in such a manner not only disregard the inevitable polysemy of the key terms under consideration but also foreclose any deeper grasp of aims, objectives and understanding of the ‘world’ of the other. As Ricoeur (1981, p. 94) puts it: ‘To understand is not to project oneself into the text but to expose oneself to it; it is to receive a self enlarged by the appropriation of the proposed worlds which interpretation unfolds’. What is left after such engagements is an archipelago of disconnected and isolated islands of meaning with no strategy of meaningful exchange between them beyond the reiteration of already taken position. Acknowledgement Without Understanding: Debating ‘Ontology’ in IR While a strategy of appropriation exemplifies a common failure to grasp the translational challenges (and opportunities) of polysemy, it has not been the only way in which debates in IR meta-theory have approached polysemy and its consequences. The second manner in which conceptual debates in IR meta-theory have sought to approach the heterogenous meanings of its core terminology is to actually put them at the centre of deliberation. One such example was the extended debate about the role and nature of ‘ontology’ that rose to prominence during the first decade of the twenty-first century. Through a number of publications (see, for instance, Wight 2006; Jackson 2008; Chernoff 2009; Arfi 2012; Michel 2009, 2012; Weber 2012; Herborth 2012; Kessler 2012; Wight 2012),



conference panels and fora, the exchange between authors of different conceptual persuasion recognised the vagaries and polysemy of the notion of ‘ontology’ and its consequences for the study of international politics. While IR meta-theory in this respect has demonstrated some awareness of translational challenges and the consequences of polysemy (or at least its presence) for its debates, reflections on its consequences both for how the practice of meta-theory is affected and what they mean for the manner in which scholars should engage with each other remain absent. Deliberations on the polysemy of individual terms inevitably fall short of any wider reflection on the ontological and ethical questions it gives rise to. They remain on the level of specific concepts and the limited forays into translation that were undertaken as part of these exchanges do not exceed the instrumental aim of supporting particular meanings of the concept in question. Despite the more explicit awareness of the polysemy of core terminology, this strategy ends up in a very similar position to attempts at appropriation. In the end, the conceptual debate about ‘ontology’ did not move beyond the recognition of competing meanings and their consequences for the study of IR. It has not provided any insights into the ramifications for the way conceptual debates must be conducted, how effective communication between competing positions should be structured and which norms and principles should guide the engagement between diverging meanings and frameworks. The outcome is merely an agreement to disagree without any positive formulation of how to proceed productively or assess the reasons for and consequences of the resulting conceptual impasse. Governing Polysemy: Jackson’s Meta-Theoretical Pluralism Beyond these two rather limited attempts to address polysemy, Patrick Jackson’s The Conduct of Inquiry (2016) provided a contribution that actually has pushed the awareness and reflection on the consequences of polysemy to the point where its accumulating effects in establishing wider systems of meaning amounting to diverging worlds have been recognised. Responding to the ever more diverse landscape of meta-theoretical scholarship in IR, Jackson offers not only a typology of existing approaches but also suggest that attempts to establish a single meta-theoretical framework for conducting IR research is misplaced. Rather than pursuing a definitional quest to settle meaning uniformly, Jackson proposes a form of pluralism in which competing sets of



conceptual meanings coexist (Jackson 2016, pp. 35–41), up to the level where they form coherent independent frameworks (one might say ‘worlds’—Jackson 2016, p. 38; Michel 2013). In his account this polysemy is a perennial feature of meta-theoretical debates and therefore here to stay. In this respect, Jackson’s contribution provides a crucial step to raising questions that touch upon the ontological and ethical dimensions sketched above. As progressive as this contribution may seem, however, its suggested mode of ‘conversational governance’ replicates the problems of neglecting polysemy for two reasons. First, in terms of delineation of his realm of meta-theorising, Jackson establishes a notion of science to bound meta-­ theoretical activity (Jackson 2016, pp. 22–25). Secondly, within the pluralist realm he established, Jackson seeks to develop a vocabulary to enable communication about and between the diverging conceptual positions (Jackson 2016, p. 211). Both moves to a large extent reverse the initial acceptance of the consequences of polysemy as they suggest the desirability and possibility of developing linguistic resources that can bound and linguistically homogenise the plurality of meta-theory and the polysemy of its terminology. In particular, the terminology he proposes to hold across the different approaches (e.g. mind-world monism; mind world dualism, etc.) has the purpose of allowing for a homogenous description of diverging positions and as such constitute a form of meta-language which seeks to unite the polysemy that the proposed meta-theoretical pluralism exhibits (Michel 2013, pp. 283–284). Equally, the provision of a notion of ‘science to provide a boundary condition under which the diverging positions can be subsumed and which allows for a clear demarcation of what is ‘inside’ meta-theory and what remains ‘outside’ presents a move to unify his pluralism under a monosemous meaning of science (Jackson 2016, pp. 22–25). Both instances demonstrate that while polysemy is accepted on the level of conceptual development, eventually Jackson tries to overcome its effects to allow participants across conceptual divides to communicate effectively and unambiguously. Of course, such an attempt is itself bound to fail, for the very same reasons that ground Jackson’s move towards a pluralist understanding of meta-theory. His notion of wagers (pp. 35–41) serves as the common denominator here. Invoking it to show that basic conceptual assumptions in meta-theorising lie beyond cognitive proof and/or logical necessity demonstrates the substantive uncertainties inherent in key terms of meta-theoretical practice. What he fails to realise at this point, however,



is that this uncertainty is not just a substantive one but also a linguistic one, an uncertainty that pervades, as we have seen above, language in general. As a consequence, Jackson’s attempt to unify the plurality of substantive wagers through the introduction of a linguistically monosemous vocabulary are bound to fail. His notions of ‘science’, ‘mind’, ‘world’ and so on are as linguistically insecure and polysemous as the substantive wagers that ground his meta-theoretical pluralism. This attempted move towards a monosemous meta-language in which different meta-­theoretical frameworks can converse in an unhindered manner in many ways reverses the achievements of his pluralism as it simply displaces the problem of polysemy to a higher level. As these brief examples show, IR meta-theory has engaged in various ways with the challenge of polysemy—so far, however, these strategies have not resolved the conceptual tensions or offered a path to more fruitful encounters between diverging positions.

The Promise of a Translational Perspective for IR Meta-Theory A hermeneutical perspective on translation, when taken seriously, allows for a more reflective basis for the consideration of the challenges of polysemy and the related processes of understanding within the encounters with alterity. Crucially, from the outset it forgoes the quest for universal foundations in any pursuit of understanding, the idea that there is or can be a singular perspective from which understanding can or must occur. The commitment to a plurality of meanings, languages and therefore worlds can help address the deeply challenging ethical dimension of alterity in translation, of the rights of the other, the translator and their readers that have often been obfuscated by emphasising the seemingly innocent and technical act of transposing meaning from one context to another. A hermeneutic perspective not only recognises a translational dimension even in conversations in the same language, but also stresses the vagaries of modes of understanding and the concomitant ethical challenges of alterity which can bring into the open the dynamics of power operative in conceptual debates. As the three brief examples above show, we see that current responses to this polysemy and the challenges it entails are wanting. While there seems to be some progress in terms of active acknowledgement and reflection, we are still missing a comprehensive appraisal of the consequences of polysemy for IR meta-theorising.



Given the plurality of meanings and the expressions of whole conceptual systems they give rise to, the current form of debate and scholarship makes a number of mistakes. As a result, in many cases polysemy and the resulting cacophony of mutually exclusive frameworks has given rise to a strong number of criticisms regarding the value of conducting meta-­ theoretical scholarship as such (Halliday 1995, p.  745; Wallace 1996, pp. 315–316; Barkin 2010; or Sil and Katzenstein 2010). Indeed, while we see an increasing proliferation of meta-theoretical positions, the gaps and disagreements between meta-theoretical approaches seem to be widening. If we take the brief reflections on the inevitable polysemy of terms and the so far neglected need for intralingual translation into account, however, this seemingly deteriorating development does not come as a surprise. In fact, it suggests that the plurality of positions is not due to a failure of meta-theorising as such but rather the inevitable result of the polysemous nature of language and the misplaced belief that the plurality of meanings can be overcome in conceptual debates. What a translational angle alerts us to is that this ambiguity of meaning is ingrained in all linguistic encounters whether they are everyday occurrences or highly specialised academic exchanges; and it even occurs within a given language and not ‘just’ in cases where meaning crosses language boundaries (Davidson 2012, p. 5) This basic insight, however, affords us the opportunity to fundamentally re-think the nature, character and dynamic of conceptual debates in general and IR meta-theorising in particular. A thorough consideration of all three dimensions sketched above transforms the very way in which meta-theorising can (and should) be practiced. Linguistically, it foregrounds polysemy as an inevitable part of conceptual debates and highlights the need for a translational approach to engage in conceptual reasoning. Rather than seeking to eradicate the spectre of ambiguity and assume the possibility of settling meaning monosemously, conceptual debates must give due consideration to ambiguities of meaning and strive for a manner of engagement that treats diverging accounts as alternate horizons of meaning. Doing so will lead to a more sustained effort to recognise not only the alterity of meaning but also helps to ask wider questions of how this alterity is to be set in relation to our own horizons. Ontologically, this linguistic dimension is accompanied by an explicit recognition that the process of understanding is deeply conversational and hence translational (Gadamer 2013, p.  403). The negotiation of



conceptual frameworks in debate is first of all a conversational encounter rather than an isolated exercise of reason. Gadamer in particular is helpful in illuminating the existentially interpretative character of linguistic encounters. What we try to understand, i.e. which questions we seek to answer, is intimately connected to the ways in which we interpret our own existence and our place within the environment in which we act and think. Hermeneutics at its very basis highlights this ontological significance of language in creating horizons of meaning. As Gadamer’s famous notion of the ‘fusion of horizons’ suggests, our way of relating to the world is negotiated in encounters with others. Crucially, ‘[t]he fusion of horizons rejects the assertion of authority from the interpreter’s tradition. This ethos is that both dialogue partners are open to the other’s truth-claim but, at the same time, they are willing to confront it and to be confronted by it. […] This process is never static and uncritical but productive and transformational’ (Gill 2015, p. 19). Gadamer’s insistence on the notion of a fusion of horizons is central as the risk of pursuing the ‘formation of one horizon, is that forming one horizon can underplay the tension between divergent perspectives, beliefs, cultural contexts and historical traditions that shape our interpretation of the subject matter we seek to understand. In fact, … residing in such tension are the conditions for understanding’ (Gill 2015, p. 17; see also Venn 2006, p. 82). The consequences of such an interpretive notion of understanding fundamentally change the nature and character of meta-theorising. Rather than being an exercise aiming at delivering a single comprehensive framework, meta-theorising becomes the location of ongoing conversations and translations between particular, ontologically grounded systems of signification. While much of current meta-theoretical thought may find these conceptual vagaries and partial perspectives troubling, their acceptance in fact would render meta-theorising attuned to the particularities of lived experience. Rather than continuing to try divorcing conceptual debates from particularity in pursuit of some form of universal conceptual framework, meta-theorising not only needs to recognise the futility of such an endeavour but, more positively, embrace this plurality as an opportunity to understand the multitude of intersecting worlds we are aiming to navigate. Viewing meta-theorising as an ongoing conversation between different conceptual ‘worlds’ does not contain some lofty ideal of guaranteed mutual understanding. In fact, Gadamer is quite adamant to point out that coming to an understanding is an uncertain process and by no means can we assume some harmonious end point to be reached. Gadamer



repeatedly acknowledged that it is a fallacy to believe that ‘it is always possible—this is the pride of our reason—whenever a disagreement arises, that one can blaze a path to agreement in understanding through talking to each other’ (Gadamer 2006, p.  17). After all, ‘conversation remains outside the control of the participants; none of them can direct it, nor does anyone know how it will come out (Walhof 2005, p. 160; Gadamer 2013, p. 401). The openness in conversation Gadamer champions must not be misunderstood to mean ‘disregarding oneself, nor assimilating the other’ (Gill 2015, p. 18). What it does demand though is ‘allowing the questions of otherness to become one’s own and putting one’s own prejudices at risk. When both dialogue partners do so with regard to the object of dialogue, it becomes a shared inquiry, and the other becomes our co-­ investigator/co-interpreter’ (Gill 2015, p. 16). The notion of understanding that emerges here stands in radical contrast to the totalising attempts to establish a single, homogenous meta-­ theoretical framework for IR. For a translational perspective that takes the situatedness of conceptual thought and the polysemy of our vocabulary seriously ‘understanding is continuous and necessarily incomplete. It … dismisses dialogue as balancing differences in opinions or perspectives, or as assimilating the other into our own. Instead, [it] focusses on the openness of dialogical understanding and its to-and-fro nature’ (Gill 2015, p. 14; see also Schwandt 1999, p. 455; Venn 2006, p. 84). It means that ‘[t]o understand dialogically is to be able to contextualise meaning, re-­ configure our horizon and to integrate otherness into our understanding. This process creates a unity in which difference is appreciated, not rejected’ (Gill 2015, p. 18; see also Regan 2012, p. 295). A discipline that has historically struggled (and continues to do so) to actively acknowledge alternative ways of being and knowing (especially outside its mainly Western horizon) may be well advised to endorse such openness to partiality rather than perpetuating closure under the guise of seemingly neutral and abstract conceptual deliberations. Finally, accepting that ambiguity and the situatedness of all conceptual thought as part and parcel of meta-theoretical debates in IR also means a more thorough consideration of the ethical dimension of linguistic encounters in two respects. A continued pursuit of establishing a universal meta-theoretical framework based around monosemous terminology is necessarily a ‘violent’ endeavour in the sense that it is bound to silence lived experiences of those outside its realm of meaning. Aligning meta-­ theoretical practice with the plurality of lived experience necessitates abandoning pretensions of creating a singular conceptual framework for the



study or IR. At the same time, such an embrace of plurality opens horizons for research that can finally take seriously the lived experience of those hitherto most often excluded. Rather than following a path of appropriation in which we seek to subsume conceptual otherness by forcing it into the straightjacket of our own meanings, a translational perspective offers opportunities for understanding in which different horizons encounter each other and fuse in acts of transformational conversation. Ethically, such encounters demand taking alterity seriously and allowing the lived experiences of others to encounter our own. Within such a translation perspective ‘understanding’ the world(s) around us becomes a matter of understanding each other. An ongoing process of understanding in conversation does not presuppose harmony—disagreements will continue, and mutual understanding will continue to elude us in various instances. These continued disagreements, however, should not be seen as failures but rather as the constant reminder of the changing environment we are trying to understand. Contrary to its critics, the continued contestations about meta-theoretical matters are not a sign of futility but rather offer the opportunity, and indeed necessity, to critically interrogate our own and others’ assumptions. What emerges here is a fundamental re-reading of meta-theoretical practice, deeply steeped in translational processes in the sense that meta-­ theoretical debates are conceived of encounters of texts the polysemous nature of which requires both translation and interpretation. Meta-theory as an ongoing conversation ‘should move from the unconscious and automatic to the conscious and deliberate, from crude appropriation to reflective innovation’ (Freeman 2009, p. 441). In such a view, our conceptual encounters are places of contestation in ongoing conversations that seek to open its participants to the horizons of their respective others. Rather than seeking closure and conceptual certainty, a translational perspective foregrounds the openness towards lived experience and the need for continuous contestations of meaning in our pursuit of understanding. Consequently, the seemingly cacophonic plurality of positions in current IR meta-theory is an asset rather than a liability; it may present the first glimpse of IR moving outwards and accommodating alterity rather than looking inwards and strive for an elusive sameness. Of course, this can only be a very cautious optimism given the long way IR as a whole has to go. Yet, a translational perspective may prove transformational in more than one sense if we recognise both the challenges and opportunities that the plurality of lived experiences, voices and meanings affords us in the study of an ever-changing and increasingly complex environment.



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Remaking the Law of Encounter: Comparative International Law as Transformative Translation Miriam Bak McKenna

Introduction The past 40 years have seen an increasing acknowledgement of the profound influence the colonial relationships of power and subordination still maintain over international law and its institutions. As a growing number of scholars have highlighted, the globalisation of European legal principles to the non-Western world was central to the ‘civilising mission’ of imperialism (Kayaoğlu 2010, p. 13; see also Anghie 2005; Becker Lorca 2010; Jouannet 2007). Most notably, this expansion led to the imposition of laws and legal institutions from European cultures to those of their colonies (Merry 1991). At the international level, it was the overwhelming influence of Western international law and the absorption of non-­European cultures into a system of ‘international’ law through the processes of

M. B. McKenna (*) Faculty of Law, Lund University, Lund, Sweden e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 Z. G. Capan et al. (eds.), The Politics of Translation in International Relations, Palgrave Studies in International Relations, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-56886-3_4




imperialism and globalisation that allowed international law to assert one of its ‘defining characteristics’—universality. Pivotal to this universalising process, not only in relation to law but to the proliferation of Western ideas and concepts, was the Western approach to translation as transfer (Malaspina and Keller-Kemmerer 2014, p. 214). This, as Susan Bassnett (2013, p. 15) explains, is traditionally understood to involve ‘the rendering of a source language (SL) text into a target language (TL) text so as to ensure that (1) the surface meaning of the two will be approximately similar and (2) the structures of the [source text] will be preserved as closely as possible’. In this sense, the focus of the traditional approach to translation becomes the ‘correct’ reception of the ideas transmitted without their mutation or misappropriation (Hendry 2014, p. 90). Adopting a similar logic, the proponents of international law were able to cultivate the idea that Western international law remained static and determinate through the process of ‘translation’ to non-Western settings, amounting to a monodirectional proliferation of doctrinal and legal standards between legal orders. This conception allowed an idea of a homogenous, singular and universal international law with a relatively ‘fixed normative core’ (Koskenniemi 2009, p. 1) to form and take root; an understanding which still dominates the field. Unsurprisingly therefore, international law’s insistence upon a particular vision of universality has increasingly come under pressure by a broadening acknowledgment of the plurality of political and jurisprudential visions that exist within the international legal space (see Hanqin 2012; Malskoo 2015; Ruiz Fabri 2011; Jouannet 2006; Becker Lorca 2006; Obregón 2006; Messineo 2013). Critical historical analyses have sought to unsettle celebratory histories of international law and their insistence upon a monolithic narrative of progress self-evidently working collectively in the interests of humanity and universal values and unveil not only its colonial past but the parallel legal orders that have existed alongside European public law (Becker Lorca 2010, 2015). Some scholars have sought to re-inscribe ‘the meeting between international law and its ‘others’ […] as an encounter between rival jurisdictions’ (Pahuja 2013, p. 65), where rather than passive receptors, international law was adopted and changed as a counter-hegemonic strategy (see also Yin 2017; Joyce 2012; Berman 2012). Some have sought to focus on the meeting of international law and non-Western legal systems through the lens of vernacularisation (as translation)—an approach which calls our attention to the ways in which normative ideas or practices move from one social context to



another and are made meaningful within—or rejected on the basis of— local realities (Merry 2006). These approaches offer an alternative lens through which to view the creation and ongoing development of international law outside of the traditional frictionless narrative of transferal, to  instead foreground a dynamic of struggle, tension, translation and transformation. In this chapter, using insights drawn from both critical translation and comparative law studies, I discuss how the emerging methodology of comparative international law offers another means through which to problematise the discourse surrounding the universality of international law by focusing on the interplay of distinct legal cultures in the making and operation of international law as a process of ‘intercultural transfer’ (Bassnett and Trivedi 1999, p. 2). Broadly defined as identifying, analysing and explaining local, regional or national approaches to international law, comparative international law assumes a fluidity in both the normative structure and material substance of international law given the diverse cultures and civilisation among states. In place of the logic of the linear and occidental translation of international law, comparative international law re-imagines the field of international law as a plural space accompanied by continual and ongoing processes of translation and adaptation between different normative orders through which the substance and structures of international law are made and re-made. In this way, comparative international law presents a frame through which to scrutinise the struggles, asymmetries and hierarchies that surround the diffusion of international law beyond a singular model or understanding, and beyond debates between a (truly) universal and a (truly) particular position.

Traditional Translation and International Law’s Claim to Universality It is now largely axiomatic that dominant discourses of international law have predominantly been the product of European legal culture. Despite its normative and geographical origins, however, from the onset it was conceived of as ‘acultural, neutral and universally applicable’ (Jouannet 2007, p. 380). This, as Emmanuelle Jouannet (2007) has explored, meant that from the onset, international law contained a paradox stemming from the fact that it is the reflection of a particular—Western—culture, whilst at the same time claiming not only to internationalise but also to almost



universalise the values that it conveys. While this appeal to natural law universalism was somewhat tempered by the rise of legal positivism during the nineteenth century, international law continued to be exported as a universal doctrine, underpinning European imperial expansion and the distinction between civilised and non-civilised people. Translation was a pivotal part of this process (and of the circulation of Western ideas in general) (Malaspina and Keller-Kemmerer 2014, p. 216); occurring both literally—through the publication and translation of international law textbooks and treaties—as well as more figuratively—through the dissemination of international legal ideas by international lawyers and practitioners, diplomats and states (Becker Lorca 2010, p.  484). The export of international law in this manner was to ensure the homogenous reception of European legal principles; a process that was also intended to circumvent any cultural or linguistic resistance. The effect was twofold as Malaspina and Keller-Kemmerer (2014, p. 216) explain: ‘first, European concepts came to be perceived as universally valid, and second Europe established its expansion through the spread of control and culture’. With the advent of decolonisation in the mid-twentieth century, the formal structures of colonialism were abolished, and the world was levelled into one category—sovereign states. This process paved the way for a more ‘universal’ extension of international law as far as the subjects of international law are concerned. The problem, as Mohammed Bedjaoui asserted, was that dominant understandings of international law ‘consisted of a set of rules with a geographical basis (it was a European law), a religious-­ethical inspiration (it was a Christian law), and economic motivation (it was a mercantilist law) and political aims (it was an imperialist law)’ (Bedjaoui 1979, p. 50). It was not a neutral set of principles but a product of European liberal thought. The prevailing influence of Eurocentrism in perceptions of international law are still evident. In a systemic, practical and professional sense international law is still beset with undue ascription of objectivity and authenticity to Western states, actors and scholars, relying upon a mostly singular temporal, geographic and epistemological vision of ‘universality’. As Martti Koskenniemi (2009, p.  4) explains, ‘the view that there is a single, universal international law with a homogeneous history and an institutional-political project emerges from a profoundly Eurocentric view of the world’. Without revisiting the well-trodden ground of scholarship that has explored the systemic dominance of Western interests in the substance and structures of international law, it is suffice to say that Western



narratives and standards continue to evaluate and guide the practice of international law. International law’s appeal to normative universality, moreover, is increasingly met by scepticism amongst many non-Western states who argue that it tends ‘to represent essentially one type of ideology, one form of culture, and one kind of political system’ (Hanqin 2012, p. 17).

Escaping the Westphalian Trap Against this backdrop, a ‘de-centering’ of international law has been underway for many years. Led by the pioneering work of TWAIL (Third World Approaches to International Law) scholars, international law’s narratives of universality have been fundamentally challenged by the uncovering of the broad array of political, economic and social asymmetries that were inaugurated in the process of colonisation (Anghie 2005; Chimni 2011). Perhaps most influential among these contributions has been the displacement of a belief in the singularity of international law (von Bernstorff 2016, p.  1173). The longstanding belief in the ‘universality’ and uniformity of international law have been challenged by studies showing that the application and interpretation of international law amongst states varies greatly, giving life to different varieties of international law (Chimni 2011; Becker Lorca 2006, 2010; Obregón 2006). This revised understanding, as Jochen von Bernstorff (2016, p. 1174) explains, comes with two principal assumptions: ‘first, the idea that international law is perceived and conceptualised very differently in various regions and places’ and, second, ‘that the application of general international law, behind a unified façade, is, in practice, dependent on the affiliation of legal subjects to a certain category of states or nations, with the result that some nations in practice are less equal than others’. In light of this growing understanding of international law as fluid and contingent in its domestic and regional dimensions, and an increased interest in the dialectical relationship between international law as a formal and autonomous system and international law as a field of practice in the Bourdieusian sense (see Shaffer and Ginsburg 2012), a number of scholars have begun to develop the contours of an emerging field which could loosely be termed ‘comparative international law’. Kennedy (2007), Mireille Delmas-Marty (2006), Emmanuelle Jouannet (2007), Koskenniemi (2009) and Anthea Roberts (2017, Roberts et  al. 2018) have in various works suggested that the study of the variations of approach, technique, traditions and substance of international law, as well



as methods of legal comparison, should be integrated more fully into the study of international law. Instead of working from the premise that international law exists objectively somewhere out there, comparative international law assumes, as Roberts (2017, p.  1) notes, that what counts as international law ‘depends in part on how the actors concerned construct their understandings of the field’. There is no cosmopolitan legal culture, argues Jouannet (2006, p.  292), instead international law is expressed through individual voices that are the products of particular, diverse legal cultures. Underpinning this approach, therefore, is an acknowledgement that within particular contexts, politics, culture, national interests, religion, and economic and geo-strategic considerations will all undoubtedly impact the legal culture of each legal community, which will in turn impact their appreciation, interpretation and application of international law. While the term ‘comparative international law’ is not new,1 and international lawyers have to some extent instinctively drawn on its central tenets in the identification and formation of customary international rules, as a broader methodological practice it has predominantly been subsumed by the belief that international and comparative law were incompatible; with the former focusing on the universal and the supranational, and the latter on the similarities and differences between domestic legal systems (Gutteridge 1980, p. 13). This in part is due to a perhaps well-grounded fear that to emphasise pluralist understandings of international law may undermine the very ‘internationalist spirit’ upon which the profession depends (Koskenniemi 2009, p.  7). However, in a very real sense this separation between the fields has also sustained a broader cultural, political and epistemological project that upholds the conceptual and practical opposition between the ‘universal’ and the ‘particular’ (Kennedy 1999). Within this schema, as Ruskola (2016, p. 141) expresses, difference and particularity are labelled as culture and consigned to the domestic sphere of the nation state, leaving international law as an ostensibly universal space. To dissolve the conventional opposition between international law and comparative law, therefore, is to begin to unpack the orthodox logic of the distinction between the universal and the particular. The comparative international legal project therefore centres on a reassessment of a range of assumptions upon which we base our 1  In the late 1960s William E. Butler led a study at Harvard Law School in Russian, Chinese and American approaches to international law (see, e.g., Butler 1970) and continued to publish various texts on the topic throughout the 1970s and 1980s.



understanding of the field by showing that other communities of international lawyers approach international law in different ways and asks us to articulate and understand these differences. This prompts us in turn to think about the dynamics at play in the international community—both at a macro level at the level of the state and international institutions, and at a micro level—at the level of localised networks, groups and individual actors, a perspective that may reveal some important structural biases, privileges and patterns of dominance within the practice of international law.

Remaking the Law of Encounter: Comparative International Law as Transformative Translation That these scholars have turned to comparative law to reframe the field of international law is not surprising. The adoption of a comparative lens has at its core a responsibility towards and recognition of difference (Legrand 2017, p.  1). Comparativism disputes the possibility ‘of one-law-for-all, alleged uniformity’, Pierre Legrand (2017, p. 1) asserts, and becomes a way of suspending ‘self-centric and self-satisfied normality’; by questioning longstanding assumptions and disrupting familiar intellectual routines. That same orientation—an inclination towards difference and defamiliarisation—I argue provides a normative and methodological frame of reference to challenge dominant understandings of international law’s monodirectional reception, indeed its appeal to universality, and instead view the process of international law’s proliferation through the lens of transformative translation. In the past decades the insights gained from the critical turn in translation studies, as well as within comparative law, have allowed us to scrutinise traditional understandings of how legal knowledge is exchanged and developed between legal orders. Within this literature, traditional understandings of translation as transfer, centred on the preservation of the ‘original’ meaning and source text, have been dislodged in place of a more nuanced approach which understands translation as a form of cultural transformation where multiple meanings can be created through the interaction of various actors (Snell-Hornby 2006, p. 61; Bassnett and Trivedi 1999). As translation scholar Lawrence Venuti (2013) writes: translation changes the form, meaning, and effect of the source text, even when the translator maintains a semantic correspondence that creates a ­reliable basis for summaries and commentaries. Translation changes the cul-



tural situation where the source text originated through an investment of prestige or a creation of stereotypes. Translation changes the receiving cultural situation by bringing into existence something new and different, a text that is neither the source text nor an original composition in the translating language, and in the process it changes the values, beliefs, and representations that are housed in institutions. (p. 10)

Moreover, rather than a hierarchical relationship between translator and receptor, both are considered active participants in the process of new meaning creation. As part of this approach the linear idea of translation as transfer, which underpins much of the European claim to universality across many fields of knowledge, is destabilised. As Malaspina and Keller-­ Kemmerer (2014) explain: This broader understanding of the notion of translation, used to generate a monolithic depiction of the world, has been deconstructed: the categories of ‘original’ and ’copy’ are no longer firm reference points and translation is now considered more a hybrid process than a linear one….Breaks and misunderstandings as well as the epistemological power of this understanding of translation are highlighted and rendered visible. In this sense, translation is understood not as a mechanical process, but as agent of cultural intermediation and exchange. (p. 220)

This leads us away from a straightforward focus on linguistic equivalence and harmonisation, and towards an attunement to difference, disruptions, overlaps and reconstruction of meaning across cultural divides. Within each new context and with each new interaction between actors, translation becomes transformative, generating something new and unique (see introduction to this volume by Capan, dos Reis, and Grasten 2021). Drawing on these insights within the field of international law, we can begin to view the processes of appropriation and reproduction of international law in a way that disputes traditional hegemonic and imperialist modes of theorising, where meaning and norms remain static and struggles and contestations are largely excluded. Using the idea that translation is both performative and transformative, international law’s proliferation and ongoing development becomes a more complicated and differentiated phenomenon. Rather than viewing international law as a fixed idea that was transmitted homogenously throughout by its European proselytisers beginning in the nineteenth century, comparative international law prompts us to see this process as one involving a deliberate and



complicated process of selection, re-assemblage and fabrication by nonEuropean actors, who in the process produced new meanings and hybrid understandings and launched epistemic and institutional challenges to the field of international law. The perspective of transformative translation also leads us away from the discipline’s tether to its ‘original source text’ or the traditional European standard. Comparative law opens up for the possibility of detecting the many varieties of international legal thought that exist in tension with one another, in a manner that does not assume or privilege a single model and a single understanding of what international law is, but instead analyses these understandings in relation to each other. Instead the universal and particular form part of a single dialectic—allowing us to see players as both universal and particular at the same time, providing a fluid space in which to draw attention to diverse local, domestic and regional approaches to international law. This may assist us in better understanding present-day conditions of international law by allowing us to move beyond a formalist framework which posits that variations which differ from the standard are necessarily incorrect. As Russian international lawyer Valerii Kuznetsov (2009) observes: We are often surprised when States understand and apply differently the same norm of international law. This surprise is a consequence, inter alia, of underestimating the phenomenon of legal consciousness, [that is,] differences in concepts of what international law is. … International law as an objective phenomenon does not necessarily coincide with our concepts of it, the more so since our concepts are often not the same. (p. 3)

Comparative analysis is thus an ideal prism through which to examine international law as a multi-level, pluralist construct, reliant upon both hierarchies and boundaries arising across national, regional and transnational cultures and traditions, and its impact on the creation and development of the international legal landscape. Importantly, a comparative international law approach encourages international lawyers to be more self-aware and reflexive in their own engagement with the field by taking cognisance of which socialising factors and incentives influence their approaches to international law, how their national or regional approaches are positioned in relation to the ‘international’ and how this vantage point might affect their perceptions of the field’s universality or legitimacy, and how things might look different from other perspectives. Expanding the



boundaries of the discipline to embrace international law’s multi-­ contextuality allows us to better engage with the daily realities of international law. In place of the dominant critical focus on European colonialism and its impact, moreover, a broadened international frame of analysis may transcend the limits of the Eurocentrism debate and include other forms of oppression and discrimination, class, gender, religion and violence.

Comparative International Law as Transformative Translation in Practice The comparative project, however, is not without its criticisms. As recent methodological discussions demonstrate, comparative law often fails to move beyond the entrenched categories of centre and periphery, universality and particularity, alterity and hegemony; categories that already dominate the international legal field (Frankenberg 1985, 2014; Kennedy 2003; Legrand 2017). Many scholars concerned with how mainstream comparatists overlook nuances, complexities and multiple voices within their studies, argue that comparative law is afflicted by an excessive positivism and a misguided appeal to scientific objectivity (see e.g. Euben 1997; Ackerly 2005; Godrej 2006; Jenco 2007). To counter these tendencies and work towards a more emancipatory disciplinary approach, I suggest several key elements should be taken into account. For this I also draw on some of the insights from translation studies. This approach ensures that comparative international law moves outside of a framework that relies upon a fixed and monolithic comprehension of the field—and its traditional European standard—and instead widens the perspective, context and culture through the lens of transformative translation to see international law as a series of ‘encounters’ between different normative orders. Firstly, decentring international law’s focus upon a European ‘source text’ requires not only an incorporation of practices amongst non-Western states that received much less attention in international legal scholarship, but the avoidance of the universalising standard that has been one of the major pitfalls of comparative law practice. Much like traditional approaches to translation, the Western benchmark has often acted as the standard that has required other legal systems to raise themselves in the scale of comparison. As David Kennedy (1997, p.  546) notes ‘over the course of a lengthy tradition, comparative law has developed an elaborate etiquette of reciprocal differences between “us” and “them”, a centre and a periphery,



an East and a West, a “common” and a “civil” law”’. In the international legal field, the prevalence of fixed European categories and perspectives on international law is underlined, Koskenniemi (2009, p.  5) argues, by flawed attempts to engage with the point of view of the ‘other’ in studies on East Asian, Chinese, Japanese, Latin American, Ottoman and Islamic systems of international relations and law. This approach maintains the hierarchies and boundaries embodied in the top-down approach to international law as transplantation and transfer; one that focusses upon the categories of ‘original’ and ‘reproduction’ and any divergences therein. In the approach to detecting national approaches to the application of human rights law, for example, we see the tendency to approach the question along the line of a universal standard countered by cultural relativism. According to Sally Engle Merry (2006, p. 45), the domestic reception of international legal norms ‘falls along a continuum depending on how extensively local cultural forms and practices are incorporated into imported institutions’. Using her analytical continuum of what she terms ‘vernacularisation’, she compares jurisdictions based on such factors as whether international human rights law has been ‘rejected’; whether it has been ‘ignored’; whether it has been ‘subverted’; whether a process of ‘replication’ is to be found in which ‘the imported institution remains largely unchanged from its transnational prototype’ (ibid., p. 40) and any adaptation is ‘superficial and primarily decorative’ (ibid., p.  40); or whether ‘hybridization’ can be identified, meaning that there is ‘a process that merges imported institutions and symbols with local ones, sometimes uneasily’ (ibid., p. 44). This approach focuses on the vertical reception of international human rights treaties by domestic legislation and is grounded in an underlying comparison of how different domestic legal systems fare in relation to an overall ‘universal’ standard. A critical alternative which focusses on a relational rather than comparative approach might lead comparativists to explore not only variance, but entanglements and overlaps in an open and less systematic fashion. This requires us to move away from a strictly top-down approach, and the vision of international law being received at the domestic level somewhat passively and with domestic actors rarely exercising independent agency in (re)constructing international law in the process of its domestic reception, and instead embrace an openness to a more hybridised view of national, regional and international actors in the creation, interpretation and enforcement of international law (including the explication of common and general principles and facilitation of transfer/reception/recognition



and dialogue). It also involves an opening of the dialectic of the universal and the particular in a way that avoids a measure of analysis based upon a benchmark and conducted through study of international law’s internal logic tested against possible alternatives. Leaving aside a preoccupation with formalism’s fixed categories and hierarchies, we may instead approach international legal norms as dynamic, discursive concepts and the international legal field as a complex space made up of a plurality of ideas, values and views and an ongoing interplay of politics, ideology, law and power. Rather than an approach that focusses primarily on outcome, moreover, a functional approach may better allow an understanding of how the area, norm, rule, subject, etc. functions and is approached in different legal systems. Critically, this may also throw light upon the processes of translation and adaption as agents of epistemic struggle and contestation within the international legal field by actors working to actively disrupt and dislodge traditional approaches and understandings. Secondly, moving beyond the rigid vocabulary of European international law in search of multiple and alternative conceptions and articulations requires a more expansive approach to what we consider ‘law’ in the first place. In carrying out a comparative international legal study, the strict separation of ‘law’ and ‘non-law’ (politics, ethics and so on) should be reconsidered, given their entrenched focus on European vocabularies and traditions (Parfitt 2014). The law/non-law distinction ‘renders non-­ state forms of political collectivity invisible’ (Parfitt 2014, p. 302) making it ‘difficult to recognise other laws as lawful’ (Black et al. 2007, p. 303). This also limits our ability to analyse the complexity of international law across multiple and non-formal contexts. As China Miéville (2005, p. 23) explains ‘to understand the complex interpenetration of legality and politics—and economics, and all the other supposedly separate arenas of study—we must move beyond formalism, to highlight the underlying political and social conditions affecting the development and transformation of international law’. An approach to international law that begins to venture outside of the rigid dialectic of the sources doctrine2 and blurs the boundaries of law and 2  The sources doctrine, as it emerged in the nineteenth century, eventually to be codified in Article 38(1) of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Statute, refers to the sources of international law’s claim to authority and legitimacy. International law, according to Article 38(1), is that to which states consent to be bound, either explicitly (through the conclusion of treaties) or implicitly (through their words and acts).



non-law has been adopted by a number of scholars. In Fleur Johns’ (2013) Non-Legality in International Law: Unruly Law, the central message is not that law unavoidably has boundaries, limits and fault lines. Instead, its main concern is to lay bare, destabilise, and reconfigure the boundaries of international legal discourse. Johns seeks to articulate what international lawyers do when they craft events or phenomena as non-law; how they draw boundaries between the providence of international legal rule and that which stands against it, outside it, before or after it; that which transcends it or is too marginal to be grasped by legal knowledge. However, the point of Johns (2013) study is not just to analyse what lawyers do; the point is to open up new frames on the workings of international law and to draw attention to what is suppressed and marginalised in traditional scholarship. As Johns (2013) puts it, her approach challenges international legal studies that seek to apply international law to a world cast in some sense as beyond that law (or vice versa), worry incessantly that international law is not enough for the task of application (or absorption), and hence neglect to scrutinize and tactically engage with those aspects of international legal work that are constitutive of at least some dimensions of that beyond. (p. 24)

Moving towards a more open-ended optic regarding the use and interpretation of international law, and away from the strict separation of ‘law’ and ‘non-law’, as sustained by the determinacy of the sources doctrine, may also allow us, as Parfitt (2014, p. 306) notes, to ‘render inescapably immediate and visible all communities which continue to find themselves on the receiving end of the discipline’s historical violence—communities which sources doctrine renders distant and obscure’. In the field of indigenous legal studies, for example, a number of scholars have sought to reconcile indigenous, national and international law, by switching from the language of doctrine to that of jurisdiction, emphasising the need to pay more attention to the ‘meeting of laws’ and to ‘framing’ that meeting ‘in terms of conduct’, and less to the doctrinal legitimacy of specific legal sources (see Black et al. 2007; Dorsett and McVeigh 2012; Pahuja 2013). The purpose of these scholars is to focus attention on the simultaneous authority of many coexisting legal orders, and their interaction across jurisdictions, space and time. Black et al. (2007) write:



The rendering of accounts of imperial and post-colonial occupation and the critique of the global North are not the only forms of law that pattern the South. Even the Australian High Court has now recognised what others have long known: that Australia and the South were not, and are not, without law. These laws [the laws of the South] shape the South according to different cosmologies, laws of relationship, rights and responsibilities, and protocols of engagement. Respond to these laws … and a different patterning of legal relations emerges. (p. 300)

Other reformist schools of thought remove the barriers between law and non-law by insisting on a fluid definition of law, one which shifts the emphasis from norm-maker to that of norm-user (see D’Aspremont 2016). What matters of these scholars is ‘whether and how the subjects of norms, rules, and standards come to accept these norms, rules and standards. If they treat them as authoritative, these norms can be treated as… “law”’ (Klabbers 2009, p. 98). The focus on different kinds of normative efforts which seek to influence international actors’ behaviour means that law may take many different forms—thus altering the yardstick of what can be considered ‘international law’. An interrelated element in this regard is the necessity of an openness to plurality in legal concepts. If we are to retain the grammar of international law then there must be an approach to legal ideas and concepts that permits, indeed, invites, deep, sharp and pervasive reasonable disagreement among interpreters over their meaning and scope, without adopting a totalising approach or assuming a linguistic or normative uniform standard. Drawing on the approach from translation studies, an openness to the existence of certain concepts and principles in a non-standardised formulation is also essential. The dignity of the person, the experience of freedom, the ideal of cooperation are common across all cultures; however, they may be expressed and operationalised through different intellectual and institutional means. For example, Masaharu Yanagihara’s (2012) history of the Ryukyu Kingdom from the 1600s to the 1800s reveals the existence of a number of unique international law concepts that were commonly used in East Asia during the relevant period, ‘shioki’ (control) and ‘fuyo’ (dependency). Yanagihara argues that international law should not be retroactively universalised by applying ideas developed in one region (Europe) at one time to another region (East Asia) at a different time. Similarly, in her history of the Haitian Revolution, Adom Getachew (2016) cautions against scholarly attempts to recover the



universalism of the Haitian Revolution through the language of human rights. As she explain, in exploring how Haitian revolutionaries realised human rights, historians have tended to craft a narrative which focuses on the implementation of existing, European ideals, ignoring the distinctive political struggles, practices and ideals which emerged from local engagement. In offering an alternative interpretation, Getachew reconstructs the specific terrain of political action and depicts how Haitian revolutionaries inaugurated another universalism linked to individual and collective autonomy; illustrating how ideals are remade in diverse contexts. A more fluid interpretive approach will ensure a comparative approach is not hemmed in by the conceptual constraints which discipline the interpretative process. Moreover, a comparative study in international law that is able to register the character and elements of national and regional approaches to international law should seek to understand law in its multiple and complex social dimensions, across cultures and regions. Thomas Duve (2014) writes of the need to seek an approach that emphasises the ‘ineradicable interconnectedness’ or mutual ‘entanglement’ of seemingly disparate peoples, places and cultures. A similar approach could be employed to observe the multiple and overlapping epistemic and interpretative communities that exist in the international legal sphere beyond the fixed category of the state and relate these to one another. Drawing on the insight of sociology, for example, leads us to approach law as a social and historical construction generated by a variety of legal actors across socio-political and legal structures which themselves are changing over time, and one which is not necessarily contained within the orthodox approach to international law (see Bourdieu 1987). The application of Bourdieu’s sociology, for example, offers a number of possibilities for engaging with the complexities of national and regional legal contexts, notably through its ‘de-­ institutionalisation’ of the state and its impact on the structural dimension of law and legal practices, the manner in which law as a historical construction is produced by an interplay between legal agents, as well as law as a discourse of power which is part of the construction of the state and international fields. Leaving aside formalism’s fixed categories and hierarchies—that is leaving the fixed categories of the sources orthodoxy as used in doctrinal accounts—Bourdieu’s account of international society is one of a complex space made up of a plurality of ideas, values and views and an ongoing interplay of politics, ideology, law, and power, involving an ever-­ changing group of actors and settings. The ‘field’ of international law



becomes a loose ensemble of social processes rather than a neat and stylised succession of structural orders, involving a wider range of actors than sovereign states alone. This approach—the belief that international law operates as a diverse network of objective relations—enables us to explore how various actors engage with and adapt international law in different ways. In this way, comparative international law could also help us better systematically investigate and interrogate the flow and exchange of legal ideas between legal contexts and uncover power dynamics in international law that privilege certain actors and their preferred interpretations and applications of international law, while others are silenced.

Conclusion When we begin to view international law through the lens of transformative translation and adopt a comparative approach premised upon the complexity and variability of international law’s reception and ongoing adaptation, a richer and more nuanced picture of the field of international law emerges. Transformative translation prompts us to move beyond the idea of a static transfer of international law—an idea that underpins its claim to universality—with a more fluid perspective driven by the interplay of overlapping and competing approaches to international law from different communities. It is a call to study non-Western traditions seriously, to broaden the texts, themes and traditions that international law relies upon. It is also a reminder to re-evaluate the categories, questions and concerns which shape the existing practice of legal theory. The conceptual and methodological considerations I have explored here may allow as to frame the comparative international law endeavour in a manner that could provide an opportunity to embrace openness and respect for legal plurality. While this is only a cursory introduction as to how we could best frame the field, it is hoped this chapter will stimulate further research. There is much territory left to explore.

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Translating Across Fields of Practice


Fashioning the Other: Fashion as an Epistemology of Translation Andreas Behnke

Introduction What does it mean to live in an inter-national world in which the co-­ presence of the other, of other identities, nationalities, cultures and civilisations, constitutes the very condition of possibility of our existence? How do we interact and communicate with other cultural communities when their intentions, interests and interventions reflect cultural contexts very different from our own? This question has gained renewed relevance at a time when Western claims to victory in the Cold War have grown stale, when the ‘end of history’ has come to an end itself and the ‘unipolar moment’ has given way to a ‘complex multi-polarity’ in which no one power can claim to provide an undisputed hegemonic regime of truth for global politics.

A. Behnke (*) Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Reading, Reading, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 Z. G. Capan et al. (eds.), The Politics of Translation in International Relations, Palgrave Studies in International Relations, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-56886-3_5




The recognition of this shift, this return of the inter-national, raises a number of epistemological questions, chief among them the mediation of difference. The relations between entities, constituted in these relations, be they nations, cultures or other forms of collective identity, emerge as one of the primary concerns of our time. How do we understand the interests, motivations, intentions and the cultural frameworks within which they are articulated? How, in other words, do we translate the languages of others and of otherness into our own conceptual and cultural framework? For the most part, the ‘proliferation of difference’ (Laclau and Mouffe 1985) and the concomitant degeneration of the Cold War grand narrative and its replacement with particularistic identities and narratives that characterise the world in the twenty-first century is coded in terms of ‘culture’ (Lapid and Kratochwil 1996; Walker 2016, pp. 37–64). What the reference to difference in terms of ‘culture’ highlights is the task to invest the ‘other’ text with meaning accessible to us, to inscribe it with familiar intelligibilities and interests (Venuti 2004, p.  482). This necessitates a complex, even paradoxal transposition between different structures of meaning, to translate, übersetzen, traduire, переводить: to carry over, to set across, to guide across, to lead across. As Inayatullah and Blaney (2004) articulate it, [T]he language of culture draws our attention to the construction, maintenance, and transformation of meaningful and purposeful schemes of existence as a common human endeavor, yet also as multiple, diverse, and often competing human projects. (p. 15; emphasis added)

Hence, while the desire to live within meaningful and purposeful social communities is universal, their respective vocabularies, their regimes of truth and knowledge cannot be assumed to be directly translatable. Inter-­ cultural communication and co-existence are therefore necessarily a project rather than a given background condition. However, for a number of reasons, International Relations (IR) theory in its different modernist guises has yet to digest and acknowledge this insight. Questions of culture and identity emerged in IR in the wake of the Cold War, when the ‘bipolar overlay’ (Buzan and Wæver 2003, pp. 17–18) of ideological identities gave way to the (re-)emergence of historical—or perhaps historicising—national and cultural identities (Lapid and Kratochwil 1996). For the longest time before this moment, IR had done



away with questions of culture and identity, reducing them to concerns about power and preferences in an international system without subjects.1 In its latest iteration, the cultural framing of international relations has led to a discussion of ‘worlding IR’ and an investigation into culturally contingent forms of knowledge in and about world politics (Tickner and Blaney 2012, 2013).2 For the most part, the essays collected in these volumes are about focusing on different culturally contingent expressions and articulations of global issues; inter-cultural communication and the problem of translation have not been given a prominent place.3 At the same time, IR theory remains unable to address the ‘inter’ in its analysis of international politics, remaining instead dedicated to, ontologically, the ‘metaphysics of presence’ and, epistemologically to a position in which the world appears as Vor-stellung. The following section will critically discuss the problem of translation as rooted in a particular modern (and Western) epistemology. Drawing on Martin Heidegger’s critique of the Welt als Vor-stellung, it argues that modern tenets of knowledge try to overcome rather than address translation as an inter-cultural process by creating a position or site that stands detached and remote from the world, which now appears as ‘re-­ presentation’ or Vor-stellung, something put in front of the modern subject’s gazing eye. This decontextualised and rarefied site offers the investigating observer a master code that renders legible all cultural texts without excess or lacunae. The next section uncovers the traces of this epistemological structure within three dominant modernist IR theories, Realism, Liberalism and Social Constructivism. The point of this section is not to provide a comprehensive overview of these theories; rather, it focuses on paradigmatic texts that highlight how these theories address (or rather fail to address) inter-cultural relations and the problem of translation.

1  But see Kratochwil’s (1996) argument for a case of ‘amnesia’ about (an always present and relevant) culture. 2  See also Ariel Shangguan’s (2021) chapter in this volume. 3  One interesting exemption is Qin Yaqing (2013) who in his personal reflections as one of China’s most prominent IR scholar and translator of IR texts reflects upon the issues involved in the latter process. While most of his narrative deals with translation as a fairly technical process, its potentially problematic nature is at least alluded to in a discussion of the contrast between Western and Chinese understandings of the ‘balance of power’ and the role of rules and relations in IR.



The next section introduces the Politics of Translation. Focusing on Jacques Derrida’s work on this topic, it formulates a critique of modern epistemology as described by Heidegger and its resurrection of the Tower of Babel as the site of a universal code. Following Derrida, it identifies cultures as ‘texts’ in need of translation in the absence of such a code, where the task of the translator takes place within an ethical and political space in which a decision about the proper translation is required. The final section turns to the imaginary of fashion in order to develop a post-modern paradigm of inter-cultural translation, outlining its limitations and potentials. It references Karl Lagerfeld’s 2010 Pre-Fall 2011 fashion show Paris-Shanghai for the House of Chanel, and the 2015 China: Through the Looking Glass fashion exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New  York. It rejects the modernist commitment to ‘true knowledge’ of other cultures and insists upon the production of these in processes of translation. China, as the paradigm for the Other here, emerges in the translation of its cultural text as it is appropriated and given meaning within our own established cultural codes. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the political implications of a post-modern mode of translation in terms of inter-cultural or inter-­ national relations.

Heidegger on the World as Vor-stellung The efforts regarding ‘worlding IR’ reflect an insight that we live in a world in which its inter-national structure can no longer be contained and mastered by a Western symbolic hegemony, i.e. an ‘ability to define identities, both their own and those of other states’ (Weldes and Saco 1996, p. 65). The West is no longer the site of Man, it can no longer claim to stand outside this world, approaching it as a Vor-stellung or a Weltbild, akin to a canvass placed in front of it, upon which it inscribes its worldview. As Heidegger (1977) defined this epistemic structure, Where the world becomes picture, what is, in its entirety, is juxtaposed as that for which man is prepared and which, correspondingly, he therefore intends to bring before himself and have before himself, and consequently intends in a decisive sense to set in place before himself. Hence world picture, when understood essentially, does not mean a picture of the world but the world conceived and grasped as picture. (p. 129)



In modernity, Heidegger argues, the world appears and becomes knowable as Vor-stellung, as ‘re-presentation’.4 Heidegger emphasises in this context the historically specific nature of the Weltbild. There was no ancient or medieval world picture, ‘the fact that the world becomes picture at all is what distinguishes the essence of the modern age’ (Heidegger 1977, p.  130). The notion of the world as picture therefore denotes a particular epistemology that sets the modern age apart from its precursors and, one might surmise, its successor. In a sense, modern man claims to have finally built the Tower of Babel and achieved a divine perspective upon the world, able to divine its multiplicity through one master code. It is therefore only in the modern age that the monocular gaze of a de-­ contextualised, indeed transcendental subject becomes the dominant mode of gathering knowledge about the world. This gaze originates in the modern subject—Man, Nation, Race, etc.—that stands in front of this re-­ presentation, ‘as lord of the earth’. ‘Man’, in Heidegger’s (1977, p. 128) words, ‘becomes that being upon which all that is, is grounded, as regards the manner of its Being and its truth. Man becomes the relational centre of that which is as such’. Yet Man itself is therefore no longer of this world. He assumes a Cartesian position of a pure mind, with all traces of culture, contingency, indeed world itself eradicated from his image. The very conditions of his being are externalised and rendered a re-presentation, a Vor-­ stellung for him, it becomes something over which he can exert cognitive and practical control. It is this epistemic position that can no longer be defended in light of the (violent) contestations of Western hegemony and the resistance of the local against the universal. The guiding interest here is based on a move away from the question of ontology—who or what is the other?—to a question of epistemology: how can we know the other in the first place? In doing so, this chapter follows the ‘aesthetic turn’ of International Political Theory (Bleiker 2001, 2009); or rather, it pushes it into the so far unexplored and undervalued realm of fashion and sartorial code (Behnke 2016b). Only in this area, this chapter argues, can we find a productive  As all translators of Heidegger’s work notice, many of his German language concepts are virtually untranslatable, as their English correspondents hardly ever produce the same connotations as the German original. In this case too, ‘re-presentation’ does not connote the ‘putting forth in front of the gazing subject’ that the German Vor-stellung does. In order to remind the reader of this crucial aspect, I will occasionally use the German concept in lieu of the English one. 4



engagement with the aesthetics and ethics of cultural exchange and translation and avoid politically charged reifications and essentialisations of identities.

On (Not) Knowing the Other in IR Arguably, culture and identity are (re-)deployed in the 1990s within IR as it becomes clear that the conflicts of the post–Cold War era cannot easily be explained without reference to them. Whatever the differences between them, mainstream modernist IR approaches dealt with this insight in very similar epistemic ways, suggesting that inter-cultural translation is not needed, or at least not a problem, for IR theory. In the following, the paradigmatic realist, liberal and social constructivist responses of this time and their ‘culturalist’ parameters will be critically examined. Within the quickly growing body of realist literature on post–Cold War international politics, a canonical text emerged, i.e., Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1997). Assuming a Heideggerian position of Man and his master code, Huntington sets out to identify both the nature of cultures and civilisations in general, as well as the identity of extant ones and their mutual relationships. Committed to a ‘realism writ large’, he defines these relationships as basically antagonistic, as civilisations’ different values, norms and institutions are irreconcilable with one another. Crucially, these values and norms are essential to cultures and civilisations; they are fixed throughout history and determine the conduct of its members. These monolithic and monadic entities compete for power and influence in a global system in which the ideology of the Cold War has given way to the ‘true identity’ of civilisations. As Huntington states in one of his most infamous arguments, ‘Islam’s borders are bloody, and so are its innards’ (Huntington 1997, p. 258; emphasis in the original). The point is not to rehash the well-worn criticism that Huntington has received over the last two decades regarding the problematic methodology, theory and ethics involved in his work; it is rather to remind the reader of the particular epistemological commitment of this approach that merges IR realism with epistemic realism’s commitment to know the world ‘as it is’. What Huntington describes are not the processes through which cultures are mutually constituted in complex configurations of self and other; rather, these entities are simply present, awaiting their proper identification and description. And this appeal to reality then supports the



political strategy that he espouses: to defend the West against aggressive and hostile competing civilisations. For IR liberalism, the amnesia regarding culture and identity has since been replaced by an obsession with the Democratic Peace Theory (DPT). Identity here is coded in terms of the democratic vs the un-democratic or authoritarian nature of domestic regimes. The assumption is that regime type determines or structures states’ behaviour and the relationships they establish with other states. Amongst democracies, the argument goes, collaboration and cooperation prevail as democracies are either loath to go to war as such or because they recognise ‘kindred spirits’ with regards to norms and values in each other (cf. Russett 1994). Again, the point here is not to repeat familiar arguments and criticisms; our attention should instead be drawn to the particular epistemic position assumed by the theorists of the DPT. From the Heideggerian vantage point, it appears unequivocally possible to objectively establish the boundaries between democracies and non-democracies. Perhaps the best way to problematise this move in terms of its political as well as philosophical implications is to remember that ‘democracy’ is an ‘essentially contested concept’, a concept, in other words, that defies a closure through fixed definition (Gallie 1955/1956).5 These concepts defy any such fixation, as they are an essential part of the political contestations that they on the surface seem to only describe or analyse. The uses of the concept ‘democracy’ in political discourse are therefore always political themselves, as they privilege one particular instantiation of it over others, thus legitimizing one form over its alternatives. Thus, the liberal definition of democracy cannot claim any universal applicability. As Gallie (1955/1956) points out, claims about this particular definition reflect our grasp of a particular historical truth […] as to how democracy has taken root and flourished in the west. But if they are put forward as universal political truths expressing the necessary conditions of any genuinely democratic aspirations or achievements, then they are surely open to question. (p. 185 [fn. 3])

The consequences of the identification of ‘democracy’ as an essentially contested concept are also relevant for our assessment of DPT. Firstly, it is logically impossible to adjudicate between contending claims of what  The following argument draws on Bishai and Behnke (2007).




democracy really is. What this position cannot acknowledge is the way in which the non/democratic identity of a regime is a product of inter-­ subjective negotiations and assessments, translating the features of a foreign regime in highly politicised fashion (Oden 1995). Secondly, the assumption of a ‘scientific perspective’ only offers another reordered structure of complexity. To the extent that the investigator stakes out a position on these conceptual contests and we know about it, he can be said to participate in our politics itself. For these contests over the correct use of partly shared appraisal concepts are themselves an intrinsic part of politics. (Connolly 1993, p. 39)

DPT, in other words, deconstructs itself. Its self-understanding as a scientifically detached and objectified stance outside the political processes, through which the meaning of ‘democracy’ is established, becomes itself as political a move as the distinction between democracy and its others. Finally, social constructivism (here in the modernist Wendtian guise) considers identity as the outcome of processes of symbolic interactions in which their relationships as ‘enemies’, ‘rivals’ or ‘friends’ are established.6 This sounds promising enough, as it suggests a ‘worlded’ view of the establishment of identities between ontologically equal entities that encounter each within a ‘horizontal’ rather than ‘vertical’, Heideggerian structure. Alas, Wendt’s (1999) explicit commitment to ‘modernism’ and rejection of ‘postmodernism’ puts him firmly into the position of Heideggerian Man. Firstly, his constructivism in fact presupposes what it claims is produced in the symbolic exchanges: a common code according to which the participants’ signs can be encoded and decoded. For Wendt, it is therefore unambiguously clear what counts as a hostile or a friendly gesture. Secondly, social constructivism insists on the ontological priority of material reality and thus of ‘objective’ identities. Nowhere does this become clearer than in Wendt’s problematic discussion of the ‘first encounter’ between Aztecs and Spaniards. A puzzle appears in his reading 6  This discussion focuses explicitly on the modernist variation of Social Constructivism as prominently endorsed by Alexander Wendt (1999). For a wider critique of his approach, see Guzzini and Leander (2006). For a useful general exposition of the different versions of Social Constructivism, see Fierke (2016), for a discussion of different notions of translation within these different versions, see the editors’ Introduction (Capan et al. 2021).



of this encounter: how was it possible that Montezuma and his army were destroyed by a Spanish army 100 times smaller than his own? The realist answer is that Montezuma was simply wrong: the Spaniards were not gods [the representation of ‘his choice’], and had come instead to conquer his empire. Had Montezuma adopted this alternative representation of what the Spanish were, he might have prevented this outcome because that representation would have corresponded more to reality. (Wendt 1999, p. 56)

A truly ‘worlded’ approach to identity would understand that ‘choices’ of representations are culturally contingent rather than universal and that it is probably precisely the Aztecs’ interpretation of the Spaniards as (vengeful) gods that explains their demise (Sárváry 2006, p. 172). Wendt’s re-assertion of the Heideggerian position, while necessitated by his commitment to the notion of a material and objective reality out of which agents choose (more or less correct) representations of the other, in fact makes it impossible for him to understand the particular drama that unfolded between the Spaniards and the Aztecs. A sensitivity to the ‘lateral’ and ‘liminal’ negotiation of identities is replaced by scientific hindsight, or perhaps rather ‘Heideggerian oversight’, that cannot reproduce the very contextuality of the encounter and the processes of translation involved in the (violent) encounter.

The Politics of Translation What unites the three mainstream approaches to IR discussed above is their common assumption that no translation is needed in international politics. The inter- is superseded and transcended by the arrogation of an epistemic position from which all cultures appear as part of the world as Vor-stellung, and while these cultures index difference, knowledge about them represents them as identical in this difference. In other words, their particularities can be ascertained in a universal fashion.7 Yet this epistemological stance itself becomes political: by denying that translation is a

7  See the editors’ critical discussion of ‘translation as transfer’ based on an ‘assumed shared referent that stands outside all languages as a tertium comparationis’ in the Introduction. Unlike the editors, I locate this referent in the Heideggerian epistemological position rather than ‘in a world out there’.



problem in the first place, one particular translation—in this case, the Western one—becomes hegemonic and totalitarian. In order to address translation as a central issue in a ‘worlded’ international political system, it is useful to consider cultures not as a set of objective facts and data, but as ‘texts’. This conceptual appropriation builds on Jacques Derrida’s (1988) definition of ‘text’ that extends beyond the quotidian understanding of the term: [Text] is limited neither to the graphic, nor to the book, nor even to discourse, and even less to the semantic, representational, symbolic, ideal, or ideological sphere. What I call ‘text’ implies all the structures called ‘real’, ‘economic’, ‘historical’, socio-institutional, in short: all possible referents. Another way of recalling once again that “there is nothing outside the text”. That does not mean that all referents are suspended, denied, or enclosed in a book, as people have claimed, or have been naïve enough to believe and to have accused me of believing. But it does mean that every referent, all reality has the structure of a differential trace; and that one cannot refer to this ‘real’ except in an interpretive experience. (p. 148)

A number of points emerge as central here. Firstly, our existence within cultures involves a constant reading and writing of the text that gives our lives meaning and purpose. Our very agency is tied up in this ‘text’; and however ‘creative’ we are, we can never escape it into a position that transcends all cultural con/texts. Secondly, the encounter/clash of cultures/ civilisations involves and requires a translation of the respective texts. As reality is open only to interpretive experience, the experience of the ‘other’s’ text requires that we invest that text with ‘our’ intelligibility. This process of translation, however, is further complicated by the observation that meaning is not produced in a system of presences, where concepts refer to pre-existing entities, but within a system of difference or, in Derrida’s words, ‘différance’. Meaning emerges in language not because the latter refers to an ontologically prior entity or signified; ‘but because language accrues, through fairly regulated repetition of signifiers in a general code, certain instituted meaning effects’ (Davis 2001, p. 23; emphasis in the original). Meaning can be stabilised through these effects, but it never fully escapes the play of signifiers and ‘traces’. In this sense, every reading or writing is a translation, a re-contextualisation of text that modifies the former as well as the latter. Text becomes meaningful not because it has but one referent, but because it is iterable in different historical,



political, social or cultural con/texts. ‘[The] stable elements in language— which are effects of historical repetition, codification, institutionalization, etc.—allow access to, but can never completely exhaust, or shut down, the text’ (Davis 2001, p. 32). Translation across cultural and linguistic boundaries, however permeable these are today, therefore present only another, albeit more complex, case of a general process of meaning production. While we may assume that the general code that stabilises meaning within a society or culture is mostly shared among its members, thus containing the play of signifiers, across cultures we face the existence of at least two such general codes. This of course further complicates the process of translation, as we cannot assume there to be a ‘master code’ that ‘programmes’ the translation between signifiers across the cultural boundaries. The tower of Babel, after all, was never completed; the world as Vor-stellung is therefore not available. Only with such a biblical accomplishment would it be conceivable that ‘the signified could be transcendental, and language could become singular and thus totalitarian, in all senses of that word’ (Davis 2001, p. 45; emphasis in the original). The desire for total translatability, which has always been the desire of Western metaphysics, is a desire to reign, or dominate. The impositions of truth-systems (establishing ‘kingdoms of presence’) upon others has structured the violence of human history. In subverting the very ground of such systems, deconstruction [and translation] is deeply political. (ibid., p. 46)

The absence of a ‘tower of Babel’, of a master code that could provide a warrant for a direct and correct translation, opens up the space for the interplay of the political and ethics in the relationship between cultures. Firstly, the translator has to ‘decide the undecidable’, i.e., to formulate a translation that cannot pass through a predetermined, ‘pre-decided’ passage. Rather, the task is to decide upon the appropriate or ‘relevant’ translation of the foreign text. ‘A decision that didn’t go through the ordeal of the undecidable would not be a free decision; it would only be the programmable application or unfolding of a calculable process’ (Derrida 1992, p. 24). The translator’s decisions negotiate a crucial aporia between the culturally embedded texts: They obviously cannot take place fully outside the rules and norms of a specific context (for example, we cannot translate at all without relying on



particular language systems and rhetorical conventions), but they nonetheless must go beyond, rather than owe themselves fully to the limits of an already established order. (Davis 2001, p. 93)

The aporetic decision thus introduces the political nature of translation and inter-cultural conduct. How we translate the texts of other cultures becomes a problematique that cannot revert to the Western metaphysics of presence. Cultures are not simply there, as modernist IR theories suggest; nor are the words and vocabularies to make sense of them clear, unambiguous or universal. The aporetic decision crucially also involves an ethical choice, or rather, it opens up the space for such a choice. The presence of a master code that would transcend the respective cultural con/texts would in fact ‘collapse the difference between self and other, reducing them to the “same”’ (Davis 2001, p. 96). What is required instead is an ethics that goes beyond the ‘recognition of the other’. As Simon Critchley (1999) states in his reading of Derrida, Such an ethics would not be based upon the recognition of the other, which is always self-recognition, but would rather begin with the expropriation of the self in the face of the other’s approach. Ethics would begin with the recognition that the other is not an object of cognition or comprehension, but precisely that which exceeds my grasp and powers. (p. 14)

The translator’s decisions are therefore facing an ethical aporia that maps onto the political one described above: to make the other familiar to ‘us’, while at the same time acknowledging and preserving the sense of ‘otherness’ of the foreign culture that escapes our understanding. While closing the gap between cultures, such a translation also maintains a distance that militates against the absorbing of the other into the self, and at the same time rejects any facile surrender on our part out of a hyperbolic sense of ‘responsibility to the other’. As Kathleen Davis (2001, p. 106) has observed, both self and other ‘emerge with the initiating gesture of translation’, thus neither subject can claim ontological or ethical primacy. The ‘wholly other’ is what is created in the decisions on how to translate, what the decision excludes by necessity and which constitutes a remainder that constantly undermines any sense of finality or closure for the translation event.



What makes a translation ‘relevant’, what elevates it beyond calculation and established possibilities is its response to the singular in the event. As such, it opens up new intelligibilities between cultures by affecting extant codes of understanding. Understanding the intrinsic ethical aspect of translation, we can begin to appreciate the peculiar archaic definition of ‘translate’ in the Oxford English Dictionary (2019) that follows more contemporary entries: ‘16. To transport ... with the strength of some emotion; to captivate or inspire. Now archaic’. The commitment to ‘elevate’ the translation event into a creative intervention in inter-cultural relations by passing through the political and ethical aporia that defines the condition of its possibility therefore does more than ‘convey’, ‘transfer’ or ‘transport’ given linguistic or semiotic items from one culture to another. Rather, translation becomes a rapturous, entrancing event in which the play of creatively re-casting well-worn assumptions and pre-judgements about cultures makes possible the emergence of new intelligibilities and familiarities in the never-ceasing dynamics of différance. In the following, this argument will draw on a fashion video and an interview that accompanied a runway show, as well as a fashion exhibition. They all refer to the influence of Chinese historical dress-­ codes on Western fashion designers’ imagination and inspiration. Fashion, as will hopefully become clear, is both an example as well as a paradigm for the (sublime) translation of cultural texts.

Of Looking Glasses, Dreams and ‘China’ On the occasion of its Pre-Fall 2010 fashion show ‘Paris-Shanghai’ in December 2009, the House of Chanel published a set of videos on its homepage. One is a (not all that compelling) movie about a ‘dream’ that Coco Chanel has about a fantasy trip to China, the other contains an interview with Chanel’s then head designer and creative director, Karl Lagerfeld, in which he provides some commentary about the runway show and the inspiration for the Chanel movie. Let us begin with a brief review of the former, which depicts a trip that ‘Coco Chanel only made in her dreams’ (Chanel 2009a). The movie begins in Chanel’s studio on Rue Cambon in Paris, where she meets the Duchess of Windsor for a fitting. Inspired by the Duchess’ reminiscences about her time in China, after her departure Coco Chanel repairs to her private chambers and falls into a dream that takes her to different eras and episodes in ‘China’. Moving



from an exchange with young Chinese revolutionaries in the time of the Cultural Revolution, in which she admires their revolutionary outfits as inspirations for her next runway show, to scenes inspired by the 1932 Dietrich-von Sternberg Hollywood movie Shanghai Express (Paramount Pictures 1932), encounters with a young Wallis Simpson in a gambling hall, and finally, a meeting with the Empress and Emperor of China at court, the film lacks a coherent narrative, casts Western actors/models as Chinese characters, and reduces ‘Chinese culture’ to a superficial, quite ‘orientalist’, reservoir for Chanel’s fashion designs. The film certainly does not warrant second screenings. Or as LHM Ling (2016) writes in her review, I neither excuse nor commend Lagerfeld’s film. Even for 22 minutes, it drags on dully. What I take from the film, instead, is its amusing ridiculousness. In it, Lagerfeld seems to parody the European Self’s stereotyping of the Chinese Other. Looking at how Europeans ‘tr[y] to look Chinese’, he subjects the European gaze to a European gaze, winking: I know exactly how you think about China and the Chinese because I’ve thought the same myself, and, by the way, aren’t we ridiculous? Coco Chanel fronts the charade but Lagerfeld is really representing himself. As a world-class expert at illusion and fantasy, he is precisely not subject to being deluded and fantastical. (p. 82)

However, Ling’s commentary on the ‘ridiculousness’ of the movie only partially captures the true subversion it offers. This gesture is better captured through the notion of ‘irony’. What is crucial here is not the unsatisfactory format and substance of the film. Rather, it is the particular ironic attitude towards the desire to know the other, to penetrate and understand correctly what Chinese culture is all about. All that ‘China’ is, and all that it can be, the video suggests, is a composite of ideas about it in our own mind, a ‘dream’ refracted through our pre-established interests, prejudices and our own understanding of our selves. The other, Derrida once provoked, is but a trace in our own self, the différance to our identity. As Geoffrey Bennington (2016) summarises Derrida’s contribution to philosophy, Derrida’s insight is quite simple, yet in its very simplicity hard to grasp. Identities in general (of whatever kind, at whatever level) arise out of difference, but difference is not itself any identity or indeed any thing [sic] at all. It is not that there are first things, and then differences and relations between them: the ‘things’ emerge only from the differences and relations, which



have an absolute priority, and that emergence is never complete. It’s that insight that led to the neologism différance. In the beginning is différance, which means that there is no simple beginning or origin. And the différance never ends, which means that there is no simple end. Derrida’s simple claim, then, is that nowhere ever is there anything simple. … Things are what they are only by bearing the trace of what they are not.

‘China’ is therefore ‘Chinese’ because we imagine it as a trace to our identity; as much as the trace of the other is constitutive to our identity, so the identity of the other bears the trace of our identity. ‘China’, in other words, emerges in the event of a translation in which its cultural text becomes appropriated and made sense of within our established cultural code. This insight, simple yet hard to grasp, is expressed in Lagerfeld’s interview that accompanied the publication of the movie: [KL]:

I love 18th-century French chinoiseries. It’s an idea of China painted by people who never saw China. And that’s amusing, because there is real imagination. It’s spirited and light. I also enjoy having non-Chinese playing Chinese. It’s not necessarily a Chinese singing Turandot. It’s amusing. The influence and spirit of China provide inspiration, which must be developed. Otherwise, it’s folklore. [Interviewer]: Coco Chanel never went to China. And yet she was steeped in a love of China. [KL]: Sometimes the idea of things is more creative than the reality. All the same, China has always been present in art, decoration, bronze, Coromandel screens… The French have always loved Chinese art. This part of the world provided inspiration for decorative arts in Europe from the 17th and 18th centuries. Chanel had Chinese art in her houses. (Chanel 2009b; emphases added) No, Karl Lagerfeld is not a philosopher of knowledge, and yet a generous reading of his comments does provide central insights into trans-­ cultural exchange and translation. Much like Coco Chanel, we (Westerners) ‘never saw China’ in an ontological sense. What we make of it, what we write about it, and how we define it is based on ‘ideas of China’ as the other, as the trace that can inspire, and indeed requires, the recognition and conscious ‘development’ of such inspiration as an aesthetic artefact.



And as such, it is more ‘creative’ or productive than any reference to ‘reality’ can ever be. The ‘idea of things’, refracted through our own identity, interests and pre-judgements, produces after all the ‘thing’ we take to be ‘China’. What Lagerfeld acknowledges here is Critchley’s exposition of Derrida’s ethics: ultimately, China remains outside of our cognition or comprehension. This, indeed, is the very condition of ‘China’ being a source of inspiration for Western fashion. No amount of methodology training can move us away from this epistemic and ethical conundrum. At the same time, we must not reduce ‘China’ to folklore, to a cliché within our own cultural text, to unproductive and uncreative kitsch. For it to work as an inspiration, for it to affect and transform our cultural text and to enable the play of signifiers beyond that code, ‘China’ needs to remain the ‘other’. Notes Davis, ‘translation transforms the receiving language as well as the original because through it different, incommensurate signifying systems interact, and because the translated foreign text necessarily performs new meanings in the target system’ (Davis 2001, p. 41; emphasis added). There is therefore another element in Lagerfeld’s statement that bears emphasising: the joyful assertion of this play of identity and différance, of acknowledging the debt otherness pays to identity. In other words, the inability to know the ‘real’ China does not produce a debilitating void in our methodological claims about inter-cultural exchange and translation. Rather, it defines the very condition of possibility for such an exchange. It is only when we rescind any heroic claims that we know the world and its cultures ‘as they are’ that we can begin to explore the political nature of inter-cultural relations and how aesthetics/fashion is constitutive of them. We can provide a bit more philosophical depth by moving from Chanel’s 2009 ‘2010 Pre-Fall runway’ to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2015 exhibition China: Through the Looking Glass (Metropolitan Museum of Art 2015). One of the most successful and popular exhibitions at the museum, it displayed numerous Chinese dresses of different eras and regions next to the contemporary Western designs they inspired. The point of the exhibition is to overcome the traditional ‘politicised’ understandings of Orientalism and to open up new avenues for appreciating the (mutual) inspiration that fashion has provided for designers in both China and the West (Bolton 2015; cf. Ling 2016). As noted above, the ethical commitment to a ‘relevant’ or elevating translation between cultural texts concerns the aporetic space between these texts and the play between intelligibility and foreignness for both sides. In perhaps its most



impressive form, illustrating this relational dynamic of identity and difference, Chinese designer Guo Pei’s sweeping gold-lamé gown references and appropriates a Western form of gown, with its texture, colour and lotus blossom shape itself inspired by Chinese sartorial and cultural traditions (Image 5.1). As the catalogue explains,

Image 5.1  Gold-lamé dress designed by Guo Pei. (Photograph by Andreas Behnke; reproduced with permission from Guo Pei Paris)



In this dress by the Chinese designer Guo Pei, Buddhist iconography provides the primary source of inspiration. The bodice is shaped like a lotus flower, which is one of the eight Buddhist symbols and represents spiritual purity and enlightenment. The motif is also embroidered onto the skirt. In an act of Occidentalism, the shape of the skirt, which has no archetypes in Eastern dress traditions, is based on the inflated crinoline silhouette that emerged as modish apparel in the West in the 1850s. (Met 2015)

What this dress displays is therefore the persistent deferral and difference of the trace of the other, playing back and forth between cultures: a Chinese designer ‘tracing’ Western sartorial forms which are themselves tracing Chinese influences. To appreciate fashion as a medium of cultural translation militates against any essentialisation or ‘contextualisation’ of culture. What we see is what there is to see, cultural signs refer to no deeper meaning, history or ‘identity’ as realists, liberals or social constructivists would have us believe. The other, in this case China, presents us with an ‘Empire of Signs’ (Barthes 2005) in which the other appears via its cultural significations that refer to no ‘real’ entity. In a similar vein, the fashion exhibited at the Met does not refer to a ‘real’ China—as argued before, no such thing is available to us. Instead, we are confronted with, or rather, immersed in, sartorial signs that appear as traces in contemporary Western fashion designs, only to reappear in Chinese designs that cite and ‘translate’ Western fashion styles. In the exhibition’s curator’s voice, A narrative space opens up that is constantly being reorganized by free associations. Meanings are endlessly negotiated and renegotiated. As if by magic, the psychological distance between East and West, spanning worldviews that are often perceived as monolithic and diametrically opposed, diminishes. … As … binaries dissolve and disintegrate, the notion of Orientalism is disentangled from its connotation of Western domination and discrimination. Instead of silencing the other, Orientalism becomes an active, dynamic two-­ way conversation, a liberating force of cross-cultural communication and representation. (Bolton 2015, p. 18)

And further: ‘As Japan was for Barthes, China for [the contemporary Western designers] is a country of free-floating signs (signs, after all, assume a life of their own once they are released into the world). In the world of fashion, China is a land in which postmodernity finds its natural expression’ (ibid., p. 20).



The opening up of the narrative, political and ethical space between cultures, the space within which their ‘approximation’ becomes possible, depends—ironically, perhaps—upon a commitment to epistemic ‘distance’ as a recognition of the impossibility of gaining ‘true’ knowledge. While Heideggerian Man and his claim to a ‘close knowledge’ with regard to other cultures more often than not alienates and distances these, a ‘postmodern’ semiotics of cultural exchange and translation recognises the other as the inescapable trace within our identity, as the inspiration for our own fabrication of culture.

In Lieu of a Conclusion: The Politics of Fashioning Self and Other It would be overly simplistic to argue for a causal relationship between epistemic position and political strategies with regards to the relationship between cultures. The idea that ‘China’ is an imagined entity produced through the creative play and interaction of signifiers without a signified does not in itself offer alternative ways to negotiate cooperation and conflict in inter-national politics. Yet a couple of philosophical and ethical arguments suggest themselves. Firstly, a ‘postmodern’ interpretation of the fashioning of identity and difference responds to the demand to ‘world’ the Western subject better than any of the traditional approaches. If indeed Heidegger’s Man is no longer the centre of our epistemology of life-worlds, if the West can no longer assume a position outside the world, then the recognition of the mutually constitutive and productive relationships between cultures becomes as much an epistemic as an ethical issue. To return to the question posed above on how we translate the languages of others and of otherness into our own conceptual and cultural framework, the answer starts with the acknowledgement that translation becomes mutual ‘transformation’ as both self and other emerge as ontologically unstable products of reiterative processes of translation. Secondly, whereas the essentialisation and reification of identity as deployed by mainstream IR theories necessitates an antagonistic relationship between ‘civilisations’, the rejection of such processes and the insistence on the ‘fashioned’ nature of identity opens up theoretical, political and ethical space for the fabrication of different and potentially more productive relationships. At a minimum, the question to what extent ‘Chinese’



or any other culture is itself partly constituted via the traces of Western identity, politics and violence which provide a peculiar ‘fabric’ for its production is worth considering. On the other hand, a consideration of the presence of the other in our cultural productions of identity would spell a more sophisticated understanding of the traces of our own identity as reflected back upon us by the traces of the other. Finally, the reading proposed here cannot be reduced to an ‘alternative’ to the traditional approaches. Much as fashion is inescapable in the daily fabrication of our social identities (you may not care about fashion, but fashion, much like politics, always cares about you), so it works in the theoretical construction of self and other. Therefore, we need to investigate the fashioning of cultural identities in realism, liberalism and constructivism. Contrary to their essentialist claims, a critical and close reading will reveal and deconstruct the inevitable play of identity and difference in their texts. Whether it is Huntington’s ‘civilised’ realism in which the West is ultimately defined by what it is not, or the spectral and thinly defined other of the Democratic Peace Theory which appears as little more than ‘non-democratic’, the fabric of identities is always already shot through with the traces of the other. The argument here appropriates the ‘fashion system’s’ appreciation of this play of signs and signifiers and attempts to turn it into a productive aspect of inter-national politics. Whether IR scholars who are fickle at best, and hostile at worst when it comes to fashion, will heed this argument remains of course to be seen.

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De/Colonising Through Translation? Rethinking the Politics of Translation in the Women, Peace and Security Agenda Rahel Kunz

Introduction1 With the passing of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and subsequent resolutions,2 the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda emerged to mainstream gender into matters of conflict and peacebuilding.3 So far, two competing narratives tend to dominate the debate on the WPS agenda 1  Research for this chapter was carried out in the context of a collaborative research project on gender experts and gender expertise and I am grateful for stimulating discussions with my project colleagues Françoise Grange, Elisabeth Prügl, Feyneke Reysoo, Hayley Thompson and Christine Verschuur at the Graduate Institute in Geneva. Special thanks go to my conversation partners for taking time to talk. I would also like to thank Mia Schöb, the editors of this volume and the participants of the 2019 SGGF conference in Berne and the 2019 Millennium conference in London for their feedback on previous versions of this chapter. Funding by the  Swiss National Science Foundation is gratefully acknowledged [PA00P1_145335 and 100017_143174]. 2  Subsequent resolutions include 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), 1889 (2009), 1960 (2010), 2106 (2013) and 2122 (2013). It is important to remember that these resolutions emerged out of struggles by (women’s) civil society groups around the world and concerted efforts to bring gender issues onto the agenda of international institutions (Cohn et al. 2004). 3  Established through the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, GM is defined as ‘a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political,

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 Z. G. Capan et al. (eds.), The Politics of Translation in International Relations, Palgrave Studies in International Relations, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-56886-3_6




(Kunz 2016, 2017, 2019). Advocates hail gender mainstreaming as a window of opportunity in post-conflict situations4 for the transfer of international gender norms to promote gender equality, reduce conflict and increase security. Critics argue that such gender mainstreaming initiatives work as a Trojan horse, whereby international gender norms are used instrumentally to legitimise liberal peacebuilding. Thus, many feminist engagements with the WPS agenda focus either on the (inadequate) translation, localisation and implementation of UNSCR 1325 or on the problematic tendencies and implications of the underlying (liberal) feminism—such as instrumentalization, depoliticisation or bureaucratisation. Beyond their differences, these two narratives share a common understanding of translation: the feminist knowledge transfer scenario (Kunz 2016). In this scenario, translation is mainly understood in the sense of transferring international gender norms into local contexts through gender mainstreaming and localisation activities. Thereby, there is a tendency to emphasise the benefits of translation and to obscure the power relations involved in translation processes. As a result, this scenario silences particular voices at the expense of others, reproduces power hierarchies between actors and forms of knowledges, and enacts processes of in/exclusions, which render mutual understanding and solidarities difficult. In this chapter, I propose to analyse initiatives linked to the WPS agenda through a discussion of the underlying understanding of translation to reveal some of the ways in which these initiatives reproduce hierarchies, exclusions and

economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally’ (ECOSOC 1997). As defined by UN Women, the Women, Peace and Security agenda aims to ‘promote peace by supporting women of all backgrounds and ages to participate in processes to prevent conflict and build and sustain peace’ https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/peace-and-security (all websites accessed January 2020). 4  The notion of ‘post-conflict’ needs to be used with caution, as it suggests a clear break between pre-conflict, conflict and post-conflict periods, which fails to account for the complexity of conflict situations and links to gender-based violence (Meintjes et al. 2001; Moser and Clark 2001). I use the term here to refer to interventions.

R. Kunz (*) Institut d’Etudes Politiques (IEP), University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland e-mail: [email protected]



coloniality. At the same time, initiatives based on a different understanding of translation can create spaces where decolonising becomes possible. Translation is a highly contested and ambivalent notion, problematique and process.5 In this chapter, I draw on feminist and postcolonial scholars studying (cultural) translation from various disciplines (Alvarez et  al. 2014; Bassnett and Trivedi 1999b; Chambers 2006; de Lima Costa 2006; Lugones et al. 1983; Niranjana 1992; Simon 1996; Spivak 1993; Young 2003, 2012). This literature emphasises that translation is ‘necessary but impossible’ (Spivak 2000, p.  13). It is acknowledged that processes of description and interpretation, and circulation of ideas and values are always already caught up in relations of power and asymmetries (de Lima Costa 2006; Niranjana 1992). Focusing on these power dimensions, scholars recognise the tensions between translation as an act of domination and erasure on the one hand, and translation as a process of transmitting linguistic and cultural meanings that makes dialogue possible and creates the potential for transformation, empowerment and solidarity on the other hand. Drawing on this literature, I propose a critique of the translation as transfer scenario underlying many initiatives within the WPS agenda, which contributes to reinstate relations of coloniality. Instead, I suggest that a different understanding of translation as a pluri-directional process of transformation that requires all participants in the process to take upon them the task of attempting to step outside their established conceptual boundaries to understand the other sides and create dialogue can create spaces for decolonising. My analysis draws on a three-year research project (2013–2016) on the links between gender, conflict and peace in Nepal. In the context of the post-conflict UN Mission in Nepal (established in 2006), and the adoption of UNSCR 1325 and the launching of a 1325 National Action Plan (in 2011), a multitude of WPS initiatives have been established, involving international and Nepali actors, and non-governmental and governmental organisations. This includes various programmes on security focusing on gender issues, such as gender training and awareness raising initiatives in the context of security sector reform (SSR), but also workshops on nonviolence and conflict management. Nepal is thus an interesting context to study the various understandings of translation underpinning initiatives linking gender to conflict and security. 5  For a review of the various understandings of, and controversies regarding, (cultural) translation, see Chap. 1 in this volume (Capan et al. 2021).



In the context of this project, I conducted more than 100 in-depth interviews with a variety of people, including external and Nepali gender experts; representatives of international governmental and non-­ governmental organisations working on gender issues in Nepal; representatives of Nepali (women’s) civil society and community organisations; male and female security sector personnel; Nepali government representatives; Maoist ex-combatants; members of various political parties; media representatives; Nepali artists, academics and researchers. In addition, I carried out participant observation of gender training and awareness raising initiatives, 1325 events, and gender and development projects.6 For this chapter, I specifically draw on two particular initiatives situated within the WPS agenda. First, a gender training initiative developed by an international NGO working on promoting security, peace and gender equality in post-conflict Nepal, collaborating with local civil society groups. Situated within the implementation and localisation of 1325, this NGO provides gender trainings for civil society groups among other activities. The second initiative offers workshops on non-violence and conflict management linked to the WPS agenda. The key objectives of both initiatives are very similar, i.e. increase women’s participation in the field of peace and security, reduce gender-based violence and conflict, and promote gender justice. Yet, they differ significantly in terms of their content, form and underlying understanding of translation, which is the focus of the analysis in this chapter. The next section presents the ‘translation as transfer’ scenario underlying many initiatives linked to the WPS agenda, which is illustrated with the analysis of a WPS gender training initiative in Nepal in the third section. The fourth section shifts beyond translation as transfer and presents alternative understandings of translation as transformation processes that can potentially contribute to decolonising, which is illustrated in the fifth section, with an example of an initiative on non-violence and conflict management in Nepal.

6  Special thanks go to all my interlocutors for taking time to talk, and to my Nepali research partner Lekh Nath Paudel for a very stimulating cooperation and for his help in translation. Unless specified otherwise, all interviews have been anonymised to guarantee confidentiality.



Feminist Knowledge Transfer in the WPS Agenda With the introduction of the WPS agenda, gender mainstreaming has become part of post-conflict reconstruction and development. Most post-­ conflict UN interventions now feature a gender dimension. This includes gender-sensitive security sector reform (SSR) and disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programmes, and gender trainings and awareness raising initiatives for peacekeepers, security sectors agents and civil society. In this context, there have been calls for ‘localising’ the WPS agenda. This has involved the translation of international gender mainstreaming documents into local languages and the development of strategies to localise international gender mainstreaming norms. Localisation has been highlighted by the UN Secretary-General as a good practice that ensures the mainstreaming of WPS commitments (Global Network of Women Peacebuilders 2013, p. 7). Most prominently, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) focuses on assisting countries in the elaboration of 1325 and 1820 National Action Plans and localisation guidelines, as part of their work on the implementation of the WPS agenda. It is an implementation strategy ‘based on the premise that local ownership and participation leads to more effective policy implementation in  local communities’ (Global Network of Women Peacebuilders 2013, p.  5).7 Localisation is an attempt to carry the content of international ­gender norms across linguistic and cultural boundaries into the particularities of the local context. As I have analysed elsewhere, there are two main ways in which feminists have engaged with the WPS gender mainstreaming agenda linked to post-conflict interventions (Kunz 2016). Some feminists share the optimism related to the transfer of liberal norms as part of the liberal peace project. They view post-conflict interventions as a key moment of transformation and a ‘window of opportunity’ for mainstreaming gender concerns and transferring feminist knowledge, such as in the context of gender-sensitive SSR initiatives (Alden 2010; Meintjes et  al. 2001; Schroeder 2005; Smet 2009; Valasek and Bastick 2008). This approach is based on an understanding of translation as transfer and focuses on the (successful) translation of international gender norms. Other feminists express concerns regarding what happens to feminist knowledge in the 7  Report available here: http://issuu.com/suba_gnwp/docs/implementing_locally__ inspiring_glo/1?e=8954983/6359858.



process of being transferred in this particular way (Harrington 2006; Hudson 2012; Nesiah 2012). Thereby, gender mainstreaming is seen as the Trojan horse of the liberal peace project whereby the transfer of feminist knowledge in the context of the WPS agenda is instrumental in smuggling in and legitimising Western liberal norms. They warn of the implications in terms of the marginalisation of local feminist knowledge and practices, yet they do not question the underlying understanding of translation. Despite their oppositions, both approaches are based on an understanding of translation as transfer (Kunz 2016). Thereby, they tend to exaggerate the power of international norms, to underestimate the agency of local actors, and to erase the power relations involved in translation processes. In this scenario, international gender norms represent the ‘original’ that is being translated into a ‘copy’ in a particular context. International gender experts are involved in translating and localising WPS knowledge from the ‘centre’, local gender experts are formed (by international gender experts) to translate and localise the knowledge. Women’s organisations, women victims or security agents in post-conflict societies are portrayed as either the implementers or beneficiaries of the knowledge that is transferred to bring progressive change and gender equality. Underlying this discourse is a dichotomy between the sender and the receiver of knowledges on WPS, which contributes to mechanisms of in/exclusion and marginalises particular identities that do not fit this dichotomy, such as the ‘wo/man troublemaker’ who questions 1325 implementation activities, or who choose to engage on their own terms or not to engage at all (Kunz 2016, 2019). This scenario of translation as transfer can be illustrated with the following gender training initiative in Nepal.

Translation as Transfer in Gender Training In the context of Nepal, the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), a political mission, was established linked to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended a decade-long armed conflict in 2006.8 UNMIN included a Gender Affairs Section,9 albeit with a relatively limited mandate (Manchanda 8  https://web.archive.org/web/20071213110216/http://www.unmin.org. np/?d=about&p=mandate. 9  https://web.archive.org/web/20071213110315/http://www.unmin.org. np/?d=activities&p=gender.



2010). In 2011, Nepal adopted the UNSCR 1325, launching a National Action Plan.10 Post-conflict gender mainstreaming activities by international and non-governmental organisations focused on women’s participation in electoral processes and their representation in the Constituent Assembly and the government (Ramnarain 2015, p. 1308). It also included various gender-sensitive programmes on security, such as gender training and awareness raising initiatives in the context of security sector reform (SSR). Gender trainings are among the key instruments of gender mainstreaming and take a key place in the context of the implementation and localisation of the WPS agenda (Ferguson 2019; Holvikivi 2019). One such gender training initiative was developed by an international NGO working on promoting security, peace and gender equality in post-­ conflict Nepal, collaborating with local civil society groups.11 Situated within the implementation and localisation of 1325, this NGO developed and provided gender trainings for civil society groups among other activities. In the context of my research, I carried out in-depth interviews with the director of the NGO, and the head of the training programme. I also ­conducted participant observation in one gender training event where I was able to participate in preparatory meetings, the training, as well as in the debriefing sessions afterwards, and to interview the gender trainers involved in the event as well as some of the participants. The two-day training event was organised in 2013 and included a group of 15 participants, seven men and eight women. The director described the NGO’s gender training work in Nepal as follows: What we would like to see is that the implementation of the 1325 NAP improves local safety. … And then, underneath that umbrella, we focus on the practical work with community safety groups…, but also working with civil society or working with media or with other actors to improve their understanding and knowledge and expertise about gender and security issues. And … the trainings like this one are obviously targeted at improving the civil society’s knowledge and then also enable them to be more active and advocate for more gender responsive security provisions. (Interview, director of NGO, Kathmandu 2013)  https://www.peacewomen.org/nap-nepal.  I have anonymised the information related to this initiative to guarantee confidentiality. The aim here is not to point the finger at one particular initiative or organisation, but to illustrate the underlying understanding of translation as transfer and its implications. 10 11



This statement illustrates the key assumptions related to the translation as transfer scenario. The training initiative is based on the idea that social transformation requires more expertise knowledge on WPS.  Thereby, external actors bring knowledge and expertise on gender and security to the communities in Nepal, in order to form local civil society actors to then advocate for gender-sensitive security policies. Indeed, much of the training was held in lecture-style sessions with a strong emphasis by the trainers on ‘transferring knowledge’ on gender and security. A large part of the workshop was dedicated to presenting and memorising existing national and international laws related to gender equality, international norms such as CEDAW and 1325, and definitions and concepts linked to gender and security. Many of these concepts were not translated into Nepali, but used in English (e.g. gender, SMART,12 advocacy, etc.). Another part of the training included the elaboration of action plans in small groups, formulating objectives using SMART analysis to produce effective messages for social change. The existing expertise of participants was mentioned during the preparation meetings of the gender training. Yet, rather than as a potential source of knowledge that could be drawn upon, it was understood as a potential problem and challenge to the expertise of the trainers, something to be taken into account when planning the content of the workshop. As one trainer put it: ‘some of them have more expertise than we do’ (Interview with gender trainer, Kathmandu 2013). During the workshop, the trainers used the blackboard and big posters distributed across the room to write down key messages or definitions, sometimes inviting participants to read out loud certain messages. At the end of the first morning, the trainers discovered that there were several illiterate persons among the participants. It took some time for the trainers to think about how to adapt their training to allow everyone to participate. This created a very uncomfortable situation, making the participants feel ashamed and reinforcing existing social stigma and hierarchies regarding literacy and expertise. Among other things, what transpired here are colonial assumptions about expertise and knowledge circulation, what Shepherd (2011, p. 516) has termed the ‘imperial logic of a “trickle-down” theory of expertise’. Simply put, the idea is that ‘locals’ do not have the necessary specific knowledge (e.g. pertaining to security and gender) and therefore there is  SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.




a need to bring in external experts (e.g. to carry out gender training and to transfer through translation). ‘Other’ knowledges are portrayed as lacking or even threatening and therefore in need of assistance and intervention, an illustration of the authority of expertise underlying the translation as transfer scenario. This scenario also has implications in terms of the possibility of solidarity, which is difficult to establish in a situation of hierarchy that locates expert knowledge in a privileged position vis-à-vis national women’s groups, exacerbated by differentials in terms of access to funding and networks (Kunz 2016). This can be illustrated by the fact that during this two-day gender training event, the trainers kept distant from the participants outside the workshop space, for example during lunch or dinner, etc. even though the whole event took place in a hotel outside the city where everyone was accommodated, a setting that might have allowed for plenty of moments and spaces for dialogue and solidarity. Yet, for this to happen, it is not enough to fault failed or distorted translation of WPS norms, or the instrumentalisation of liberal feminism, as existing critiques tend to do. Instead we need to move beyond the transfer scenario to think differently about translation in the context of the WPS agenda. Before moving on to this task, it is important to note that translation as transfer does often not happen as planned or imagined. Existing international norms get transformed through their travelling and translation, they take on multiple meanings depending on the particular local context and are the object of contestation and rejection. Local actors subvert them, appropriate them for various purposes or resist localisation efforts. It is important to acknowledge these multiple and context-specific practices of appropriation, subversion and resistance (Kunz 2019).

Beyond Translation as Transfer In the translation as transfer scenario linked to the WPS agenda, there is a tendency to emphasise the benefits of translation and to obscure the power relations involved in translation processes. Yet, feminist and postcolonial scholars studying translation from various disciplines emphasise that translation processes do not take place in neutral spaces, but are always embedded in power relations (Alvarez et al. 2014; Bassnett and Trivedi 1999b; Chambers 2006; de Lima Costa 2006; Lugones et  al. 1983; Niranjana 1992; Simon 1996; Spivak 1993; Young 2003, 2012). Focusing on these power dimensions, this literature recognises the tensions between translation as a process of transmitting linguistic and cultural meanings that



makes intercultural communication possible, and translation as an act of domination and erasure. Scholars warn of the risk of romanticising processes of translation and argue that translation is a ‘manipulative activity’ that ‘rarely, if ever, involves a relationship of equality between texts, authors or systems’ (Bassnett and Trivedi 1999a, p. 2). Demonstrating the ways in which translation has long been ‘entangled in the web of imperial power’ (Chambers 2006, p. 4), Young (2003, p. 140) argues: ‘Translation becomes part of the process of domination, of achieving control, a violence carried out on the language, culture and people being translated’. The metaphor of cannibalism has been used by some to capture the potential power dynamics inherent in translation processes (Bassnett and Trivedi 1999b). In the translation as transfer scenario linked to the WPS agenda, there is also an implicit assumption that translation is, or should be, possible. In contrast, Spivak (2000, p. 13) argues that ‘in every possible sense, translation is necessary but impossible’. Yet, she also urges us to ‘resist the necessary impossibility of translation’ (Spivak 2000, p.  22), recognising the need and the potential of translation to create communication, mutual understanding and transformation. Drawing on longstanding practice and theorising of translation, feminists have long been aware of this fundamental paradox of translation as impossible, while also necessary and potentially transformatory. De Lima Costa, for example, asks ‘How can we think through the gap of translation and account for the multiple forces that overdetermine translation practices along with its strategies of containment?’ (de Lima Costa 2006, p. 75). Thus, in all attempts to translate, we find an irresolvable dynamic of negotiating ‘this void in representation or understanding, temporal and spatial at once’ (Young 2012, p. 172). Various ways to negotiate this ‘void’ or ‘inbetweenness’ have been suggested. One move is to understand translation as ‘foreignising’ (Benjamin 2000; Bhabha 1994; Young 2012). Thereby, instead of translating other languages and cultures into our own to make them understandable to us (i.e. domesticating translation), it becomes incumbent on us to move towards understanding other languages and cultures. As Young (2012, p. 171) argues: ‘if you want to understand you have to step outside your established conceptual boundaries to do so’. In another approach, the void of translation can be understood as a productive and transformative space that allows to move beyond one’s own situatedness. In this space, hegemonic narratives can be questioned and power relations can be made visible: ‘feminists in the North and South can disturb hegemonic



narratives of the other, of gender, and of feminism itself through practices of translation that make visible the asymmetrical geometries of power along the local-regional-national-global nexus’ (de Lima Costa 2006, p.  75). Moreover, this in-between space offered by translation can also produce sites and moments of relating and become a site of resistance and empowerment. Instead of transferring meaning from one language and culture to another, translation then is about ‘creating a new language we both share’ (Fultner 2017, p. 320). This can lead to create the conditions for dialogue or even a ‘fusion of horizons’ (Weir 2017, p. 266). Yet, dialogue has to be understood in a way that ‘does not require complete agreement in background understanding as either a precondition or a result, especially if the goals are political action and solidarity. Rather, as transformative practice, dialogue transforms interlocutors and their differences and thus can be a dynamic means for bringing about political change’ (Fultner 2017, p. 314). Therefore, the process of translation is transformative, but does not necessarily have to lead to consensus. It is the process of sharing that is itself transformative. This ‘can be achieved neither by mere empathy for the other nor by imposing one’s own standards on her’, but requires using the creative productivity of language and translation (Fultner 2017, p. 320). Inspired by these insights, we can move beyond an understanding of translation as referring to the transfer of an original into a copy, a process of one-way and top-down transfer. It leads us away from an understanding of a process of translating the original sender message (e.g. international gender equality norms) into languages and cultures of beneficiaries (e.g. through localisation or gender training processes, involving brokers who attempt to make these norms intelligible to local actors). Instead, translation can be understood as a process of transformation, as a space or moment of interaction and relating that necessarily involves power relations but also the potential to produce transformation. In this understanding of translation, there is no need for an original, translation becomes a pluri-directional process in which languages, people and cultures are transformed as they move across places (Young 2003, p.  29). All parties involved in translation need to make an effort to step outside their established conceptual boundaries to understand each other and bridge the void, all the while keeping in mind the paradox of the impossibility, necessity and potential of translation. These insights allow us to explore the possibility of translation as a process that can contribute to decolonising. Decolonising can be described as



‘unveiling the logic of coloniality and delinking from the rhetoric of modernity. Knowledge and truth in parenthesis, epistemic geopolitics beyond absolute knowledge, restitution of colonised subaltern knowledges, and diverse visions of life are some of the keystones of decolonial thinking and doing’ (Mignolo 2012, p. xvii). I suggest that if understood based on the above insights, processes of translation in the context of the WPS agenda, could potentially contribute to produce moments and sites of decolonising in a number of ways: 1. By exposing logics of coloniality involved in the WPS agenda and 1325 localisation activities and delinking, for example, from the Western expert or international support 2. By creating space for multiple visions of the world and ways to create knowledge that do not involve imposing or transferring international gender norms 3. By reconceptualising spaces of interaction beyond the notion of an original that needs to be translated or localised, and exploiting the potential of the in-between spaces where translation unfolds its creative productivity 4. By transforming people involved in the translation process, and working as spaces of empowerment and resistance

Decolonising the WPS Agenda Through Translation? Alongside the above-described initiatives that are based on a translation as transfer scenario, in the context of Nepal, we also find initiatives that understand translation as transformation processes. This can be illustrated with the example of an initiative that offers workshops on non-violence and conflict management linked to the WPS agenda. I selected this initiative because its key objectives are very similar to the gender training initiative analysed above (i.e. increase women’s participation in the field of peace and security, reduce gender-based violence and conflict, and promote security and gender justice); yet the two initiatives differ radically in terms of their content, form and underlying understanding of translation. I analyse this initiative using the four elements of translation as decolonising identified above, with a focus on both the content and form of this initiative. My analysis draws on conversations with Subash, whom I met at



an international workshop on gender and conflict.13 We started talking about our interests linked to the WPS agenda and he mentioned his activities on gender and non-violence. We continued our conversations for hours over several days when I was in Kathmandu. Subash distances himself from the prominent approach within the localisation of 1325  in the context of Nepal, which he argues is based on an ‘aggressive claiming approach’ associated with international interventions: What is happening with women’s empowerment is like it is about claiming. When you claim something, you are competing. But it is not about competition. It is about fulfilling, supplementing. When you compete, you are not working on relationships. When you are enriching, you are working on relationships. (Conversation with Subash, Kathmandu 2015)

He suggests that different, less violent forms of interaction might go further to address gender-based violence and conflict and he emphasises the importance of relationships. In his activities, he uses a different approach. He is involved in workshops on non-violence and conflict management (unpaid volunteer work), inspired by the international Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) that initially started in the United States (US).14 Gender issues are integral part of these workshops, yet they are not explicitly declared as a form of gender training. Subash explains the methodology and content of these workshops: Workshops are usually for about three days, involving many activities. … What is different compared to other workshops is that it is an experiential workshop. It is not a lecture-based or theory-based workshop. We build on the participants’ experiences and their sharing of … daily life situations and the challenges they are facing or they have faced. It is completely based on where the participants come from. It is not about where the facilitators are coming from… The participants learn in two ways. One, they learn by participating in the exercise. The other way they learn is from hearing from other participants what they learned. It is not the facilitators saying, ‘You should do that. This is the answer. This is the solution of this problem’. What we do is we bring local experience and the wisdom of the group, and we create that

13  Subash explicitly agreed to have his name mentioned in this chapter. I am grateful for all his support of my research and our invaluable conversations. 14  http://avpusa.org/.



environment. We try to create that special environment in order for the participants to bring that out, the wisdom in the group. … Another very exciting factor in this workshop as a facilitator is, in the same workshop, we can have a completely illiterate participant and a PhD holder together. It makes no difference at all in the quality of the workshop. Rather, they help each other to understand the experience of conflict and nonviolence between those educational gaps. … We examine issues of gender and masculinity as well in that process. We do not use topics, per se, as masculinity and gender, but we have exercises that give an experience and feeling to the people who have strong patriarchal mindsets and attitudes and behaviours to think themselves about it and reflect on that. How does it feel for others when I do this? Typically, there is an exercise called ‘masks’. That deals with what happens, how it feels to be in power and what happens to be powerless. We ask them sometimes to switch the roles. Like we ask male participants to become female and play the role of female and give that experience for them for a few minutes and ask them later how it feels, what happened for you in that exercise. That gives them an opportunity to really experience how it feels to be powerless and dominated and things like that …. (Conversation with Subash, Kathmandu 2015)

We can see that even though the objectives of these workshops are very similar to those of gender trainings, they differ from the training analysed above in terms of their content, form and underlying understanding of translation. The content is clearly linked to the WPS agenda in terms of recognising and aiming to transform the links between gender, conflict and security. Yet, Subash cautions against isolating the focus on gender and women’s empowerment and encourages us to think of gender in relation to other power hierarchies. He also points to the problematic implications related to certain forms of ‘claiming’ feminisms in the context of Nepal, and he proposes non-violent forms of interaction to address gender and other dynamics of social inequalities and power. Thereby, this initiative contributes to challenge mainstream translations of the WPS agenda into initiatives that focus either on empowering individual women as victims or peacemakers in isolation, or on disciplining men as essentially violent and in need of gender training to become peaceful (Kunz 2014), or on reinforcing the role of men as the voice for women (as illustrated for example in the He for She campaign initiated by UN Women15). Through  http://www.heforshe.org/.




understanding gender relations as part of broader context-specific power relations and hierarchies and thinking in terms of relationships rather than individualist claiming and empowering, these workshops might contribute to addressing some of the problems attached to existing WPS initiatives, yet without proposing simple solutions of best practice. Subash pushes us to challenge the transfer scenario whereby 1325 gets localised in Nepal, and instead proposes different forms of knowledge production and circulation. Instead of top-down lecturing of the principles and concepts of 1325—which is something we have observed in the gender training described above—his workshops propose a different approach. His pedagogy takes experiential knowledge and existing conflict management knowledge of workshop participants seriously. In this context, learning can take various forms, is acquired through experience rather than ‘being taught’ and includes exchange and mutual learning among participants. The knowledge of every participant, as well as the knowledge shared and produced in this group setting is valued. Through this approach, boundaries and hierarchies, such as those related to education, are challenged and broken down. This differs from the approach we observed in the gender training above, which reinforced social hierarchies and the stigma related to illiteracy. It also goes against the commonly assumed authority and prevalence of expert knowledge in the WPS agenda, whereby the authority of producing and circulating knowledge is attributed to international institutions and (gender) experts. More broadly, this requires resisting the colonial urge to ‘change the other’ and a critical (self-)reflection on the position of participants and facilitators. All participants are encouraged to go beyond their own conceptual boundaries to understand each other and bridge the void of translation, putting themselves into the situation of others, feeling and experiencing others’ emotions, while also being conscious that these are not fully translatable. These workshops create sites where relating and dialogue becomes possible. There is no original to be translated, but translation is pluri-directional; and participants get transformed through translation. It is about connecting people, while also disconnecting from the centre, from the expert. In this sense, I propose that these workshops illustrate how an understanding of translation as a process of transformation can contribute to decolonising the WPS agenda, as outlined above. They expose logics of coloniality involved in the WPS agenda and 1325 localisation activities (e.g. related to transfer scenarios, lecturing and expert practices); they create space for diverse visions of the world and ways to create knowledge



that do not involve imposing or transferring international gender norms (such as experiential knowledge and sharing); they propose sites of interaction where dialogue can be created, the potential of the in-­between spaces and new languages explored, and participants transformed (e.g. through mask activities16); and they contribute to empowerment and resistance (e.g. through working on enriching relationships beyond competition).

Conclusion Analysing the WPS agenda through a discussion of the understanding of translation reveals how initiatives based on a translation as transfer scenario can reproduce hierarchies, exclusions and coloniality, whereas a different understanding of translation as transformation can create spaces where decolonising becomes possible. As illustrated in the analysis of a gender training initiative in the context of Nepal, the translation as transfer scenario creates a hierarchy of knowledge that reinforces the authority of the expert who is in a privileged position vis-à-vis other knowledges, which renders solidarity difficult. Moving beyond the translation as transfer scenario opens possibilities for recognising multiple ways of knowing and the co-construction of knowledge, as shown in the case of non-­ violence and conflict management workshops in Nepal. Such initiatives create space for solidarity and ethical encounters, based on de-centring, mutual learning and possibilities for self-questioning. Yet, in these attempts to decolonise the WPS agenda, we must also acknowledge the fundamental impossibility of translation and allow for the possibility of non-­ circulation, non-engagement and inaction (Kunz 2019). Translation as transformation also shifts into focus how such initiatives can unsettle and transform participants. This also includes us researchers. My various conversations with people involved in WPS initiatives in Nepal did certainly transform me and my thinking regarding the production and circulation of knowledges on WPS, social justice and conflict as well as the figure of the expert. Drawing on the insights that emerge from understandings of translation as decolonising, as researchers we can ask ourselves a number of questions: how can we conduct our research in a spirit 16  It is interesting to note that similar mask activities can also be found in other contexts, such as in reconciliation work with communities in Colombia involving victims and former combatants. Thanks to Mia Schöb for pointing this out to me.



of translation as transformation? How can we practice a decentring of ourselves as experts while doing research? To what extent can conversations such as the one I had with Subash contribute to open space for various forms of solidarities and ethical encounters that do not require expert knowledge?

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Harrington, C. (2006). Governing Peacekeeping: The Role of Authority and Expertise in the Case of Sexual Violence and Trauma. Economy and Society, 35(3), 346–380. Holvikivi, A. (2019). Gender Experts and Critical Friends: Research in Relations of Proximity. European Journal of Politics and Gender, 2(1), 131–147. Hudson, H. (2012). A Double-Edged Sword of Peace? Reflections on the Tension Between Representation and Protection in Gendering Liberal Peacebuilding. International Peacekeeping, 19(4), 443–460. Kunz, R. (2014). Gender and Security Sector Reform: Gendering Differently? International Peacekeeping, 21(5), 604–622. Kunz, R. (2016). Windows of Opportunity, Trojan Horses, and Waves of Women on the Move: De-colonizing the Circulation of Feminist Knowledges Through Metaphors? In M.  Bustelo, L.  Ferguson, & M.  Forest (Eds.), The Politics of Feminist Knowledge Transfer: Gender Training and Gender Expertise (pp. 99–117). London: Palgrave Macmillan. Kunz, R. (2017). Beyond Depoliticisation: The Multiple Politics of Gender Expertise. In C. Verschuur (Ed.), Expertes en Genre et Connaissances Féministes sur le Développement: Qui Sait? (pp. 73–87). Paris: Editions L’Harmattan. Kunz, R. (2019). Messy Feminist Knowledge Politics: A Double Reading of Post-­ Conflict Gender Mainstreaming in Liberia. International Feminist Journal of Politics, 22(1), 63–85. Lugones, M., Spelman, E. V., Lugones, M. C., & Spelman, E. V. (1983). Have We Got a Theory for You! Feminist Theory, Cultural Imperialism and the Demand for ‘the Woman’s Voice’. Women’s Studies International Forum, 6(6), 573–581. Manchanda, R. (2010). Women’s Question in Nepal’s Democratic Post-Conflict Transition: Towards a Policy Research Agenda. Peace Prints: South Asian Journal of Peacebuilding, 3(1), 18. Meintjes, S., Turshen, M., & Pillay, A. (2001). The Aftermath: Women in Post-­ Conflict Transformation. London: Zed Books. Mignolo, W.  D. (2012). Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges, and Border Thinking. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Moser, C.  N. O., & Clark, F. (2001). Victims, Perpetrators or Actors?: Gender, Armed Conflict and Political Violence. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Nesiah, V. (2012). Uncomfortable Alliances: Women, Peace and Security in Sri Lanka. In A.  Loomba & R.  A. Lukose (Eds.), South Asian Feminisms (pp. 139–161). Durham: Duke University Press. Niranjana, T. (1992). Siting Translation: History, Post-Structuralism, and the Colonial Context. Berkley: University of California Press. Ramnarain, S. (2015). Universalized Categories, Dissonant Realities: Gendering Post-Conflict Reconstruction in Nepal. Gender, Place & Culture, 22(9), 1305–1322.



Schroeder, E. (2005). A Window of Opportunity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Incorporating a Gender Perspective in the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Process. Peace, Conflict & Development, 6(6), 1–45. Shepherd, L. J. (2011). Sex, Security and Superhero(in)es: From 1325 to 1820 and Beyond. International Feminist Journal of Politics, 13(4), 504–521. Simon, S. (1996). Gender in Translation. London: Routledge. Smet, S. (2009). A Window of Opportunity—Improving Gender Relations in Post-Conflict Societies: The Sierra Leonean Experience. Journal of Gender Studies, 18(2), 147–163. Spivak, G. C. (1993). The Politics of Translation. In G. C. Spivak (Ed.), Outside in the Teaching Machine (pp. 179–200). London: Routledge. Spivak, G. C. (2000). Translation as Culture. Parallax, 6(1), 13–24. Valasek, K., & Bastick, M. (2008). Gender & Security Sector Reform Toolkit. DCAF, OSCE/ODIHR, UN-INSTRAW.  Retrieved March 9, 2020, from https://iknowpolitics.org/sites/default/files/ssr20and20gender_un20instraw_0.pdf. Weir, A. (2017). Decolonizing Feminist Freedom: Indigenous Relationalities. In M.  A. McLaren (Ed.), Decolonizing Feminism: Transnational Feminism and Globalization (pp. 257–287). London: Rowman & Littlefield International. Young, R. (2003). Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Young, R. (2012). Cultural Translation as Hybridisation. Trans-Humanities (Ewha Institute for the Humanities), 5(1), 155–175.


Translating Critique: Civil Society and the Politicisation of Financial Regulation Benjamin Wilhelm

Introduction: ‘The Critical Attitude’ ‘All information is transformation’ (Callon and Latour 1981, p.  300). This chapter addresses how formalised protest movements align with the dominant language used in the context of their matter of concern and the implications of this process on the enactment of political interests, organisational identity, and the possibility of critique. In line with the overall theme of this volume, this contribution shows how regulatory practices acquire meaning within different fields through a process of translation in which social movements gradually lose their potential for irritation as they align with the dominant discourse. The chapter focuses, in particular, on the critical potential of civil society organizations in the field of financial regulation in the European Union (EU) and their role in the (un)making of financial regulation in times of crisis. It draws on the example of Finance

B. Wilhelm (*) International Political Economy, Goethe-University Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 Z. G. Capan et al. (eds.), The Politics of Translation in International Relations, Palgrave Studies in International Relations, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-56886-3_7




Watch, a European pro-reform interest and advocacy group that was founded in 2011 in Brussels with financial support from the EU in the politicised environment following from the 2008/2009 financial crisis. Doing so, it reconstructs how the potential for critique by civil society actors modifies within the institutional structure of the EU through formalised channels (Elgstrom and Jonsson 2000; Lahusen 2016), with a particular focus on how protest undergoes a translation which changes its potential for politicising (Callon 1984; Lenglet and Mol 2016) and knowledge production (Seabrooke and Tsingou 2014; Tsingou 2014; Adler-­ Nissen and Kropp 2015; Sending 2015). The chapter analyses this transformation as a case of translation (Callon 1984; Barry 2013; Tyulenev 2014) and addresses the question of how critique becomes translated and how this translation transforms critique? Spontaneous movements, which often emerge around specific events (Tremayne 2013), are able to instantiate and create broad attention and relevance for their respective concerns. However, they also display certain weaknesses, for example a rather brief endurance of existence (Calhoun 2013). Finance Watch occupies a particular position in the field of financial regulation compared to more established NGOs (Ford and Philipponnat 2013). Before the establishment of Finance Watch in 2011, expertise on financial markets and regulations was often very limited among Brussels-based NGOs as their main fields of engagement were related more explicitly to, for instance, ecological or inequality matters. Finance Watch focused specifically on and was specialised in financial regulation from the very beginning of its creation. Indeed, one of its main goals was the development of instrumental, independent (and alternative) expertise (Robert 2012, p.  429) and advocacy to counterbalance the financial sector and its particular expertise. Finance Watch was established to bring in a civil society voice in the ongoing EU-level financial reform debates. At the time of its creation, this was made possible by the support of a network consisting of Members of the European Parliament, the European Commission, and a range of other civil society organisations. Yet, Finance Watch gradually went through a transformation. Importantly, it managed to professionalise and thus continue the production and dissemination of its expertise in a post-crisis context. This was done, however, at the expense of ensuring the stability of both its own internal organisational structure and its surrounding network. The chapter draws on sixteen interviews with key members of this network, including Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and representatives of its



different civil society member organisations (i.e. NGOs and trade unions concerned with financial regulation). The increasing and collectively experienced concern of civil society groups in matters of financial regulation reflects a particular case of ‘emergent concerned groups’ (Callon 2007; Callon and Rabeharisoa 2008). Finance Watch is a case in point for studying the ‘formation of social groups and their reproduction’ and how its core purpose and capacity is a product of its performance (Callon and Rabeharisoa 2008, p. 232), which makes its ‘identity […] an achievement rather than a starting point’ (ibid.). The chapter follows Michel Callon’s ‘sociology of translation’ in order to reconstruct this process on a micro-level. To trace processes of translation in depth, Callon (1984) suggests four successive ‘moments of translation’: problematisation, interessement, enrolment, and mobilisation. These moments, or phases, serve as a heuristic for the remainder of this chapter. The next section situates Callon’s ‘sociology of translation’ within recent debates on hierarchies of (scientific) knowledge and expertise in global politics and political economy. This is followed by four sections considering each of Callon’s four moments of translation through which I analyse the role of civil society in financial regulation and the (re)configuration of Finance Watch as a network. I conclude by reflecting on the conditions of critique and argue that critique remains associated with its point of reference, which makes it inherently limited.

Translation and Hierarchies of Knowledge Civil society organisations are important sites for the production and dissemination of knowledge and expertise within their respective fields of concern. For instance, Finance Watch established its authority by providing expertise on the regulation of financial markets. The production, spread, and hierarchisation of (scientific) knowledge and expertise have become important scholarly topics in recent decades. The literatures on ‘epistemic communities’ (Adler and Haas 1992; Zito 2001) and the diffusion of expert knowledge in political arenas (Dobbin et al. 2007; Dunlop and Radaelli 2016; McPhilemy 2016; Newman and Bach 2014) have addressed hierarchies of knowledge formation within international fields of governance. In the context of financial regulation, studies on the politics of diffusion are concerned with how regulatory measures are prepared and drafted within transnational networks (Bach and Newman 2010;



Maggetti and Gilardi 2011; Moschella and Tsingou 2013; Seabrooke 2014; Seabrooke and Tsingou 2014; Seabrooke and Wigan 2016; Ban et al. 2016). Common for these approaches is the focus on the political dimension of knowledge and knowledge production, and how this is reflected in the way authority is constructed within particular policy fields. For instance, Ole Jacob Sending (2015, p. 126) shows from a Bourdieusian perspective how a field constituted by power relations can generate distinctive forms of knowledge, how these forms of knowledge become institutionalised, and how political authority is finally sedimented. Here, the question of translation becomes relevant. Problematising translation within the sociology of knowledge can complement analyses on the politics of knowledge and knowledge production by making the contingency of knowledge production visible.1 A ‘sociology of translation’ allows for tracing how expertise and its associated knowledge claims both emerge spontaneously and are conditioned by contextual power relations (Best and Walters 2013). Callon’s sociology of translation offers the possibility for this chapter’s analysis to study the mediations that take place between different levels of abstraction (or scales) (Waeraas and Nielsen 2016). In contrast to institutional or cognitive notions of translation, Callon directs our attention to societal formations, which can be analysed through the concept of translation. Regulatory approaches in the EU and elsewhere can be approached by inquiring into the role played by knowledge, expertise and technology in ‘structuring power relationships’ (Callon 1984, p. 197). Callon (1984) developed his sociology of translation in a seminal article on the role of maritime biologists in a controversy over the decline of scallops at St. Brieuc Bay. He focused explicitly on the problematic relationship between social and natural worlds and actants, and the modes of articulation performed between them, constituting ‘a complex web of interrelations in which Society and Nature are intertwined’ (ibid., p. 201). This chapter is not concerned with the relationship between societal and natural events. However, this conception of translation is indeed helpful to capture the hybridity and overlaps of different forms of knowledge and their implications for various political constellations (Buzelin 2013, p.  194). Interestingly, and of particular relevance to the analysis in this chapter, Callon’s account of how knowledge about scallops at St. Brieuc 1  For further discussion on how contingency and translation are related, see the contribution by Oliver Kessler (2021) in this volume.



Bay was translated is not a story about a successful project by a group of scientists, but a story about ‘failure’ through ‘displacement’ in all four moments of translation. It is this failure which makes ‘transformation’ possible (Callon 1984, p. 223). A possible route to develop such an actor-network perspective consists in studying the role of the ‘broker’ (or intermediary) between different political contexts (Büttner et al. 2016). In contrast to traditional analyses of civil society organisations, ‘sender’ and ‘recipient’ cannot be clearly distinguished based on the criterion of successful (or failed) communication. Within a ‘sociology of translation’, the concept of translation points to the impossibility of unambiguous transmission (see also the introduction to this volume by Capan et al. 2021). It is the contingency of transmission that renders translation possible in the first place. ‘By translation, we understand all the negotiations, intrigues, calculations, acts of persuasion and violence thanks to which an actor or force takes, or causes to be conferred to itself, authority to speak or act on behalf of another actor or force’ (Callon and Latour 1981, p. 279). This relates to how context is approached in Actor-Network Theory (ANT). Discourse, language, or text are not reduced to traditional understandings of actors. Actor-hood comprises also the material component of a particular context as well as the process of its constitution. For ANT scholars, translation means ‘creating convergences and homologies by relating things that were previously different’ (Callon and Latour 1981, p.  211). In the words of Tyulenev (2014, p. 166), ‘Translation in ANT is recruiting actants into projects of building networks’. ANT provides an ontological and epistemological perspective for understanding the problem of politics here. In this perspective, politics is related to the question of how expertise is constructed through networked processes of civil society formation. This directs us to two aspects of the relationship between expertise and politics, that is, the depoliticising effects of expertise in the form of technocracy (Radaelli 1999) and the consequences of the politicisation of expertise on how power relations can be conceived (Lombardi and Moschella 2017). The first aspect defers decision-making to expert fora (Greenwood 2007; Pianta 2013; McPhilemy 2016), whereas the second aspect positions the authority of scientific knowledge simply as guidance in decision-making (Brown 2009; Hirschman and Berman 2014). Combining both aspects, this chapter contributes to an understanding of knowledge production being at once heterogeneous and



contingent (Davies and McGoey 2012; Reisenbichler 2015; Ban et al. 2016); an understanding which makes it possible to identify how civil society movements are active in knowledge provision (Pianta 2013).

Problematisation (1): ‘You can Explain Everything, Though Only Rarely Someone Cares’2 The first moment of translation, problematisation, is concerned with specific challenges for civil society networks to define problems and identify alliances in the context of the Great Financial Crisis, which could potentially lead to a fundamental and broad critique of the existing regulatory framework. When the consequences of the 2008/2009 financial crisis became apparent, a public debate on the possibilities of financial reform ensued which raised questions, such as, what created this situation where the bankruptcy of one financial institution (i.e. Lehman Brothers) endangered the international financial architecture as a whole? If there are systemic interrelations, how were different forces distributed across the financial system? What were the construction failures in the regulatory architecture responsible for its overall collapse? Even if the vulnerability of the international financial architecture was already apparent for some critics, it was rather unusual that debates on possible policy solutions would turn public. The financial crisis, with its interruption of capital flows and rapid losses in value and trust in financial markets, did not only affect bankers and traders. It considerably affected the daily lives of a vast proportion of the population in developed and globally interconnected countries. Private and public institutions experienced unprecedented pressure on their decision-making capacities without having a clear understanding of the underlying conditions of the crisis.3 This lack of knowledge was related to how information about the financial system and its day-to-day operations was generated. It called previously accepted routines of supervision and transparency into question. At the same time, the need for justification in the political arena increased. Elected parliamentarians were suddenly responsible for explaining the origins and triggers of the financial crisis to their electorate.4 They were urged to explain why public money  Interview, Member of the European Parliament, 20 November 2014 (#12).  Interview, Member of the German Parliament, 16 July 2014 (#01). 4  Interview, Member of the German Parliament, 24 September 2014 (#04). 2 3



should be used to bail out banks and a financial system in crisis, while it had hitherto not been available to improve social security and education, or cut taxes.5 Trade unions and other civil society organisations became increasingly interested in the details of the financial system to support their claims for a more stable and fair financial architecture.6 According to an NGO representative, such political momentum was new in the context of financial regulation, also because previous crises had often been associated with non-Western regions and not with highly industrialised Western societies.7 Although broad media attention was set on questions of finance, it still remained difficult to communicate technical details beyond relatively closed expert circles, except for the controversial ‘bonus cap’, the financial transaction tax or matters involving food speculation.8 However, these concerns were articulated through either a general pejorative attitude towards bankers9 or already established critiques of inequality.10 Technical negotiations on risk categories, transparency or systemic risk reduction were not part of the public debate (they were either too abstract and with no immediate effects on the public,11 or too concrete and should be dealt with by experts, not politicians12). The power of experts became visible when details of capital requirements for banks were agreed upon within international expert fora. Only then could the European Parliament decide on capital requirements legislation which was subsequently implemented in national law. Prior to the financial crisis, central international bodies for financial regulatory issues, including the Bank for International Settlements and the Financial Stability Forum (now the Financial Stability Board), had no public relations unit.13 Access to information was, to a large extent, reserved for experts in institutions that were supposed to be regulated.14 The technicalities of the ensuing discussion could not be politicised before  Interview, Member of the German Parliament, 16 July 2014 (#01).  Interview, trade unionist, 12 November 2014 (#09). 7  Interview, NGO representative, 23 September 2014 (#03). 8  Interview, NGO representative, 23 September 2014 (#03). 9  Interview, trade unionist, 12 November 2014 (#06). 10  Interview, NGO representative, 23 September 2014 (#03). 11  Interview, trade unionist, 13 November 2014 (#10). 12  Interview, Member of European Parliament, 02 June 2015 (#16). 13  Interview, NGO representative, 23 September 2014 (#03). 14  Interview, NGO representative, 12 November 2014 (#08). 5 6



(and hardly after) the crisis as it was unclear how financial regulation related to other societal fields. Indeed, there were no routines in place for ‘translation’. Procedures set by the European Commission were available for hearings on technical issues of financial regulation. On the one hand, these hearings offered the possibility for diverse discussions on central regulatory efforts involving a broad range of stakeholders. On the other hand, this openness had a structuring effect on the regulatory debate, as well as for the public debate more generally. Public hearings provided a very formalised format which would limit the range of problems and issues on which to comment. The nature of these hearings therefore created rather limited opportunities—and access points—for public discussion. Moreover, financial means and scientific resources were unevenly distributed across participants. As a result, affected financial industries had qualitatively different means at their disposal compared to other participants (Pagliari and Young 2014). There has been an increasing demand within civil society organisations for professionalising to be able to interact with regulatory agencies.15 However, this process of professionalisation changes the critical potential of these organisations. To gain more expertise and thus be indispensable in financial regulation, civil society actors began formulating their critique not as an external outsider but as a stakeholder internal to the system. Critique gradually aligned itself with existing regulatory approaches and became disentangled from broader political considerations. As initial ‘problems’ are conceived and defined differently so are their attending ‘solutions’ (Callon 1984). In the case of civil society organisations concerned with financial regulation, problematisation addresses available access points for civil society actors and decision-makers in national parliaments. Experts and their particular expert language represent an ‘obligatory passage point’ (Callon 1984, p.  204) for the work of civil society organisations in financial regulation. Actors can establish themselves as obligatory passage points in the network they are building by making themselves indispensable for the network (ibid.). Finance Watch was created due to this structural disadvantage in terms of expertise available outside of the financial sector. This resulted in Finance Watch’s explicit purpose of ‘making finance serve society’. With this program of action, Finance Watch was set at making itself indispensable in the ensuing Europe-wide reform debates. However, after identifying the problem of  Interview, NGO representative, 12 November 2014 (#07).




financial regulation, bringing together different societal groups around this issue would present itself as another problem. Following from the moment of problematisation, the question of interessement emerges.

Interessement (2): ‘Finance Watch is an Amazing Help’16 Interessement refers to ‘the group of actions by which an entity […] attempts to impose and stabilize the identity of the other actors it defines through its problematisation’ (Callon 1984, p. 207). The post-crisis regulatory environment created a common interest among NGOs and politicians to set up a new institution, Finance Watch, which became a node from which to influence financial regulation from a non-corporate perspective. Finance Watch thereby enabled translation among different policy fields as it assembled actors around the shared interest of first demanding and later delivering (alternative) expertise on financial regulation for the purpose of creating a more stable and fair financial system. The establishment of Finance Watch was initiated by Members of the European Parliament who argued for the need for alternative knowledge and expertise on financial regulation. As stated on Finance Watch’s website, the purpose was to facilitate an understanding of the ‘increasingly technical financial legislation coming through Brussels in the wake of the financial crisis that began in 2007’.17 This was done in close consultation with a variety of interest groups who supported the creation of Finance Watch as an alternative body of knowledge production that could potentially guarantee their access to specific and necessary knowledge on financial matters. These groups became part of Finance Watch’s Europe-wide network consisting of 50 civil society organisations (e.g. trade unions, consumer organisations) and 30 individual members. Finance Watch served as a catalyst to relate the interests of these different civil society actors; a process that can be described as ‘a variety of techniques of getting the actants interested’ (Tyulenev 2014, p. 166). It is not merely a difference in jargon that distinguishes policy areas from one another but also a considerable difference in how arguments are constructed. This epistemological divide between policy areas became an  Interview, trade unionist, 13 November 2014 (#10).  www.finance-watch.org/about-us/why-finance-watch (last accessed on 13 December 2017). 16




important obstacle for disseminating relevant financial knowledge to potential participants in the pro-reform debate, at the same time as the inner complexity of the argument should be kept intact. NGOs that represent different societal fields invested in resources to identify connections between financial markets and their individual issue areas (WEED 2011; Brot für die Welt 2014; DGB 2014), through research funding, creating new positions for staff, or establishing new fora for networking.18 When interviewees reflected upon these investments in resources, they pointed to the challenge of impermanent organisational structures, which would be a problem in particular when the initial crisis experience would fade away.19 To address these challenges of civil society organisations, Finance Watch established itself as an ‘obligatory passage point’ in the network it was building. It rendered itself indispensable in the network by constructing a narrative that knowledge among NGOs from different policy fields (and in society in general) on financial regulation is absolutely necessary on a permanent basis. As an obligatory passage point, Finance Watch would both provide specific knowledge on financial regulation and try to identify and act on shared concerns with other policy fields. In particular during the first year of the financial crisis, civil society organisations, such as trade unions and consumer groups, experienced the need for practical financial expertise due to the large amount of regulatory proposals to be decided on; ‘there had been so much’, said one of the interviewees.20 Ideally, this knowledge should be public to facilitate a public discussion on financial regulation. Accordingly, Finance Watch served as a particular epistemic device that ‘denotes material and discursive assemblages that intervene in the construction’ of not only markets but also the generation of knowledge (Muniesa et  al. 2007, p.  2). The main feature of Finance Watch as an ‘epistemic device’ was the ability to bring different strands of knowledge formation together and to connect different policy languages, routines, and core topics among different civil-society networks in the financial sector, politicians, and other policy actors. The shared concern among these actors was that the debate on regulations after the failure of Lehman Brothers would be left to experts who were believed to have been  Interview, trade unionist, 13 November 2014 (#10).  Interviews, Member of European Parliament, 20 November 2014 (#12); NGO representative, 19 May 2015 (#15); NGO representative 12 November 2014 (#08). 20  Interview, NGO representative, 13 November 2014 (#11). 18 19



responsible for failed (and unfair) regulations in the first place. According to a Member of the European Parliament, juridical and economic expertise should be mobilised.21 At the same time, NGOs prepared a campaign to critically intervene in the debate on regulatory reforms.22 After the creation of Finance Watch, financial expertise was only a phone call away. Regular meetings between Finance Watch’s stakeholders allowed for the inclusion of topics from various societal fields. A newsletter provided information on challenges and changes in the field of financial regulation. A network of experts in finance-related topics working for different NGOs began to form. These experts shared information among each other and invited each other to different events, which amplified the network. Research-oriented institutions and practitioners also began to collaborate with Finance Watch. Practitioners who had previously worked in the financial sector would accept a lower salary in order to work for Finance Watch.23

Enrolment (3): ‘…We Are Working on It because It Was in the Commission’s Proposal’24 The foundational moment of interessement was succeeded by enrolment, which indicates the moment when a more stable institutionalised framework is created around the relatively loose network. This framework would allow the network to stabilise its organisational structure in order to ensure its continuation after the period of immediate crisis dynamics, which was characterised by high levels of improvisation, excitement, and workload. The expression, ‘the last crazy year’ (uttered by an NGO representative in the network25) testifies to this. The phase of enrolment involves the constitution and acceptance of different roles, and related routines, within a field (Callon 1984, pp. 211–214), which determine conditions for influence and change. In the case of Finance Watch, routines included ad hoc phone calls, comprehensive reports on regulatory measures, and meetings within the network. Finance Watch gradually moved from being a 21  Interviews, Member of the European Parliament, 02 June 2015 (#16); Member of the European Parliament, 20 November 2014 (#12). 22  Interview, NGO representative, 23 September 2014 (#03). 23  Interview, NGO representative, 12 November 2014 (#08). 24  Interview, NGO representative, 12 November 2014 (#07). 25  Interview, NGO representative, 12 November 2014 (#07).



collective and relatively loosely organised project among NGO representatives and trade unionists towards being an institution which would increasingly employ its own permanent staff in order to meet the demands of providing expertise on financial regulations. The organisation began to employ practitioners and lobbyists from the financial sector in order to provide expertise and relate to relevant financial regulatory debates.26 At this stage of enrolment, there is a more thorough understanding of the tools available for exercising influence. The network can now be used strategically in different regulatory settings. It can react to specific reform agendas and coordinate proactive measures. Finance Watch’s presence in Brussels meant that it was close to relevant debates27 and could get relevant knowledge about how to intervene efficiently in legislative procedures. In turn, this could also potentially limit its scope of influence. Finance Watch could function as a symbol and, by that means, be used (in the words of one of the interviewees) as an ‘alibi’.28 It was assumed that if Finance Watch participated in consultations or debates, the interests of civil society in general would already have been heard and incorporated into regulatory outcomes. Other civil society groups would be excluded as a consequence. Moreover, when the grand narrative of unstable financial markets gradually faded away, it became increasingly difficult for civil society actors to engage in a critique of regulatory reform. The immediate crisis dynamics had facilitated the argument that regulatory issues had to be approached from a broader societal perspective; an argument that was beneficial to civil society actors. Yet, even if the influence of civil society organisations is to a large extent conditioned upon how societal implications of their work are presented and perceived, it is also essential for civil society to adapt to the procedural context in which it formulates its critique and proposals for regulatory reform.29 A good example of this is the changing regulatory context after a new European Commission was appointed in 2014. With this Commission, a policy of reactive measures for regulating markets (through new capital requirements or the Banking Union) was replaced by a set of more proactive measures, including the Capital Markets Union, to set up a more expansive regulatory context for financial institutions and products. Moreover, a set of procedures, the  Interview, NGO representative, 12 November 2014 (#08).  Interview, NGO representative, 13 November 2014 (#11). 28  Interview, NGO representative, 12 November 2014 (#07). 29  Interview, NGO representative, 12 November 2014 (#07). 26 27



so-called Lamfalussy process, which was developed in 2001 for regulating financial services in the EU, provided a specific framework for engaging various stakeholders in negotiating reforms of financial regulations and supervision. The process involves different levels, each focusing on a particular stage of implementing legislation. Level 1 involves more traditional EU decision-making and general rules settled through directives and regulations decided upon by the European Parliament and the Council; Level 2 engages negotiations with sectorspecific committees (e.g. between the European Securities and Markets Authority and the European Commission); and Level 3 involves representatives of national financial regulators and supervisors and a more technical and routinised response to reform measures. The process was made public (and transparent) through the introduction of open consultations to engage practitioners and firms in the financial sector. These consultations were organised by the four main, and newly created, supervisory agencies for observing the re-regulation of financial markets in the EU (i.e. European Systemic Risk Board, European Banking Agency, European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Agency and European Securities Markets Agency). To participate in these novel institutional setups and decision-making procedures, civil society actors concerned with financial regulation had to be present in Brussels to stay close to the ongoing debates and negotiations. For Finance Watch, in particular, this implied employing practitioners and lobbyists from the financial sector to gain the necessary expertise for intervening in these debates on financial regulation. This moment of translation is thus qualified by the opportunity to politicise financial regulation when roles and, thereby, routines are established. In addition to participating in official procedures of financial reform, the space available for civil society involvement is affected by how the regulatory problem is framed. For example, when things were still at a ‘crisis mode’, it was possible to link issues such as food commodity speculation to questions of disclosure requirements within retail markets in the context of revising the directive on markets in financial instruments (MiFID II). During the revision of the capital requirements directive and regulation (the CRD IV/CRR package), the issue of capital requirements became politicised as a public debate arose about the controversial ‘bonus cap’, which had not initially been part of the capital requirements regulation. Now, the European Parliament was able to integrate new policies



into the pre-formulated Basel Agreement. With roles and routines being established in this phase of enrolment, Finance Watch now faced the essential task of mobilising its network. This is the final moment of translation I turn to next.

Mobilisation (4): ‘At Some Point, It Will Always Crash Again’30 In the fourth and final phase, mobilisation, the network was becoming unstable and eventually disassembled as the crisis moment, which had held it together, was fading away. If measures such as capital requirement calculations of risk categories for specific financial products cannot be related to broader societal interests, it becomes difficult to sustain the supporting civil society network and to generate resources needed for the continuation of their work. This is therefore the moment of translation when it becomes imperative ‘to ensure that supposed spokesmen for various relevant collectivities were properly able to represent those collectivities and not betrayed by the latter’ (Callon 1984, p. 196). After the crisis, Finance Watch was able to take the position of a ‘spokesman’ within a well-defined problem area and to speak on behalf of relevant stakeholders; a position from where it could address questions of financial regulation that were relevant to broader societal areas and networks of civil society actors. Indeed, an organisation can ‘ensure’ its influential position of a ‘spokesman’ by developing a sustainable network architecture. Finance Watch was now confronted with new types of demands, including the establishment of a new organisational structure, the formulation of its own strategies (independent from its civil society network) to be able to politicise—and critique—financial regulation, and the overall challenge of translating immediate and specific technical expertise in financial regulation into a continuous institutional structure, targeting the public and broader societal interests. Accordingly, Finance Watch tried to continue mobilising its network also in the post-crisis environment. It managed to relate its campaign in favour of a financial transaction tax and restrictions on bonus payments to a variety of already existing discourses on inequality. Whereas issues of financial regulation might have been of little public relevance, linking them to questions of inequality created the possibility to mobilise other  Interview, Member of the European Parliament, 20 November 2014 (#12).




civil society networks. These networks could be activated to support this policy proposal. Thereby, a policy proposal that had been discussed for a long time gained a new momentum within the regulatory discussion.31 Also, the debate on the ‘bonus cap’ did not emerge ‘naturally’ from ­regulatory discussions. Indeed, the major banking reform measures in Basel III did not recommend such a policy. The politicisation was a result of the European Parliament pushing through the controversial ‘bonus cap’ at the last moment.32 Politicisation was to some extent a question of making use of a particular momentum. However, while these individual episodes were counted as a success for Finance Watch, mobilisation became increasingly problematic during this phase of ‘stand-by’ as possibilities for politicisation continuously decreased, compared to the exceptional crisis situation. In the crisis situation, a large number of new regulations and new regulatory agencies had triggered a broad civil society engagement. However, through research funding and recruitment, Finance Watch had gradually become a more independent organisation. When the crisis moment was beginning to pass, it became less and less relevant in daily policy-making routines and was struggling to secure funding for its work. It became imperative for Finance Watch to work more proactively and influence regulatory decisions from the beginning. However, such a strategy comes with a downside as it necessitates a high level of specialisation and association with the regulatory process. Formalised organisations adapt their language to the object that they initially resisted, and thus lose the critical potential which characterises more fluid protest movements. In sum, the possibility of critique decreases with an increase in adaptation of the language to its object of critique.

Conclusion: Translating Critique Reconstructing the process of establishing a civil society network in the context of financial regulation, this chapter showed how formalised protest movements participating actively in policy-making processes face the challenge of becoming entangled with routines of the regulatory processes that they are criticising. Routines can hardly be translated into a language for mobilisation. In consequence, such mobilised counter-movements lose their initial critical potential. The chapter adopted Michel Callon’s ‘sociology of  Interview, NGO representative, 23 September 2014 (#03).  Interview, NGO representative, 12 November 2014 (#08).

31 32



translation’ which suggests that translation is ‘a process before it is a result’ (Callon 1984, p. 224). As such, translation can be studied through tracking the formation of a network as the sequencing of different translational moments, that is, problematisation, interessement, enrolment, mobilisation. However, the case of Finance Watch is an evidential claim to Callon’s argument that when a network is established it is never stable but needs permanent mobilisation. It follows that all moments of translation are openended and contingent as they carry the potential of displacement. How could Finance Watch have kept its network mobilised to convey a more sustainable critique? The process of translation through which a mobilised and thus self-sustaining network of civil society organisations turned into an institutionalised context beyond acute crisis dynamics suggests that the production of specific and technical knowledge necessary for participating in the regulatory debate should be complemented with practical and institutional knowledge about access points into the policy-­ making process and to relevant civil society actors. This combination of expertise (know-what) and know-how would have allowed for influencing not only the regulatory process but also the deep-seated ‘rules of the game’ or even the ‘field of the game’ itself. By that means, Finance Watch could have secured its role as a ‘spokesman’ for civil society actors in financial regulatory matters and its primary source of authority; that is, a unique expertise on these shared matters of concern. This would have kept its network mobile, relevant, and less prone to change. This would have enabled Finance Watch to provide a more fundamental critique of financial regulation—and to overcome the danger of aligning with the dominant discourse and, in consequence, becoming only a fig leaf in debates on financial regulation within a post-exceptional environment. As such, ‘all information is transformation, an emergency operation on and in the Leviathan’s body’ (Callon and Latour 1981, p. 300).

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Social Movements and Translation Nicole Doerr

Introduction How do social movements and activists act as translators mediating social, political, and cultural change; and what are the limitations of theories of protest and political communication that depart from the idea of translation? Translation is at the heart of activities of social movements and practices of protest and political mobilisation. Yet, the concept of translation has received little attention in classic social movement studies in Europe and the United States (US). Translators’ transformative potential to foster social and political change has been discussed by students of international relations, comparative literature, migration, culture, and gender (Baker 2016; Berger 2017; Berger and Esguerra 2018; Boéri 2015; Gentzler 2007; Piróth and Baker 2020; Polezzi 2015; Risse 2017; Tymocko 2007; Venuti 2008; Zwingel 2016; see also Capan et al. 2021). As alleged enemies of dictatorships and opposition members, translators are vulnerable to powerful groups who tend to suspect them of interpreting favourably on behalf of powerless

N. Doerr (*) Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 Z. G. Capan et al. (eds.), The Politics of Translation in International Relations, Palgrave Studies in International Relations, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-56886-3_8




groups, such as asylum seekers perceived as cheating personal narratives to gain access to residence rights (Inghilleri 2012). Also, professional interpreters, officially confined to provide ‘neutral’ interpretations, encounter complicated ethical dilemmas (ibid.). By simply doing their job of translating, they may face the choice to speak truth to power and risking their jobs or lives, and yet their critical awareness has the power to provide access to resources and freedom to disempowered groups (ibid.). Only recently, theorists of protest and social movements have engaged with translation as a concept to understand the diffusion of ideas across different countries or groups (see Chabot 2012; Roggeband 2007) or as an empirical practice of democracy in transnational social movements (Doerr 2018). Although activists in all times and places have worked at communicating—and thus translating—new visions and ideas into existing social and political contexts, few social movement scholars have thought of these communicative processes through the perspective of translation. In this chapter, I propose to understand communicative practices of social movements through a theoretical and empirical perspective on translation practices. In doing so, I draw on empirical examples and case studies of how activists in different parts of the world have to address cultural and linguistic diversity in order to translate their ideas and visions of political and social change within transnational (often digital) public spaces and to vulnerable groups within socially divided, globalised societies. The recent ‘translation turn’ in social movement studies has been advanced by activists and scholars interested in activists’ empirical practices of linguistic interpreting (Boéri 2015) or in the role of cultural diversity and linguistic differences as a starting point for emerging models of democracy in global social movements and so-called solidarity cities (forming part of a transnational refugee solidarity movement) in Europe and the US (Doerr 2018). New studies have shown the transformative potential of translation in spreading transnational messages across culturally diverse digital media audiences in the context of the Egyptian pro-democratic movement (Baker 2016), or in the European refugee solidarity movement (Doerr 2019a). In this context, I have developed the term political translation. The term describes a set of counter-hegemonic practices that are triggered by crisis situations and conflicts in culturally diverse group settings or societies which contend with structural inequality and cultural differences (Doerr 2012). My empirical examples in this chapter include an ethnographic comparison of grassroots participatory or deliberative democratic processes in culturally diverse social movements, focusing in



particular on the cases of the European and the US Social Forums meetings in the period from 2003 to 2010. The European and the US Social Forums were a series of grassroots democratic meeting encounters, inspired by and forming part of the global grassroots democratic experiment of the World Social Forum (WSF), a transnational civil society forum (Smith et  al. 2007; Smith and Doerr 2015). The WSF, established in 2001 with the first social forum meeting taking place in Porto Alegre, Brazil, aims at creating a transnational counter-­ public space ‘from below’ for global justice activists to meet through a series of annual deliberative and participatory democratic forums all over the world. The purpose of these forums is to debate ways of resisting neoliberal globalisation and the exploitation of the environment (Smith et al. 2007). The regional, national, and local Social Forums in the US and in Europe which I studied brought together a variety of different civil society organisations and social movements, including left leaning, libertarian, anarchist and autonomous, feminist, indigenous, landless people’s and workers’ movements, as well as peace activists and religious groups (Smith and Doerr 2015). As linguistic differences and structural inequality created major problems for democratic dialogue in, in particular, the regional, multilingual European Social Forum meetings, some of the participants in these meetings started a counter-hegemonic practice of (political) translation to address issues of structural inequality that would overlap with linguistic diversity in these meetings (Doerr 2018). Political translation was initiated by the ‘Babels’ volunteers, an international network of volunteer translators and interpreters, who intervened as linguistic interpreters during European Social Forum preparatory meetings (Doerr 2012). Independently from the European group of ‘Babels’ volunteers, participants in the US Social Forum meetings also used the term ‘translation’ for their emerging model of radical democracy in meetings, which was initiated by migrants and minority activists who aimed to address conflicts about race/ethnicity which intersected with structural inequality and divided participants in meetings (Doerr 2018). Elsewhere, I have clarified that political translations are distinct from purely linguistic translations (Doerr 2018). In my discussion of the US Social Forum below, I show that even in settings without a need for linguistic translation, political translation practices may emerge in conflict situations about cultural diversity in which cultural intermediaries use conflicts about racial and gendered hierarchies in groups as a starting point for intervening as ‘political translators’ (Doerr 2018). Note that political



translation is not a metaphor. It is a concept that refers to an empirical model of radical democracy that transcends traditional definitions and conventional understandings of linguistic interpretation and of deliberative democracy in social movements (see, e.g. della Porta 2005). All translation is cultural, but political translation is a set of empirical practices that uses cultural differences as an entry point into making political negotiation and deliberation more inclusive. Based on case studies on political translation, I will discuss the radical democratic interventions used by migrants and activists as well as civic volunteer translators and interpreters to address power inequality and diversity within local democratic processes or transnational meetings. By interpreting these grassroots democratic practices, the contribution of my chapter is to infuse theories of social movements and political mobilisation with timely insights into the transformative potential of activist ‘political’ translations. I also argue, more broadly, that all work of social movements can be understood through a theoretical focus on translation that complements previous theories of communication in social movement studies. Based on cross-national empirical evidence, I discuss the benefits and challenges of political translation that benefits low-socioeconomic status groups or refugees who face structural barriers to access political participation in transnational social movements as well as institutional resources such as social and civic rights and education.

Brokers and Framing Processes in Social Movement Studies Without explicitly referring to the concept of translation, social movement scholars in Europe and the US have worked on understanding how activists have to communicate (or to translate) demands by workers, disadvantaged groups, women, migrants, or civil society towards media audiences and institutional power holders. The classical literature on international relations and non-governmental actors or transnational social movements has used the concepts of arguing (Risse 2000) or frame diffusion (Chabot 2012) in order to conceptualise how social movements communicate their messages to broader public spaces and media arenas. Relatedly, scholars have been interested in understanding how activists’ political messages or frames spread or get diffused across different countries, regions, or digital media arenas and across language boundaries (Doerr and Mattoni 2014).



For example, the idea that activists have to ‘argue’ their points and make good arguments in order to convince international public audiences and state actors has been theorised in relation to the normative expectations of liberal democracy and deliberative democratic theory (Risse 2000). Likewise, the idea that activists can spread and diffuse new ideas across different audiences or trans-national publics has been conceptualised in relation to instrumental, strategic action (Tarrow 2005). Focusing on cognitive, linguistic (media) frames, movement scholars have used the concept of framing as a way to theorise communication processes (Benford and Snow 2000). Chabot (2012) proposes to use the term ‘translation’ in order to understand the dialogical dynamics of diffusion understood as the translation of frames across countries. Focusing on the diffusion of non-violent resistance strategies from Gandhi to the US Civil Rights Movement, Chabot argues against a simplified non-cultural understanding of frame diffusion and points to the intensity and complexity of translation processes that is needed to make for political change. Conny Roggeband (2007) discusses feminist activists as translators who communicate new ideas about gender equality to place-specific national institutional elites and associations. The concept of translation in the diffusion literature has the advantage of complicating a mechanical perspective of framing but they do not yet systematically analyse the power position and the potential agency of activists as translators and communicators of political protest. What we are still missing is a systematic conceptualisation of translation practices, actors, and their impact on political processes. Based on empirical examples and case studies of varying types of translation practices by feminists, indigenous groups, refugee solidarity activists and global justice activists in different regions, I propose translation as a concept and an empirical set of practices that characterise the work of social movements in inspiring social change and transforming power relationships through protest, disruption, and grassroots democracy. Tarrow (2005) introduces the concept of brokers—including activists, broker media, or institutional brokers—to conceptualise communication in social movement networks across varying countries or varying political organisations where brokers essentially act as translators of new ideas, frames, or stories fostering social change. However, few studies acknowledge the critical, political, or even subversive role of brokers in connecting disconnected diverse groups (see as exceptions Roth 2003; Wood 2005). By focusing not on brokers but on political translators, I offer another,



empirically based perspective that helps us to understand the power dynamics and the role of culture within (transnational) communicative processes in social movements. For example, what distinguished the political translators collective at the US Social Forum from strategic brokers was their culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds—something that was important to an understanding of why these US-based activists would come to see their work as a translation of democracy, and not as an instrumental strategic brokerage job. As will be shown, their bi- or multilingual skills were based on their professional experiences as organisers of local multiracial and multilingual grassroots organisations and churches, and as members of marginalised communities. Cultural diversity was a condition for both the emergence and the outcome of their political translation work in connecting white and middle-class activists with ethnic minorities and migrant workers.

The Transformative Potential of Translation in Pro-­Democracy and Solidarity Movements Translators’ transformative work in the process of democratisation has taken a new relevance recently with the global rise of people gaining access to transnational political debates and influencing power holders through digital and social media. In the context of the most recent wave of democratisation in North Africa and in Egypt, activists have used translation as a way to broadcast independent news and alternative media to transnational audiences of supporters (Baker 2016). New research on non-­governmental organisations (NGOs) advancing the diffusion of global democratic norms in the Global South points to the agency of NGOs and local civil society groups as ‘cultural brokers’ or translators of human rights (Berger 2017; Berger and Esguerra 2018; Risse 2017). Moreover, indigenous activists, feminists, landless people’s movements, and women of colour in the Global South have shaped global visions of gender justice and inclusionary practices of consensus-based democracy which have spread through global justice movements (della Porta 2012; della Porta and Doerr 2018; Smith et  al. 2007). As an example, in Asia, South Africa, Latin America, and Europe, local civil society groups acted as translators for intersectional gender norms in feminist coalitions and transnational networks (Roggeband 2014; Zwingel 2016).



A sociologically relevant question in this debate is whether multilingual civic dialogue is accessible only for global elites fluent in English or for ordinary people as well. The linguistic integration of more than two million refugees in the European Union (EU) in 2015/2016 provides a real-­ world experiment to deepen democratic theory through empirical research of grassroots solidarity movements and local democratic processes in ‘solidarity cities’ involving asylum seekers, civic volunteers, and officials (Doerr 2019c). Over 80 percent of first-time asylum seekers in the EU are less than 35 years old; their top countries of origin are Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan (Eurostat 2019). Under the United Nations (UN) Global Compact for Migration propositions, governments are asked to provide increasing resources for civic and language education to integrate refugees (United Nations 2018), but asylum seekers have no legal right to these benefits. Access to language support varies depending on waiting periods and restrictions by host countries (Doerr 2020a). Taking over tasks abandoned by the neoliberal state, civil society actors in key destination countries have developed innovative solutions to the problem of linguistic challenges to democratic inclusion—providing asylum seekers with volunteer translation and education at no cost. Therefore, in the context of climate change, war, and humanitarian crises, forced migration has created a massive demand for linguistic and civil-society-based translation capacities in the Global North (Doerr 2019c). This was visible in Europe particularly during the long summer of migration (della Porta 2018) when civil society engagement and state support on behalf of refugees and asylum seekers in Europe was supported by a massive number of amateur translating and interpreting services (Doerr 2019b). Germany witnessed a 90 percent increase in civic volunteering between 2015 and 2017, when six million volunteers helped more than one million asylum seekers learn German, provided amateur translation and digital translation and advocacy, and mentored asylum seekers to speak more self-confidently to officials (see Karakayali and Kleist 2016; Heinemann 2018). The growing third sector of state-sponsored volunteer engagement on behalf of asylum seekers is embedded in broader challenges regarding state retreat under conditions of neoliberal reforms (Eliasoph 2011). In 2015, Germany funded civil society-based associations who used 44 percent of their volunteer and staff resources of time to offer language courses and almost 40 percent to translation services for asylum seekers (see Karakayali and Kleist 2016). In Sweden, preliminary research has explored refugee solidarity organisations in multicultural



cities, such as Malmö, where educators and unions have initiated ‘language justice projects’ and started networks of mutual solidarity between resident migrants as well as refugees (Doerr 2020b). While an increasing number of civil society volunteers, among them many amateur linguistic translators and interpreters, currently use their language skills to engage in solidarity with refugees or migrants, we lack research on how volunteer translators (as opposed to professional interpreters) can influence political processes of civic participation, deliberation, and democracy in social movement coalitions at the local or transnational level. My work is a sociological attempt at analysing the critical work of activists whom I call political translators. These political translators form part of broader civil society coalitions as well as local participatory or deliberative democratic processes, involving citizens, migrants, and social movements. Political translation can start from situations of linguistic interpretation or translation, but it is distinct from classical understandings of linguistic interpretation or translation in a number of ways. First, political translators include activists who draw their interventions from their positionality as cultural intermediaries rather than linguistic translators, including, for example, gender justice activists like the US Social Forum leaders described below who focused on what some of them call the translation of inequalities and hierarchies in relation to race, class, and gender (Doerr 2018). Second, even though political translators include actual professional linguistic interpreters or volunteers experienced within linguistic interpretation practices, the intervention of political translation transcends the traditional professional norms of linguistic interpretation that are based on the neutrality or impartiality of the translator (Inghilleri 2012). I define political translation, distinct from conventional definitions of linguistic translation, as a disruptive and communicative practice used by activists and community organisers to challenge and potentially transform power asymmetries and inequality in different settings (Doerr 2018). I will in the following give an overview of what I mean by ‘political translation’ and how its locally rooted practice helps to enhance greater democracy within both mainstream institutional politics of intercultural dialogue and deliberation and within alternative public spaces and practices of consensus in social movements. As ‘political translators’, activists or civic volunteers challenge dominant power holders and institutional elites in situations of multilingual discussion or conversation across cultural



differences in which these elite groups systematically ignore demands for equality and justice made by another, less privileged group. I term such distortions of dialogue positional misunderstandings (Doerr 2018). Positional misunderstanding constitutes conflicts in communicative interactions that can make visible underlining structural power asymmetries which shape encounters between people in everyday life or within institutions. At the centre of positional misunderstandings are often material differences of interest entangled with inequality and hierarchies alongside the lines of race/ethnicity, class, gender, or nationality. I provide empirical examples for positional misunderstandings in the following sections.

The Disruptive Third Voice of Political Translators: Domination and Positional Misunderstanding In this section, I give an example of a concrete positional misunderstanding in order to make visible how practices of political translation can address such conflicts. I studied volunteer translation by activists and refugee solidarity groups in Germany and Denmark, which fostered participation by women and vulnerable refugees who faced linguistic and structural hurdles in interacting with migration managers, social workers, and employment officials (Doerr 2019a). Within coalitions involving refugees and civic volunteers, volunteers reported how they became aware of what I call positional misunderstandings through their intermediary positions as translators advocating on behalf of refugees who were dealing with officials and institutions. Rather than accepting their frustration with bureaucracies unwilling to listen to refugees, volunteers learned to ‘intervene’ collectively by using their insider knowledge as citizens and activists to challenge the conditions for newcomers. Said a volunteer supporting lesbian asylum seekers in Berlin: I am incredibly angry at how job centre employees, for example, in Treptow [Berlin neighbourhood], treat refugees. I have written letters of complaint non-stop. It is an obstacle. They don’t recognise refugees as humans, they don’t react to the situation in front of their eyes, they all follow the rules by the book. ‘Our official language here is still German. We don’t do that here’. They don’t want to be flexible. They don’t want to welcome newcomers…I also feel desperate often when I intervene. I already know the



telephone numbers of the Treptow job centre by heart. The way they treated refugees at the beginning is outrageous. In Kreuzberg [Berlin ­neighbourhood], the job centre is really cooperative; it is really often the culture within particular local institutions.1

As political translators, activists challenge the institutional bureaucratic ideals of neutrality and impartiality in situations where a dominant group or institution systematically ignores demands for equality and justice made by another, less privileged group; in short, during positional misunderstandings (Doerr 2018). The positional misunderstanding between the refugee and the official at Treptow’s local job centre, beyond linguistic communication problems, was about power and civic status differences (Isin 2018). Rather than being willing to cooperate with a German-­ speaking translator on the phone, the job centre employee seemed unwilling—rather than unable—to communicate with refugees who were not fluent in German. This anecdote also points to the limited influence of political translation in official procedures given that its impact depends on the standing of the translator and the willingness of the official to accept working together with a critical third (i.e. the translator; see below). As will be shown, positional misunderstandings also occur on a regular basis within refugee solidarity groups themselves. Only a few of the local volunteer groups and solidarity initiatives assisting migrants or refugees that I studied had recognised this issue and the consequent need to build internal political translating capacities within their own coalitions or meetings in order to avoid situations in which dominant status groups or staffers marginalised disadvantaged community members (Doerr 2019a). The above volunteer describes her own process of learning to ‘intervene’ as part of a broader collective of ‘political translators’ in interactions between asylum seekers and officials in the context of a local job centre in Berlin. Following Rancière’s notion of ‘the political’, I restrict my definition of political translation to focusing on a distinct communicative practice that is directed at challenging inequity within discursive conflict situations within institutions or also participatory, dialogical, or consensus-­ based settings of political negotiation or democracy (Rancière 1995). For example, this volunteer acted as part of an activist network whose members used their cultural capital and insider knowledge of Berlin’s local employment institutions to support refugees to get access to officials and 1

 Interview with a Berlin-based queer feminist activist, May 14, 2018.



opportunities for education and social rights on a more equal basis. What defines her intervention as an attempt of political translation is that the activist quoted intervened disruptively towards officials unwilling to communicate with queer refugees who did not yet speak German and who wanted to access employment rights and education. The local volunteer interviewed belonged to a network of feminists and queer Berliners who used their intermediary position and agency as citizens or residents to intervene as a critical third towards local institutional insiders to open access to migrants and asylum seekers (Doerr 2018, 2019a). For example, when a job centre employee refused to communicate with the German-­ speaking volunteer on the phone, the activist interviewed used her disruptive skills as an activist to ‘intervene’, writing numerous letters of complaints to officials. Like in this example, civic volunteers also intervened virtually as a critical third voice on the phone towards institutional insiders when refugees experienced linguistic communication problems. The relevance of what I call the critical third position of political translators during positional misunderstanding has been discussed in psychoanalysis and in queer theory accounts of translation. I found a first theoretical reference for trying to conceptualise the ‘third’ position of political translators in conflict situations in the work by feminist psychoanalytical theorist, Jessica Benjamin (2004). Benjamin theorises the transformative potential of interventions by an intersubjective and independent third (voice) that intervenes critically towards dominant subjectivities; through this intervention, it can interrupt hegemonic thought structures in order to enable authentic and egalitarian dialogue beyond domination (Benjamin 2004). By accepting to translate on behalf of powerless groups, interpreters and translators find themselves inherently in a position of performing as a critical third voice. Translators’ critical intermediary position (as a third voice) may thus become most relevant in political moments and situations in which the ruling elites officially deny people the right to express themselves freely and participate in public debates in their chosen language, identity, and cultural background (see Tymocko 2007). Political translation draws on two different conceptions of power in communication: the liberal assumption that deliberation will inevitably lead to fair and equitable decisions through mutual persuasion, and the radical perspective that posits a need to disrupt existing power structures in order to make such outcomes possible (Doerr 2018; Rancière 1995). In practice, political translators act from a liberal perspective when they echo and support arguments made by marginalised group members; they take a



more radical approach when they collectively disrupt and interrupt deliberations in which dominant groups marginalise disadvantaged group members. The problem of a deep, exclusionary tendency within liberal conceptions of democracy and equality, or the failure of translation, has also been addressed by queer feminist theorist, Judith Butler. In her discussion of the largest wave of immigrant protests in the US, Butler (in dialogue with Gayatri C. Spivak) sees the singing of the US national anthem in Spanish by the movement as a way ‘through which the nation is reiterated’, ‘but in ways that are not authorized—or not yet’ (Butler in Butler and Spivak 2007, p. 60). For Butler, the collective ‘we’ that sings the anthem in Spanish is a practice demanding for ‘a translation to be understood’ (ibid., p. 61). In this perspective, translation itself may be at the heart of the re-founding of the democratic nation, advancing the possibility of ever-new translations that demand for equality; an equality that does not necessarily mean more cultural homogeneity or assimilation (Doerr 2019b).

Inequality, Conflicts, and Political Translation in Social Movement Coalitions To understand the puzzle that positional misunderstandings create within alternative forms for radical democracy and consensus-based decision-­ making, which are created by protesters and activists interested in building coalitions transnationally, I studied the global justice movement. Activists engaged in the anti-neoliberal globalisation or global justice movement in Europe, in South Africa, and in the US have used varying practices of political translation to address place-specific forms of domination which I have traced focusing on inequality, conflicts, and positional misunderstandings in the context of consensus-oriented and grassroots democracy set in multilingual meetings or transnational assemblies that involve people with a multiplicity of identities and linguistic backgrounds (Doerr 2008, 2018). As part of my research, I studied situated practices of political translation in different countries and groups initially trying to understand how activist groups that criticised marginalisation within mainstream democratic citizen forums created by policy makers would work within their own culturally diverse groups and grassroots democratic assemblies (Doerr 2012). One particularly important model of egalitarian, grassroots-­ based democracy and deliberation is the aforementioned World Social



Forum (WSF). Founded in 2001, the WSF acts as a transnational counter-­ public space for protest and radical or discursive and deliberative democracy and connects global justice activists all over the world (della Porta 2005; Smith et al. 2007; Smith and Doerr 2015). I studied decision-making and deliberation in the WSF’s regional Social Forums in Europe and the US, which involved thousands of citizens, immigrants, and multilingual speakers discussing social justice and global politics (Boéri 2015; Doerr 2008). Interestingly, in many of the groups and forums I studied, facilitators were supposedly motivated to include everyone in the democratic deliberation process and were clearly sympathetic to the concerns of those included in this process. Nevertheless, these facilitators marginalised the people they sought to include—as it turned out, often without becoming fully aware of what they were doing. As a participant observer, and inspired by previous democratic theories, I initially assumed that deliberation in monolingual, national social and citizen forums in Europe and the US would be more inclusive and more successful democratically than in groups facing linguistic disparities. Previous research had also argued that democracy in multilingual, transnational meetings could be inclusive given structural hurdles of access and dynamics of power asymmetries and domination (Rucht 2002). Drawing on ten years of fieldwork involving case studies of 40 social forum groups and local citizen forums in the US, Germany, Italy, France, and the United Kingdom (UK), however, I found the opposite: linguistically and culturally diverse groups were actually more inclusive in their democratic processes and decision-making outcomes than homogeneous groups, and they also continued to live on longer. Most studies of citizen participation and consensus democracy would assume that a multiplicity of languages would impede the deliberative process; yet in all of the monolingual groups and groups without political translation that I studied, positional misunderstandings led to internal crises and to the groups’ decisions to break into different factions. However, in the cases I studied, political translation opened up in all participants an avenue for better understanding the positional misunderstandings that so often distorted deliberation between members of privileged and disadvantaged groups. In a first case study, I traced the conditions that led to the emergence of a collective of political translators as part of the regional European Social Forum (ESF). The ESF, a regional public space in Europe which forms part of the aforementioned WSF, brought together global justice activists from the EU and Europe, involving also activists from Turkey and



Morocco, as well as immigrants living within Europe. A number of ESF grassroots activists were acting as volunteer linguistic translators who formed part of the Babels volunteer network of interpreters and translators (Boéri 2010). The Babels established itself as a group within the WSF process as volunteer translators witnessed and sought to address inequality caused by linguistic boundaries and inequality overlapping with domination rooted in positional misunderstandings in the multilingual ESF preparatory assemblies (Doerr 2012). Building on their volunteer task as linguistic translators in European ESF preparatory assemblies, Babels translators collectively and publicly resisted unfair decisions by facilitators who were perceived to implement the interests of dominant groups. In their protest against perceived domination, the Babels members temporarily interrupted their linguistic service to represent the voices of marginalised participants (Doerr 2008). Their disruptive political translation practice drew on volunteer translators’ experiential knowledge of positional misunderstandings that are often unacknowledged by facilitators in meetings, since they are caused by subtle or more obvious power imbalances among the involved groups. Comparing multilingual deliberations that took place in European ESF preparatory meetings with similar meetings at the (monolingual) national level taking place in Germany, the UK, and Italy, I found that the relative inclusiveness of the European multilingual meetings profited from the critical interventions, the leverage, and the communicative power created by the political translations inspired by the Babels network.

Positional Misunderstandings Based on Class, Racialised, or Gendered Hierarchies To explore whether it would be possible for activists to employ political translation in a national and traditionally monolingual context, I undertook a second ethnographic study of the US Social Forum (USSF), which was a large-scale and ethnically diverse face-to-face forum for civic deliberation on global justice, race/ethnicity, and inequality within the US. The USSF involved more than 19.000 participants as of 2010. Initially, conflicts related to issues of race/ethnicity and inequality debilitated the first attempt to organise a first national Social Forum event in the US, which fomented an internal democratic crisis that threatened to end an already fragile coalition between local, professional NGOs, and



social movement organisations, many of them headed by grassroots global justice groups that mobilised immigrants, minorities, and poor people. Intervening critically in an attempt to end this crisis, community translators and conflict mediators succeeded to reconnect the divided factions— accomplishing something that NGOs and professional activists had been unable to do. In an exceptional move, these few dozen organisers had brought together a new, nationwide Social Forum leadership that would avoid the coalition to break up by placing marginalised populations at the centre of decision-making. Jody Mayer2 was among the group of USSF founders who fought to bring together the previously divided groups to form a new national coalition. Jody was an experienced grassroots organiser, having worked with immigrants on the ground locally. Bilingual in Spanish and English, Jody had been a trusted presence in grassroots immigrant coalition meetings preceding the USSF event during which she had provided linguistic translation for exchanges between local grassroots activists— many of them identified as people of colour, Latino/as, and LGBT organisers—and English-speaking national NGO spokespersons and funders. Jody’s day-to-day work was for the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, which connects national immigrant advocacy groups with grassroots social justice organisations throughout the US. In this organisation, Jody was accustomed to moving between languages and cultures, speaking English in national meetings and Spanish at local rallies. In USSF coalition meetings preparing for the event in Atlanta, she had often intervened when established NGO staffers working on immigration reform had trouble understanding not only the language but also the content and the importance of demands by undocumented immigrants. This work, in Jody’s view, was political: it entailed ‘translating’ into the language of privileged coalition members what daily racism meant for people of colour in local communities. What we did for the US Social Forum was translation… At the local level, our coalition is based on the work of young folks—many of them people of colour, also queers. However, our national leadership in the US radical Left does not reflect that diversity. For us as Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, translation in organising the first Social Forum in the United States [Atlanta, in 2007] meant, for sure, making a huge commitment to multilinguistic 2

 Name changed.



access. We translated the idea of a Social Forum to the US context. But it’s not just about linguistic translation of documents and statements for ­immigrants and minorities. It’s also about emotion… It’s a translation of space, of class, of gender. (quoted after Doerr 2018, p. 59)

Jody assumed that the ideas of race, class, and gender needed to be translated along with the language used to talk about leadership and power. In using translation in this unorthodox way, the new USSF leaders aimed to redefine the meaning of diversity within the coalition they were forming. The widespread perception of racial injustice implies a built-in justification for remediation, while class and gender inequalities, which also often distort communication, tend to be relatively invisible. Challenging the full range of inequalities meant fundamentally rethinking the way in which the coalition organised deliberation at its national meetings. This intersectional usage of the concept of translation was new in the world of American global justice organising. It was left distinct from the model of instrumental strategic brokerage. Scholars have emphasised the strategic relevance of brokers within heterogeneous coalitions—that is, network leaders or intermediaries mediating between institutional and local groups such as those involved in national Social Forum coalitions (Roth 2003). However, the critical intentionality and disruptive character of processes of political translating and their potential transformative power have not been acknowledged. The case of the US shows how political translators (like Jody and her colleagues) challenged positional misunderstandings alongside issues such as race, class, and gender in national global justice coalition meetings which involved mainstream NGOs and local, grassroots-based minority groups.

Conclusion: Civil-Society-Translation Capacities to Address Migration and Climate Change The groups of global justice translators, pro-democracy activists, and refugee solidarity activists whose translation practices I have discussed in this chapter sought not only to disrupt and challenge social and cultural hierarchies within deliberative politics. They also conceived of translation as a foundational model for democracy and cooperation that stems from the need to address inequality and misunderstandings based on differences. Drawing on the case of European and US Social Forum meetings, I



suggest that political translation can make a democratic impact. Democratic dialogue that includes diverse groups depends on the institutionalisation of a critical third position for independent political translators who do not form part of dominant groups or conflict parties. What seems to inspire linguistic translators and/or cultural intermediaries to act as a collective of political translators is their motivation to enact collective, conscious, disruptive interventions that challenge domination. My case studies have discussed political translation as a counter-hegemonic practice that can either build on groups’ demand for linguistic translators (as in the case of the Babels network at the European Social Forum), or from groups’ need for cultural intermediaries (as in the case of the US Social Forum). Here, the European and the US Social Forums are examples of varying types of cultural intermediaries versus linguistic interpreters who self-consciously decided to intervene as political translators in order to disrupt perceived domination or racial and gendered hierarchies within meetings that were meant to include traditionally disadvantaged groups. It is in the context of global collective action problems such as forced migration or climate migration that I see a need for much broader comparative research on the potential of social movements and civil society organisations to facilitate social change through political translation. A growing number of civic volunteers and refugee solidarity activists currently use their unique third-party-translator position to foster migrants’ and asylum seekers’ capacity to learn speaking their voice towards officials in settings of multilingual interactions shaped by discursive and institutional power asymmetries—as amateur, volunteer translators may facilitate inclusion or exclusion (Doerr 2020a). Not all self-declared cultural intermediaries and self-declared civil society translators or organisations are advancing the interests of disadvantaged groups (Doerr 2018). As shown in the example of the encounter between Berlin-based refugees towards job centre officials, many volunteers empathise with asylum seekers’ perspective, but my research also indicates that other volunteers see themselves in a way to represent the interest of host societies or state officials trying to assimilate refugees (Doerr 2019a). Another example comes from my current ethnography on Danish refugee solidarity activists. Denmark’s last government has cut spending for interpreting and translation services in hospitals and thereby made it harder for immigrants who do not speak Danish to access medical services. While state services expect asylum seekers to speak, or at least understand, Danish, civil society groups are working hard to provide asylum seekers



with access to free interpreting and translation services (Doerr 2019b). In my research I ask how civil society—in the absence of state support—can support refugees’ and asylum seekers’ political demands for integration ‘from below’ (Doerr 2019b). Some Danish churches are also following the trend of using voluntary translation services and bilingual education noticing a steady increase in participation also by majority citizens who are attracted by a socially diverse, multilingual atmosphere. Other new research on civic translation shows the enabling influence of philanthropic foundations facilitating claims to civic and social rights for marginalised groups (Egholm 2019). At the institutional level, philanthropic foundations, churches, or grassroots activists and community organisers are all in a third-party-position to foster or prevent migrants and marginalised groups’ capacity to learn speaking their voice towards officials or in public spaces shaped by sociolinguistic and institutional power asymmetries (Doerr 2018). Research on the power and impact of various actors and types of third-party actors will help to understand the conditions for social and political change and democracy in culturally diverse post-migrant societies worldwide. These accounts reveal the importance to further study social movements and civil society groups focusing on their hegemonic or counter-­ hegemonic third-party position as translators for social and political change.

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Translating International Relations (IR)


English and the Legacy of Linguistic Domination in IR Shogo Suzuki

Introduction In recent years, we have witnessed a growing awareness of colonial legacies and, more broadly, the continuing Eurocentric influences in our knowledge. As part of this, there have been increasing attempts to ‘decolonise the curriculum’, by incorporating more non-Western voices into the reading lists university instructors assign to their students. Overcoming Eurocentrism in International Relations (IR) (and indeed any other discipline) is of course ultimately about the argument, rather than the ethnic makeup of the authors. Yet, there is also an agenda of promoting non-­ Western authors and scholars, as well as pointing to the overwhelming tendency to assign and cite Western and male authors, while ignoring

S. Suzuki (*) Department of Politics, School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 Z. G. Capan et al. (eds.), The Politics of Translation in International Relations, Palgrave Studies in International Relations, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-56886-3_9




voices that emanate from the non-Western world.1 This is encapsulated by the catchphrase, ‘male, pale, and stale’. A growing awareness of the gross under-representation of non-White individuals in academia—there were 3205 blacks as opposed to 158,000 whites in academic posts in the United Kingdom in 2015–2016—is undoubtedly another motivating factor behind this campaign (The Guardian 2017). These attempts are indeed welcome developments that indicate serious engagement with the long-standing criticisms of Eurocentrism in the discipline of IR (see Hobson 2012; Hoffmann 1977; Wæver 1998). However, despite their noble intentions, putting these goals into practice is not easy. The aim of this chapter is to provide an overview of the difficulties of praxis—in other words, implementing the ‘decolonisation’ of the curriculum, and international politics as a whole, with particular attention paid to the idea of translating works from the non-Western world and introducing it in the discipline of IR. This chapter begins by providing an overview of the movement to ‘decolonise’ the curriculum. While the intentions of its proponents are to be commended, I note that the attempts to include individuals that are not ‘male, pale, and stale’ risk getting caught up in the messy politics of identity, which may prove ultimately to be more of a distraction. I then turn my focus on the second alternative of the promotion of works in non-­ English languages as a means of overcoming Eurocentric bias. Because of the difficulties associated with the ascribing of identity on authors (i.e. whether or not they are ‘Western’ or ‘non-Western’), the use of non-­ Western works in IR seems to offer a very welcome, and simple alternative that can help ‘decolonise’ the discipline. However, even this attempt faces formidable obstacles. As I mention below, there are powerful incentive structures that privilege the use of English in IR. Furthermore, the traditional intellectual snobbery towards so-called Area Studies within IR has bred a deep-rooted complacency towards learning foreign languages, particularly within the English-language sphere. The result is a shortage of IR scholars who are capable of reading or writing in non-Western languages, thus making access to non-English language sources difficult. It is because of these structural issues that translation could perhaps provide a viable alternative to accessing the ‘non-Western world’. Yet, as I 1  The term ‘the West’ is of course a contested concept. While mindful of this somewhat broad term, I nevertheless have used this in this chapter as a broad term which encompasses Western Europe and North America.



demonstrate in this chapter, translation carries with it certain risks of reproducing Eurocentrism: what works get translated into Western languages could be contingent on Western political interests than academic merit; furthermore, the use of Western languages to explain non-Western concepts could hit linguistic and/or cultural limits, and ultimately provide an incomplete picture of the non-Western world. The conclusion of this chapter is therefore somewhat pessimistic. While this is not to suggest that we should abandon our attempts to promote academic works from the non-Western world in the discipline of IR, we need to be mindful of the simple fact that ever since the expansion of the Westphalian international order—characterised by the sovereign state system—we live in a Eurocentric world. Unless Western scholars overcome their deep-rooted complacency towards learning and immersing themselves in foreign languages and culture, the dominance of Western works, where native speakers have a natural advantage, will continue alongside the Western-originated international order we inhabit.

Decolonising International Relations Eurocentrism is an issue that has long been acknowledged, if not necessarily corrected, in the discipline of IR. As noted by John M. Hobson (2007), there are two types of Eurocentrism. One is a tendency to ‘explicitly celebrate all things Western while consciously or explicitly denigrating all things Eastern’ (Hobson 2007, p. 93). Such thinking, although still discernible in some works, has become less common as insights from postcolonialism have made inroads in the discipline. The second type of Eurocentrism is more subtle. While it may adopt a critical stance vis-à-vis the West, there is still the assumption that the West lies at the centre of all things in the world and that the West self-generates through its own endogenous “logic of immanence”, before projecting its global will-to-power outwards through a one-­ way diffusionism so as to remake the world in its own image. (Hobson 2007, p. 93)

How this form of Eurocentrism manifests itself in empirical analyses of international politics has been explored elsewhere (see Hobson 2007), so need not be repeated here. In the context of this chapter, what is of greater interest is how this indirect Eurocentrism manifests itself in the theories



we use, and teach. The most obvious way in which the unconscious belief that ‘the West lies at the centre of all things in the world’ is expressed is our almost total reliance on theories that are derived from Western experiences, which are in turn assumed to have a universal quality that can explain any other phenomena taking place in the rest of the world. Consequently, the discipline is dominated by Western (usually male) authors whose works are used and cited for teaching IR in the classroom, serving to reproduce Western domination of the discipline. The reasons for this continuation of Eurocentrism in IR are manifold. One (perhaps least plausible) possibility is that ‘Western’ schools of thought have simply found ‘universal’ and ‘generalisable’ theories to explain international politics. If one prescribes to the view that all theories of social science are free of cultural and historical content and contingency, and can be readily shared across all of humankind, this could indeed be a valid explanation. The second explanation is that the expansion of Western power—for better or for worse—has resulted in a dominance of Western knowledge over the non-Western world. As Acharya and Buzan (2007) note: Western IRT [IR theory] has been carried by the dominance of Western power over the last few centuries, it has acquired a Gramscian hegemonic status that operates largely unconsciously in the minds of others, and regardless of whether the theory is correct or not. Here, one would need to take into account the intellectual impact of Western imperialism and the success of the powerful in imprinting their own understandings onto the minds and practices of the non-Western world. (p. 294)

There is a lot of truth to this statement. Western imperialism was frequently accompanied by the notion that only Western science and learning represented ‘progress’ and the highest level of civilisational achievement of humankind (see Adas 1989). Such views were internalised and taken seriously by many non-Western elites, who sought opportunities for themselves, their children, or students to study in the West. Such notions of the superiority of ‘Western learning’ may seem ethnocentric and anachronistic today. Yet, there remains a strong prestige attached to degrees obtained in prestigious institutes of learning that are based in the West. Even if a thesis is written in English, a doctorate from a non-Western university is at a disadvantage compared to those from Western universities. It is rather telling, for instance, that out of the



seventeen members of faculty (assistant professor and above) at the Department of Political Science at the National University Singapore, there is currently only one member who has a PhD from an Asian university, while the fifteen other members obtained their doctoral degrees from either the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), or Australia.2 The dynamic is well understood by doctoral scholars from the non-Western world who flock to the West to further their studies, only to reinforce ironically the structure of Western dominance in academia. This consequently results in ‘the inadequate number of interlocutors from the “non-­ West” who could have informed their “Western” counterparts about ways of thinking and doing world politics in their own locale’ (Bilgin 2008, p. 12). Trained to analyse the ‘rest of the world’ through Western social science frameworks of analysis, these non-Western IR scholars often end up reproducing the hegemony of Western knowledge in their own research, leading some to call the former ‘“social science socialized products” of “Western” IR who have “thoroughly digested [its] norms and parameters”’ (ibid., p. 13). In addition, the incentive structure in academia is heavily biased in favour of Western academic debates. While Pinar Bilgin is correct in pointing out that the assumption that non-Western scholars trained in the West will somehow end up becoming agents of Western domination ‘denies agency to “non-Western” scholars and represents them as unthinking emulators’ (Bilgin 2008, p.  13), the career incentive structures in academia are often heavily biased in favour of the West. This means that many non-Western scholars may actively exercise their agency to reproduce Eurocentric scholarship for the sake of fulfilling their career goals. In the field of natural sciences, it is almost taken for granted that any serious research must be written in English for it to have the maximum impact in its field. This may be less the case for the humanities, but English-language journals still dominate the higher echelons of citation indexes which are useful for the dissemination of one’s work, the gaining of professional prestige, and rapid promotion. In the increasingly target-driven environment of certain universities, ambitious, career-driven academics may be actively discouraged from writing in non-English languages, as these publications would not ‘count’ in the algorithms that rank universities, or in 2  See www.fas.nus.edu.sg/pol/people/faculty.html for further information (accessed on 22 October 2019). One member of faculty did not list the institute where the doctoral degree was obtained.



the next round of bureaucratic exercises benchmarking research prestige. Thus, the more competitive-minded and status-conscious researchers are all likely to write in English to target the more ‘prestigious’ academic outlets. This only helps in further entrenching the domination of Eurocentrism in the field. Finally, there is possibility that non-Western research is ‘hidden from the Western discourse by language barriers or by being located in areas of study outside’ Western-dominated debates (Acharya and Buzan 2007, p. 295), and therefore gains very little chance to be cited or taken seriously.

Decolonising the Curriculum The roots to Eurocentrism in academia are deep, and it is not easy to change them overnight. Nevertheless, there have been attempts to reverse this trend. First, there are calls for greater representation of so-called BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) people in the faculty.3 Second, there is an attempt to draw on non-Western case studies to generate generalisable theories of social science that potentially have universal applicability. This approach is attractive insofar as it acknowledges the potential that humankind, regardless of cultural or racial differences, can share common, universal experiences on the basis of their humanity. One of the best known works that takes this approach is Benedict Anderson’s (2006) Imagined Communities, which drew on fieldwork in Southeast Asia and is now widely regarded as a classic in the study of nationalism (other examples include Kang 2007, 2010; Suzuki et al. 2013). Since then, scholars have sought to introduce non-European philosophies in the field of IR (see Qin 2018), while others have sought to expose the inherent Eurocentrism in certain IR theories by highlighting the violence of European imperialism (see, for instance, Suzuki 2009a; Hobson 2012). Finally, there have been calls for the greater ‘decolonisation’ of the curriculum, which is the key focus of this chapter. Meera Sabaratnam (2017) notes that this movement can entail three things. To begin with, it ‘asks us to look at our shared assumptions about how the world is’, particularly if 3  However, as Deputy Head of Unit and Deputy Director of Policy and Strategy of the UK Cabinet Office Race Disparity Unit Zamila Bunglawala notes, there is a problem with the term BAME, as the term is not usually ‘associated with White ethnic minorities such as Gypsy, Roma and Traveller of Irish Heritage groups’, which in the context of the UK, are some of the ‘most marginalised and disadvantaged communities’ (Bunglawala 2019).



these have been formed or influenced by colonial experiences. How have ‘assumptions regarding racial and civilizational hierarchy informed a lot of thinking about how the world worked, what was worth studying in it’? How ‘should [it] be studied’? Secondly, this movement is concerned with thinking about the implications of having a more ethnically diverse learning environment. Thirdly, the movement interrogates the location and identity of the scholar and his/her work. Sabaratnam (2017) states: is it acceptable if writings and teachings about international regions or global affairs are done almost exclusively by writers from or based within the West? How does this influence our understanding? If we think that there is some kind of a relationship between position and perspective on an issue, and we want to broaden our understanding through engaging with more perspectives, we need to diversify the sources we engage in our scholarship.

It is probably this last point that has resulted in the highlighting of the over-representation of ‘male, pale, and stale’ scholars—a catchphrase which depicts deceased male scholars of white ethnicity—in university curricula, and fuelled calls for greater number of works by marginalised groups to be represented in reading lists used for teaching. In the context of the UK, the movement has generated much interest, with even members of royalty apparently expressing their sympathy for the project. In February 2019 the Duchess of Sussex, who is of mixed-race background, reportedly stated that traditional approaches in the curriculum ‘can be really antiquated and [need] an update’, after hearing Sabaratnam give a presentation on this issue (The Sunday Times 2019). The high level of interest has also meant that the campaign has been controversial. The British conservative press was (predictably) quick to express their outrage at this latest wave of perceived ‘political correctness gone mad’. The Telegraph (2017) headlines screamed: ‘university students demand philosophers such as Plato and Kant are removed from syllabus because they are white’, while the Daily Mail (2017) roared: ‘They Kant be serious! PC students demand white philosophers…be dropped from university syllabus’. Their supporters, such as vice-chancellor of Buckingham University Sir Anthony Seldon, duly cheered them on, darkly warning that there ‘is a real danger political correctness is getting out of



control. We need to understand the world as it was and not to rewrite history as some might like it to have been.’4 There are a number of difficulties with these criticisms. First, the reports by these conservative-leaning media outlets were not true. Sabaratnam (2017) explains that the movement to decolonise the curriculum is not about removing the canon of Western philosophy from the syllabus; rather, it is merely a call ‘for a greater representation of non-European thinkers, as well as better historical awareness of the contexts in which scholarly knowledge has been produced’. Seldon’s assertion is also problematic in that he fails to give serious thought to the simple fact that ‘the world’ is not uniquely made up from Western experiences, and perhaps cannot be analysed through a uniquely Western analytical perspective.

Can the Curriculum Really be ‘Decolonised’? The Issues of Identity Nevertheless, this does not mean that the campaign to ‘decolonise the curriculum’ is immune from criticism. This is based on the understanding that Eurocentrism is not just about the lack of representation, but also a deeply epistemic issue. Put differently, even if we add more ‘non-Western’ names to the curriculum, there is no guarantee that indirect Eurocentrism, which sees all ‘universal knowledge’ flowing from the West, will be challenged. Why is this so? First, the exercise can, in practice, simply become an exercise in adding ‘African and Asian names’ to the reading lists,5 without paying sufficient attention to the cultural background of the particular authors. For instance, Francis Fukuyama, with his ‘Asian’ name, may be an attractive name to add to a ‘decolonised’ curriculum. Yet, his arguments are steeped in Western philosophy. Furthermore, Fukuyama is a Japanese-­ American, was born in the US, and identifies as an American. When asked about any connection he feels to Japan, he has responded: ‘I don’t speak Japanese. In many ways the country feels like a foreign place’ (Fukuyama 2011). Should his perspectives be considered ‘Asian’, purely based on his ethnic appearance or Asian-sounding name? Should this present author, 4  This quote was by Sir Anthony Seldon, and was quoted approvingly in both Daily Mail (2017) and The Telegraph (2017). 5  This has indeed been the experience of this author, who has received requests that more ‘Asian names’ are added to the syllabus on Asian international politics.



who was born in and grew up in Japan with a white British mother and Japanese father, be counted as ‘Asian’? Would I be ‘authentic’ enough, or is my authenticity ‘tainted’ by my partly ‘non-Asian’ genetic makeup? What about individuals like Edwin O. Reischauer, a historian of Japan who was of white American background but nevertheless grew up in Japan and spoke Japanese? Similarly, while nobody can disagree with the call to ‘cite African scholars’,6 will this not entail the danger of missing out or ignoring African scholars who are of white ethnic background, and have ‘Western-­ sounding’ names? What about Western scholars based in Africa? When do they qualify as ‘African’, or can they never become ‘African’ enough? Second, there is a question of whether or not a non-Western scholar ceases to become an ‘authentic’ representative of that world whenever he/ she receives his/her training in a Western institution of education. Can they, as Acharya and Buzan (2007, pp. 306–306) note, ‘be regarded as truly “local” scholars and their work truly “indigenous” contributions to non-Western’ scholarship? Would that mean that he/she has ‘been co-­ opted’ into Western learning, or would ‘they have in some sense transcended it, and made contributions that could be counted as distinctively non-Western variants of originally Western ideas?’ (ibid., p. 308) But concerns of the ‘cooptation of non-Western scholars’ also entails the danger of unconsciously assuming that the ‘non-West’ must be inherently different from the West. This assumption also seems to undergird the belief that ‘adding non-Western scholars work’ to a curriculum will somehow make the curriculum more diverse, even though there is no such guarantee that this will be the case—despite cultural differences, the West and ‘the rest’ may actually be more similar than we might think. Is the assumption of inherent ‘difference’ in the non-West and its scholars not dissimilar to the Orientalism that exoticised the non-Western world? Are we, in our hasty desire to ‘diversify’ our curriculum, unwittingly telling our students to ‘expect those who are in a position of “weakness” [i.e. the ‘non-Western world’] to have radically ‘different’ ideas’ compared with ‘male, pale, and stale’ scholars?7 This issue also lingers on when such non-Western scholars, having settled in the West and motivated by a desire to enhance their careers, decide to write and publish in English. As Samia Mehrez notes in the context of postcolonial literature in the Francophone world, works such as L’Amour, 6 7

 Mohammed (2018).  For this point, I am indebted to Pinar Bilgin (2008).



la Fantasia by Assia Djebar ‘transcribes/translates the oral testimonies of Algerian woman [sic] on the war of liberation (1956–1962) which [Djebar] had recorded in the spoken Arabic dialect. As Djebar reinscribes these testimonies in her narrative, she “arabizes” the French in which they are recorded’ (Mehrez 1992, p.  125). Yet, the irony is that Djebar can only overthrow the patriarchal structures that silence Arab women by the use of French: ‘it is the language of “the enemy” that allows Djebar to liberate the stifled voices of the women of Algeria both from the colonial past and from the national present’ (ibid., p.  126). Furthermore, even though the ‘arabisation’ of the French language may puncture the cultural domination of the West somewhat, for the author it ‘also means exclusion from her ancestry, that ancestry she has tried to “represent”’ (ibid., p. 127). This may be less of an issue for political science than literature. Nevertheless, it is worth reminding ourselves that even if the writer is of non-Western origin, by writing in the language of the dominant West or that of the former colonial power, she/he may unwittingly reproduce the power hierarchies that ensure the endurance of Eurocentrism. While the goal of overturning power structures that privilege Western scholarship is laudable and something we should certainly strive to achieve, simplistic approaches such as adding more ‘African’ or ‘Asian’ names to reading lists are more likely to create new structures of power, rather than get rid of them. In the two issues mentioned above, if the suggestions are to be implemented, it is difficult to avoid the creation of a new class of ‘gatekeepers’—presumably with pristine ‘non-Western’ identities—whose job is to decide who is ‘Asian’ or ‘African’ enough. It would also be difficult to escape a degree of arbitrariness in deciding who is qualified to be counted as ‘non-Western’. Furthermore, there is scope for violence, in the sense of arbitrarily deciding on an individual’s identity on his/her behalf, without taking into account how that particular individual may feel about his/her ethnic identity.

Can the Curriculum Really be ‘Decolonised’? The Issues of Language If the rather simplistic exercise of ‘adding non-Westerners into the pot and stir’ does not always work well, one alternative option is to introduce more works written in ‘non-Western’ languages in the curriculum. As Acharya and Buzan (2007) note, there is a possibility that such works



are hidden from the Western discourse by language barriers or by being located in areas of study outside the Western-defined […] realm, or other entry difficulties, and therefore do not circulate in the global debates. If the reasons for being hidden are largely cultural and/or linguistic, that may well result in local theories being hidden not just from the Western debate, but also from other non-Western debates. (p. 295)

The main problem here, of course, is that limited linguistic skills constitute a formidable barrier to accessing these works. Scholars who are engaged in the English language debates have more than enough to read within that, and often lack the language skills to investigate beyond it. Those with the language skills are mainly located in Area Studies, an approach that generally focuses on the uniqueness of the area under study, and so carries a low interest in general theory. (ibid.)

While Acharya and Buzan’s (2007) sweeping claim that ‘Area Studies’ does not have an interest in furthering theoretical debates in the social sciences is unfortunate, their point about the lack of linguistic skills certainly rings true for many societies in the Anglosphere. It is estimated that 60–75 percent of the world’s populace speaks more than one language (Vince 2016), but for the case of the US, the US Census Bureau estimated that ‘only 20 percent of Americans can converse in two or more languages’ (Matthews 2019). While ‘conflicting definitions of language competence and situational usage, with non-standardised measures used to describe these’ can make cross-country comparisons difficult, the picture was only slightly better in the UK, where a study by the EU found that ‘39% of UK citizens can take part in a conversation in a language other than their mother tongue, compared to an EU average of 54%’ (Taylor 2013). To add to these limitations, some states in the English-speaking world have witnessed a decline in the number of students studying foreign languages. Previously, command of a foreign language was a sign of a cultured education and upbringing, and it would be surprising if the desire to demonstrate this status and prestige was not, however unconsciously, in the back of the mind of ‘old school’ scholars such as Martin Wight, who would quote directly from the French in their writings without providing any English translation (see, for instance, Wight 1977, pp. 142–143). For individuals like Wight, who were educated in prestigious British private schools and went on to study at Oxford or Cambridge, it was simply



assumed that any educated individual worth his or her salt should be able to read French (and the frequent sprinkling of untranslated Latin sentences in Wight’s work also indicate that the same was assumed for Latin)—there was simply no reason to provide an English translation. Such days, however, are long gone. Foreign languages ceased to be a compulsory subject for secondary education in the UK from 2004 onwards. The exam papers have been deemed to be marked harshly compared to other subjects, and this can deter school children from taking up foreign languages. Between 2003 and 2018, students taking foreign languages at GCSE (exams taken when completing Secondary Education, aged 16) level fell by 48 percent, with German and French declining by 65 percent and 62 percent, respectively (The Guardian 2019). For A-Level exams (needed for university entry), the picture was similarly grim: in 2010 students taking modern languages fell by 15 percent compared to eight years ago, with German falling by 45 percent (The Guardian 2018). The cause of this lack of competency and interest in learning foreign languages is likely to be the cause of multiple factors. In the case of the UK, in addition to the image of being ‘difficult’ subjects to obtain high grades, the falling numbers of schoolchildren taking modern languages has partly been caused by government policy to not make it a compulsory subject, as well as by its drive to promote the so-called STEM subjects— science, technology, engineering and mathematics (The Guardian 2018). Nevertheless, even in the absence of government meddling, it is arguable that the domination of English in global culture and academia gives English speakers a huge advantage, and can easily breed complacency. Most of the time, it is up to the ‘foreigners’ to learn English if they want their work to be read by an ‘international’ audience. Furthermore, if IR scholars in the English-speaking world wish to know beyond the West, they have often too happily pillaged the works of researchers in so-called Area Studies, while often dismissing their work as only examining the ‘uniqueness of the area under study’, and failing to generate ‘general theory’ (Acharya and Buzan 2007, p. 295). As Anna M. Agathangelou and L.  H. M.  Ling (2004) note with reference to the domestic household, where the servants’ quarters are located ‘downstairs’, [t]he House of IR treats those who labor in the fields of area studies or comparative politics as ‘servants.’ These ‘downstairs’ members gather ethnographic, ‘thick descriptions’ (‘low politics’) so that the ‘upstairs’ members may theorize grandly about the world (‘high politics’). Indeed, those



upstairs depend on the ethnographic sustenance and services provided by those downstairs, especially during times of crisis […]. Yet, the house of IR historically considers comparative politics (with area studies as one of its components) to contain a method only (for comparisons) and no substance. (pp. 30–31)

Given that there are an abundance of ‘servants’ ready to furnish IR scholars the ‘voices from the non-West’, albeit filtered through the eyes of the Area Studies researcher, there are even less incentives for IR scholars to take serious steps to incorporate perspectives of the non-Western world by attempting to learn foreign languages.

Translating IR: Will It Help with Decolonisation? Given this context, it seems unrealistic and unfeasible in the short term to introduce non-Western language texts in the classroom and expect students—and most of the academics who teach the subject—to understand their content. If we cannot even assume, as Wight did in the second half of the twentieth century, that university-educated individuals would be able to read European languages, the chances of students and scholars of IR being able to read, let alone speak, non-European languages are very remote indeed. This means that we must axiomatically rely on translated works to access IR scholarship from the non-Western world. The idea of translation certainly does sound like a very attractive option, at least at first glance. Non-Western writers who write in English for English-language academic outlets have no choice but to address debates in Western academia. Non-Western scholars’ works, which are directed to a domestic audience, may at least be partially free from the institutional and disciplinary pressures that reproduce Eurocentric debates, and help us access debates and theories that are more centred on non-Western perspectives and concerns. Whose Works Should Be Translated? However, whether the translation of non-Western works will help make the non-Western world more ‘understandable’ and therefore more ‘audible’ is open to question. First, there is the inevitable question of whose works are chosen to be translated. Given that politics is about ‘who gets



what, when, and how’, ‘what gets translated, when, and how’ can become an inherently political question. There are of course academic choices that are relatively removed from the humdrum of politics: works that are regarded as ‘canons’ in a particular country are likely to be targeted for translation based on academic merit alone. However, political concerns of the translators’ state and society can also play a crucial role in deciding what is to be translated. It is no coincidence, for instance, that Joseph Nye’s works on soft power were chosen for translation in China. This was of course partly because of the important nature of this work, but we cannot ignore the fact that Chinese interest in Nye’s work was also strongly related to the government’s own interests in countering the ‘China Threat’ discourse in the West through the promotion of its soft power (Suzuki 2009b). If the Western world were to look for non-Western works to translate, there is a possibility that they would simply prioritise works that reflect Western political interests, but may not necessarily be important in the original author’s country. If we are to continue with the Chinese example, it is not difficult to imagine that nationalistic books which advocate a hard line against the West would garner a lot of attention in Western societies, thanks to the West’s own insecurities about its perceived ‘decline’ (see, e.g. Layne 2018). One typical case is retired military officer Liu Mingfu’s 2009 work Zhongguo meng (China Dream), which called for the military expansion of China to counter US hegemony. His work was translated into English and reached an audience beyond China, but whether or not his work is actually important is debatable. As Alastair Iain Johnston (2013, p. 45) notes, despite their military background, these commentators often ‘come from propaganda and political work backgrounds […] they are not strategists, commanders or operational planners’, and they ‘are not in any position to know much about foreign policy decision-making, let alone to influence it’. Put simply, politically motivated choices for translation may result in a highly lopsided understanding of ‘non-Western’ voices. Furthermore, commercial concerns can influence choices of works to be selected, and again serve as a barrier to our quest to attaining a true understanding of the non-Western world. As Gamal Ghitany has noted, the Occidental reader prefers to turn to works which confirm his prejudices and his representations of the Orient. In return, some Arabic authors, in their search for a larger non-Arabic audience, feed these biased representations by



producing either touristic literature or one that amplifies the Oriental contradictions as imagined by the Occident. (cited in Jacquemond 1992, p. 155)

Viewed in this light, it is hardly surprising that Liu Mingfu’s aforementioned work was chosen for translation. While it was a book which sold well in China, Liu’s book did not reflect the mainstream of Chinese foreign policy, and was seen as a fairly provocative, hawkish view at the time. In the context of the West, the strong influence of Orientalism has meant that there is often a steady demand for ‘quirky’ or idiosyncratic works from the non-Western world that would satisfy the Western appetite for ‘exotic’ things from the ‘Orient’. There is therefore a possibility that this would influence the choice of works that are chosen for translation. Works that promote extreme views, or works that highlight the ‘difference’ of the non-Western world from the West would find a ready market, and because their ‘exotic’ content may satisfy those who wish to ‘diversify’ the curriculum by adding voices that seem distant from mainstream ‘Western’ views. But such attitudes may do a disservice to the more moderate (even mainstream) authors in the non-Western world, who may continue to be neglected, and unable to find an audience outside the domestic market of their country of origin. Can Translation Capture Nuance? Having said this, it is certainly true that the translations of scholarly work produced in the non-Western world will help diversify the ‘voices’ that are ‘heard’ within IR, no matter how unbalanced it may be. However, we must be mindful of the fact that ultimately we continue to live in a sovereign states system, which originated from the European international order and spread to the globe in the end of the nineteenth century on the back of European imperialism. The constitutive rules of the international order we see today—such as the concept of sovereignty, territorial integrity, sovereign equality, etc.—are all concepts that originated in Europe. Put differently, the ground rules of the international order today were written by the West for the West. As noted by the editors in their introduction (Capan et al. 2021), this power structure also affects our translation of IR, and it is perhaps inevitable that ‘in processes of translation some actors are given voice and others silenced’. Given that our modern vocabulary for explaining international politics derives primarily from European politics, translation has the effect



of indirectly imposing Western terminology that can fail to capture the realities of the non-Western world. A useful example of this is the difficulty capturing East Asian international relations prior to the expansion of the Westphalian international order in the late nineteenth century. The East Asian international order was characterised by a somewhat ambiguous understanding of clearly demarcated territorial borders. While in some cases clear borders existed, quite often the borders of a particular polity were not clearly drawn, and understood more in terms of zones of civilisational influence. In East Asia, the notion of ‘sovereignty’ and ‘sovereign equality’ was also not the norm. Interstate relations were conducted on the basis of hierarchy in East Asia, rather than equality. In the case of the Chinese empire, the Chinese rulers assumed that they stood at the apex of civilisation, and expected other ‘lesser’ kings of foreign lands to pay tribute. This served to confirm the former’s superior position in the civilisational hierarchy (for a basic discussion of the East Asian international order, see Fairbank 1968; Zhang 2001). The concept of sovereignty was equally inapplicable. In some cases, China designated certain polities (such as Korea and Ryūkyū, present-day Okinawa) as ‘vassal states’, but did not interfere with their domestic politics. It only tended to impose its rules of diplomacy in its bilateral relations. Polities such as the Ryūkyū paid tribute to both Japan and China simultaneously, further making its status ambiguous. In other cases like Tibet, the Qing dynasty (1636–1911) maintained its control by supervising the process of choosing the local ruler, and making use of local elites. It is not easy to find a word that captures such ambiguous interstate relations, partly because these are so alien to the Westphalian model that we are accustomed to. While this is, to an extent, an issue of definition, Western diplomats were unable to make sense of interstate relations in late-nineteenth-century East Asia, and this highlights the fact that this was not just a semantic point. There was confusion over the status of Ryūkyū, which paid tribute to both the Qing dynasty in China and Japan. As this political arrangement was so alien to the concept of sovereignty, the Western powers were unable to understand which state exercised ‘sovereignty’ over Ryūkyū, or whether Ryūkyū was actually a sovereign state in its own right. Would the use of the term ‘state’ or ‘kingdom’ denote some form of sovereignty on the part of Ryūkyū? Would these two English words be able to capture the political status of this polity? Similarly, in the case of relations between the Qing dynasty and Tibet, there was confusion over what word could best capture the nature of Qing



rule in Tibet. Could the word ‘empire’ or ‘imperial control’ be used? The use of Western words such as ‘empire’ or ‘imperial’ almost immediately invoke the image of the suspension of a polity’s sovereignty by another. Michael Doyle, for instance, defines an empire as ‘a system of interaction between two political entities, one of which, the dominant metropole, exerts political control over the internal and external policy—the effective sovereignty—of the other, the subordinate periphery’ (Doyle 1986, p. 12). Western historical experiences and memory of empire readily conjure up this image as well. But can the relations between the Qing dynasty and Tibet be called ‘imperial’, when there was no ‘sovereignty’ to be suspended in the first place? Such uncertainties meant that the Westerners had to search for alternative nouns to describe Chinese control over Tibet. They eventually settled on the term ‘suzerainty’, but the increasing demands for China to adopt Westphalian norms resulted in the Qing dynasty gradually strengthening its control over Tibet to eliminate this ambiguity, causing increasing Tibetan resentment. While these are arguably academic points about the definition of terminology, they nevertheless do serve to demonstrate that words whose meanings we often take for granted often come with their own unique historical and cultural ‘baggage’, and may not always be able to capture the realities outside of the context in which they were born. In order to fully capture these nuances, the translator would be required to make full use of notes to provide the full context. Yet, a written work full of footnotes and glossaries can put off readers and undermine the aim of disseminating non-Western voices and works to a wider, Western audience. Worse still, it could also inadvertently reinforce Orientalist stereotypes. As Richard Jacquemond (1992) warns, the nonprofessional reader who […] chooses to read such a translation is soon rebuked by its harshness, its radical strangeness […] such a conception of translation reinforces the same representations Orientalism has created: it inscribes in the structure of language itself the image of a ‘complicated Orient’, as de Gaulle said, irremediably strange and different. (p. 149)

Concluding Remarks: Will More Non-European Voices Overthrow Eurocentrism? In this chapter, I have painted a highly sceptical picture of our recent attempts to ‘decolonise’ IR. While it may be a good idea to translate nonWestern works in order to ‘decolonise’ the discipline of IR and its



curriculum, we need to be mindful of the politics of translation, as well as the issue of language that serves to obscure our understandings of the non-Western world. The issues that I have highlighted here make the ‘decolonisation’ of IR a highly formidable challenge, but our attempts to alter the power balance between the West and the ‘rest’ are made doubly difficult by the simple fact that we are living in a Western-centric world, for better or for worse. While the much touted ‘rise of China’ may alter the power balance, the Chinese have so far operated broadly within the normative framework of the Westphalian international system: they have not sought to abolish the sovereign state, or resurrect the ‘tribute system’ modelled along the diplomatic practices of the Chinese empire. This means that the constitutional norms written by the West are set to stay. Ironically, the fact that we live in a Westphalian sovereign state system means that the non-Western world has adopted this language and sought to attain ‘fluency’ in it. As Hedley Bull (1984) noted in the context of decolonisation: The revolt against Western dominance…has been conducted, as [sic] least ostensibly, in the name of ideas or values that are themselves Western, even if it is not clear in all cases that these ideals are exclusively or uniquely Western: the rights of states to sovereign equality, the rights of nations to self-determination, the rights of human beings to equal treatment irrespective of race, their rights to minimum standards of economic and social welfare. (pp. 222–223)

Such dynamics can still be found readily in international politics today, when the People’s Republic of China invokes the concept of sovereignty to reject any criticism of its abuse of human rights within its own territorial borders. Interestingly, these cases where the oppressed unwittingly reproduce the structures of oppression can creep into the word of language and translation as well. A telling example of this can be found in late-­nineteenth-­ century East Asia. This was a time when there existed an almost complacent belief in the superiority of European civilisation, as well as a firm sense of nobles oblige that the West had the moral duty to spread the blessings of Western civilisation. If ‘non-civilised’ or ‘savage’ polities were unable to demonstrate their civilisational attainment (which was measured by the



‘standard of civilisation’), they risked outright colonisation,8 as they had to be guided under Western tutelage towards ‘political maturity’. Faced with the expanding West, the East Asian polities found themselves being forced to adopt Western norms of diplomacy and domestic governance, and at times they had to learn quickly. Translation played a crucial part in this process. Japan, as one of the earliest polities that sought to fulfil the ‘standard of civilisation’ and attain equality with the Western powers, played a crucial part in this process. Terms such as shuken (主権), which was a translated word for ‘sovereignty’ were initially coined in Japan, and the common use of Chinese characters helped these (originally Japanese) words to be adopted quickly by neighbouring countries in the region, such as China and Korea. However, when there were disputes over interpreting the meaning of this word, the translated term was quickly ditched in favour of a Western language. During the Sino-Japanese negotiations over the status of Korea and whether or not the Qing dynasty exercised ‘sovereignty’ over Korea, the Japanese delegate Itō Hirobumi chose to speak in English, even though ‘English was not a comfortable choice for anyone at the talks’ (Dudden 2005, p. 55). The reason for this was deeply connected to the fact that the constitutive norms for the sovereign system had originated from Europe, giving European languages an authority that Asian languages did not possess. As Alexis Dudden (2005) notes: Had Itō spoken in Japanese and attempted to use Japan’s new Chinese character terms for ‘independence’ or ‘sovereignty,’ for example, Chinese negotiators could have dismissed Japan’s use of the kanji [Chinese characters] as meaningless misinterpretations of the characters’ true meanings—as defined by them. Brush-talking was useful, but the Chinese were its champions. Articulating the same concepts in a wholly alien language allowed ­international terms to retain their distant authority. Thus English made the terms nonnegotiable. (pp. 55–56)

What we see here is the dynamic where a particular language has authority in a certain political setting, and a stark demonstration of the power that European languages enjoy in international politics. The very fact that sovereignty is a European concept means that even when translated into an Asian language, the authoritative definition is deemed to rest ultimately 8

 The ‘standard of civilisation’ has been examined in depth by G. W. Gong (1984).



in a European language. This also highlights insights from conceptualising ‘translation as transformation’, where the process of translation results in the emergence of hierarchies. In terms of implications for IR and its decolonisation, this indicates that decolonisation may remain a distant dream. While the adoption of Western concepts such as sovereignty and national self-determination has—at least superficially—brought about the end of colonialism in the international community today, it still has the effect of putting the West in a position of authority and power, as it is only Western languages that can fully carry the cultural and historical contexts of the words that shape the constitutive norms of international politics today. Knowledge of context always gives native speakers a huge advantage in the course of understanding a language. Native speakers of Japanese are highly unlikely to understand the sentence ‘hinohara mura ni wa funo ̄ ga ooi’ as ‘there are many people who suffer from erectile disfunction in Hinohara village’. They are much likely to understand it as: ‘there are many rich peasants in Hinohara village’ (the word funō is a homonym that can mean ‘rich peasant’ or ‘impotence’ in Japanese).9 This is because the native Japanese speaker is more likely to have a better understanding of the context of the sentence, given his/her familiarity with the geographical location of Hinohara village (part of the Tokyo metropolitan district), as well as the general economic circumstances of rural society in Japan. The advantage in understanding and attaining fluency in Western words ensures that the onus is likely to remain on the non-Western world to master European languages in order to have an ‘authoritative’ voice and function fully within the sovereign states system. The introduction and translation of non-Western language works may help us gain greater access to perspectives to the voices of this part of the globe. Yet, whether or not this will achieve ‘decolonisation’—defined in terms of the reversal of Western dominance in global politics—is debatable. Given that the non-­ Western world has internalised many Western concepts, ultimately the language of the West is most likely to carry the most authority in global politics, and is likely to continue to ‘matter’ more. In his discussion of the translation of Arabic literature into French, Jacquemond (1992) notes:


 This example draws on Yonehara (1994, p. 211).



529 of the 18,800 books published in France in 1986 related in one way or another to Arab culture, but 500 of them were written in French, and only 29 were translated from the Arabic and other Oriental language. The wide gap between the two figures reconfirms the epigraph from Marx which Edward Said quotes in his book Orientalism: ‘They cannot represent themselves; they must be represented.’ In fact, Said could have completed Marx’s statement by adding: ‘and if they are to represent themselves, they will have to do so using our language. (p. 148)

This dynamic, unfortunately, is also likely to continue in IR for some time to come. For the discipline to escape this dynamic, more efforts should be made to train IR scholars in foreign languages.10 Furthermore, IR should make serious attempts to democratise its ‘house’, and cease the deeply rooted practice of treating Area Studies as its poor, atheoretical servant that is incapable of making contributions to theoretical literature. Only then can we begin taking the first steps towards understanding better the non-Western world and overcome the Eurocentric straitjacket that has restricted the ‘decolonisation’ of the discipline.

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On the Power of Translation and the Translation of ‘Power’: A Translingual Concept Analysis Ariel Shangguan

Introduction Even if the American, Russian, and Indian could speak to one another, they would speak with different tongues, and if they uttered the same words, those words would signify different objects, values, and aspirations to each of them. So it is with concepts such as democracy, freedom, and security. The disillusion of differently constituted minds communicating the same words, which embody their most firmly held convictions, deepest emotions, and most ardent aspirations, without finding the expected sympathetic responses, has driven the members of different nations further apart rather than united them. (Hans J. Morgenthau 1948, p. 202)

The chapter pursues three main aims. First, it provides a limited but hopefully still somewhat distinct Chinese perspective on the politics and

A. Shangguan (*) Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University, Beijing, People’s Republic of China © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 Z. G. Capan et al. (eds.), The Politics of Translation in International Relations, Palgrave Studies in International Relations, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-56886-3_10




problems of translation which are addressed in this volume. To illustrate this concern, consider the now known example of how the occidental concept of ‘logic’ was introduced into the Chinese intellectual community by Jesuit missionaries in the seventeenth century. Chinese scholarly elites suggested as much as eleven different translations in an attempt to capture the exact meaning of the European concept of logic (Kurtz 2001; see also Elman 2005). By the early twentieth century, 59 Chinese lexical terms were used to indicate the meaning of ‘logic’, each capturing different conceptual nuances and aspects. When these Chinese lexical terms were re-­ translated into Western intellectual discourse, they were all translated by the same term, that is, ‘logic’ (Kurtz 2001). This suggests the extent to which Chinese has more terms to indicate different aspects of the concept whereas the same term is used in English. Indeed, this linguistic difference leads to the pluralisation of conceptual meanings when ‘logic’ is translated from English to Chinese. Second, the argument in this chapter brings together two recent strands of disciplinary debate in International Relations (IR), that is, non-Western IR and translation. Tickner and Waever (2009) argue that IR scholars must understand the centre–periphery relation that prevails in IR by examining academic practices of the discipline in less influential parts of the world. Shilliam (2011, p. 18) suggests that the incorporation of nonWestern voices should begin with recognising the ‘co-constitution of the archives of Western and non-Western thought through (the threat of) relations of colonial domination’. With reference to the ancient Chinese philosophy of Daoism, Ling (2014) proposes the concept of ‘worldism’ as an alternative way to understand international relations. However, despite these efforts to theoretically engage with so-called non-Western voices, discussions rarely focus on the aspect of language. This chapter addresses the role of language in constructing a more inclusive non-Western IR. It follows the still limited but growing interest in translation studies in IR (see Capan et al. 2021; Nordin 2016; Wigen 2014). Here, however, little research has been concerned specifically with problems regarding Chinese translations. The study of Chinese localisations of the meaning of ‘hegemony’ by Nordin (2016) is an important exception, which has not been followed up by similar research, not even by Chinese scholars. This seems to suggest that there is a shared assumption among Chinese and Anglophone scholars that the meanings of IR concepts can remain the same when translated from English to Chinese. However, as this chapter will show, this is not the case.



The third purpose of the chapter is methodological. Employing ‘concept’ as its basic unit of analysis, the chapter contributes to the so-called conceptual turn in IR.  Guzzini (2005) has stressed the importance of investigating the performative aspect of a political concept and proposed what he called ‘a constructivist conceptual analysis’. This triggered a call for a more reflexive engagement with key concepts in IR debates (Guzzini 2013a). Engaging with key concepts is necessary for the study of IR theory not only because concepts are the ‘ontological building blocks’ of theory, but also because they provide an essential language through which theorists can generate their arguments (Guzzini 2013a, p.  534). ‘[C]oncepts […] are co-constitutive of theories; they are the words in which […] theorising is done’ (ibid., p. 535). Following from this argument, Berenskoetter (2017) calls for granting concept analysis a more prominent place in the study of IR as a discipline: ‘if the building blocks change, the theoretical house takes on a new form as well’ (ibid., p. 171). In other words, concepts do not only build theories, they also destabilise them. This intrinsically ‘deconstructive and reconstructive’ nature of concepts helps to ‘free space for thinking differently and devising alternative meanings and, thereby, enable theory building’ (Berenskoetter 2017, p. 173). This implies that the way in which key disciplinary concepts are translated, if not mistranslated, could potentially alter the original theorisation and give rise to new interpretations and meanings. It is such a transformative power of translation that this chapter will reconstruct. The chapter pursues what I call a translingual concept analysis to investigate translations in the discipline of IR. Wigen (2014) argues that international relations are effectively interlingual relations with some key concepts frequently being deployed in international relations, such as ‘civilisation’. The meaning of these key concepts become increasingly aligned, compatible and thus maintained across linguistic boundaries and between different linguistic communities and polities, and still gained legitimacy in their corresponding linguistic context as result of conceptual convergence. In this chapter, I focus on the translingual aspect of international relations. Whilst an interlingual approach emphasises what is happening in the process of translating, a translingual approach stresses the outcome of a particular translation. The chapter is divided into two main parts. The first section outlines the theoretical framework employed in the analysis. I draw on Koselleck’s work to clarify what a ‘concept’ is. I show how Koselleck’s approach to concept and conceptual history can shed new light on the study and



understanding of translation. In the words of Koselleck (2002, p.  21), ‘Any translation into one’s own present implies a conceptual history’. My main proposition here is that translation is a form of (re)conceptualisation, which can fundamentally transform the ways in which a particular text can be read. I demonstrate this point in the chapter’s second part. Comparing Kenneth Waltz’s (1979) Theory of International Politics (the most cited general theory of international politics, according to Allan Kornberg (1981)) and its Chinese translation, I show how a conceptual approach to translation is useful for deconstructing some of the most prevailing arguments in disciplinary debates in IR. The concept of power is explicitly selected to illustrate this argument. This is not only because few concepts in the study of IR are or have been as crucial to disciplinary debates as ‘power’. The concept of power also serves as a ‘building block’ in Waltz’s theorisation. When Waltz’s Theory of International Politics was translated into Chinese, ‘power’ compartmentalised into a number of different semantic expressions as a result of linguistic differences between Chinese and English. Each semantic expression represents a very precise form of ‘power’ in Chinese. Similar to the example with ‘logic’, these different semantic expressions, and what they each mean, are in English encapsulated in one single concept, ‘power’. ‘Power’ therefore requires further interpretations in accordance with different contexts. To the contrary, due to this pluralisation of meaning resulting from the process of translating, Chinese translations of ‘power’ no longer require much interpretation. As such, ‘power’ in Chinese is not necessarily a contentious concept. The argument that ‘power’ is a semantically complex and thus ambiguous concept is indeed very particular to an English-speaking IR community.

Translating Concepts: Begriffsgeschichte Revisited Though Sartori (1970) famously noted the lack of effective discussions on concepts in quantitative research, the study of concepts has never been absent in disciplinary debates of political science. In IR, frustrated by the insufficient analytical language provided by traditional paradigms, scholars have become increasingly inclined to organise their research according to specific concepts, such as ‘security’ (Buzan and Hansen 2009), ‘sovereignty’ (Bartelson 1995, 2014; Lopez et  al. 2018), ‘power’ (Guzzini 2005), ‘friendship’ (Berenskoetter 2007), and ‘empire’ (Jordheim and Neumann 2011). There has only recently been a methodological



engagement with how concepts structure theories and practices in and of international relations. Guzzini (2005, 2013b) and Berenskoetter (2016, 2017) argue that theorising concepts is vital for understanding the ontology of the international order. Drawing on Koselleck, they both suggest that concepts fundamentally enable us to make sense of what we look at and what we can have conversations about.1 What exactly is a ‘concept’? The study of concepts in intellectual history has traditionally been dominated by three approaches that emerged concurrently but nonetheless independently: The Cambridge School of the history of political thought represented by Quentin Skinner and J. G. A. Pocock; Foucauldian genealogy, represented by the work of Jens Bartelson (1995, 2014); and the Begriffsgeschichte of the German historian Reinhardt Koselleck. Begriffsgeschichte, or conceptual history, is an interdisciplinary historiographic approach to the study of intellectual history. The term Begriffsgeschichte derives from Hegel. It has been an explicit mode of inquiry and thus retained a permanent position in historical lexicography since the eighteenth century (White, cited in Koselleck 2002, p. i). In the late 1950s, Koselleck, a lecturer in Heidelberg and the leading advocate and practitioner of Begriffsgeschichte, proposed in a meeting within the Arbeitskreis für Moderne Sozialgeschichte (a working group of historians who were the first to introduce modern social history into a German context) to develop a new approach to conceptual history (Koselleck 2002). The theoretical goal of this project was to ‘relate thought, once social and political change had been conceptualised, to changes in the structures of government and society’ (Richter 1995, p.  20). The proposal resulted in a multi-volume historical dictionary, Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland (Basic Concepts in History: A Dictionary on Historical Principles of Political and Social Language in Germany),2 which charts the main historical shifts in conceptual vocabularies and vernaculars of politics, government, and society in German-speaking Europe from 1750 to 1850 (Richter 1995, p. 248).

1  It is worth noting that, although this chapter exclusively focuses on the works of Koselleck, methodologically speaking, Guzzini and Berenskoetter only drew partly from Koselleck’s approach. 2  Since the two dictionaries never made it into the English-speaking world, I used Richter’s translations of the book titles here.



Core to conceptual history as a method is the attempt to overcome the limitation of traditional historical philology and lexicography by separating ‘concept’ from ‘word’ (Hampsher-Monk et  al. 1998). Koselleck (2004, p. 86) theorises the difference between a ‘concept’ and a ‘word’ as ‘each concept is associated with a word, but not every word is a social and political concept’. ‘Begriffsgeschichte deals with the convergence of concept and history’ (ibid.; emphasis added). Drawing on de Saussure’s semiotic analysis, Koselleck (cited in Booeker 1998) differentiates concepts from words according to three levels: one, the lexical unit by which they are expressed; two, the object(s) to which they refer; and, three, the meaningful content intended by thought: The meaning of the word always refers to that which is meant, whether a train of thought or an object, etc. The meaning is therefore fixed to the word, but it is sustained by the spoken or written context, and it also arises out of the situation to which it refers. A word becomes a concept if this context of meaning in which—and for which—the word is used, is entirely incorporated into the word itself. The concept is fixed to the word, but at the same time it is more than the word. (p. 54)

It follows that a word consists of two parts. One is the linguistic form. Another is the idea or the object for which the linguistic form stands. For example, the word ‘state’ has a linguistic form, simply the word state. And it has its signified object, that is, a country considered as an organised political entity. According to Koselleck (2002), the meaning is fixed to the word and there is no ambiguity in defining the term. Because a concept is a word that incorporates ‘the entity of meaning and experience within a socio-political context within which and for which a word is used’ (Koselleck 2002, p. 85), complexity occurs when ‘state’ becomes a concept. A concept has a multitude of meanings and can often be designated by more than one word. For the word ‘state’ to be registered as a concept, one must at the same time invoke a variety of other conditions with their own conceptuality (Begrifflichkeit), such as jurisdiction, army and taxation. This sort of summation of meanings can only be obtained by abstraction. In sum, a word can be defined; a concept can only be interpreted. How does this relate to translation? With reference to the Chinese introduction and (mis)translations of Western political concepts such as ‘liberty’ and ‘democracy’ in the nineteenth century, Richter (2005, p. 16) argues that the act of translating political concepts from one linguistic



context into another is a ‘complex and multilayered process of intercultural communication […] flawed by inequalities of power’ (see also Howland 2002). As such, an analytical framework which can ‘chart and explain the full spectrum of possibilities’ (ibid.) when political concepts are translated from one linguistic context to another is needed. Yet, as intellectual historian Christopher Hill (2013) observes, one of the central issues concerning traditional translation studies is its inability to theorise what I refer to as the translatability of the conceptuality, meaning the extent to which the abundance of meanings that are combined in a particular term can be translated. Most translation-focused studies do not, or fail to, differentiate between a ‘word’ and a ‘concept’ (see, e.g. Theo Hermans’ (1985) translation as manipulation approach or Mona Baker’s (1993) corpus-based approach to translation). Koselleck’s distinction between a ‘concept’ and a ‘word’ is relevant for inquiring into how political concepts get translated. It offers a new way of problematising translation by questioning whether or not a concept can preserve its original conceptuality, that is, its inherent combination of meanings, when it is translated. If a concept was (re)conceptualised according to its original meaning, it begs the follow-up question of how intellectual, historical and social experience represented by the original concept was transplanted into a different linguistic context. If original conceptuality was not preserved, then it is worth considering what might be the impact on a concept’s original interpretation. According to Koselleck (2004), each concept has its own ‘semantic field’, which provides and constrains its meanings. The same concept could have different semantic fields across different linguistic contexts which makes translation difficult. Whereas Koselleck did not elaborate further on translation, he did emphasise the necessity of a ‘metalanguage’ for conceptual history to transcend linguistic and cultural boundaries. Yet, he also concluded that ‘there is no such metalanguage’ (ibid., p.  217). Moreover, in the words of Richter (2012, pp.  10–11; emphasis added), Koselleck ‘argued that the history of political and social concepts may be reconstructed through studying the reception, or more radically, the translation of concepts first used in the past but then pressed into service by later generations’ (see also Koselleck 1996). According to Koselleck (1996, p. 68; emphasis added), in a response to Skinner and Pocock, the task of the conceptual historian is ‘to ask what strands of meaning persist, are translatable, and can again be applied; what threads of meaning are discarded; and what new strands



are added’. It is evident that Koselleck used ‘translation’ and ‘translatable’ in the context of diachronic translations, understood as the transfer of conceptual meaning from one context to another through time. Yet, diachronic translation is not fundamentally different from processes of translating between linguistic contexts or between different geographical locations. In On Linguistic Aspects of Translation, structural linguist Roman Jakobson (1959) argues Like any receiver of verbal messages, the linguist acts as their interpreter. No linguistic specimen may be interpreted by the science of language without a translation of its signs into other signs of the same system or into signs of another system. Any comparison of two languages implies an examination of their mutual translatability; widespread practice of interlingual communication; particularly translation activities, must be kept under constant scrutiny by linguistic science. (p. 233)

According to Jakobson, translation is essentially a structural practice whereby the meanings of some words are interpreted similar to the meanings of other words, either from the same or foreign languages. In this sense, similar to how meaning can be transferred from one context to another in and through the act of translation, Koselleck’s conceptual history can also be understood as a form of translation. The difference is that the basic analytical category in Koselleck’s form of translation is ‘concept’, whereas it is ‘word’ in traditional translation studies. This implies that translation, from a ‘Koselleckian perspective’, is not simply about transferring the meaning of a word from one context to another, but about transferring the very conceptuality of a word from one context to another. The process of translation is a process of (re)conceptualisation.

From ‘Power’ to Powers: A Translingual Concept Analysis What are the implications of translation, as an act of transferring and (re)conceptualising meaning from one context to another, for theory-­ building? The ‘conceptual turn’ in IR suggests that concepts are theories’ fundamental building blocks and serve to both construct and de-/re-­ construct theorisation. It is not the lexical definition of a ‘word’, but the entirety of a concept’s meaning(s) that enables theory-building. Yet, as a result of differences between semantic fields in different languages, the



meaning of a concept can potentially change fundamentally when it is translated into different linguistic contexts. An act of translation becomes to a great extent an act of deconstruction in theory-building. This section demonstrates translation’s deconstructive nature with reference to the concept of ‘power’ in Kenneth Waltz’s Theory of International Politics and how translation alters the original argumentation. ‘Power’ and/in Waltz Kenneth Waltz is one of the most cited authors and his Theory of International Politics one of the most influential publications in IR. One major reason for his influence is his proposal of a series of provocative but nonetheless coherent arguments which challenged the then prevailing viewpoints in significant segments of the (Western) IR community. Waltz is often referred to as the founding father of neorealism, a school of IR theory that is arguably now the most dominant paradigm for understanding international politics. In contrast to classical realism, a practical, historical and normative approach to international politics, Waltz’ neorealism emphasises the deductive and explanatory nature of theory. In Waltz’s view, it is necessary to differentiate theory from analysis in theorising international politics. The purpose of a theory is to ‘explain regularities […] and leads one to expect that the outcomes […] will fall within specified range’ (Waltz 1979, p.  68). In Realism and International Politics (2008), Waltz writes: theory is not a mere collection of variables. If a ‘gap’ is found in a theory, it cannot be plugged by adding a ‘variable’ to it. To add to a theory something that one believes has been omitted requires showing how it can take its place as one element of a coherent and effective theory. (p. 89)

Waltz’s point here is that a theory is not a theory if it cannot be generalised and does not offer systematic predictions and explanations. A theory of international politics, for example, should be able to explain why wars happen and also indicate possible political conditions that might lead to wars; it should serve to explain ‘recurrences and repetitions’ in the realm of international politics (ibid., p. 75). To the contrary, classical realism is only a form of analysis as it fails to construct a comprehensive and predictive theory of international politics. It overemphasises ‘the accidental and the occurrence of the unexpected’ (Waltz 2008, p. 75). An analysis can



include what is left out of a theory—that is, ‘the accidental and the occurrence of the unexpected’—but by doing so it fails to become a theory. In short, for Waltz, a theory should only concern the variables that make the most difference, whereas an analysis can be applied to discuss other lesser factors. ‘Power’ is one of those variables that are central to Waltz’s theorisation. Few concepts in the study of IR are as crucial to disciplinary debates as ‘power’. In a disarmingly candid fashion, Hedley Bull (1995[1977], p. 109) admits that the idea of ‘power’ in the study of IR is not something that can be ‘precisely quantified’ but nevertheless is a concept that ‘we cannot do without’. ‘Power’ is an example par excellence of what Koselleck defines as a ‘concept’ that is, a term that incorporates an entity of meanings and experiences within a socio-political context in which and for which the term is used. Such a conceptual nature of ‘power’ is probably most evident in the ways it is used in Waltz’s Theory of International Politics. For instance, with reference to states’ preferences of forming alliances with the weaker of two coalitions, Waltz (1979) writes, Because power is a means and not an end, states prefer to join the weaker of two coalitions. They cannot let power, a possibly useful means, become the end they pursue. The goal the system encourages them to seek is security. (p. 126; emphasis added)

According to Guzzini (2013b, p. 10), there are generally three main conceptualisations of ‘power’ in the study of IR.  First, ‘power’ is often used to describe or be associated with a certain polity or socio-political order. This can be a government, a form of governance, or certain rules. Furthermore, on a micro-level, ‘power’ can be conceptualised as either in terms of subjectivity where the concept refers to one’s autonomy and independence, or in terms of agency and one’s capacity or ability to influence (Guzzini 2016, p. 27). Applying this matrix of conceptualisations to the above text, Waltz repeatedly refers to ‘power’ as a ‘means’. This suggests that the concept is thought of in terms of agency and influence. Hence, the meaning of ‘power’ can be a state’s capacity to influence and dominate. Moreover, the concept of power is often deemed as a key premise to both classical realist and neorealist accounts of international politics. They differ insofar as in accordance with classical realism the desire for power is rooted in human nature with power being an end in itself, whilst neorealism believes that power is only a means to an end. By



conceptualising ‘power’ as a state’s capacity to influence, Waltz reveals the epistemological foundation of his theorisation. Apart from just ‘power’, another frequently mentioned concept in the disciplinary debate of IR is ‘great power’. In Theory of International Politics, Waltz dedicated an entire chapter to discussing the role of great powers. He explicitly argues that the theory of international politics is essentially about the politics of great powers. However, unlike in the last example where the concept of ‘power’ was conceptualised to describe a state’s agency to influence, ‘power’ in ‘great power’ explicitly refers to a particular political order, that is, a nation state. Waltz (1979) writes: Each power viewed another’s loss as its own gain. Faced with the temptation to cooperate for mutual benefit, each state became wary and was inclined to draw back. When on occasion some of the great powers did move toward cooperation, they did so in order to oppose other powers more strongly. (p. 70; emphasis added)

In the above example, although there are no adjectives describing the two ‘power(s)’, it can be deduced from the context that ‘power’ in this case is used to indicate ‘great power’ understood as a nation state. Moreover, sometimes ‘power’ is used repeatedly in the same sentence but adopts different meanings. In this case, deriving the specific meaning of power from a specific context within which it is enacted becomes even more important. Waltz (1979, p. 127) writes: To confirm the theory, one should not look mainly to the eighteenth-­ century heyday of the balance of power when great powers in convenient numbers interacted and were presumably able to adjust to a shifting distribution of power by changing partners with a grace made possible by the absence of ideological and other cleavages. (p. 127; emphasis added)

‘Power’ is mentioned three times in the above quote. While ‘powers’ in ‘great powers’ clearly refer to individual nation states, ‘power’ in the phrase ‘balance of power’ and in ‘distribution of power’ are used to describe a nation’s political capacity. Even when if the conceptualisation of ‘power’ occurs on a macro level, it can still have different meanings depending on the context. ‘Power’ in the sentence, ‘The Bolsheviks in the early years of their power preached international revolution and flouted the conventions of diplomacy’ (Waltz 1979, p.  127; emphasis added), does



not refer to the political order of a nation state, but rather to the regime and governance of the Bolsheviks. One can conclude from the above examples that the ubiquity and significance of the concept of ‘power’ in IR is primarily due to the complexity and ambiguity of its conceptuality. Depending on the context within which the concept is enacted, ‘power’ cannot only be used with different meanings, but also serves as an indicator of a particular epistemological stance of one’s theorising. If the complexity of ‘power’ lies in its conceptuality, what happens to this conceptuality when the concept is translated into a different language, for example, Chinese? The remaining part of this section examines how the concept of ‘power’ has been translated in Chinese editions of Waltz’s book. ‘Power(s)’ and/in the Chinese Edition of Theory of International Politics Theory of International Politics was first published in 1979. According to Kornberg’s (1981) data on citations of major IR texts, it took only two years for Theory of International Politics to become the most cited publication in the discipline. In contrast to such rapid spread of popularity in the Anglophone community, Waltz’s book did not make it to Chinese academia until the 1990s. There are three editions of the Chinese translation of Theory of International Politics (国际政治理论 in Chinese). The first edition was published in 1992 and translated by two professional translators from a state-owned publisher. Although the exact reason for the importation of this particular book remains unclear, it was most likely due to the popularity of Waltz’s work in the United States. In the early 1980s, Chinese students were able to go abroad to study. Most of them went to the United States, and some of them studied IR. It was then that Western IR theories were introduced into Chinese academia (Qin 2011). This was also the time when the ‘Waltzianisation’ of IR began to dominate the American IR community. Chinese students studying IR in US universities were presented with the belief that Waltz’s theory and neorealism was the most important theoretical and analytical framework. When Chinese students returned to China and entered academia, they chose to introduce this theoretical framework. The second edition of Theory of International Politics was published in 2004. The third edition came out four years later.



The analysis in this section is solely based on the second edition of Waltz’s book. Whereas the first edition was translated by professional translators with no background in international politics, the second edition was translated by an IR scholar based in Fudan University, Shanghai. The quality and accuracy of the second translation is therefore significantly better compared to the first edition. A thorough comparison between the second and the third edition shows that the third edition is simply a reprinted version of the second translation. The introduction to this chapter mentioned an example of (mis)translation where the concept of ‘logic’ was inscribed with considerably more meanings when translated into Chinese. Deconstructing Chinese translations of Waltz’s usage of ‘power’ in Theory of International Politics demonstrates the exact same phenomenon; that is, meaning pluralises in and through translation. To demonstrate this point, I adopt slightly more quantitative approach. First, I identified all occurrences of ‘power’ in Waltz’s book and found that the concept was used 221 times. Second, I turned to the Chinese edition of the book and identified the corresponding Chinese translation of each time the concept of power was used. In the 2004 translation of Theory of International Politics, the concept of power was translated in no less than fourteen different ways. These translations can be categorised into three groups. The first group is Chinese terms that connotate different aspects of ‘power’, including ‘力 量 (li liang)’, ‘权力 (quan li)’, ‘力 (li)’, ‘势力 (shi li)’, ‘实力 (shi li)’ and ‘ 能力 (neng li)’. These terms could all mean ‘power’ if they are back-translated into English. However, they have completely different connotations in Chinese. The second group is terms that simply refer to nation states, including ‘大国 (da guo)’—‘big country’, ‘强国 (qiang guo)’—‘strong country’, ‘强 (qiang)’, literally meaning ‘strong’ but in this particular context referring to a country, and ‘国 (guo)’—‘country’. The third group is terms that do not belong to either of the two categories, including several places where the translator simply did not translate ‘power’ in the original sentence, and two places where ‘power’ was translated into an adjective and became ‘powerful’ in its Chinese translation. In order to examine the intellectual implications of such a diversified Chinese translation of ‘power’, I returned to the same texts from Waltz’s book that I cited in the first part of this section. This time, I replaced the English ‘power’ with its corresponding Chinese translation to inquire how a translation can affect the original interpretation of the argumentation:



Because 权力 (quan li) is a means and not an end, states prefer to join the weaker of two coalitions. They cannot let 权力 (quan li), a possibly useful means, become the end they pursue. The goal the system encourages them to seek is security. (Waltz 1979, p. 126)

In this example, both occurrences of ‘power’ in the original text have been translated to ‘权力 (quan li)’, which is the most frequently deployed translation for ‘power’ in the Chinese edition of Waltz’s book. As mentioned earlier, if ‘权力 (quan li)’ is back translated into English, it will most likely be translated as ‘power’. However, the Chinese ‘权力 (quan li)’, unlike the English ‘power’, has an explicitly negative connotation. Felix Rösch (2014) in his study of the concept of ‘power’ in Morgenthau’s work argues that superficial accounts on the study of Morgenthau’s works often present his concept of power in a traditional Hobbesian sense as a means of self-preservation. However, a close reading of Morgenthau’s works indicates that Morgenthau’s conception of ‘power’ contains two dualistic conceptualisations: ‘pouvoir’, which according to Rösch (2014, p. 354) is the ‘empirical form of power…the ruthless and egoistic pursuit of the drive to prove oneself’, and ‘puissance’, a positive and normative form of power which ‘enables people to pursue their interests and work together for a common good’. The Chinese ‘权力 (quan li)’, similar to Morgenthau’s ‘pouvoir’, is often used as a negative form of power. It refers to one’s capacity to control and dominate and is driven by ‘the desire for power’ (Morgenthau 1947). However, whereas the French ‘pouvoir’ can be used as a positive force under certain circumstances, the Chinese ‘权力 (quan li)’ is a concept with strictly negative connotations. In The Book of Han, one sentence reads, ‘Wan Zhang and Shi Xian are such good friends; Wan Zhang even managed to gain 权力 (quan li) and fame thanks to Shi Xian’ (Han 2018; my translation). The author describes how Wan Zhang used his friendship with Shi Xian to raise his status and gain influence. A similar usage of ‘权 力 (quan li)’ can be found in Liu Zongyuan’s In Memory of Liuzhou Sima Menggong: ‘the law is the right way; it cannot be changed by those who hold 权力 (quan li)’ (Zhang 2017; my translation), which points to the negative connotation inherent in ‘权力 (quan li)’. It would not be entirely wrong to translate ‘权力 (quan li)’ to ‘one’s capacity to influence’, which is the meaning of the English ‘power’ in this particular context. However, unlike in the English original version where one needs to go through a process of interpretation in order to correctly



identify the exact meaning of ‘power’, the Chinese ‘权力 (quan li)’ already means exactly that. In other words, ‘power’ here no longer requires any interpretation in its Chinese translation. Such an elimination of the interpretation process can also be seen in other contexts. Consider the second example from the first part of this section: Each 大国 (da guo) [big country] viewed another’s loss as its own gain. Faced with the temptation to cooperate for mutual benefit, each state became wary and was inclined to draw back. When on occasion some of the great powers did move toward cooperation, they did so in order to oppose other 大国 (da guo) [big country] more strongly. (Waltz 1979, p. 70)

While one has to interpret from the specific context that ‘power(s)’ here refer to ‘great power(s)’ in the English original, the Chinese translation replaces ‘power’ with the term ‘big country’ which does not need further interpretation. This also occurs in the third example: To confirm the theory one should not look mainly to the eighteenth-­century heyday of the balance of 势力 (shi li) when 大国 (da guo) in convenient numbers interacted and were presumably able to adjust to a shifting distribution of 权力 (quan li) by changing partners with a grace made possible by the absence of ideological and other cleavages. (Waltz 1979, p. 125)

The above example is probably the most illustrative of the three examples. In the original English text, ‘power’ was mentioned three times but conveyed significantly different meanings (i.e. a nation’s political capacity and ‘nation state’). In the Chinese translation, three completely different lexical terms were used. Even if ‘power’ in the ‘balance of power’ might be semantically identical to ‘power’ in the ‘distribution of power’ in the English version, the Chinese translation still employed two different terms. However, the conceptual equivalent to the English ‘balance of power’ does exist in Chinese (‘均势 (jun shi)’ with ‘势’ referring to “势力 (shi li)’) and can be dated back to the Warring Spring period in Chinese history. Since the Chinese concept of ‘balance of power’ has its own conceptuality, it is also a completely different concept from the other two translations for ‘power’, namely ‘大国 (da guo)’ and ‘权力 (quan li)’. Contrary to the English original text, this suggests that the three Chinese terms used for translating ‘power’ do not share the same conceptuality as each inhere their own particular combination of meanings.



‘Power’ became de-conceptualised in its Chinese translation(s). The Chinese ‘power’ is no longer one term imbued with a summation of meanings. Instead, it has been divided into dozens of different words that each describes a particular aspect of the English concept of ‘power’. In other words, ‘power’ is no longer a concept in the Chinese translation. In consequence, the argument that ‘power’ is a semantically complex and immensely contested concept is invalidated. In the Chinese translation, each mentioning of ‘power’ no longer derives its meanings from the context. Rather, it means exactly what its translated lexical expression is supposed to mean. What this also implies is that, the argument that ‘power’ is a semantically complex concept becomes deconstructed via the Chinese translation and that such an argument is in fact very particular to the English-speaking IR community.

Conclusion Invoking the tower of Babel, George Steiner (1998, p.  51) writes, ‘Translation exists because men speak different languages’. This might be a truism. However, it can be argued that translation is an inherent part of international relations, as long as countries speak different languages and need to interact with each other. The purpose of this chapter was to show how translation could also be an inherent part of theory building in the study of international relations. Drawing on insights from Reinhart Koselleck’s approach to conceptual history, the chapter argued that translation can be considered a form of (re)conceptualisation. Since concepts constitute the ‘ontological building blocks’ of theories (Guzzini 2013a, p. 534), any form of conceptualisation and re-conceptualisation is likely to destabilise the meanings in and of original theorisation. The Chinese translations of ‘power’ in Kenneth Waltz’s Theory of International Politics demonstrated how translation can deconstruct some of the most prevailing arguments in IR debates. Due to linguistic differences between Chinese and English in expressing the concept of ‘power’, the original English ‘power’ became compartmentalised into different lexical expressions that denote different meanings when the concept of ‘power’ was translated into Chinese. This suggests that disciplinary discussions on the complexity of the concept of ‘power’ do not exist in the Chinese IR community. When understood in Chinese, as long as it is clear which type of power is being talked about (i.e. what lexical term is used), it is unlikely



that there will be any contentions surrounding the meaning of ‘power’ in Chinese discourse. For example, the Chinese edition used three different translations to indicate different meanings of ‘power’ whilst in the English original they were all ‘power’, which would require interpretations. Such a particularity of disciplinary debate of ‘power’ in the Anglophone IR community also suggests that any theorisation of IR study can look completely different depending on the linguistic context in which the theorisation is being done. Since the publication of ‘Why is there Non-­ Western International Relations Theory?’ by Amitav Acharya and Barry Buzan in 2007, scholars concerned with the inherent Western-centrism of IR have been engaged in a heated debate regarding the incorporation of non-Western traditions and perspectives into the disciplinary development. However, despite all the theoretical effort to bring in the subaltern voices, the question regarding how, in practice, the non-Western perspectives and voices can actually be recognised and incorporated into the disciplinary debate has never really been answered. The irony here is that if we re-read Acharya and Buzan’s article from 2007, they already identified the central problem regarding the academic practices of contemporary IR scholarship: even in Europe, there are distinct local language IR debates in Germany, France, and elsewhere that are only partially, and often quite weakly, linked to the English language debates…Those who engaged in the English language debates have more than enough to read within that, and often lack the language skills to investigate beyond it… It is also easy for those in the Anglo-Saxon IR core to assume that English as a lingua franca must make access easier for all. (p. 295)

Since the beginning of the debate, IR scholars have been obsessed with coming up with a (theoretical) solution to incorporate the so-called non-­ Western voices. However, for some reason, it never seems to have occurred to them that the very first thing one can do to incorporate others’ voices is simply to listen to them when they speak, in their own languages. This chapter proposes that the first step to construct a truly inclusive IR is to examine how key concepts used in disciplinary debates have been translated and understood in different linguistic contexts. Arguably, this chapter has shown that one simple translation can fundamentally deconstruct one of the most prevalent arguments in the discipline of IR.



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Anarchy is What Translators Make of It? Translating Theory and Translation Theories Fatmanur Kaçar

Introduction Translation is an important vehicle through which concepts, theories, and ideas circulate. This chapter discusses how translation structures the migration and import of International Relations (IR) theories and concepts. It focuses on the translation of one of IR’s seminal texts, Alexander Wendt’s article ‘Anarchy Is What States Make of It’, which was originally published in the journal International Organization in 1992, and translated into Turkish in 2013. Of particular concern here is how ‘anarchy’, a core concept in IR, was translated and how problematising its translation reveals power differentials and hierarchies in the target system.1 This suggests that it is crucial to treat translation as a political and cultural

1  On the discussion of the translation of another core concept in IR, that is, ‘power’, see chapter by Ariel Shangguan (2021) in this volume.

F. Kaçar (*) Institute of European Studies, Marmara University, Istanbul, Turkey e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 Z. G. Capan et al. (eds.), The Politics of Translation in International Relations, Palgrave Studies in International Relations, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-56886-3_11




phenomenon and act where equivalence and symmetry cannot be realised and where the context for translating matters. As such, the chapter does not suggest that translating the English ‘anarchy’ into the Turkish ‘anarşi’ is necessarily erroneous. It claims that because equivalence and symmetry of conceptual meaning can never be fully achieved, conditions of non-­ equivalence and a-symmetry, and ways in which non-equivalence and a-symmetry affect the meaning of concepts in translation, should be addressed in discussions on how concepts travel into different geopolitical contexts. As noted by Melvin Richter (2012, p. 1), ‘There has been relatively little discussion of the distinctive problems involved in converting texts in the human sciences from one language to another; and even less consideration of the obstacles to translating political and social thought, whether restricted to its classics, or extended to its more ordinary forms’. The aim of this chapter is to provide ground upon which to redress the scarcity of work that interrogates the challenges inherent in translating social and political thought. In the following section, I turn to the discussion in Translation Studies on (non-)equivalence and the importance of the translation context. Here, the chapter outlines three important elements of this context, that is, patronage, translation norms, and background. In the second section, I analyse the translation of Wendt’s article ‘Anarchy Is What States Make of It’ into Turkish in 2013, with a particular focus on the historically specific changes the meaning of anarchy has undergone in Turkey. In the chapter’s concluding section, I discuss the implications for a more explicit focus on the translation of IR texts for theory building and for globalising IR, which begins with an understanding of translation as a form of rewriting. I use Turkish IR as an example of how such a focus could address concerns over lack of theory-building, and conclude that problematising translation and the idea of equivalence exposes the historicity and political currency of (IR) concepts as well as situated imaginaries of the international, which are crucial elements towards globalising IR.

The Problem of Equivalence Questions of whether translation is an act of knowledge (re)production, how equivalence can be achieved (and assessed), and the role of power and hierarchy in translating are all central, and widely discussed, in Translation Studies. The ‘problematic of translation’, Niranjana (1992, p. 1) writes, ‘becomes a significant site for raising questions of representation, power,



and historicity’. Already in 1813, German philosopher and theologian, Friedrich Schleiermacher, suggested that there are two distinct methods according to which a translation could proceed: ‘Either the translator leaves the author in peace, as much as possible, and moves the reader towards him; or he leaves the reader in peace, as much as possible, and moves the author towards him’ (Schleiermacher, cited in Lefevere 1977, p. 74). The first method was referred to as ‘domestication’; the latter as ‘foreignisation’. Schleiermacher preferred the first method (Kesrouany 2017, p. 15). However, it is the second method that laid the foundation for an important turn in Translation Studies in the 1980s, the so-called cultural turn, which was marked by the publication of the edited volume The Manipulation of Literature in 1985 (Hermans 1985a; see also Bassnett and Lefevere 1990). In the introduction to the volume, the editor argued that ‘[f]rom the point of view of the target literature, all translation implies a certain degree of manipulation of the source text for a certain purpose’ (Hermans 1985b, p. 11). Translators were now regarded as ‘among the chief mediators between cultures’ (Tymoczko 2009, p.  184; see also Tymoczko 2007). The main concern was about the function of a translation in the ‘target culture’, which denoted the entire social context in which a translation was embedded. Toury (1985) summarised the cultural turn as follows: Semiotically speaking, it will be clear that it is the target or recipient culture, or a certain selection of it, which serves as the initiator of the decision to translate and of the translating process. Translating as a teleological activity par excellence is to a large extent conditioned by the goals it is designed to serve, and these goals are set in, and by, the prospective receptor system(s). Consequently, translators operate first and foremost in the interest of the culture into which they are translating, and not in the interest of the source text, let alone the source culture. (pp. 18–19; emphasis in original)

Translation can be approached as a process of rewriting and sense-­ making. It is at this juncture that the issue of equivalence comes into play. Does—or should—the translator pursue a word-for-word translation or a sense-for-sense translation? In Toward a Science of Translating (1964), Eugene Nida, a leading translation scholar, distinguished between two types of equivalence as translation methods. Formal equivalence strives for strict word-for-word replacement with its fixation on the written word. It can be



equated with ‘translation as transfer’ (see introduction to this volume) as it ‘focuses all attention on the message itself, in both form and content. In such a translation one is concerned with such correspondences as poetry to poetry, sentence to sentence, and concept to concept [and] that the message in the receptor language should match as closely as possible the different elements in the source language’ (Nida 1964, p.  159). To the contrary, dynamic equivalence (now often referred to as functional equivalence) ‘aims at complete naturalness of expression, and tries to relate the receptor to modes of behaviour relevant within the context of his own culture’ (ibid.). The translated message should create the same cognitive and emotional response in the receiver context as was intended for the original message; however, without turning to wholesale domestication. Juliane House’s (1997, 2001) distinction between an ‘overt’ and a ‘covert’ translation follows the same opposition between formal and functional equivalence. A key figure in the field of biblical translation theory and proponent of a sociolinguistic approach to translation, Nida argued that solutions to translation problems should be ethnological, determined by the translator’s ‘cultural information’. The ‘desert’ in the Bible should be translated as the ‘abandoned place’ to establish the ‘cultural equivalent of the desert of Palestine’ (Nida 1945, p. 197). Probably the most well-known example that Nida (1964) used to demonstrate dynamic equivalence is the biblical translation of ‘Lamb of God’ for Arctic peoples which was translated as ‘Seal of God’ as a seal, similar to ‘a lamb’ in other social contexts, symbolises innocence in the context of sacrifice. Referring to Bible translating, prominent translation scholar Katharina Reiss (2014) writes: Sometimes for purposes of establishing and strengthening the faith of believers, it is necessary for specific images to undergo a degree of adaptation to match the different characteristics of the target language and its culture. For example, when translating an account of a sea voyage in the language of the desert Indians of northern Mexico the form of the narrative was retained. But the missionaries found that a literal translation of the content—travelling over waves—could not convey the desired effect because in their remote desert world the Indians had no concept of waves, lakes or oceans. The solution was found by substituting the closest available concept: a swamp. (p. 42; emphasis in original)

This approach in Translation Studies, where a translation turns into a kind of transformation, has been dubbed the functional approach. As noted above, common for translation scholars adopting a more cultural



and sociological approach to translation is that context matters. Here, three contextual elements are of importance. First, patronage suggests that any translation, as both a product and an enactment, is embedded in a social system and we should therefore pay attention to the relations of power and actors involved in each stage of translating. André Lefevere introduced the notion of patronage in his 1992 publication Translation, Rewriting, and the Manipulation of Literary Fame. Patronage, according to Lefevere (1992, p. 15), is ‘the powers (persons, institutions) that can further or hinder the reading, writing, and rewriting of literature’. Patronage consists of three interrelated components: ideology, economics, and status (ibid., p.  16). Together, these three components constrain translation as rewriting (and reproduction of knowledge). Ideology directs the selection of source text to be translated. Liu (1997) writes: Translation is no longer a neutral event untouched by the contending interests of political and ideological struggles. Instead, it becomes the very site of such struggles where the source language is forced to encounter the target language, where the irreducible differences between them are fought out, authorities evoked or challenged, ambiguities dissolved or created, and so forth, until new words and meanings emerge in the target language itself. (p. 88)

The economic component concerns the patron’s assurance of the author’s livelihood (e.g. salary, pension, or royalties) as well as legal constraints, for example copyrights and contractual arrangements. Status refers to the translator’s status according to prevailing norms in a particular society (i.e. whether the translator is subordinated the author and the translator’s authorship is made ‘invisible’, see also Venuti 1995). These elements combined imply that any translation is subject to processes of selection and production which are driven by particular political and social interests. Translating is a ‘socially regulated activity’ (Hermans 1997, p.  10). This suggests that in order to reconstruct the politics of translation, we need to inquire into the sociology of translation (see Wolf and Fukari 2007). Moreover, a critical approach to patronage underlines how translations sometimes—maybe often?—unfold within centre-­ periphery structures qualified by different power hierarchies, which have important implications for knowledge production and the repertoires (see below) that are being established in translations. This is even more the case with translations of IR texts (e.g. what is translated, for whom and for what particular reasons?).



The second element is translation norms, which refer to the norms, rules, and conventions that inform the translation process and which a translator has to follow in his or her work in making judgements about what are acceptable translation choices. Preliminary norms, according to Gideon Toury (1995), reflect the structural conditions that direct the choice of texts to be translated, by whom and how (cf. Lefevere’s notion of patronage). An initial norm refers to the methods choice of either staying close to the source text and culture or follow the norms of the target text and culture, or a compromise between both (cf. the more pragmatic approach suggested by Nord, see below). Operational norms are the benchmarks the translator use when making decisions throughout the process of translating (ibid.). As mentioned in this chapter’s third and final section, the translation norms adopted by Orientalist translators during colonial rule were infused with the racist ideology that underpinned the colonial enterprise. It is thus important to be critically aware of the contingency of translation norms. Another constraint to the act of translating is what Toury (1995) refers to as institutionalised repertoires, ‘that is a group of items which are codifications of phenomena that have semiotic value for a given community’ (Laviosa 2008, pp. 124–125).When a text is decomposed and reassembled anew in the process of translating, it will have to appropriate already established, conventional textual relations and semantic fields particular for the target system. Indeed, translating a concept and/or a text for the first time might entail the introduction of a prototype for the target system which becomes part of a standardised repertoire of concepts with particular meanings, denoting particular political traditions, practices, and institutions. However, more than often, an institutionalised and standardised repertoire in the target system already exists, which further problematises the issue of equivalence. This poses a challenge in particular for translating IR theoretical texts. Here, conceptual meaning is often standardised through the citational practices evolving around the original (English-language) text. This entails the dilemma in translating between maintaining a seemingly stable repertoire of conceptual meaning attached to the original text, and to move the text closer to the target system to ensure the historicity of a certain concept is recognised and put to analytical use. The third element addresses this dilemma to some extent. The third element is background, which means that the translation process does not operate strictly in accordance with norms in the culture of the source text but more prominently in accordance with the background



norms in the target context and text. However, this does not imply that the source text is irrelevant as such. ‘The function of the target text is not arrived at automatically from an analysis of the source text, but is pragmatically defined by the purpose of the intercultural text transfer’ (Nord 2005, p. 11; emphasis added). Nord’s approach differs from, for instance, Nida’s and House’s approaches in allowing for both strategies depending on the purpose—and background—of the translation and thus committing the translator to both the source and the target in combining function with loyalty (Nord 2012, p. 205). The function of a text is determined by the situation in which the text serves as a vehicle for communication (i.e. background). This more pragmatist approach, which posits translation as a mediated process, allows for taking contact zones and knowledge exchange (as opposed to transfer), as well as the intersection of different repertoires, seriously in displaying the process in which theories travel through (textual) translations and how concepts and ideas might already have been in contact and borrowed from one another before the act of translating. As argued by Bilgin (2008) in challenging prevailing assumptions on difference in world politics and IR theorising, ‘Western’ and ‘non-Western’ experiences as well as their various interpretations have, over the years, clashed and fused in so many ways that ‘non-­ Western’ ways of thinking about and doing world politics are not always devoid of ‘Western’ concepts and theories. The reverse may also be true. What ‘we’ have come to think of as ‘Western’ IR may contain ‘non-Western’ as well as ‘Western’ input, notwithstanding prevalent disciplinary representations, which often sterilise the history of the ‘West’ by leaving out ‘non-­ Western’ challenges, interventions and contributions. (p. 6)2

A dynamic, functional approach to equivalence, which omits an exclusive focus on the target culture in assessing the entire background of the translation, would be able to capture this condition of IR theorising.

Translating Anarchy The concept of anarchy would most probably be among the top contenders in any competition on what concept would be most core to IR. Although central to the field, it was only in the 1980s and early 1990s that the 2

 See also Pinar Bilgin’s (2021) chapter in this volume.



concept came under (critical) scrutiny, together with its ‘sibling concept’, sovereignty. One of the most influential disciplinary histories of IR carries the title The Political Discourse of Anarchy and traces the historical evolution of ‘anarchy’. In its introduction, Brian C.  Schmidt (1998) emphasises that [m]ost students of international relations would agree that anarchy, or the interaction of state and non-state actors in the absence of a central authority, is the fundamental condition shaping international politics [and that] anarchy—and the closely related concept of sovereignty—has served as the core constituent principle throughout the evolution of the field of international relations. (p. 1; emphasis added)

It is the geopolitical and intellectual context of the 1980s and early 1990s in which Alexander Wendt published his journal article ‘Anarchy Is What States Make of It’ in 1992  in one of IR’s flagship journals, International Organization. It became one of the foundational IR texts of (moderate) constructivism, as it provided an endogenous explanation of collective identity formation and change, while it remained somehow loyal to a positivist scientific stance. The context of Wendt’s article was marked by the new geopolitical constellation of the end of the Cold War, where the dominant neorealist conceptualisation of anarchy came under pressure as neorealists failed to explain ‘cooperation under anarchy’ and change within international politics. The emergence of a post-positivist scholarship in IR was an attempt to make sense of the changing contours of the ‘international’ and the intellectual crisis in the field’s orthodoxy. IR scholars drew on post-structuralist literature in deconstructing what was referred to as IR’s anarchy problematique (Ashley 1988) and the so-called linguistic turn to argue that the international was indeed structured by rules (Onuf 1989). Wendt (1992) claimed that anarchy is not a natural law in the international system but shaped by reiterative social processes of interactions between agents, and agents and structures. Wendt situated his discussion in the agent–structure problem and Giddens’ structuration theory.3 There ‘is no ‘logic’ of anarchy besides the practices that create and instantiate one structure of identities and interests rather than another; structure has no existence or causal powers apart from process. In Social Theory of International Politics, Wendt distinguished between three 3  On the agent–structure debate in IR see the contribution by Torsten Michel (2021) in this volume.



‘cultures’ of anarchy (i.e. a Hobbesian, a Lockean, and a Kantian culture). However, in Turkish, ‘anarchy’ has a very particular meaning. Wendt’s article was translated into Turkish in 2013 as Anarşi Devletler Ne Anlıyorsa Odur and published in the leading IR journal Uluslararası ̇ kiler (International Relations) in which several translations of key IR Iliş texts have been published. The timing of the article’s Turkish translation might be related to the Turkish translation of Wendt’s 1999 monograph Social Theory of International Politics the same year. It is worth noting here that whilst the English original has to date (April 2020) 8802 citations listed in Google scholar, the Turkish translation of Wendt’s 1992 article has only been cited a few times. Of course, time matters (the English version was published more than 20 years prior to its Turkish translation). Yet, as demonstrated in a study by Yalçınkaya and Efegil (2009), original IR texts, even when they have been translated into Turkish, are cited more in Turkish IR literature (I will return to this issue in the next section). In the translated text of Wendt’s article, the translator added a note on the use of terminology, which suggested that the initial norm chosen for the translation was to bring the original meaning of the source text as far as possible into the target system. It was noted that where no Turkish equivalent existed for the original word, or where the Turkish equivalent did not fully match the original, intended meaning of the author, the original word was added in brackets; for instance, gerçekçi (realist), aksettirici (reflectivist), and akılcı (rationalist). ‘Liberal’ and, importantly, ‘anarchy’ were translated into their seemingly Turkish equivalents, ‘liberal’ and ‘anarşi’, suggesting that both a word-for-word and a sense-for-sense (i.e. full and formal equivalence) were successfully achieved. No footnotes needed. The concept of ‘anarchy’ derives from the ancient Greek ‘anarkhia’, which is a combination of the negation ‘an’ meaning ‘without’ and ‘arkhia’ meaning ‘rule’ or ‘domination’. Similar to most languages, the concept of anarchy has been translated into Turkish with that etymological and semantic background since the Ottoman period. The concept of anarchy was shaped and gained its contemporary meaning in the nineteenth century within most European languages. During the Ottoman period and the early years of the Republic, the concept shared more or less the same connotations with its Western origin, signifying ‘an absence of government and/or ruler’. Wigen (2018) writes, Ottoman concept formation was heavily indebted to the Arabic scholarly tradition, which itself drew extensively on translations of Greek canonical



texts into Arabic between the eight and the tenth centuries CE […] Because much of the Greek canon was translated into Latin via Arabic, European philosophical traditions depend to some extent on the same translations from ancient Greek into Arabic that were important for the development of Ottoman as a political language. (p. 6)

However, according to Zileli (2007), the conceptual meaning of anarchy in Turkey has always been different from how ‘anarchy’ was commonly understood in European societies. Even during the same period, that is, the tumultuous year of 1968, Istanbul and Paris had quite different experiences of ‘anarchy’ (ibid.). The concept of anarchy entered into the Turkish language in 1910 through the author and translator, Haydar ̇ Rıfat’s work, Beynelmilel Ihtilal Fırkaları (International Revolution Parties) in which two chapters were entitled ‘Anarchist Parties’ and ‘Proudhon-Bakunin’ (Mete Tunçay, cited in Zileli 2007). Since the early Republican era, translations of foreign-language publications were conducted under strong influence by the state, both economically and ideologically, which can be considered as an important case of patronage. The first publication in Turkish considered as being part of an ‘anarchist’ political tradition was Kropotkin’s Ethics in 1935. It was not until 1966 that another work explicitly on anarchism was published. At the same time, a few books on this theme were translated into Turkish and published in the period 1960s–1970s (Soydan 2014, p.  135). However, following the coup d’état in 1971, the socio-political atmosphere of Turkey radically changed. Anarchy and anarchism became core to the political vocabulary at the time and synonymous with ‘violence and turmoil’ by the governing parties; 1971 came to mark a moment when previous critical, but still not dominant discussions, on anarchy became hegemonic. Turkey experienced another coup d’état in the beginning of the 1980s, which reinforced the pejorative connotations of the concept of anarchy. Importantly, the concept is still defined as ‘chaos’ by the Turkish Language Association with no other potential connotations listed. The conceptual meaning of anarchy in Turkey is thus part of a now standardised repertoire that has been shaped by particular political events in the twentieth-­century Turkey. This testifies to the extent to which the word-­ for-­word and the assumed sense-for-sense translation of anarchy in Wendt’s text failed at capturing the entirety of its conceptual meaning and particular historicity in the context of Turkish. It also shows how the meaning of concepts does not only differ between different languages across space but



also within the same language across time. To translate political concepts in IR texts, we need to understand how these concepts have been used and thus translated in different political periods, according to certain ideologies and political traditions, over time and in particular domestic contexts as also timely reiterated by Capan, dos Reis and Grasten (2021). This suggests that patronage, translation norms (notably repertoire), and background are all important conditions to take into account.

Conclusion: Theory-Building and Translation as Rewriting ‘[T]ranslation does not happen in a vacuum, but in a continuum’ (Bassnett and Trivedi 1999, p. 2); or, as Simon (1997, p. 462), writes, ‘we all live in “translated” worlds [which means] that the spaces of knowledge we inhabit assemble ideas and styles of multiple origins, that transnational communications and frequent migrations make every cultural site a crossroads and a meeting place’. The chapter’s inquiry into the translation of ‘anarchy’ and its implications for understanding international relations is interesting for a discussion on how translations are powerful representations of situated imaginaries of the ‘international’, which constitute an important textual repertoire for international studies. For this reason, translations of texts and concepts considered central to the discipline of IR are important elements to be considered in discussions about the absence of theoretical thinking in the ‘non-West’ (Acharya and Buzan 2007), which have also been present within the Turkish IR community (see Aydinli and Biltekin 2018a, b; Bilgin 2005; Kuru 2018). Whereas these discussions have mainly focused on different shortcomings to be addressed in terms of methodological vigour or theoretical development, implications that arise from non-equivalence in translation and the problem of transferability have so far not been addressed. The aim of this chapter is to bring these insights on the problems of translating into a productive conversation on hierarchies of knowledge in IR. The number of both theoretical and empirical studies in Turkish IR has increased considerably in the past few decades. Academics, including Rumelili (2004) and Zarakol (2011, 2014), have produced crucial work on ‘self–other dynamics and stigmatization in international politics, respectively, which have contributed to the broader IR discipline through insights from Turkey’, Köstem (2015, p. 62) notes. Nevertheless, studies



with explicit theoretical insights remain still limited, which have prompted Aydınlı and Matthews (cited in Köstem 2015, p. 62) to ask the question: ‘Why is there still an underachievement of homegrown theorizing [in Turkey]?’ In response, Köstem suggests that data-building, both qualitative and quantitative, to be used by a broader Turkish IR community ‘will help come up with original concepts’ (ibid). Another route to theory-­ building in this context could be a more engaged focus on studying translations of IR texts within what translation scholars refer to as the ‘target culture’. This could direct our attention towards the historical and ideological context of the production of conceptual meaning which could in turn offer an important epistemic source for theory-building as also discussed by Shangguan (2021) in this volume. More sociological/cultural and critical approaches to translation in Translation Studies have questioned and thus challenged the hierarchical relationship between the original and translation where the translation (as merely a copy) would be inferior to the original that a translation was simply supposed to duplicate 1:1. Often, a translation is associated with a loss due to the illusion of formal equivalence (which might explain why translations are cited less than the original in Turkish IR). However, and maybe even more so in the case of translating IR theoretical texts, translation can be associated with a gain. The creative and productive role of the untranslatable should be emphasised and recognised here. As the chapter showed in discussing the translation of ‘anarchy’ into Turkish, there are larger social and political forces at work in translating. Indeed, as the concept of anarchy in Turkey for historical and political reasons carries a different connotation than what was maybe originally intended by Wendt, and as the meaning of concepts never remain the same across time and space, discussing and disentangling particular translations of, for instance, IR texts could serve as an important source for theory-building in non-­ Western contexts. This brings us back to the theme of translation as rewriting. An important debate has emerged among translation scholars during the last couple of decades on the close relationship between colonisation and translation and the intersection of Translation Studies and Postcolonial Studies. This has spurred an interest in the role of literature and translation in former colonised societies. Some scholars have focused on how translation, as a form of representation, became an important means of making sense of the Other (see Said 1978) and of interpellating the colonised into colonial



subjects (Niranjana 1992). This was done through, for instance, the choice of texts to be translated, which were translated by Orientalist translators (notably, the British colonial translator, William Jones). For instance, Indian texts translated into English ‘were either religious or spiritual, saturated with mysticism, or portrayed a simple and natural state of existence that was radically different from the metropolitan self of the target culture’ (Sengupta 1995, p. 162). For centuries, translation was ‘a one-way process, with texts being translated into European languages for European consumption, rather than as part of a reciprocal process of exchange’ (Bassnett and Trivedi 1999, p. 5; emphasis in original). In this debate on translation and colonisation, translation also comes to stand as a metaphor of the asymmetrical power relations between Europe as the Original, the starting point, and source of all knowledge that is transmitted and copied elsewhere, which in turn becomes ‘translations’ of Europe. However, another element in this debate is how translation can also be a site of active resistance in the face of unequal power structures. Consider, for example, the different meanings translation had among the Spanish colonisers and the Tagalog people in the Philippines: For the Spaniards, translation was always a matter of reducing the native language and culture to accessible objects for and subjects of divine and imperial intervention. For the Tagalogs, translation was a process less of internalizing colonial-Christian conventions than of evading their totalizing grip by repeatedly marking the differences between their language and interests and those of the Spaniards. (Rafael 1993, p. 211)

This testifies to the politics of translation and the extent to which translation is always a negotiated dialogical process and site of knowledge exchange, which can potentially redress seemingly stable epistemic, linguistic, and social hierarchies. In IR, treating translation as a form of rewriting (contra imitation) to capture situated imaginaries of the international, and being critically aware of the historicity of both the very notion of translation and the concepts being translated, would render translational practices an important source for theory-building, both in Turkish academia and elsewhere. What remains to be discussed then is the implications of such a translational focus on the innate claim to universality of conventional IR theories.4 4

 See also the contribution of Andreas Behnke (2021) in this volume.



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The Contingency of Translation Oliver Kessler

Introduction To edit a book is always a formidable task, especially when it seeks to step beyond the already given confines of the established orthodoxy and wants to show us how to understand contemporary world politics differently. At the same time, this volume in particular shows that International Relations (IR) enters new and exciting times as a new generation is making itself heard, a generation that is ready to leave old and unresolved debates behind and that is ready to start new adventures and therefore explore the heuristics of new concepts. The concept of translation is one of those possible avenues. This concept has been circulating in social theory for a while (e.g., Callon 1984; Derrida 2001), but its promise and potential for IR remained so far largely unexplored. It needed new voices without the baggage of yesteryear to produce these insights that we are now able to profit from. Hence, these

O. Kessler (*) Faculty of Economics, Law & Social Sciences, University of Erfurt, Erfurt, Germany e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 Z. G. Capan et al. (eds.), The Politics of Translation in International Relations, Palgrave Studies in International Relations, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-56886-3_12




concluding remarks will neither pretend that I know more than the contributors, nor do I intend this conclusion to somehow serve as a judgement of how well the concept of translation itself got translated into the IR pluriverse. Instead, these remarks serve the sole purpose of identifying a couple of themes and threads that appeared in this volume and turning them into further questions that hopefully will be of interest for further contributions and explorations. Needless to say, I am grateful to the editors that they trust me with this task. These questions are far from a critique of the individual chapters or the project as a whole. Quite au contraire. To structure these reflections, this contribution moves along three questions: the social ontology of translation, the question of spatiality and temporality of the social, and the particular politics of translation.

The Social Ontology of Translation One of the key themes that appear again and again in almost all contributions is that an interest in the politics of translation comes along with an entire ‘social ontology’ that builds on the linguistic turn in social theory, broadly conceived. When Wittgenstein opened the discussion in his Philosophical Investigations (Wittgenstein 1953), he outlined that language is usually understood and used as some kind of tag that we put on things. Then the chair is the chair in English, la chaise in French, der Stuhl in German. How we name the individual object is a matter of convention but in the end immaterial as the ‘real’ stuff are the objects. In this setting, the act of translation is a rather technical enterprise, as the chapter by Benjamin Herborth nicely laid out. Here, the act of translation does not change the objects behind the veil of language. We simply replace one tag with another. All contributors share the conviction that this understanding of translation is certainly true and eventually important, but in the end uninteresting for understanding the politics of it. They all point to the contingency of translation where a simple true/false dichotomy does not work. It is too simple to assume that there is one true translation that renders all other translation false. It is too simple to assume that the objects remain untouched by the process of translation. The one true translation simply does not exist. The chapters assembled in this book provide ample proof: the examples of translation from English to Chinese (Ariel Shangguan) or Turkish (Fatmanur Kacar), or from German to English (as discussed to



some extent by Andreas Behnke) aptly show that it is simply not true that languages operate similarly where simple one-to-one translations are possible. I cannot judge the Turkish or Chinese translations and am simply grateful to be able to learn from the contributions. However, I can only wholeheartedly agree with what Behnke touches upon in his discussion of Heidegger where he also briefly points out that the works of Kant and Hegel convey sometimes completely different messages than the German originals. That does not make the ‘German’ version any better (personally I think Hegel in English makes more sense to me than the German original which only makes sense when I have had more than enough wine), but that does show that translation is not replacement, but indeed transformation as the editors have pointed out. Needless to say, of course, Luther’s translation of the bible is eventually one of the prime examples where the politics of translation and its transformative power shows itself with full force. To argue here that Luther only ‘replaced’ words and engaged in a technical enterprise does not actually capture its significance. If it is true that translation is transformation, then this raises the question of whether this presupposes to buy into the linguistic turn. As Wittgenstein has shown: language does not just serve the purpose of ‘tagging’ objects, language is not simply an invisible veil, but it has its own complex and opaque structure from which we cannot escape. Through our everyday practices and use of language, we constantly produce and reproduce a labyrinth of our own making. It seems to me that this concept of language is a necessary precondition of many contributors in this volume? Is the linguistic turn a necessary precondition for an ‘adequate’ understanding of translation as Herborth’s contribution suggests? Indeed, it is interesting to note that the contributors point to different linguistic entities to advance their individual takes on translations: Torsten Michel makes use of the hermeneutic tradition and the interpretation of texts where it also points to (the limits of) communication. Andreas Behnke points to the production of text and Heidegger’s ongoing challenge to our everyday ‘concepts’ of speaking, thinking and imagining. Rahel Kunz takes us to the contextuality of dialogue, argumentation and learning; Shangguan and Kacar, in particular, take us to the recent debates on ‘concepts’ and how concepts ‘grasp’ always more experience than can be expressed by the use of words and where concepts have their own cultural baggage which remains ‘untranslatable’. Communication, argumentation, dialogue, conceptual history—and one may add discourse and narratives—are sibling approaches but eventually also different enough to give



rise to different understandings of translation? While all these literatures may allow us to better understand the contingencies we encounter in the use of language, are these contingencies all of the same kind or do they give rise to different ones? Is translation part of these traditions or is the concept of translation able to ‘trespass’ these differences and traditions and allow for a completely fresh start? I do not want to suggest that there is one correct avenue to go, but the reference to the linguistic turn by Wittgenstein highlights that language is always related to life-forms. Language never works in the abstract where it could follow the abstract logical rules imagined by the logical empiricists, but it is part of and changes with, let’s say, contexts. This then points us to a second set of questions that focus directly on the concept of the social that comes with translations.

Space and Agency Language is related to the social and the social to language. If that is an acceptable proposition, then the question of translation meets with post-­ structuralist and constructivist attempts in conceptualising the social and the international. Here the notion of translation does hold important promises. The very notion of translation starts with difference that previous attempts to ‘make use’ of the linguistic turn with reference to either Habermas’s notion of life-world, speech-act (Austin, Searle) or governmentality (Foucault) may have still over-emphasised unity in lieu of difference. In the end, do these traditions not assume that the international actually works quite similar to the domestic realm when it comes to those life-worlds, constitutive rules for speech actors or ‘populations’? To turn it the other way around: is not the international the very space where these ‘conventions’ or ‘institutional rules’ do not exist a priori but have to be assembled and are in constant danger of disintegrating? Does an adequate understanding of the international demand from us to think through and start with difference? This holds also true for the concept of communication itself. Whether it is the agent–structure debate and the cultures of anarchy, the literature on ideas and in particular the infamous notion of norms, they all presupposed a concept of ‘communication’ that worked along a sender–receiver model where some common ‘parcel’ or ‘unit’ of ‘information’ was ‘given’ from one actant to another. Ideas had to have a



core that was communicable through actors, norms were able to emanate, diffuse and even manifest themselves as a new normal in front of actors where the ‘core’ of the norm allows for the detection of deviant behaviour. As if a norm would come with an instruction sheet that tells us what is allowed and what is not ‘in the name of the norm’. Translation in contrast does start with difference. A difference that empties any a priori assumed meaning from norms, ideas or cultures. Starting with translation seems to suggest that meaning is only created in the act of translation and hence when any context tries to make sense of any text or communication. Only in that moment can we speak of meaning and it is here where every assumed unity dissolves. As in particular the chapters by Miriam Bak McKenna and Nicole Doerr pointed out, this may demand from us to rethink or abandon old images of norms and rules. Translation thus allows us eventually to grasp differently the international as a regime of limits, as a mode of translation where biases, hierarchies, social and racial differences are inscribed in the very mode of translation. I couldn’t agree more here with the editors who suggest that translation may help us as a healthy corrective of past debates, even though one could raise the agent–structure problem by asking who are the translators in the first place. Let us not go there. Instead, it is more interesting to ask what notion of the social is compatible and incompatible with this approach? Usually we assume that the social is integrated through common norms and values to which the members subscribe to. Many moderate constructivists seem to follow that Parsonian idea. If translation challenges and opts for new avenues beyond these apparently limited uses for understanding the international, what notion of the social is compatible—of course assuming that language and translation inevitable point to contexts and hence social settings? The use of Callon by Benjamin Wilhelm, and the somewhat more cautious notes by Herborth, suggests that further debate is necessary. At the same time, it is interesting to note that the introduction made use of very spatial terms when it introduced its three notions of translations. Shangguan has pointed out that translation carries a temporal dimension; Michel at the same time points out that translations come into play as soon as we start from different theoretical backgrounds and even use the same terms. Both Rahel Kunz and Shogo Suzuki, though in different ways, also nicely suggest a different spatial setting that is needed to overcome crucial biases.



That raises the question whether the dominance of spatial categories in this volume is just coincidence or whether the very notion of translation suggests or even implies a ‘hierarchy’ of space over time?1

The Politics of Translation? There is no doubt that every single contributor here is interested in the politics of translation. In particular, the chapters by Wilhelm, Kunz, Suzuki and the editors themselves have shown that translation is linked to and shares the sensibilities of questions of hierarchy, power/knowledge, and feminist and post-colonial relations. These points are of course more than just taken. Yet it somehow strikes me that the contributors seem to pursue political projects that seem to have been formulated antecedent to the problem of translation itself? Is there a particular political project associated with translation or is the politics antecedent to it? Maybe it would push the limit too far to ask whether translation is critique, but what I do wonder whether there is an incompatible political project of translation? If ‘anything goes’ does this not downgrade the problem of translation to some kind of ‘empty algorithm’ that itself remains empty? In this sense, for example, does the politics of translation exhaust itself by pointing to the contingency of translation itself? Or is it directed towards those who do the translations? There is certainly not a lack of politics in this volume that point us to different sites and looks at various dimensions. Hence, I don’t mean to be critical, but I am really curious whether there is a politics of translation defined in its own terms or whether the politics is nurtured from outside of translation itself—where translation is only one additional site of a prior defined political project? Let me eventually continue the question by linking it to the question of the social. As more or less all contributors made use of the ‘continental’ philosophical tradition rooted in Hegelian and Heideggerian thought, it is eventually fair to ask how the invisible and silenced relate to translation. If translation is understood as transformation of meaning, then meaning is not the parcel that moves across borders, but it is a set of differences that operate and point towards what does not exist. This then raises the question as to which translations do not happen. The editors and the contributors have certainly pointed out that the international might be understood as a particular relationality or mode of 1

 On this question, see also the contribution by Pinar Bilgin (2021) in this volume.



translation. Yet does that mean that the power of the international manifests itself in what gets translated (what gets translated when and how), but also in what does not? Here of course, the maybe old-fashioned debate on the various concepts of power raises its ugly head, but in the end it is thanks to the editors and contributors that we are now in the position to ask: what is the power, politics and contingency of translation?

References Bilgin, P. (2021). On the ‘Does Theory Travel?’ Question: Traveling with Edward Said. In Z. G. Capan, F. dos Reis, & M. Grasten (Eds.), The Politics of Translation in International Relations (pp. 245–255). London: Palgrave Macmillan. Callon, M. (1984). Some Elements of a Sociology of Translation: Domestication of the Scallops and the Fishermen of St Brieuc Bay. The Sociological Review, 32(1 suppl), 196–233. Derrida, J. (2001). What Is a ‘Relevant’ Translation? Critical Inquiry, 27(2), 174–200. Wittgenstein, L. (1953). Philosophical Investigations. Oxford: Blackwell.


On the ‘Does Theory Travel?’ Question: Traveling with Edward Said Pinar Bilgin

‘Traveling Theory’ is a well-known (but not equally well-read) 1983 essay by Edward W. Said. In recent years, students of world politics who have increasingly become aware of the difficulties involved in communicating across geocultural boundaries have alluded to Said as they asked: ‘does theory travel?’ At first glance, those who ask the question seem to share this volume’s concern with the politics of translation. Yet, they differ in important ways, not the least because the ‘does theory travel?’ question presumes geocultural sites to be pre-given (if not static), spatially contained and autonomously developed entities (see below).1 Re-stated in the categories introduced by the editors (Capan et al. 2021), those who ask the ‘does theory travel?’ question understand translation as ‘transplantation’

1  This is an understanding of culture that has been rendered defunct by Huntington’s critics (see, e.g., Hobson 2009; Bilgin 2012).

P. Bilgin (*) Department of International Relations, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 Z. G. Capan et al. (eds.), The Politics of Translation in International Relations, Palgrave Studies in International Relations, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-56886-3_13




while leaving room for a modicum of ‘transmission’. They do not, however, conceive any space for ‘translation as transformation’. This is not to underestimate the significance of spatial and temporal context in shaping our thinking, but to caution against approaching translation as taking place between pre-given geocultural sites that are static and autochthonous—that is, unaware of ‘traveling theory’ as conceived by Said. In contrast to the presumptions of those who ask ‘does theory travel?’, Said treats ‘traveling theory’ as an ongoing process of translation of ideas from language to language, context to context, which he studies through ‘beginnings as method’ (Said 1975). The idea here is to move away from searching for the ‘origins’ of ideas and other things (that is, focusing on ‘translation as transplantation’ alone). The presumption being, there is never a singular source for ideas. In contrast, studying ‘beginnings as method’ acknowledges multiple sources of ideas and other things, and focuses on relationships of give-and-take, learning and coconstitution between peoples. Said (1993) wrote: the history of all cultures is the history of cultural borrowings. Cultures are not impermeable; just as Western science borrowed from Arabs, they had borrowed from India and Greece. Culture is never just a matter of ownership, of borrowing and lending with absolute debtors and creditors, but rather of appropriations, common experiences, and interdependencies of all kinds among different cultures. This is a universal norm. (p. 217)

Indeed, Said (1983, p. 236) finds it ‘completely unsatisfying’ to consider that ‘all borrowings, readings, and interpretations are misreadings and misrepresentations’. Said’s point here is about the worldliness of theories (Bilgin 2016a) in that he underscores how ‘the first time a human experience is recorded and then given a theoretical formulation, its force comes from being directly connected to and organically provoked by real historical circumstances’ (Said 2000, p. 436). This is not the same as presuming all readings to be ‘misreadings’. Indeed, in a later essay Said returned to the question of ‘traveling theory’ underscoring that even if ideas may lose some of their potency as they travel to different contexts, they may also gain new potency. He asked: Would this not be an alternative mode of traveling theory, one actually developed away from its original formulation, but instead of becoming



domesticated…flames out, so to speak, restates and reaffirms its own inherent tensions by moving to another site? (Said 2000, p. 438)

Accordingly, the ‘does theory travel?’ question is ‘off-target’ when viewed against Said’s oeuvre, which enquires into what happens as theories travel. Put differently, the question ‘does theory travel?’ betrays an obliviousness to historical transmission of ideas that Said has industriously uncovered in his scholarship. In what follows, I begin with a vignette from the history of science to illustrate how translation inheres within ‘traveling theory’. I then turn to Said’s exploration of how ideas travel across time and space. I conclude by considering Orientalism (in its various guises) as an instance of getting lost in translation due to the limits of our understanding of ‘traveling theory’. * * * Well known to historians of science are the remarkable similarities between the models of fourteenth-century Damascene astronomer Ibn al-Shātị r and sixteenth-century Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. Over the years, ‘[a] number of scholars have postulated some sort of transmission but have denied that Ibn al-Shāṭir’s geocentric models had anything to do with the heliocentric turn’, writes historian of science, Jamil Ragep (2016, p. 395). We learn from Ragep that while Copernicus cited a number of Arab and/or Muslim scholars, Ibn al-Shāṭir was not among them. What is also known is that no Arabic-to-Latin translation of Ibn al- Shāṭir’s work was available to Copernicus. Hence the puzzlement of historians of science: If no translation of Ibn al-Shātị r’s work was available to Copernicus, can the similarity between their models be anything other than an instance of great minds thinking alike? For a long time, the answer was ‘no’. More recently, though, historians of science have discovered that Copernicus might indeed have had access to Ibn al-Shāt ̣ir’s findings—not through an Arabic-to-Latin translation, but through ‘a certain Jewish scholar named Moses Galeano [who] brought knowledge of Ibn al-Shāt ̣ir’s models to the Veneto (and environs such as Padua?) at the time Copernicus was studying in Italy’ (Ragep 2016, p. 407). While it is impossible to know whether Copernicus actually read Galeano’s papers, we understand that they were available to him at the Vatican Library where he is known to have spent time as a student. For his part, Ragep underscores the importance, in the study of history of



science, of taking into account ‘cross-cultural influence’ as made possible by written/oral accounts of scholar travellers (such as Galeano) as well as translation (as transplantation) (Ragep 2016, p.  407, also see, Ragep 2007). Accordingly, the fact that an Arabic-to-Latin translation of Ibn al-Shāt ̣ir’s work was not available to Copernicus does not end Ragep’s quest but marks the beginning of his inquiry into history of science in late medieval period. I began with this vignette not to make a point about ‘origins’ of scientific findings. There is now a body of work that seeks to do exactly that, by claiming ‘I did that long before you did’, thereby exhibiting a type of behaviour that Immanuel Wallerstein (1997, p. 34) characterised as ‘anti-­ Eurocentric Eurocentrism’. In its stead, and following Said (1975), I favour adopting the study of ‘beginnings as method’, which focuses on ‘overlapping and intertwined histories’ (Said 1993) of ideas and other things (also see Bilgin 2016b). Studying the ‘connections between things’ is not something to be trivialised by pointing to, say, the coffee plant’s origins in Ethiopia, its travel to Europe through Mediterranean trade routes, the opening of the first coffee shop in Vienna by using the sacks of coffee left behind by the retreating Ottoman imperial army after its unsuccessful siege, the spread of coffee production in the colonies, and so on. On the one hand, such connections are not trivial insofar as the introduction of the coffee plant in many other parts of the world integrated them in the capitalist world economy, while diminishing their capacity to feed themselves and rendering them even more susceptible to the ups and downs of world economy (Kamola 2007). On the other hand, when the ‘thing’ that we study is not material goods but ideas, it is imperative that we do away with readings of the history of the world as a relay race in which the baton of ‘civilization’ is passed on to the next runner, but an exercise in studying ‘beginnings’ as with David Hume and Buddhism (Gopnik 2009), Amerindians and the early American revolutionaries (Young 2007), and Hegel and the Haiti revolution (Trouillot 1995; Buck-Morss 2000). When we reduce translation to transplantation alone, we miss a thicker layer of ‘connections between things’. Consider the ‘Arabic translation movement’ of the eighth to tenth centuries. During this period, successive Arab rulers ordered the translation of Greek classics. Decades later, these translations were made available to ‘Europe’ where access to the original texts was long lost. We now know that Renaissance and Reformation became possible owing to the preservation of ancient Greek texts by Arabs.



What is not as widely known is the significance of the ‘translation movement’. This is because prevalent narratives recognise only ‘translation as transplantation’. The agency of Arabs is acknowledged only as ‘translators’ who have kept the Greek texts safe at a time when ‘Europe’ could not. It is almost as if Arab rulers ordered the translation of Greek texts, took a look, kept them under lock and key, and later passed them on to ‘Europe’. Next to no room is left for ‘translation as transmission’. We are told very little about the rationale of Arab rulers in organising the ‘translation movement’, or about the input of Arab thinkers. A contrasting account of the so-called translation movement is offered by a historian of early science, A.I. Sabra (1987): The transmission of ancient science to Islam would be better characterized as an act of appropriation performed by the so-called receiver. Greek science was not thrust upon Muslim society any more than it was later upon Renaissance Europe. What the Muslims of the eighth and ninth centuries did was to seek out, take hold of and finally make their own a legacy which appeared to them laden with a variety of practical and spiritual benefits. And in so doing they succeeded in initiating a new scientific tradition in a new language which was to dominate the intellectual culture of a large part of the world for a long period of time. ‘Reception’ is, at best, a pale description of that enormously creative act. (pp. 225–226)

Put differently, Sabra underscores the need to consider ‘translation as transmission’ by being mindful of the politics of the Arab context in deciding to translate, interpret and (after the tenth century) put aside aforementioned texts. What we also learn from historians of early science is that the agency of Arabs as ‘thinkers’ has gone unappreciated not only in ‘Europe’ but also in the ‘Middle East’ (albeit for different reasons) (Al-Khalili 2011). As will be discussed below, Orientalism can be traced to more than one geocultural site. * * * In Said’s discussion on ‘traveling theory’, we find an elaborate consideration of what happens to ideas when they move from place to place. Taking up Hungarian Marxist Georg Lukács’ ‘theory of reification’ as his case, Said argues that while some of the radical edge to and power of Lukács’ ideas may have been lost as they travelled from one historical situation to



another, they have nevertheless played a significant role every time they made an appearance across space and time. Said concluded (1983): For borrow we certainly must if we are to elude the constraints of our immediate intellectual environment. Theory we certainly need, for all sorts of reasons that would be too tedious to rehearse here. What we also need over and above theory, however, is the critical recognition that there is no theory capable of covering, closing off, predicting all the situations in which it might be useful. (p. 241)

In a later work entitled ‘Traveling Theory Reconsidered’, Said (2000) elaborated further on what theory may gain from its ‘voyages’ noting that ‘the point of theory therefore is to travel, always to move beyond its confinements, to emigrate, to remain in a sense in exile’ (ibid., p. 451). It is worth quoting the author at length: when Adorno uses Lukács to understand Schoenberg’s place in the history of music, or when Fanon dramatized the colonial struggle in the language of the manifestly European subject-object dialectic, we think of them not simply as coming after Lukács, using him at a belated second degree, so to speak, but rather as pulling him from one sphere or region into another. This movement suggests the possibility of actively different locales, sites, situations for theory, without facile universalism or over-general totalizing. One would not, could not, want to assimilate Viennese twelve-tone music to the Algerian resistance to French colonialism: the disparities are too grotesque even to articulate. But in both situations, each so profoundly and concretely felt by Adorno and Fanon respectively, is the fascinating Lukácsian figure, present both as traveling theory and as intransigent practice. To speak here only of borrowing and adaptation is not adequate. There is in particular an intellectual, and perhaps moral, community of a remarkable kind, affiliation in the deepest and most interesting sense of the word. (Said 2000, pp. 451–452)

What makes such an intellectual community possible, then, is ‘traveling theory’. * * * As noted, Said’s writings include multiple examples of ideas traveling across time and space. His most well-known work, Orientalism (1978), presents a critique of a particular body of narratives on the ‘Middle East’



that overlook ‘traveling theory’ insofar as Arabs and/or Muslims are presented as having played next-to-no constitutive role in the making of ‘Europe’ and/or modernity. It is the prevalence of narratives that overlook ‘traveling theory’ as constitutive of ‘Europe’ and the ‘Middle East’, that renders it meaningful to ask: ‘does theory travel?’ What further complicates the politics of translation in this case is that Middle Easterners are portrayed as belonging to a world that is set apart in terms of not only space but also time. Hence the need to inquire into the chronopolitics of translation. Let me elaborate. It is a lingering premise of Orientalism that ‘Middle Easterners’ are represented as people belonging to a ‘past world’ whose behaviour needs deciphering with the aid of their holy texts. No mention is made of other texts (such as those discussed above) which were not only translated but also interpreted by Arabs. Accordingly, ‘Europe’ and the ‘Middle East’ come across as two geocultural sites that are set apart in terms of not only space but also time. On the one hand, ‘[assigning] some of our contemporaries to the past’ is not exceptional to the ‘Middle East’ but can be observed in the portrayal of other peoples in other parts of the world, such as indigenous people of Australia (Hindess 2007, p. 328). Yet it is rampant in the study of ‘Middle Easterners’ (as explored by Said in Orientalism). Lest it be thought Orientalism itself belongs to a past world (i.e. not ‘our’ problem), consider Mahmood Mamdani’s analysis of post-9/11 public discourse in the United States, whereby the hijackers’ motivations were sought to be deciphered by looking at their holy texts. The presumption being that the attackers utilised texts from the sixth to seventh centuries to navigate twenty-first-century world politics, and that those who seek to understand them should do the same. Indeed, the sale of Qur’an in the United States was reported to have skyrocketed in the days following 9/11. Needless to say, this is not to underestimate the importance of translating ancient texts from early Greek, Arabic or Latin into contemporary languages. Rather, it is to question whether holy texts are what we need to turn to when seeking to make sense of the politics of our contemporaries. Critiquing attempts to understand the hijackers through recourse to their holy texts, Mamdani (2005) characterised the conversation that evolved as ‘culture talk’: In post-9/11 America, Culture Talk focuses on Islam and Muslims who presumably made culture only at the beginning of creation, as some extraor-



dinary prophetic act. After that, it seems Muslims just conformed to culture…history seems to have petrified into a lifeless custom of an antique people who inhabit antique lands. (p. 32)

Here, Mamdani’s objection is to the presumption that ‘people’s public behaviour, particularly their political behaviour, can be read from their habits and customs, whether religious or traditional’ (Mamdani 2005, p.  33). For, regardless of whether such texts are approached literally or metaphorically (an important discussion, which is beyond our remit), both understand translation as transplantation, thereby failing to capture ‘translation as transmission’ insofar as the Cold War context in which those very texts were made sense of is not analysed. To elaborate on this point Mamdani analyses the Cold War struggle in Afghanistan where the CIA, with the help of Saudi finances and Pakistani ISI’s local organisation and training skills, organised a ‘culture of jihad’. Where most analyses only capture the material links between the United States, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in the organisation of ‘jihad’ efforts (thereby presuming the pre-existence of ‘international jihadism’ as an idea and as a practice), Mamdani reveals the process through which ‘international jihadism’ was constituted. That is to say, an idea that had remained on the margins of Muslims’ thought and action for centuries was revived and put in the service of Cold War struggles of the United States and its local allies. Rephrased in the language offered by the editors, what was put into practice was not a sixth- to seventh-century idea that was transplanted into the twentieth century; it was a truly modern idea that was not merely transmitted into the twentieth-century Cold War context, but also transformed both contexts in the process. For, while the idea of jihad first emerged in the sixth to seventh centuries, ‘international jihadism’ as we have come to know it was produced in the twentieth century, transforming not only twentieth-century practices but also our understanding of what did/not happen in the sixth to seventh centuries. None of us can evade the chronopolitics of translation insofar as ‘assigning some of our contemporaries to the past’ is a problem that is observed not only in public discourse, but also the scholarly study of contemporary world politics. Indeed, the very question ‘does theory travel?’ presumes some temporal distance to be covered when communicating across space. Studies that look at IR scholarship in some parts of the world as less than theoretical invariably presume their authors as belonging to a past world (Acharya and Buzan 2007). For, they are not making an innocuous



observation about IR scholarship in different parts of the world. They are imposing their definition of what constitutes ‘theory’ onto what they observe/not (Bilgin 2010). Accordingly, there arises a need to study the chronopolitics of translation whereby we inquire into the ways in which some kinds of research are regarded as less than theoretical and that those who produce them are understood to belong to the past world of IR.2 While such a tension has always existed between Area Studies and disciplinary political science insofar as the former was considered as a pool of data for the latter to utilise in theory-building and testing (Bilgin 2004), what I seek to underscore here is the politics of deciding who/what constitutes as theorist/theory. Targeting the limitations of critical IR scholarship in this regard, Robbie Shilliam (2014, p.  349) has pointed to the untenable tension between the ‘strong ontological proposition’ made by constructivist scholars that ‘all social beings interpret their reality’ and their ‘qualified epistemological proposition that some social beings are better able to interpret reality of others’. What allows for such a tension to remain unaddressed, according to Shilliam (2014, p. 354), is the widely held assumption that ‘social scientific interpretations of reality, because critical, are…more mobile and hence more universalizable than particular context-specific and mechanical-practical “lay” interpretations’. * * * Translation inheres within ‘traveling theory’. If it was not for the linguistic skills of Galeano the traveller, Ibn al-Shātị r’s models could not have made their way into the Vatican library. That said, a focus on translation, especially when understood only as ‘transplantation’, may fail to capture what Said underscored in his inquiry into ‘traveling theory’: that ideas (and other things) travel all the time, leaving no one unscathed. While I do not presume an uninhibited diffusion of ideas, I would also caution against collapsing the politics of translation into ‘relativism’ as implied by the ‘does theory travel?’ question.3 For, it is entirely possible, as Antonio Vázquez-Arroyo (2018, p. 64) cautioned, that ‘distance and difference are frequently overstated, sometimes reified, occasionally even concocted’. This is not to underestimate the significance of complicating our 2  Here, I am drawing on Johannes Fabian (1983, p. 144) who remarked that ‘Geopolitics has its ideological foundations in chronopolitics’. 3  See Ragep et al. (1996) for history of science debates that are structured along these lines.



understanding of translation as this volume has done. Nor is my aim here to suggest that we drop ‘translation’ and replace it with ‘traveling theory’. Rather, I highlighted that inquiring into the politics of translation requires paying further attention to ‘traveling theory’ as the overall process within which translations take place.

References Acharya, A., & Buzan, B. (2007). Why Is There No Non-Western International Relations Theory? An Introduction. International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, 7(3), 287–312. Al-Khalili, J. (2011). The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance. New York: Penguin Press. Bilgin, P. (2004). Is the ‘Orientalist’ Past the Future of Middle East Studies? Third World Quarterly, 25(2), 423–433. Bilgin, P. (2010). Looking for ‘the International’ Beyond the West. Third World Quarterly, 31(5), 817–828. Bilgin, P. (2012). Civilisation, Dialogue, Security: The Challenge of Post-­ Secularism and the Limits of Civilisational Dialogue. Review of International Studies, 38(5), 1099–1115. Bilgin, P. (2016a). Do IR Scholars Engage with the Same World? In K. Booth & T. Erskine (Eds.), International Relations Theory Today (2nd ed., pp. 97–108). Cambridge: Polity. Bilgin, P. (2016b). Edward Said’s ‘Contrapuntal Reading’ as a Method, an Ethos and a Metaphor for Global IR. International Studies Review, 18(1), 134–146. Buck-Morss, S. (2000). Hegel and Haiti. Critical Inquiry, 26(4), 821–865. Capan, Z. G., dos Reis, F., & Grasten, M. (2021). The Politics of Translation in International Relations. In Z. G. Capan, F. dos Reis, & M. Grasten (Eds.), The Politics of Translation in International Relations (pp. 1–19). London: Palgrave Macmillan. Fabian, J. (1983). Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object. New York: Columbia University Press. Gopnik, A. (2009). Could David Hume Have Known about Buddhism?: Charles François Dolu, the Royal College of La Flèche, and the Global Jesuit Intellectual Network. Hume Studies, 35(1–2), 5–28. Hindess, B. (2007). The Past is Another Culture. International Political Sociology, 1(4), 325–338. Hobson, J.  M. (2009). The Myth of the Clash of Civilizations in Dialogical-­ Historical Context. In P.  Bilgin & P.  D. Williams (Eds.), Global Security, in Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS). Oxford: UNESCO, EoLSS Publishers.



Kamola, Isaac A. (2007). The Global Coffee Economy and the Production of Genocide in Rwanda. Third World Quarterly, 28(3), 571–592. Mamdani, M. (2005). Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror. New York: Doubleday. Ragep, F.  J. (2007). Copernicus and His Islamic Predecessors: Some Historical Remarks. History of Science, 45(1), 65–81. Ragep, F. J. (2016). Ibn al-Shātị r and Copernicus: The Uppsala Notes Revisited. Journal for the History of Astronomy, 47(4), 395–415. Ragep, F. J., Ragep, S. P., & Livesey, S. J. (eds.), (1996). Tradition, Transmission, Transformation: Proceedings of Two Conferences on Pre-Modern Science held at the University of Oklahoma. Leiden: Brill. Sabra, A. I. (1987). The Appropriation and Subsequent Naturalization of Greek Science in Medieval Islam: A Preliminary Statement. History of Science, 25(3), 223–243. Said, E. W. (1975). Beginnings: Intention and Method. New York: Basic Books. Said, E. W. (1978). Orientalism. London: Penguin. Said, E. W. (1983). The World, the Text, and the Critic. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Said, E. W. (1993). Culture and Imperialism. New York: Knopf. Said, E. W. (2000). Reflections on Exile and Other Essays. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Shilliam, R. (2014). “Open the Gates Mek We Repatriate”: Caribbean Slavery, Constructivism, and Hermeneutic Tensions. International Theory, 6(2), 349–372. Trouillot, M.-R. (1995). Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Boston: Beacon Press. Vázquez-Arroyo, A. Y. (2018). Critical Theory, Colonialism, and the Historicity of Thought. Constellations, 25(1), 54–70. Wallerstein, I. (1997). Eurocentrism and Its Avatars: The Dilemmas of Social Science. New Left Review, 226(November–December), 93–108. Young, I. M. (2007). Global Challenges: War, Self-determination and Responsibility for Justice. Cambridge: Polity.


A Academia, 176, 179, 180, 186, 187, 210, 231 Activists, 13, 151–156, 158–168, 160n1 Actor-network theory (ANT), 5, 8, 12, 23, 26, 27, 135 Adaptation, 69, 77, 82, 145, 222, 250 Advocacy, 6, 12, 118, 132, 157, 165 Aesthetic, 93, 94, 103, 104 Africa, 156, 162, 183 Agency, 6, 11–13, 27, 77, 98, 116, 138, 143, 145, 155, 156, 161, 179, 208, 209, 240–242, 249 Agent-structure debate, 10, 53–54, 226n3, 240 Alterity, 10, 47, 57, 58, 61, 76 Ambiguity, 25, 49, 50, 58, 60, 191, 204, 210, 223 Analytical philosophy, 10, 31, 34, 35 Anarchy, 14, 219–231, 240

Anderson, Benedict, 180 Appropriation, 50, 53–55, 61, 74, 98, 119, 246, 249 Apter, Emily, 7, 37 Arab, 184, 195, 246–249, 251 Area studies, 176, 185–187, 195, 253 Asia, 80, 156, 180, 190, 192 Assimilation, 162 Asylum, 152, 157, 159–161, 167, 168 Asymmetrical, 8, 13, 121, 231 B Babels, 92, 93, 99, 153, 164, 167, 214 Bassnett, Susan, 46, 68, 69, 73, 113, 119, 120, 221, 229, 231 Bedjaoui, Mohammed, 70 Begriffsgeschichte, 202–206 Behaviourism, 30 Bible, 222, 239

 Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.


© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 Z. G. Capan et al. (eds.), The Politics of Translation in International Relations, Palgrave Studies in International Relations, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-56886-3




Bilingual, 165, 168 Borders, 1, 5, 39, 94, 190, 192, 242 Boundaries, 2–4, 7, 8, 39, 56, 58, 75–79, 95, 99, 113, 115, 120, 121, 125, 154, 164, 201, 205, 245 Bourdieu, Pierre, 81 Brazil, 153 Brokers, 13, 121, 135, 154–156, 166 Brussels, 12, 132, 139, 142, 143 Butler, Judith, 162 C Callon, Michel, 12, 26, 27, 131–135, 138, 139, 141, 144–146, 237, 241 China, 11, 91n3, 92, 101–107, 188–193, 210 Christian, 25, 70 Chronopolitics, 15, 252, 253, 253n2 Circulation, 11, 24, 36, 70, 113, 118, 125, 126 Civic rights, 154 Civil society, 12, 13, 111n2, 114, 115, 117, 118, 131–146, 153, 154, 156–158, 167, 168 Civil society organisations, 131–133, 135, 137–140, 142, 146, 153, 167 Civilising mission, 67 Class, 12, 76, 158, 159, 164–166, 184 Co-constitution, 15, 200, 246 Cold War, 89, 90, 94, 226, 252 Coloniality, 5, 12, 113, 122, 125, 126 Colonisation, 71, 193, 230, 231 Commensurability, 36 Communication, 35, 36, 39, 44, 45, 48, 50, 51, 55, 56, 90, 91, 106, 120, 135, 151, 154, 155, 160, 161, 166, 205, 206, 225, 229, 239–241

Communicative, 2, 12, 24, 35, 44, 47–50, 152, 156, 158–160, 164 Community, 6, 51, 72, 73, 79, 81, 82, 89, 90, 114, 115, 117, 118, 126n16, 133, 156, 158, 160, 165, 168, 180n3, 194, 200–202, 207, 210, 214, 215, 224, 229, 230, 250 Comparative International Law, 10, 67–82 Comparative literature, 151 Comparativism, 73 Concept, 1, 2, 5, 6, 14, 15, 23, 24, 26, 34, 38, 55, 93n4, 95, 134, 135, 151, 152, 154, 155, 166, 176n1, 189, 190, 192, 193, 199–215, 219, 219n1, 222, 224–228, 230, 237–240 Concept analysis, 14, 199–215 Conceptual history, 5, 14, 201–206, 214, 239 Conceptuality, 204–206, 210, 213 Conceptual turn, 201, 206 Conflict, 94, 107, 111–114, 112n3, 112n4, 116, 122–126, 152, 153, 159–165, 167 Constructivism, 5, 6, 96, 108, 226 Contestation, 2, 6, 7, 9, 61, 74, 78, 93, 95, 119 Contingency, 2, 10, 15, 37, 93, 134, 134n1, 135, 178, 224, 237–243 Coups d’états, 14 Critical, 4, 10, 11, 14, 29, 29n5, 31, 38, 68, 69, 73, 76, 77, 97n7, 108, 125, 131–133, 138, 145, 152, 155, 158, 160, 161, 164, 166, 167, 177, 223, 226, 228, 230, 242, 250, 253 Critical constructivism, 5 Critique, 7, 9–12, 24, 24n1, 25, 27, 31, 34, 35, 37, 38n8, 80, 91, 92, 96n6, 113, 119, 131–146, 238, 242, 250


Cultural, 3, 4, 6, 8n4, 11, 25, 29, 37, 59, 70, 72–74, 77, 89–92, 94, 98–101, 103–108, 113, 113n5, 115, 119, 151–154, 156, 158, 160–162, 166, 167, 177, 178, 180, 182–185, 191, 194, 205, 219, 222, 229, 230, 239 Cultural turn, 14, 221 Culture, 3, 4n3, 11, 12, 67, 69–72, 75, 76, 80, 81, 89–95, 91n1, 97–102, 104, 106–108, 120, 121, 151, 156, 160, 165, 177, 186, 195, 221, 222, 224, 225, 227, 230, 231, 240, 241, 245n1, 246, 249, 251, 252 Curriculum, 13, 175, 176, 180–187, 189 D Decolonisation, 13, 70, 176, 180, 187, 192, 194, 195 Deconstruction, 99, 207 Deliberation, 9, 10, 13, 54, 55, 60, 154, 158, 161–164, 166 Democracy, 95, 96, 152–160, 162, 163, 166, 168, 199, 204 Democratic Peace Theory (DPT), 95, 96, 108 Denmark, 159, 167 Derrida, Jacques, 3, 11, 92, 98–100, 102–104, 237 Dewey, John, 33, 34 Dialectical, 11, 71 Dialogical, 10, 23, 60, 155, 160, 231 Dialogue, 5, 8, 9, 12, 15, 38, 59, 60, 78, 113, 119, 121, 125, 126, 153, 157–159, 161, 162, 167, 239 Différance, 98, 101–104 Difference, 2, 3, 8, 10–13, 15, 27, 36, 37, 39, 50, 51, 53, 60, 72–76,


90, 94, 97, 98, 100, 102, 105–108, 112, 121, 124, 139, 152–154, 159, 160, 166, 180, 183, 189, 200, 202, 204, 206, 208, 214, 223, 225, 231, 240–242, 253 Differentiation, 37, 38 Diffusion, 8, 69, 133, 152, 154–156, 253 Discipline, 1, 2, 5, 9, 10, 13, 44, 60, 75, 76, 79, 81, 113, 119, 175–178, 195, 200, 201, 210, 215, 229 Disruption, 74, 155 Disruptive, 13, 32, 158–162, 164, 166, 167 Distinction, 2, 8, 14, 24, 27, 31, 31n6, 37n7, 38, 70, 72, 78, 96, 205, 222 Doctrine, 11, 70, 78, 78n2, 79 Domestication, 221, 222 Domination, 5, 11, 106, 113, 120, 159–164, 167, 175–195, 200, 227 E East, 77, 80, 106, 190, 192, 193, 249, 250 Economy, 133, 248 Elites, 155, 157, 158, 161, 178, 190, 200 Emancipation, 11 Empire, 97, 190–192, 202 Empiricism, 27, 31, 35 Encounter, 1–4, 3n2, 7, 9, 11, 28n3, 29n5, 33, 35, 37, 39, 45, 47–51, 57–61, 67–82, 96–98, 102, 126, 152, 153, 159, 167, 223, 240 English, 13, 93n4, 118, 157, 165, 175–195, 200, 202, 211–215, 220, 227, 231, 238, 239



Enrolment, 26, 133, 141–144, 146 Entanglement, 3n1, 11, 77, 81 Epistemic communities, 6, 133 Epistemology, 34, 89–108 Equality, 112, 114, 116–118, 120, 121, 155, 159, 160, 162, 189, 190, 192, 193 Equivalence, 220–225, 227, 230 Erasure, 4, 13, 113, 120 Ethical, 11, 46–48, 50, 55–57, 60, 92, 100, 101, 104, 107, 126, 127, 152 Ethics, 4, 29, 47, 78, 94, 99, 100, 104 Ethnicity, 153, 159, 164, 181 Ethnographic, 152, 164, 186, 187 Eurocentrism, 10, 14, 70, 76, 175–178, 180, 182, 184, 191–195, 248 Europe, 70, 80, 103, 151–154, 156, 157, 162–164, 189, 193, 203, 215, 231, 248, 249, 251 European Commission, 132, 138, 142, 143 European Parliament, 132, 137, 139, 141, 143 European Social Forums (ESF), 153, 163, 164, 167 European Union (EU), 131, 132, 134, 143, 157, 163, 185 Event, 1, 79, 100, 101, 103, 114, 117, 119, 132, 134, 141, 164, 165, 223, 228 Exchange, 1, 2, 3n1, 12, 48, 49, 53–55, 74, 82, 94, 102–104, 107, 125, 225, 231 Expert, 12, 102, 111n1, 114, 116, 119, 122, 125–127, 133, 135, 137, 138, 140, 141 Expertise, 6, 9, 111n1, 117–119, 132–135, 138–144, 146

F Fashion, 4, 11, 38, 77, 89–108, 208 Feminism, 112, 119, 121, 124 Feminist theory, 5 Fields, 2, 9, 11, 43, 72, 74, 81, 131–134, 138–141, 186, 205, 206, 224 Finance Watch, 12, 131–133, 138–146 Financial crisis, 12, 132, 136, 137, 139, 140 Financial regulation, 12, 131–146 Foreignisation, 221 Formalism, 78, 81 Framing, 7, 79, 91, 154–156 French, 103, 184–186, 194, 195, 212, 238, 250 G Gadamer, Hans-Georg, 47–49, 58–60 Gavagai, 23–39 Gender, 12, 76, 111–119, 111n1, 111n2, 121–126, 151, 155, 156, 158, 159, 166 Geo-cultural, 15 Geopolitical, 2, 220, 226 Germany, 157, 159, 163, 164, 203, 215 Globalisation, 67, 68, 153, 162 Global justice movements, 156, 162 Global norms, 6 Global North, 80, 157 Global South, 156 Grassroots, 152–157, 162, 164, 165, 168 Guzzini, Stefano, 96n6, 201–203, 203n1, 208, 214 H Hacking, Ian, 35, 36 Haitian revolution, 80, 81


Heidegger, Martin, 91–94, 107, 239 Hempel, Carl, 28, 32 Hermans, Theo, 45, 205, 221, 223 Hermeneutics, 5, 48–51, 57, 59, 239 Hierarchy, 2, 7, 8, 11, 12, 15, 69, 75, 77, 78, 81, 112, 118, 119, 124–126, 133–136, 153, 158, 159, 164–167, 181, 184, 190, 194, 219, 220, 223, 229, 231, 241, 242 Historicity, 14, 220, 221, 224, 228, 231 History, 4, 5, 14, 32, 68, 70, 80, 89, 94, 99, 106, 182, 201–206, 213, 214, 225, 226, 239, 246–248, 250, 252, 253n3 Human rights, 77, 81, 156, 192 Huntington, Samuel, 94, 108, 245n1 Hybridity, 134 I Ideas, 1, 6, 15, 68, 70, 78, 80–82, 102, 103, 113, 152, 155, 166, 183, 192, 219, 225, 229, 240, 241, 246–250, 253 Identity, 11, 36, 37, 89–92, 94–97, 102–108, 116, 131, 133, 139, 161, 162, 176, 181–184, 226 Ideology, 4, 4n3, 13, 71, 78, 81, 94, 223, 224, 229 Image, 4, 33, 93, 177, 186, 191, 222, 241 Imperialism, 67, 68, 178, 180, 189 Incommensurability, 36, 39 Indeterminacy, 10, 24, 27–32, 34, 36, 37 Inequality, 124, 132, 137, 144, 152–154, 158, 159, 162–164, 166, 205 Institutionalism, 25


Interactions, 2, 3, 3n1, 7, 9, 25, 29, 48, 51, 73, 74, 79, 96, 107, 121–124, 126, 159, 160, 167, 191, 226 Intercultural, 69, 91, 120, 158, 205 Interessement, 26, 133, 139–141, 146 Interlingual, 2, 8, 44, 201, 206 Intermediary, 135, 153, 158, 159, 161, 166, 167 International law (IL), 5, 10, 11, 67–82, 118 International Political Theory, 93 International relations (IR), 1–15, 23, 43, 77, 90, 91, 151, 154, 175, 177–180, 190, 200, 201, 203, 214, 226, 227, 229, 237 Interpretation, 6, 8, 45, 48–50, 54, 59, 61, 71, 72, 77, 79, 81, 82, 97, 107, 113, 152, 154, 158, 201, 202, 205, 211–213, 215, 225, 239, 246, 253 Interpreters, 13, 59, 80, 152–154, 158, 161, 164, 167, 206 Intersectional, 156, 166 Intervention, 29, 89, 101, 112n4, 115, 119, 123, 154, 158, 161, 164, 167, 225, 231 Intralingual, 43–61 intralingual translation, 10, 44, 45, 50, 51, 58 J Jacquemond, Richard, 189, 191, 194 Jakobson, Roman, 206 Japan, 106, 182, 183, 190, 193, 194 Johns, Fleur, 79 Jurisdiction, 68, 77, 79, 204 Justice, 13, 114, 122, 126, 153, 155, 156, 158–160, 162–166



K Kennedy, David, 71, 72, 76 Knowledge, 2–4, 9, 11–13, 24, 26, 33, 39, 73, 74, 79, 90–93, 97, 103, 107, 112, 115–119, 122, 125–127, 133–136, 139, 140, 142, 146, 159, 160, 164, 175, 178, 179, 182, 194, 220, 223, 225, 229, 231, 242, 247 Knowledge production, 10, 35, 125, 132, 134, 135, 139, 223 Koselleck, Reinhart, 14, 201–206, 203n1, 208, 214 Koskenniemi, Martti, 68, 70–72, 77 L Lagerfeld, Karl, 92, 101–104 Language, 2, 3, 9, 27, 45, 68, 90, 115, 131, 154, 176, 184–187, 200, 220, 238, 240, 246 Latour, Bruno, 3, 26, 27, 131, 135, 146 Law, 28, 67–82, 118, 137, 212, 226 Lefevere, André, 3, 221, 223, 224 Liberal, 70, 94, 95, 106, 112, 115, 116, 119, 161, 162, 227 Liberal democracy, 155 Liberalism, 91, 95, 108 Linguistic turn, 10, 15, 29, 226, 238–240 Localisation, 112, 114, 115, 117, 119, 121–123, 125, 200 Logic, 68, 69, 72, 78, 118, 122, 177, 200, 202, 211, 226 M Manipulation, 4, 205, 221 Marginalisation, 12, 116, 162 Media, 114, 117, 137, 152, 154–156, 182

Mediation, 7, 90, 134 Mediators, 165, 221 Meta-language, 56 Metaphor, 4, 4n3, 120, 154, 231 Meta-theoretical debate, 51, 56, 60, 61 Meta-theory, 43–45, 51–52, 54–61 Middle East, 249–251 Migration, 151, 157, 159, 166–168, 219, 229 Minority, 153, 156, 165, 166, 180n3 Misreadings, 246 Mobilisation, 26, 133, 144–146, 151, 154 Model, 3, 8, 27, 32, 33, 35, 69, 75, 102, 152–154, 162, 166, 190, 240, 247, 253 Modern, 5, 91–93, 186, 189, 203, 252 Modernity, 5, 93, 122, 251 Monodirectional, 11, 68, 73 Monological, 23 Morgenthau, Hans J., 199, 212 Multilingual, 13, 153, 156–158, 162–164, 167, 168 Multiplicity, 5, 10, 11, 30, 35, 36, 39, 48, 49, 52, 53, 93, 162, 163 Multi-polar, 11 Multivocal, 8 Multivocality, 44, 51–52 N National, 6, 13, 69, 72, 75, 77, 79, 81, 90, 118, 119, 137, 138, 143, 153, 155, 162–166, 184, 194 Nationality, 89, 159 Nation state, 72, 209–211, 213 Natural law, 70, 226 Negotiation, 6, 7, 58, 96, 97, 135, 137, 143, 154, 160, 193 Neoliberal, 25, 153, 157


Neorealism, 25, 207, 208, 210 Nepal, 12, 113, 114, 116–118, 122–126 Network, 6, 12, 27, 73, 82, 119, 132, 133, 135, 136, 138–142, 144–146, 153, 155, 156, 158, 160, 161, 164, 166, 167 NGOs, 114, 117, 132, 133, 137, 139–142, 156, 164–166 Nida, Eugene, 221, 222, 225 Non-Western, 11, 13, 14, 44, 67, 68, 71, 76, 82, 137, 175–180, 182–185, 187–192, 194, 195, 200, 215, 225, 230 Norms diffusion, 8, 156 norm contestation, 74 O Objects, 10, 12, 24, 25, 28, 30, 31, 31n6, 33, 34, 60, 100, 119, 145, 199, 204, 231, 238, 239 Ontologisation, 48, 50 Ontology, 15, 27, 34, 53–55, 93, 203, 238–240 Organisation, 113, 114, 116, 117, 117n11, 131–133, 135, 137–140, 142, 144–146, 153, 155–157, 165, 167, 252 Orientalism, 104, 106, 183, 189, 191, 195, 247, 249–251 Other, 3, 10, 11, 80, 89–108, 115, 119, 142, 168, 230 P Partiality, 10, 60 Patronage, 220, 223, 224, 228, 229 Peace, 111–127, 153, 221 Performative, 4, 7, 9, 11, 37, 74, 201 Performance, 133 Philosophical hermeneutics, 48


Philosophy, 10, 28, 29n4, 30, 31, 33–35, 47, 48, 102, 180, 182, 200 Plurality, 5, 13, 27, 49, 56–61, 68, 78, 80–82 Pluri-directional, 12, 121, 125 Political authority, 134 Political communication, 151 Political mobilisation, 151, 154 Politics of translation, 1–15, 23–39, 92, 97–101, 111–127, 192, 223, 231, 238, 239, 242–243, 245, 251, 253, 254 Polysemy, 10, 14, 43–61 Positional misunderstanding, 159–166 Positivism, 9, 10, 24, 25, 28, 29, 34, 70, 76 Post-colonial, 5, 8, 12, 80, 242 Postmodern, 11, 107 Post-structuralism, 5 Post-structuralist, 226, 240 Power, 25, 50, 67, 89, 112, 134, 152, 178, 199–215, 219, 239 Practice, 1, 2, 4, 7–9, 11, 12, 24, 45–47, 50, 52, 53, 55, 56, 60, 61, 68, 71–73, 76–82, 115, 116, 119–121, 125, 127, 131, 151–156, 158–162, 164, 166, 167, 176, 178, 182, 192, 195, 200, 203, 206, 215, 224, 226, 231, 239, 250, 252 Problematisation, 12, 15, 26, 133, 136–139, 146 Progress, 15, 57, 68, 178 Protest, 131, 132, 145, 151, 152, 155, 162–164 Q Queer, 160n1, 161, 162, 165 Quine, Willard Van Orman, 10, 24, 27–32, 34–36



R Race, 153, 158, 159, 164, 166, 192, 248 Racial, 153, 166, 167, 180, 181, 241 Rationalism, 29 Realism, 91, 94, 108, 207, 208 Reciprocal, 3, 76, 231 Reference, 8n4, 9, 10, 24, 26, 28, 30–35, 38, 39, 73, 74, 90, 92, 94, 104, 105, 133, 161, 186, 200, 204, 207, 208, 240 Refugees, 152, 154, 155, 157–161, 166–168 Regional, 13, 69, 71, 75, 77, 81, 153, 163 Reification, 94, 107, 249 Relativism, 77, 253 Representation, 4, 9, 28, 74, 97, 106, 117, 120, 180, 182, 188, 191, 220, 225, 229, 230 Resistance, 5, 24, 70, 93, 119, 121, 122, 126, 155, 231, 250 Responsibility, 11, 73, 80, 100 Re-writing, 3 Ricoeur, Paul, 48, 54 S Saïd, Edward W., 15, 159, 195, 230, 245–254 Schleiermacher, Friedrich, 221 Science, 28, 29, 29n4, 31–35, 56, 57, 178–180, 184–186, 202, 206, 220, 246–249, 253, 253n3 Security sector reform (SSR), 113, 115, 117 Self, 3, 11, 50, 54, 94, 100, 102, 107–108, 231 Semantic, 2, 7, 30, 73, 98, 190, 202, 227 Semantic field, 9, 205, 206, 224 Semiotics, 5, 11, 101, 107, 204, 224 Sense-making, 221

Al-Shāt ̣ir, Ibn, 247, 248, 253 Sign, 7, 11, 61, 96, 106, 108, 185, 206 Signification, 53, 59, 106 Silence, 2, 4, 60, 112, 184 Skinner, Quentin, 203, 205 Social change, 25, 118, 152, 155, 167 Socialisation, 6 Social movements, 13, 131, 151–168 Social theory, 15, 237, 238 Sociology, 13, 81, 134 of translation, 12, 26–27, 133–135, 145–146, 223 Solidarity, 112, 119, 121, 126, 127, 152, 155–160, 166, 167 Source text (ST), 45, 46, 68, 73–76, 221, 223–225, 227 Sovereignty, 189–194, 202, 226 Space, 2, 3n2, 5, 7, 11, 12, 15, 68, 69, 72, 75, 78, 79, 81, 92, 99, 100, 104, 106, 107, 113, 119–122, 125–127, 143, 152–154, 158, 163, 166, 168, 201, 228–230, 240–242, 246, 247, 250–252 Speech dispositions, 28, 30 Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, 113, 119, 120, 162 Spokesman, 144, 146 Standard of civilisation, 193, 193n8 Subjectivity, 4, 161, 208 Subversion, 102, 119 Syllabus, 181, 182, 182n5 Symmetry, 3, 14, 220 T Target text (TT), 45, 46, 224, 225 Teaching, 6, 178, 181 Temporality, 238 Terror, 14 Theoretical philosophy, 28, 30


Theory-building, 13, 201, 206, 207, 214, 220, 229–231, 253 Third sector, 157 Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL), 71 Time, 2, 11, 15, 31, 38, 46, 49, 52, 59, 61, 69, 75, 79–81, 89–91, 94, 100–102, 104, 111n1, 113, 114n6, 118, 132, 136, 140, 141, 145, 157, 186, 192, 195, 204, 206, 210, 211, 224, 227–230, 237, 241, 242, 246, 247, 249–251, 253 Toury, Gideon, 221, 224 Tower of Babel, 92, 93, 99, 214 Trade unions, 133, 137, 139, 140 Training, 12, 104, 113–119, 121–126, 183, 195n10, 252 Transfer, 3, 4, 4n3, 12, 13, 33, 34, 38n8, 47, 68, 69, 73, 74, 77, 82, 97n7, 101, 112–122, 125, 126, 206, 222, 225 Transformation, 3, 5–10, 12, 14, 25, 27, 33, 34, 37–39, 38n7, 45–48, 69, 73, 78, 90, 107, 113, 115, 118, 120–122, 125–127, 131, 132, 135, 146, 194, 222, 239, 242, 246 Translation critical translation studies, 10, 69 digital translation, 157 indeterminacy of translation, 24, 27–32, 34, 36 interlingual translation, 2, 44 mistranslation, 35, 36 political translation, 13, 152–154, 156, 158–164, 167 politics of translation, 1–15, 23–39, 92, 97–101, 192, 223, 231, 238, 239, 242–243, 245, 251, 253, 254 radical translation, 27, 29, 31 sociology of translation, 12, 27, 133–135, 145, 223


transformative translation, 67–82 translation as transfer, 11, 12, 24, 33, 34, 37, 38n8, 68, 73, 74, 97n7, 113–122, 126, 222 translation as transformation, 2–9, 12, 27, 33, 35, 37, 45–48, 114, 122, 126, 127, 194, 246 translation as transmission, 6, 7, 249, 252 translation as transplantation, 5, 7, 8, 246, 249, 252 translation norms, 220, 224, 229 translation zone, 8 Translation studies, 3, 5, 14, 45, 48, 73, 76, 80, 200, 205, 206, 220–222, 230 Translator, 4, 4n3, 11, 13, 46, 47, 49, 57, 73, 74, 91n3, 92, 93n4, 99, 100, 151, 153–156, 158–168, 188, 191, 210, 211, 219–231, 241, 249 Translingual, 201 concept analysis, 14, 199–215 Transmission, 3, 5–8, 38n8, 135, 246, 247, 249, 252 Transnational advocacy networks, 6 networks, 133, 156 Transplantation, 5, 7, 8, 77, 245, 246, 248, 249, 252, 253 Travelling theory, 15 Turkey, 14, 15, 163, 220, 228–230 U Uncertainty, 2, 56, 57, 191 Unidirectional, 4, 8, 9 United Nations (UN), 12, 115, 157 United States (US), 123, 151–155, 162–166, 179, 182, 185, 188, 195n10, 210, 251, 252 Universality, 10, 68–71, 73–76, 82, 231



UN Security Council Resolution 1325, 111 Untranslatability, 24 US Social Forums (USSF), 153, 156, 158, 164–167 V Value-free, 9 Venuti, Lawrence, 4, 73, 90, 151, 223 Vernacularisation, 68, 77 Vernaculars, 2, 203 Violence, 4, 76, 79, 99, 108, 112n4, 114, 120, 122, 123, 135, 180, 184, 228 Volunteers, 13, 123, 153, 157–161, 163, 164, 167

W Wallerstein, Immanuel, 248 Waltz, Kenneth, 14, 202, 207–214 Wendt, Alexander, 14, 96, 96n6, 97, 219, 220, 226–228, 230 Western, 33, 44, 67, 89, 116, 137, 175, 200, 225, 246 Westphalian sovereign state, 192 White, 29, 156, 176, 180n3, 181, 183, 203 Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 238–240 Women, 4, 111–127, 154, 156, 159, 184 Women, Peace and Security (WPS), 12, 111–127 Worlding, 91, 92 World Social Forum (WSF), 13, 153, 162–164