Translating Feminism 2018 Conference

In June 2018, we held our biggest event to date, the international conference, ‘Multi-disciplinary Perspectives on Text, Place and Agency’ – we had speakers from four continents and a really exciting and interesting programme. In the run-up to the conference, there was a lot of work to do, but we were all really excited to meet our speakers and kick off some brilliant conversations about translating feminism.

This was the last event organised as part of the project, so we really wanted it to be a success and to end the project with a bang; I’m pleased to report that that is exactly what we did! If you’re interested in knowing more about the speakers and their papers, there’s a lot of information in previous posts.

We asked local feminist company, Wild and Kind Studio to print some tote bags for us. They are a female-focused initiative and their studio is based right around the corner from our venue, the Glasgow Women’s Library, so it made sense to ask them and everyone was really happy with the results!

We were so pleased to be able to hold two days of the conference at the Glasgow Women’s Library. It’s a really special facility – housing an amazing archive, hosting lots of brilliant events and, of course, lending books – and we are lucky to have it here in Glasgow. They are also wonderful conference hosts and we couldn’t have asked for more: everyone raved about the catering and we were given a very warm welcome by the excellent staff.

Olga Castro

Day one was packed with brilliant papers, encouraging us to consider feminist translation from a number of different perspectives – the role(s) that activists can play; the challenges of ‘global English’; the various ways that ideas travel across continents; the continuing pivotal role of material culture like magazines play in spreading feminist ideas. Lots of new connections were made and ideas sparked – it was a long day, but we were excited for day two!

The second day started in typical Glasgow fashion with a bit of weather drama. High winds meant that trains were cancelled and the audience first thing on Thursday in the Glasgow Women’s Library was a little thinner than it had been the previous day. However, everyone made it in the end and our speakers covered topics ranging from translating across writing systems; historical perspectives on women’s health; translating poetry and the notion of using multilingual texts to challenge and play with readers.

Thursday evening consisted of our knowledge exchange workshop, where we discussed the challenges and solutions that are found at the intersection between translation and business.

Nina Nurmila, Shashi Kumar, Maud Bracke, Mandira Sen, Sian Reynolds, Manal Alzahrani

The workshop began with a roundtable discussion featuring translators and publishers and then the discussion opened up to the rest of the participants.

We had asked the panellists to speak to some fairly general questions about the sometimes tricky decisions that have to be made to accommodate the needs and whims of everyone involved in publishing works in translation – translators, editors, publishers, authors, etc. These were big questions and, after two days immersed in the theory and practice of feminist translation, the panel and audience were fizzing with ideas.

While solutions are hard to find, we made a good stab at identifying the main issues and remaining open to ways of listening and, hopefully, resolving them.

One of the reasons that ‘Translating Feminism’ came into being was to bring to light the crossovers between translation and academia which often go unnoticed and unacknowledged – to the detriment of both academia and the translators. Our aim has always been to involve practitioners in this work and to provide a useful space for discussions: I think this is what we achieved here and it was a productive and stimulating evening.

Claudia de Lima Costa

Friday began with a talk from our keynote speaker, Claudia De Lima Costa. Her paper gave us lots of food for thought: she encouraged us to think about translation from a post-human perspective. The translation of gestures, feelings, facial expressions, as well as interspecies translation. It was fascinating and thought-provoking and an excellent way to start day three.

The speakers on the third day touched on the religious and political aspects of translation, the performance of translation, the intricacies and nuances of subtitling and the ways that translation decisions can be questioned and puzzled over years after the fact. The third day of a conference can sometimes feel a bit like a chore – everyone is usually tired and thinking of their journeys home. However, I can happily say that was not the case here; everyone managed to bring an impressive level of energy.

We managed to get a photo with almost everyone in it, an achievement in itself after three very busy days. While this might be the last big event that is organised as part of the ‘Translating Feminism’ Network, I am confident that the connections, friendships and conversations that were made and took place over these three days will continue the project’s legacy for a long time.

A Visit to the Glasgow Women’s Library Archives

CLI pamphlet at the Glasgow Women's Library

Emily Ryder at the Glasgow Women's Library Archives

What brought us to the Glasgow Women’s Library archives

We at Translating Feminism are big fans of the Glasgow Women’s Library. It’s a unique place, the only facility of its kind in the UK to house an events space and lending library as well as an extensive archive. Alessia and I took a visit to the Glasgow Women’s Library archives and spent a fruitful afternoon digging around in the boxes that hold their LGBT Historical collections.

The story started last summer. The Glasgow Women’s Library needed a native speaker to help them catalogue some Italian materials. Alessia volunteered. She spent a few hours organising bundles of magazines and leaflets published by Italian feminist groups from the 1960s and 1970s. Alessia didn’t get a chance to read much, just enough to let the archivist catalogue the material. But she saw enough to give her the sense that a rich collection remained unexplored.

This March, Alessia and I took a trip back to the library to investigate more. We could have spent all day rummaging around in their collections. (The catalogues really are that good.) We found the boxes that Alessia had sorted last summer and settled ourselves in. Mostly, we looked at copies of a magazine produced by the Italian lesbian collective Coordinamento Lesbiche Italiane (CLI).

What we found

‘Magazine’ is too formal a word to describe these hand-stapled, typewritten documents. Today we would call them ‘zines‘, to convey the low production values of DIY publishing. Many feminist groups of the period—not just in Italy, but around the world—self-published as a way to disseminate information outside traditional (monied) channels. While the DIY aesthetic certainly reflects the CLI’s modest funding, it also expresses the urgency of their message. Women’s groups like CLI prioritized social justice over glossy pages and colour photographs.

The articles in the CLI magazines covered a huge range of topics. The editors kept their readers up to speed on the latest news from the various women’s bookshops, libraries, and social spaces around Italy. They also collected information about women’s movements around the world, reviewing new books and giving details of protests, talks, and conferences taking place throughout Europe.

These magazines also served as a 1970s prototype for social media. We found everything from adverts from women who had recently moved house and were seeking new likeminded friends to information about lesbian-friendly holidays in Italy and around the world.

What we learned

Working in archives like this gives a snapshot of a specific time and place in history. Using these magazines to try to understand something of the lives of these women—both the writers and their readership—provides a level of insight that we would otherwise struggle to obtain.

Nowadays, much of the material content produced during the ‘second wave’ is digitised (the British Library recently made the whole archive of Spare Rib available online, for example). Without question, online facsimiles provide researchers and students invaluable opportunities for study. But it’s magic to hold one of these pamphlets in your hands. For a brief moment, you stand in the shoes of our foresisters, planning a camping holiday or protest march, connected to vast network.

Publications of the CLI

What’s next

At the upcoming Translating Feminism workshop The Materiality of Feminist Texts and Translations: Economy, Production, and Text (Universität Bern), we will delve deeper into the magic of materiality. The workshop will explore the materiality of feminist texts, with a special focus on translation.

Instead of studying feminism as a given system of ideas, regardless of the context of its production and reception, we will look at the variety of material supportive of women-centred ideas, ranging from pamphlets to self-published pirated editions and printed books, as well as the literary activities by which they are produced and transmitted.

Oh, and PS, Alessia and I have a plan afoot with the Glasgow Women’s Library archives. We want to put together an event highlighting the CLI pamphlets so we can share a little of their material brilliance with the community. Watch this space for details.