Q+A with keynote speaker, Clàudia de Lima Costa

Our keynote speaker, Clàudia de Lima Costa (University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina) will be leading Friday’s conference. In advance of her keynote address on ‘Translation and the Ontological Turn’ we asked her some questions.


What is the politics of translation in the Latin American context?

I would qualify this question by emphasizing that there are two politics of translations. One is about the politics of mainstream (or, better, “male-stream”) texts are translated and made available almost at the same time that they are published in the original (usually Anglo-Euro or other dominant) language. Another is the politics of feminist translations, which usually strives to make available the voices of the inappropriate/d [female] other (as Trinh T. Minh-ha would say). In the Latin American context, feminist translations have enabled a conversation (not always easy) among women from diverse races, classes, genders, generations, and abilities, partially connecting them to several dimensions of struggle against oppressive regimes of power.

In a book Sonia Alvarez, myself and other colleagues co-edited, entitled Translocalities/Translocalidades: The Feminist Politics of Translation in the Latin/a Americas (Duke University Press, 2014), we try to give some examples of the politics of feminist translations at work. I especially would like to cite the article by Ana Rebecca Prado about translating Anzaldúa in Bolivia – which shows how the feminist anarchist group Mujeres Creando, in their queer performances, converse with Anzaldúa in transporting Borderlands/La Frontera to a context of feminist politics beyond the walls of the academy (where this author had originally been read), hence establishing affinities between the two political projects. Thus, the language of Anzaldúa, enunciated in the South of the North, was appropriated by the South of the South, and “in fact incorporated in the transnational feminism which […] has no frontiers but the ones which patriarchy, racism, and homophobia insist on.”

While in my role as editor of the Brazilian journal Revista Estudos Feministas (REF), we managed to publish in Portuguese  — for the first time — two articles by Anzaldúa. In the journal we have a section entitled “Debates” in which we try to translate articles by feminists in the North (on race/racism, decolonial feminism, feminist theories, and other contemporary issues) and invite feminists residing in Latin America to respond to them, attempting to establish a dialogue across geopolitical boundaries. I believe these two examples are instances of a feminist politics of translation at work.

What do you see as the relationship between language and power?

Whenever I go into the classroom to teach beginning undergraduate students about literary theory, I ask them what they believe (L)iterature is. My aim is twofold: first, to discuss how language (and literary, canonized language) is always already connected to power in that it becomes the dominant representation of the world, since literature is about representation. So, when we read canonical authors (who are usually male and white), we see the world through their — necessarily biased and limited –representations. Because they are canonical, their voices become hegemonic. What about alternative representations, situated at the margins of dominant narratives? What sorts of representations emerge if one reads non-canonical texts?

Second, and following the practice of unsettling the canon, I like to practice with my students a reading that goes against the grain of canonized texts, exploring how what is said is always silencing the other side, what is not said. At the same time, I introduce them to other kinds of (minority) texts that are considered without literary value (of course, also discussing what value is). As one explores these issues, it becomes evident, via Bakhtin and Foucault, that language is power – the power to represent and to shape the world. It’s not just a coincidence that English has become a lingua franca – and this points clearly to the fact that there is a hierarchy of languages. As the anthropologist Talal Asad reminds us, the inequality [or asymmetry] of languages has always been at the root of the production of anthropological knowledge. To fully understand the relationship between language and power, we need to engage with issues about the geopolitics of knowledge and the coloniality of power.

Do you see language as an act of political activism? In your work, and more generally?

I use translation as political activism. In REF, (considered the most influential Brazilian feminist scholarly journal), one of the things we have been doing is to translate key contributions by Black feminist and queer women of color to bring the discussions of  the intersection of gender, race/racism and sexuality to the forefront of feminist theoretical debates in the Brazilian academy, which until recently has been dominated by white feminist scholars. This is not to say that debates on race/racism only emerged in Brazil due to translations of English texts by Black women writers, but to emphasize that they entered the academy also as a result of the influence of, and pressures from, Brazilian black women activists.

In my more recent work on decolonial feminisms, I borrow the notion of translation as equivocation from Amerindian perspectivism, as well as  the practice of diffractive reading (in material feminism), to engage in discussions about how to make partial connections among different feminist formations, such as decolonial and indigenous feminisms in the global South and material feminisms in the global North. I have written about these two approaches – equivocation and diffractive reading – connecting them to the politics of translation.

What role can translingualism play in activism (especially within the US context)? How important is this within the feminist activist context?

What I can say about translingualism (I prefer the term translanguaging) in the U.S. context is based on my readings of Chicana feminists, especially the writings of Gloria Anzaldúa and her emphasis on living on the border (the colonial wound), in between languages (Spanish, English, and Nahuatl). We cannot talk about translanguaging without discussing transculturation as an outcome of processes of globalization and diasporic movements of populations. All these processes are poetically elaborated by Anzaldúa in her writing style that mixes not only languages but also literary genres (poetry, testimonio, essay, etc.), thereby defying the ideology of monolinguism that was foundational of the modern nation-state—hence the difficulty of translating her into other languages.

Transculturaltion (a term coined by the Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz) highlights that cultural flows do not happen in only one direction – for instance, from the West to the rest – but also from the rest to the West, mutually transforming one another and, more importantly, transforming modes of being in both. Moreover, transculturation and translation are mutually constitutive processes that put in tension languages and power relations, while also blurring the linguistic boundaries of nation-states.

Translanguaging in the context of feminist activism underpins how transculturation/translations is always at work in connecting feminists from different regions of – for example — Latin America. In the contact/translation zone between Spanish, Portuguese, “Pretoguese”(Black Portuguese), and countless Amerindian languages, negotiating these differences while trying to struggle against linguistic oppression and asymmetries becomes indeed a daunting task for women’s activism.

What can be done to improve the visibility of women writers?

Several of my colleagues at the Federal University of Santa Catarina have dedicated their careers to that end. Here I would like to give special mention to two of them, Susana Funk and Zahidé Muzzart. The latter founded a press – Editora Mulheres —  whose goal was to publish the writings of 19th century Brazilian women authors. Afterwards it broadened its scope to encompass contemporary women writers.

In many literature departments in Brazil – as elsewhere in Latin America – we can also find feminist scholars engaged in studying women writers. I guess the question is not anymore to make them visible, but to make visible the (canonical) mechanisms that silenced them in the first place, so that the canon as a perverse system of discrimination and valuation is revealed.

Your keynote address is titled ‘Translation and the Ontological Turn’: can you tell us a bit about what the ‘ontological turn’ is and the role that it has in relation to feminist translation.

In the past few years I have been reading and writing about how climate change, and our entrance in what geologists are naming the Anthropocene age, has demanded from us for a new approach to thinking about humans as species – or species thinking (as Chakrabarty puts it), together with a critique of capitalism. The Anthropocene refers to a new geological era when humans have become a planetary geological force and demarcates the end of the Holocene era.

Along with a call for species thinking – or thinking about our partial interconnections with human and other than human materialities –, we have also witnessed the decentering of the human and of human exceptionalism, together with logocentrism. As Chakrabarty argues, it inaugurates another kind of rationality or, if you will, episteme: as opposed to traditional Western rationality and representational paradigms (in which there is a separation between our experience of the world, the world in itself, and knowledge of the world); to know requires to be immersed in matter and in the world through continuous engagement (Stengers). It also calls for an ontological turn, that is, a movement from the view that there are different perspectives on an objective and universal reality to a recognition of multiple worlds/realities. As Horton explains, under the ontological turn “the body is thus a social entity, with the capacity to engage with other bodies, affects, and the environment. Relationality between multiple bodies and the environment is seen as the tool by which multiple realities are ‘unlocked’.”

Feminist contributions to species thinking have been innumerable and predate discussions about the Anthropocene, as the works of Donna Haraway, Karen Barad, Susan Hekman, Stacy Alaimo, and Jane Bennett attest. In my research, I am concerned with how the ontological turn, and the decentering of the logos, might affect the ways in which we think about translation. How to translate across different ontological realities? How to open up to more than human languages and rationalities? What the field of eco-translations promises us? These and other questions (more questions than answers) will be explored in my presentation.

Friday’s conference at UofG

Translating Feminism

The last day of our conference will be held in the Yudowitz Seminar Room, Wolfson Medical Building at the University of Glasgow.  The day will begin at 9am with a keynote address from Clàudia de Lima Costa (University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina) discussing ‘Translation and the Ontological Turn’. Our first panel of the day will speak on ‘Translation and Political Ideology’.


Translation and Political Ideology

SPEAKER 1. Annarita Taronna via Skype, University of Bari, Italy

Translation, gender and censorship under Fascism


Recent research (Rundle 2010; Billiani 2006, 2007, 2008; Ferme 2002) has placed translation issues at the very centre of the understanding of Fascism by revealing some unprecedented cultural, ideological and political aspects which have been largely ignored. Specifically, assuming that in 1920s and 1930s Italy translating foreign texts came into being as an activity overdetermined by ideological, literary and economic discourses and constraints, this study will provide an insight into the relationship between the translator and the historical context in which he/she worked as an active agent for the cultural and political environment of the receiving language. Specifically, a close analysis of history, censorship and the translation of foreign women writers through Italy’s Fascist past will be examined in order to show that translation may play an important role in provoking a shift in the paradigm when aesthetic criteria of assessment have to come to terms with the rules imposed by publishers’ needs and the government’s censorship. On these premises, the research goal here is to trace a more detailed framework of the Fascist censorship in relation to the question of gender and translation that can help understand the history of the Italian translations of some British, American and German women writers and the extent to which these texts challenged and subverted the Fascist censorship creating narrative spaces of resistance.

SPEAKER 2. Erin Katherine Krafft, University of Massachusetts, United States

Gender Trouble in transit: Reading contemporary Russian femininity


Judith Butler, in her foundational 1990 text Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge), introduced the idea that gender itself is a performance, an act that draws and reinforces “the culturally intelligible grids of an idealized and compulsory heterosexuality” and thus stabilizes the meaning of gender within prescribed heteronormative parameters (Butler, 135). The ontology of gender in this scenario is one which responds to a binarized masculine/feminine, defined and performed in opposition to one another. The cultural context of this binary has made Butler’s treatment of gender untranslatable in the contemporary Russian social and political landscape, as the ontology of gender throughout the Soviet period was indivisible from the ontologies of citizen, worker, and member of a rigidly-define social collective in which privatized performance of gender was subordinate to public performances of citizenship. The release of Butler’s text coincided with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and while her readings of gender may seem applicable to the rapid postSoviet development and entrenchment of stereotypical masculine and feminine aesthetics and behaviors, particularly under the guidance of Putin and the renewed Orthodox Church, these performances of gendered aesthetics – and their performers – continue to reject the conceptualization of gender described by Butler. Russian women, long denied the ability to inscribe individual expression onto their bodies, do not understand the performance of a feminine aesthetic as a limiting act. Keeping in mind that Russian feminist movement of the current moment is sharply aware of Western influence, an influence that arises from a strong-anti feminism in post-socialist Russia and a resultant necessity to seek support from abroad, this paper will examine the contours of the unintelligibility of Butler’s vision of gender both through contemporary Russian feminist commentary and through the mainstream consciousness of a still-forming civil society. Examining the transcultural and translingual treatment of the concept of gender, and even of the single word itself, illuminates not only the current uses – social and political – of gender and particularly femininity in Russia, but also the intersecting ontologies of class, race, work, and relational definitions of the individual that limit the applicability of Butler’s theories in any social environment.

The next panel of the day considers Translation and the Performing Arts

SPEAKER 1. Shashi Kumar, University of Hyderabad,  India

Critical Analysis of Feminism and Gender Roles in the Four Translated Versions of English Play Pygmalion in Kannada Language


This paper focuses on the translation of dramatic text from English to Kannada language. The study discuss George Bernard Shaw’s English play Pygmalion (1914) along with its four translations in Kannada language. The study wish to look into the manner in which the play has been rendered in Kannada by using different characters from the marginalised communities especially the women characters. I consider Mysoora Malli (Malli of Mysore, 1963) by Gundu Rao, Pygmalion (1975) by V. Seetharamaiah, Mullelide Mandara (Where is thorn, Mandaara?, 1995) by Vyasaraya Ballala and Sevanti Prasanga (An Episode of Sevanti, 1996) by Jayanth Kaikini. This paper shows the changes of women identity and the power relation in source- text Pygmalion as well as its four translations in Kannada.  The objectives of the study are to compare and contrast the ways in which the four Kannada translations differ from each other comparing with the English play Pygmalion. The study looks into the diverging ways in which women characters are portrayed and written by Kannada translators’ in terms of their emotions, oppression, untouchability, socio-economic and political conditions. The study tries to highlight the way Dalit women have been represented very differently in the Kannada translations keeping the caste oppression at the hands of the upper class and as women who experiences patriarchal oppression at the hands of all the men including men of their own caste. The study also displays how money, power and social classes interact with each other by giving each character a different class. Finally, the study focuses on the manifold problems of Dalit women in the Indian state of Karnataka.

SPEAKER 2. Daniela Toulemonde, NUI Galway,  Republic of Ireland

Translation and Drag Queens: The Spanish Translation of Drag Queen Media


Over the last decade, the reality TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR), where drag queens compete to become America’s next drag superstar, has brought the art of drag to the mainstream. An ever-increasing fan base around the world, as well as multiple spin-offs and the creation of related media, has resulted in more English-language drag being translated into Spanish than ever. These translations take a variety of forms: subtitles, dubbings, fan-made, commissioned and indirect translations. This burgeoning field is a complex subject of study, at the intersection of both Translation Studies and Queer Studies. The field of queer translation has become a vibrant area of investigation, as trends from Queer Studies provide interesting new perspectives on the theory and practice of translation. The analysis of translations of American English queer media into Spanish can potentially give us an insight into understanding how ideas of queerness are being transmitted cross-culturally. The American drag queen scene, and RPDR in particular, have become so present around the world that it could be argued that these are the loudest voices defining and exploring the world of drag today. In this paper, I will explore the main differences between the English source text and Colombian fan-made subtitles of season 9 of RPDR. I will argue that these differences shed light on how Colombian fans of the show understand and articulate ideas of gender, sexuality and queerness in Spanish. The prevalent use of English to translate most terminology relating to LGBTQ+ and most of the show’s catchphrases could indicate a direct assimilation of these concepts into the target culture. However, the creative translation of humour and the use of Spanish grammatical gender to queer the target text also suggests a more complex process is taking place. The translation of drag media into Spanish might not be a perfect transfer of ideas, but rather a cross-cultural shaping of ideas of queerness.

SPEAKER 3. Lisa Wegener, Drama Panorama, Berlin, Germany

Translating narratives of gender and identity in international queer drama


The anthology series Drama Panorama presents contemporary foreign-language plays in German translation. For the edition International Queer Drama we invited submissions that explore new narratives of gender and identity, and in doing so create space for an emancipation from outmoded patterns of thinking. In response to our international call for queer plays we received more than a hundred texts featuring marginalised individuals who do not comply with the binary gender norm, scrutinising structures of power and/or portraying strong female characters or characters identifying as women. The material exhibits a diverse range of approaches to the established discourse around the narrative of performed gender roles, for example playing with semantic, phonetic and lexical shifts or inventing new vocabulary, using inclusive forms of expression when it comes to children’s literature and experimenting with forms of empowering terminology.
The experimental forms represented include surrealist approaches to envisioning the dream-like reality of a genderfluid child (Choux-fleur by Servane Daniel) and a transvestite circus artist (Barbette by Bill Lengfelder), attempts to deconstruct psychoanalytic terms and their phallocentrism, diverse conveyed myths from a Christian and Arabic background re-examined from a feminist perspective (A la racine by Marine Bachelot), the depiction of a future cyborg reality where notions of female identity constructed around motherhood are transcended through the creation of new forms of representation using playful language (Vers où nos corps célestes by Julie Ménard) and the invention of figurative and flower-inspired, inclusive terms for non-binary gender constellations in drama for young audiences (Le gène de l’orchidée by Lucy Vérot). The submission process is still ongoing, but by the time the conference takes place additional examples, possibly from other cultural backgrounds, will have emerged.  These texts represent a considerable challenge when it comes to translation. In addition to an overview of the sample material, I will outline possible strategies for addressing the challenges inherent in translating queer-feminist drama in a solution-oriented but playful way. Examples will be presented in the most inclusive way possible, bearing in mind the varying language skills of the conference audience

SPEAKER 4. Ting Guo, University of Exeter, United Kingdom

Translation and Queer Feminism in China: Jihua network and Carol


Despite a solid body of legislation defending women’s rights and interests, inequalities between genders remain a significant problem in various areas of Chinese society from education and employment to health. While there is growing literature on the connection between Chinese feminist movement and international gender politics (e.g. Liu et al. 2013, Wesoky 2013, Yu 2015), little attention has been paid to the LGBT+ related issues and how knowledge of gender and sexuality has been disseminated through translation to support queer feminism in China. Drawing from research on transnational feminism (e.g. Grewal & Kaplan 2001, Swarr & Nagar 2012) and queer media activism (e.g. Engebretsen et al. 2015), this paper examines the negotiation and circulation of international queer feminist knowledge in the Chinese context through translation of films. With a case study of Jihua Network, one of the most influential lesbian subtitling groups in China, this paper explores how the Chinese translation of Anglophone lesbian films has been intertwined with global gender politics and participated in the emergent queer feminism in China. It will investigate the development of Jihua in the past decade, its collaborative translation model, and its connections with other LGBT+ subtitling groups in China. Through analysing its translation of the film, Carol (Haynes 2015) and related reviews and interviews about the film, this paper will highlight the initiatives taken by Chinese lesbian feminists to connect with the international community and position themselves within Chinese culture, and how the socio-political inequalities accumulated in the process of globalization can be challenged or reinforced through translation of queer feminist films.

The last panel of the day considers The Omission/Insertion of ‘Feminism’

SPEAKER 1. Mélina Delmas, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom

Omitting female agency: the first French translation of Lessing’s Martha Quest


Martha Quest (1952), Doris Lessing’s second novel, is a female Bildungsroman. It is the first volume in the Children of Violence series, which recounts the life of Martha from her teenage years in South Rhodesia to her death in London. While conventional female Bildungsromane “demonstrat[e] how society provides women with models for ‘growing down’ instead of ‘growing up’” (Lazzaro-Weis, 1990, p. 17), Lessing provides Martha with a sense of self. Moreover, while she “does not spell out Martha’s consciousness in strictly feminist terms” (Labovitz, 1988, p. 195), the “submerged plot inscribes revolt” (Marrone, 2000, p. 18) and female agency.  Martha Quest was first translated into French in 1957 by Doussia Ergaz and Florence Cravoisier, and then later retranslated by Marianne Véron in 1978. The first translation is heavily cut and edited. This paper will explore micro changes in the text which, on the macro level, create a genre shift from the Bildungsroman to a romance in translation. It will also briefly consider the potential reasons which may have prompted these transformations. The changes observed relate to themes typically found in Bildungsromane. For instance, sexuality is toned down or even erased in translation. References to contraception and sexual manuals are suppressed – both being tools which empower women in their sexual life – while sex-related language is whitewashed. The female heroine’s internal revolt is also toned down to better conform to 1950s gender role expectations.  Overall, these many changes thwart Martha’s agency and undermine her independence. This is highly problematic as it brings the novel back to a tradition of circular Bildungsromane in which the romance plot is predominant, and the heroine’s fate ultimately leads her to walk in her mother’s footsteps and to become a wife.

SPEAKER 2. Cole Collins, Edinburgh College of Art, United Kingdom and Stiftung Arp e.V. Berlin, Germany

What’s in a name?: Gender and identity politics in two translations of Kurt Schwitters’ ‘An Anna Blume’ (1919)


This paper is not concerned with the original German poem by Kurt Schwitters. Instead, it will focus on two puzzling English translations of ‘An Anna Blume’ (1919). The first appearing in 1922 by a Mrs Myrtle Klein, and the second, whose date is uncertain, supposedly translated by Schwitters himself. Klein’s translation, ‘Ann Blossom has Wheels’, is a fascinating example of the erasure of the female translator, as well as how a poem, largely perceived to have been misogynistic and the ramblings of a madman, can be translated into something with political intent. In the later translation by Schwitters, ‘To eve Blossom’, the protagonist undergoes a radical identity change. Keeping her palindromic form, Anna becomes Eve, and she is no longer the subject of a schmaltzy love poem but is thrust into the political conversation of 1940s Britain. Adding to the mystery of this second translation is a third version which deletes the most politically-charged lines of the poem. This version is later favoured as the “authorised” translation when it is published in 1965 in the collected edition of Anna Blume poems, edited by the artist’s son, in which ‘To eve Blossom’ replaces ‘Ann Blossom has Wheels’ in the reprint of the 1922 collection Anna Blume. Dichtungen (Steegemann Verlag, Hannover). In this paper, I will discuss and compare the politicisation of the female identity represented by the character of Anna Blume and consider the ways in which both Klein’s and Schwitters’ translations of the poem might be understood as having feminist intent. I posit that these two (three) translations might be counted as stand-alone pieces of work, independent from the original German text and consider that in order to understand how these works function as examples of radical texts, one must consider them as more than simply translations. In presenting Klein’s version without reliance on the German pre-text, I hope to understand Schwitters’ motivations in radically altering his poem and his protagonist’s identity. This paper has been devised using archival material, manuscripts, type-sheets, and handwritten notebooks, and seeks to intervene and expand upon current readings of both the German and English texts.

SPEAKER 3. Nina Nurmila, State Islamic University, Bandung, Indonesia

Indonesian Male Muslim Feminists: Case Study of Kiayi Husein Muhammad and Dr Faqihuddin Abdul Kodir


Some people may assume that feminist must be a female. This paper will show that a male can also be feminist because being feminist is achieved through a learning process, not biologically born. A female may be brought up to be supporter of patriarchal system, while a male can learn to become feminist. Feminist is someone, either male or female, who is aware of the existing oppression or subordination of women because of their sex and as working to eliminate such oppression or subordination and to achieve equal gender relations between men and women. I use Azza Karam’s categorisation of feminisms in Egypt to describe feminisms in Indonesia: secular, Islamist and Muslim feminisms. This paper will present two case studies of Indonesian male Muslim feminists, Kiayi Husein Muhammad and Dr Faqihuddin Abdul Kodir, by explaining who they are, why they are being labelled as Muslim feminist and what they do to achieve equal gender relations between men and women. The presented data is based on their publications and the author’s closeness with their feminist activism. Both Kiayi Husein Muhammad and Dr Faqihuddin Abdul Kodir are brought up and educated in patriarchal culture. However, their encounter with gender and feminism has changed their perspective to be critical with the existing women’s subordination by using religious justification. Both of them believe that the Qur’an aims to achieve gender justice but its message has been blurred by patriarchal reading of the text. Therefore, they argue for the re-reading of the Qur’an from equal gender perspective.


The conference will end with concluding remarks. 


Just one week until our conference – here’s the details!

Translating Feminism


In just one week our conference will take place at Glasgow Women’s Library.  Thursday’s first  panel considers ‘Rescripting Gender: Translating Between and Among Writing and Cultural Systems’ and this is followed by our second panel discussing themes relating to ‘Translating the Reproductive Body’. The last panel of the day speaks on ‘Feminist Creativity through Poetry’. After Thursday’s conference a knowledge exchange workshop will take place – all conference attendees are welcome to attend.


Rescripting Gender: Translating Between and Among Writing

SPEAKER 1. Ruth Abou Rached, University of Manchester, UK

Gendered activism in transit: the Arabic feminine re/scripted in and by English translation


Written Modern Standard Arabic has two gendered characteristics: the first, as a language of public discourse and faith, it is considered sacrosanct and second, it can in turn cipher and over-write all forms of spoken Arabic while not being anyone’s mother tongue. As the past singular masculine is considered the “root” of most words in Arabic, this means the singular generic masculine appears to grammatically and socio-linguistically underpin and construct how Arabic-speakers articulate and express themselves within the public sphere. As a written script, however Arabic denotes the feminine in the public sphere as distinct from the masculine root in singular, dual and plural forms of address. In other words, while the generic masculine is often used in Modern Standard Arabic to refer to mixed gender groups, the possibility for distinct feminine presence is ever present, a potential used to great political effect by women writers and translators working with Arabic in different language settings. In this paper, I explore how two women’s engagements with the Arabic feminine address have become literally re-scripted in and by English translation. I first discuss why Muslim scholar Laleh Bakhtiari’s “literal” transliteration of the Arabic feminine into the English version of the Holy Quran resulted in a fatwa and counter-fatwa from Muslim community leaders in North America – despite her clearly articulated politics of being “faithful” to the original (gendered) Arabic version. The second example is how Iraqi writer Alia Mamdouh’s overt use of the Arabic generic feminine alongside Modern Standard Arabic to re/construct women-centred realities in her novels challenges and defies (English) translation. The aim of my paper is: one, to shed light on how the overtly gender-marked characteristics of Arabic as a public and “scripted” language has been exploited by women in different geo-political patriarchal contexts and two, to invite engagement and debate on how intersectional feminist translation analysis is useful to analyse how activist writing in differently gendered scripts shift and move in translation.


SPEAKER 2. Julia C. Bullock, Emory University, United States

Feminist Translation and Its Discontents: Translation Strategies in the 1997 Japanese Version of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex


The Japanese language poses a unique set of challenges for the feminist translator. The complexity of the written language, which is a composite of four separate scripts—three phonographic (hiragana, katakana and Roman lettering) and one ideographic (Chinese characters)—often produces a text that is at war with itself, literally sending mixed messages through a layering of meanings that frequently conflict with one another. The meanings inherent in Chinese characters remain, but are overlaid or challenged by significations that are specifically Japanese. The translator must also cope with a host of everyday vocabulary words associated with women’s bodies, experiences, and culturally embedded roles that are overwhelmingly negative in implication because of their ideographic associations. This paper explores the aforementioned challenges through analysis of an avowedly feminist translation of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex that was produced by a team of female translators over a period of ten years and published in 1997. Their work was informed by a desire to rectify what they saw as an erroneous or misleading previous translation by a male scholar of French literature in the early 1950s, which they argued resulted in generations of Japanese women failing to appreciate the relevance of Beauvoir’s feminist message for their own lives. I will discuss the consequences, both positive and negative, of their deliberately activist approach to translation, with particular attention to the linguistic and cultural challenges they faced in improving upon this earlier, “problematic” translation of Beauvoir’s work.


Translating the Reproductive Body

SPEAKER 2.  Maud Bracke, Uniersity of Glasgow, United Kingdom 

Liberating the reproductive body: Luciana Percovich and the translation of the sexed self (1970s-80s)


Active in the Milanese feminist movement of the 1970s-80s, and specifically in women’s writing initiatives (Libreria delle donne, Via Dogana) and women’s health groups (Gruppo per una medicina della donna), Luciana Percovich can be considered a key figure of European ‘second-wave’ feminism. Her biography – with a family background in Russia and France and her own travels to the UK for studies and to West Germany for social activism among Italian immigrants – offers insight into the processes of re-signification, across linguistic and cultural context, of embodied experiences and how these gain political meaning.  The paper focuses on a theme that has been central to feminist thought since the 1970s: the ways in which a renewed relationship with one’s body can, through original self-expression, subvert patriarchal language and create new languages and insights. This is analysed in relation to Percovich’s writings, her translations (of, among others, texts by Barbra Ehrenreich and Deirdre English and Evelyn Fox Keller) and her grassroots activism in self-managed women’s clinics. Much of Percovich’s work centred on how women might re-appropriate their reproductive bodies – a key issue in 1970s feminism in Italy and beyond. She understood the full re-appropriation of the reproductive body, and the reclaiming of autonomy with regard to choices around whether, when and in what circumstances to have children, as central to wider processes of gendered liberation. It is argued that Percovich’s thinking between and through different languages contributed in significant ways to her ability to articulate a new sense of self for women, and that she did this, centrally, by importing narratives of the body from one language to another.  The analysis is based on interviews by the author with Percovich and Silvia Tozzi (a fellow activist in the feminist health movement), Percovich’s articles from the 1970s-80s, and her source-based memoir of the feminist health movement in 1970s Italy (Percovich, La coscienza nel corpo: Donne, salute e medicina negli anni settanta (Milan: FrancoAngeli, 2005)).


SPEAKER 3. Ursula Hurley and Szilvia Naray-Davey, University of Salford, United Kingdom

She would give birth to a child again. But not for him. Just by him. Decolonising the reproductive body via co-translation of Anna T. Szabó’s short fiction


We offer a practice-based account of a collaborative feminist interlingual translation project, in which we reflect critically upon our efforts to relocate contemporary Hungarian short fiction by women into UK English. The focus of this account is Anna T. Szabó’s short story, “Moon and Palm”. We engage Eve Ellen Frank’s concept of literary architecture to “unbuild” the Hungarian text into English. Through this process of unbuilding we aim to evolve feminist translation practices which decolonise in various ways. At the level of plot and character, Szabó’s story narrates a young Hungarian woman’s experiences as she conceives and then gives up a child to a visiting American professor. The child loses her mother tongue along with her birth mother, becoming estranged from maternal language, territory, and ties, as she is appropriated by the Anglophone Western elite. On a visit to her estranged daughter, in the space of the coloniser, the protagonist reclaims her agency via an elemental epiphany. She returns to Hungary to continue a relationship with a “blue-collar” Hungarian man, and to reclaim her maternal role. The bodily territories of the source text are complex. How might we first understand and then honour them in the target language? How might we help readers in the dominant Anglophone context to access the experience of a protagonist whose language and territory have been colonised in so many ways? In particular, how do we negotiate the specific challenges of Hungarian, with its non-gendered grammar and its “other” literary heritages? While we do not claim to have found the answers, we offer our findings to date.


Feminist Creativity through Poetry

SPEAKER 1. Sarah Valle Camargo, University of São Paulo, Brazil 

Translating Adrienne Rich to Brazilian Portuguese: the recreation of rhythmic ambivalence as a revision of the tradition


This communication’s purpose is to present some considerations about the translation of Adrienne Rich’s set of poems Twenty-One Love Poems (1929-2012), incorporated in The Dream of a Common Language (1974-1977), to Brazilian Portuguese. Based on Alice Templeton’s critic, we aim to explore the notion of dialogue as well as the critical review of the love sonnets’ tradition performed by this sequence of lesbian poems, perhaps the first one written by a major North American poet and her first work to address the theme openly. This paper outlines examples of strategies used in the poems’ translation, resultant of my yet unpublished master’s research, used to recreate rhetorical-formal traits such as rhythmic ambivalence and “anti-aesthetic” features. Formal traits such as these matter in the translation process once they are implied in the act of “re-vision” of the tradition. They reiterate the challenge faced by Rich in the search for a feminist language in confrontation with the masculine canon, as she reworks classic poetic forms from another perspective, looking for the “dream of a common language”, that would align the poetic and the political aspects. In this act of translation we deal not only with the recreation of traditional portuguese verse forms, but with the notion of “tradition” transposed to a social-political context where worldwide female authors are finally brought to light and published and women’s studies and feminist translation studies start to flourish with more strengh. The unearthing of Adrienne Rich’s work in Brazil is now in course due to the efforts of small and independent publishers in a movement to unveil lesbian literature and give it prominence, nationally and internationally, since this literary tradition has been almost completely obliterated by translators and editors in the last decades. Thus, I present a translation poetics with a critical view of Rich’s “second wave” feminism brough to the current reality of a country with its own decolonial academic struggles. The communication approaches the work of translation theorists Haroldo de Campos, Mário Laranjeira, Paulo H. Britto, Derek Attridge, Mona Baker, Myriam Diaz-Diocaretz, Lori Chamberlain and Olga Castro.


SPEAKER 2.  Melissa Tanti, McMaster University,  Canada

The Translating Subject: Feminist Knowledge Production in Multilingual Literary Works


This work is from a larger manuscript called The Translating Subject: Tracing the History of a North American Feminist Literary Avant-garde, which looks at the emergence of multilingualism as a literary aesthetic within writing communities across the Canadian-American border in the 1980s to the present. This paper examines multilingualism in the work of Canadian poet Erín Moure with particular attention to its effects on the reader who alternately revels in and grapples with translating the texts’ ultimate incomprehensibility. Multilingualism is a trend that has emerged within women’s writing in the last thirty years as a strategy that permits the post-colonial writer to resist discursive colonization, as well as a way for many women to express bi-cultural identity through bilingual writing and what Evelyn Nien-Ming Ch’ien calls “weird English.” Moure writes in multiple non-English languages as part of a queer feminist knowledge project that challenges the dominance of English as a lingua franca and in so doing creates estrangement with the Western Humanistic philosophical systems upheld therein. Moure uses multilingualism as a way to access bodily knowledge by moving away from the primacy of sight on which the written word relies, encouraging the use of tongue, ears, glottis, throat, lips, breath and body as the reader wraps her mouth around unfamiliar sounds for which Moure provides a glossary only in the first book of the Elisa Sampedrín series. The level of difficulty progresses as the texts move from trilingual with glossary in the first book, Little Theatres, to multilingual in O Resplandor and The Umemntioable with no aids in either of these two final books. Her multilingual texts introduce sense-making apparatuses that revalue the body — admonished in Platonic and then humanistic privileging of intellect over the senses – to produce a non-assimilable language that defies the western rationalist impulse to mastery. Per the back cover of Little Theatres, “Moure’s poems beckon new sounds, droplets, as if they would help us open to the other without admonishment, so that we might bear our tongues again: agasallo, cortesia, pataca, amor.”

Meet our last panel of Wednesday’s conference

Translating Feminism


The last panel of our Wednesday conference will talk on the topic of ‘The Transnational and ‘Second-Wave’ Feminism.


SPEAKER 1. Hannah Yoken , University of Glasgow, United Kingdom

‘From Books to Letters – Textual Communication and Transnational Nordic Feminism’


The Nordic countries are globally perceived as exemplar nations for gender equality, particularly women’s socio-political leadership and state welfare provisions. Yet, feminism did not develop in these settings uninfluenced. From the 1960s to the 1990s Nordic feminist thought and action has been influenced by the cross-cultural exchange of ideas, texts and individuals. My doctoral research investigates how and to what extent transnational influences affected the development of feminism in the Nordic region since the 1960s. Specifically, this study critically assesses how Nordic feminist activists appropriated and reinterpreted incoming ideas and political practices to fit their local needs. It is asked whether a distinguishable ‘Nordic feminism’ exists and what impact it has had in the international feminist arena during the second half of the twentieth century. Methodologically this study combines printed primary sources and personal testimony, including oral history. The proposed paper analyses the ways in which information from abroad was transmitted into and circulated within the Nordic region. This will be done by focusing specifically on various forms of textual communication from the early 1970s to the late 1980s. The paper therefore focuses on three categories of text: 1) women’s calendars, 2) books, and 3) letters. I will utilise women’s calendars to characterise the feminist movement(s) in the Nordic countries and contextualise their transnational links. Various feminist books will then be used to answer the following key questions: how were key feminist texts imported into the Nordic countries, which books from abroad were considered important enough to translate into the Nordic languages, and what international topics captured the imaginations of Nordic feminist book production. Finally, personal and organisational letters will be used to illustrate the extent to which written communication created a concrete transnational network among feminist activists in the Nordic countries, and beyond. Questions concerning language and translation will be interwoven throughout these three categories of primary source analysis, and I will posit that in the Nordic case necessity and practicality often trumped theoretical and complex approaches to translation.


Hannah Yoken is a Finnish-American SGSAH / AHRC funded PhD candidate at the University of Glasgow researching transnational Nordic feminism from a historical perspective. During her studies Hannah has specialised in the development of various social movements and countercultures in post-war Europe and North America. Methodologically, she has a strong interest in oral history and social theory.


SPEAKER 2. Elissa O’Connell, University of Bristol, United Kingdom

‘ ¡Mujer, Vida, Acción! Translating the Universal in Latin American Feminist Magazines and their Translocal Solidarity Networks’


This paper explores how an emerging praxis of feminist archival translation may reconcile the ‘collaborative (un)learning’ of transnational feminism’s dominant narratives of a ‘global sisterhood’ with a re-envisioning of the universal ‘in translation’. Through an analysis of 1970s and 80s Peruvian and Chilean feminist magazines Acción, Vida and Mujer this paper considers how solidarity pages publishing letters and news acted as ‘multilingual strategies of connectivity’ between transnational feminist alliances and transversal spaces for the renegotiation of the universal and translocal. This research paper forms part of a wider inter-disciplinary collaborative project based at the Feminist Archive South which seeks to bring to light under-explored narratives of intersectional activism and question the power dynamics between networked transnational and translocal feminist movements. Drawing on a decolonising feminist translation politics that de-privileges dominant voices from the Global North, these magazines reveal how ‘the transnationalization of feminisms requires local knowledge and experience in order to establish those commonalities upon which these alliances may be built. With this logic, this archival praxis attempts to evolve an understanding of transnational feminist solidarities as translocal connections contingent on socio-spatial temporalities in flux and contested universals ‘in translation’. Archival material spanning over two decades enables a mapping of the networks of indigenous women and women of colour in the Global South, thereby highlighting shared creative strategies to confront ‘scattered hegemonies’. In particular, the solidarity alliances documented in Peruvian and Chilean feminist publications exemplify how their universal ‘in crisis’ was redefined as the patriarchal oppression of dictatorship and the displacement of exile. In conclusion, this paper will reflect upon how Tissot’s idea of the universal ‘in translation’ and Butler’s conceptualisation of the universal ‘in crisis’ allow us to revalue the transgressive and transformative power of ‘sisterhood in solidarity’ from new perspectives.


Elissa O’Connell is a feminist teacher, activist and translator of Spanish studying an MA in Comparative Literatures and Cultures at the University of Bristol. As well as researching transnational feminist networks in the Feminist Archive South, she leads the education strand of a cross-disciplinary project working to collectively research, translate and digitise the unexplored narratives of intersectional feminist activism within the archive.


SPEAKER 3.  Penny Morris, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom

‘Translating Feminism in the 1970s Italian magazine Effe’


The magazine Effe was published from 1973 until 1982, the longest-running Italian feminist publication of the period. In marked contrast with the strategies adopted by other Italian feminist publications of the time, it was the only one to have national distribution and to be sold on news stands. References to feminist movements and initiatives beyond Italy were a constant feature of the magazine throughout the decade. Translations of extracts of texts produced in other languages also appeared very frequently. This paper will analyse the way that Effe used non-Italian texts and will consider the processes involved in their selection, contextualisation and translation. It will also consider the process of political translation in a broader sense, examining the way that Effe positioned itself as a point of mediation between Italy and the wider world, and within Italy between the feminist ‘movement’ and a broader, non-activist, female readership.


Dr Penny Morris research interests lie in the social and cultural history of modern Italy, with a particular emphasis on the history and writing of women, the intersection between public and private, and the role of emotions in history. She has written on the writer and resistance activist Giovanna Zangrandi, on women in postwar Italy, on the writer Alba de Céspedes, on the reception of the Kinsey reports in the 1950s, and on feminism and affect in 1970s Italy. Dr Morris has organised, with Franceso Ricatti and Mark Seymour, the collaborative Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of Modern Italy on the theme of ‘Italy and the Emotions: Perspectives from the 18th century to the Present’ (IGRS, London, 2009), and in addition to chairing the Translating Feminism steering committee, she was a lead investigator on the AHRC funded network ‘La Mamma: Interrogating the National Stereotype’ (2012–2014). Dr Morris is author of Giovanna Zangrandi: Una vita in romanzo (Cierre, 2000), as well as multiple articles and book chapters. She is editor of Women in Italy 1945–1960 (Palgrave, 2006); Italy and the Emotions, Special Issue of Modern Italy 17.2 (2012); and Politica ed emozioni nella storia d’Italia dal 1848 ad oggi (Viella, 2012). She is currently working on a critical anthology of Alba de Céspedes’ letters column in the 1950s as well as a book-length investigation into the role of advice columns and emotions in Italy.