Translation and Interpreting Conflict Essay
Translation and Interpreting Conflict
Introduction Myriam Salama-Carr Part I Interpreters and Translators on the Front Line Interpreting and Translation for Western Media in Iraq Jerry Palmer The Practice of Translation and Interpreting During the Conflicts in the Former Yugoslavia (1991-1999) Mila Dragovic-Drouet Translators and Interpreters During the Opium War between Britain and China (1839-1842) Lawrence Wang-chi Wong Part II Intertwining Memory and Translation The Grammar of Survival. How Do We Read Holocaust Testimonies?
Piotr Kuhiwczak The Troy of Always: Translations of Conflict in Christopher Logue’s War Music Paschalis Nikolaou 1 13 29 41 61 75 Part III Language and Ideology Ideological Independence or Negative Mediation: BBC Mundo and CNN en Espanol’s (translated) Reporting of Madrid’s Terrorist Attacks Roberto A. Valdeon One Nation, Two Translations: China’s Censorship of Hillary Clinton’s Memoir Red Chan Part IV Translation and Conflict Awareness Encounters with Cross-Cultural Conflicts in Translation Jun Tang Translating Conflict.
Advertising in a Globalised Era Maria Calzada Perez Part V Manipulating and Rewriting Texts The Translation of William Le Queux’s The Invasion of 1910: What Germany Made of Scaremongering in The Daily Mail Ian Foster Ferdinand Freiligrath, William Wordsworth, and the Translation of English Poetry into the Conflicts of Nineteenth Century German Nationalism John Williams 99 119 135 149 169 183 vi
Translating the Enemy: A ‘hip-hop’ Translation of a Poem by the Russian Futurist Poet Velimir Khlebnikov (1885-1922) Brian Chadwick Part VI Conflict and the Translator in Fiction L’etrange destin de Wangrin or the Political Accommodation of Interpretation Sathya Rao The Embedded Translator: a Coming Out Story Beverley Curran Part VII The Translator’s Visibility The Translator’s Visibility: the Rights and Responsibilities Thereof Carol Maier Notes on contributors Index of names 199 223 233 253 267 273 vii This page intentionally left blank Introduction
Myriam Salama-Carr The notion of ‘conflict’ is part and parcel of contemporary discourse on translation and interpreting, wherein debates are frequently couched in terms of dichotomies, tensions and cultural differences, or conflicting allegiances. Perhaps the most persistent form of tension is that illustrated by the “general conflict between source-focused and target-focused approaches” (Pym 1995: 594), but the representation of translation itself as an aggressive act (Steiner 1975), or even as a violent one (Venuti 1995) is also a familiar theme.
Descriptive and systemic approaches to translation (Even-Zohar 1990; Hermans 1985, 1994; Toury 1995) highlighted and contextualised the role played by translation in cultural dynamics, and emphasis on institutional and ideological factors was further pursued by the so-called ‘cultural turn’ of translation studies (Lefevere 1992; Bassnett and Lefevere 1998). More recently postcolonial approaches to translation (see Robinson 1997) have interrogated the role of translation in the construction and dislocation of empires. The institutional role that interlingual mediation plays in relations of power and in the construction of identities, potentially “figure[s] in ethnic discrimination, geopolitical confrontations, colonialism, terrorism, war…” (Venuti 1995: 18-19).
Paradoxically, whilst it is widely recognised that translation and interpreting are sites of conflict, the prevailing view of the roles of the translator and the interpreter seems to remain ones of negotiation and ‘neutral’ mediation, which entail a number of manageable risks, but are performed from a position of ‘in-between’. 1 This volume brings together selected papers from the first international conference on Translation and Conflict, hosted by the University of Salford in November 2004, and a number of invited essays on the same theme.
Throughout these essays ‘conflict’ refers to those situations of political, cultural and ideological confrontation in which the translator and the interpreter can be involved, rather than serving as a metaphor for the tension and resistance which are inevitably present in intercultural communication. In an increasingly polarised world conflict is a powerful and pervasive narrative, whether one subscribes to the conflict-oriented world view that is illustrated in Samuel P. Huntingdon’s thesis on the clashes of civilisations.
Myriam Salama-Carr (Huntingdon 2002), or one dismisses this as a myth of confrontation which is fuelled by the reality and intensity of localised conflicts. Recent events have brought to the fore the challenges that are faced by the language mediator in situations of conflict, and the essays which make up this volume explore the agency of the translator/interpreter in these contexts, and also when s/he deals with texts and discourses which narrate, report on or otherwise engage with conflict.
The essays thus contribute to a critical debate of the way ideological constraints, ‘embeddedness’, and the prevalence of certain discourses and narratives (for instance that of globalization) are brought to bear on the work of translators and interpreters, and on their fictional portrayal ‘in conflict’, when control over language becomes a key priority. The interdisciplinary nature of Translation Studies is reflected in the diversity of approaches (historical, sociological and communication-oriented, literary, or based on self-reflexive practice) which underlie the essays.
The translator and the interpreter’s agency and subjectivity as individuals positioned within networks of power relationships are discussed through the prisms of globalisation, political unrest, censorship, and the fictional representation of conflict. Although a wide variety of genres are examined by the contributors to the present volume, ranging from news reporting and advertising to poetry, the essays share a number of themes such as the inevitability of a degree of ‘embeddedness’ for the translator and interpreter of conflict and the ensuing ethical engagement.
Translators and interpreters on the frontline is the focus of investigation of Jerry Palmer’s essay, “Interpreting and Translation for Western Media in Iraq”, and of Mila Dragovic-Drouet’s “The practice of translation during the conflicts in former Yugoslavia (1991-1999)”. Drawing on interviews carried out with a number of journalists who have worked in Iraq since 2003, Palmer discusses the interaction that takes place between news providers and translators.
He examines the conditions of work of translators and interpreters as ‘fixers’ caught up in the realities of a military conflict at the time of the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. The fact that they were expected to undertake a multiplicity of roles in order to ensure the flow of information contributes further to the invisibility of the translation ‘event’. For her part, Dragovic-Drouet explores how the bitter conflict that led to, and followed the dismantling of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, created a need and a demand for interpreting and translating services between hitherto mutually intelligible language varieties.
The frontline translators and interpreters embedded in the Iraqi situation are a case in point to illustrate the problematics of neutrality that is expected of the “honest spokesperson” (Harris 1990: 118). Palmer’s analysis shows how media theory views the role of translators and interpreters as that of intermediaries, but one of the many elements which are instrumental in the flow of information. The ‘local’ embeddedness of the translators ensures a 2
Introduction valuable network of contacts for the journalist but, by the same token, it reinforces the risk of allegiance of the translators to their own community and can ‘form’ the journalist’s interpretation of events. In the same vein, Dragovic-Drouet argues that theoretical and professional requirements which underpin translation and interpreting training (for instance, those taught in the prestigious Ecole Superieure d’Interpretes et de Traducteurs in Paris) can fall foul of the contingencies of war and of entrenched ethnic and religious loyalties and allegiances.
Translators and interpreters appear to be rooted in one culture, inevitably enmeshed in what they describe, and both essays put paid to the assumption that they are positioned comfortably in the middle. They sometimes have to witness abuses of human rights, which can shatter the capacity to act in a detached manner, and undermine the observance of strict impartiality and expected unobtrusiveness. They are also often caught in the impossible role of the “double agent” (Tymoczko and Gentzler 2002: xix).
The translators and interpreters whose work is chronicled in Lawrence Wong’s essay “The Translators/Interpreters During the Opium War between Britain and China, 1839-1842” were operating as much on the frontline as they were intervening within the corridors of power for both parties to the conflict. Using a historical-descriptive approach, Wong foregrounds their agency and multiple roles, arguing that the fact that they played a crucial role, which went beyond ‘impartial’ mediation and affected the outcome of the Opium War, has been overlooked in the historical record of that conflict.
The conflicts which underpin Piotr Kuhiwczak’s, and Paschalis Nicholaou’s essays are located at the junction of direct experience and memory, and their accounts provide telling examples of the intertwining of memory and translation. It has been argued that it is impossible to write about the Holocaust without referring to translation (Hirsch 1997), and Piotr Kuhiwczak’s essay “The Grammar of survival. How do we read Holocaust testimonies?
” shows how the study of the Holocaust and the interpretation of testimonies, from both victims and perpetrators, have largely taken place in English. The essay discusses the role of translation in shaping representations and discussions of the Holocaust, and on a more general level, in drawing the boundaries of our knowledge of the past. The potential of translation to remember and rewrite conflict, is shown in “The Troy of always: translations of conflict in Christopher Logue’s War Music”, Nikolaou’s study of Logue’s poetry which translates past conflicts into the present.
The translator’s memory of the conflicts he has experienced, and of the brutal lessons of history, is brought to bear on his work, which can be seen as a commentary on war and its rhetoric, and constitutes an intense interrogation on the role(s) of translation as it engages with the constancy of conflict. Roberto Valdeon’s essay highlights the ideological use that can be made of language in reporting on conflict, emphasising the deceptive neutrality of 3 Myriam Salama-Carr words. The language of the news directs the readers’ perception of the events which are related, and can be “impregnated with ideology” (Fowler 1991: 24).
The essay draws on Fairclough’s Critical Discourse Analysis model to examine the ideological implications of the lexical choices made for Englishspeaking TV news channels (BBC Worldwide and CNN), and for the Spanish versions of these, with specific reference to the aftermath of the Madrid terrorist attacks in March 2004. Valdeon’s essay illustrates the limits of impartiality, and suggests that a number of the lexical choices found in these news reports are instances of ‘negative mediation’.
This echoes Roland Barthes’ commentary on the language which was used by the French (rightwing) media to describe and analyse France’s major imperial conflict in Algeria (Barthes 1957). Red Chan’s essay, “One Nation, Two Translations: China’s Censorship of Hillary’s Memoir” focuses on two translations into Chinese of Hillary Clinton’s Memoir, Living History. Compared with the Taiwanese version, the shorter and simpler version produced for Mainland China presents a number of omissions and shifts of tones which can point to ideological conflict and pressures exerted by censorship.
But Chan warns against a monolithic view of censorship as state-centred, and argues that, in the instances when the translators were faced with translating conflict (for example, as embodied in the US Senator’s criticism of Mainland China’s treatment of its political dissidents), a complex set of constraints were at play. These included selfcensorship, in great part, and also market-driven publishing constraints. Selfcensorship is an indication that the translators have identified sites of potential ideological confrontation, which is the theme developed in the following two essays by Maria Calzada Perez and Tang Jun.
By focusing on conflict-awareness in the choice of translation strategies, Tang Jun and Maria Calzada Perez’ contributions go someway towards outlining the interface between conceptualisation and practice. Looking at translation itself as a potential site of conflict, Tang Jun’s essay “Conflicts in Cross-Cultural Communication: Challenges for a Translator” draws on Le Baron’s distinction between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ conflicts in order to discuss the strategies which are used by translators to address and negotiate conflict situations.
Tang Jun stresses the need for conflict-awareness in her essay, which takes globalisation as the context for translation practice. This is done with reference to contemporary translation from and into Chinese, and to what is seen as an asymmetrical relationship between China and the West in terms of cultural distribution and exchange. Calzada Perez moves the discussion one step forward, starting from the assumption that translators can contribute to the debate on advertising and conflict. In her essay “Translating Conflict.
Advertising in a Globalised Era” she examines the contents of a Webpage entitled “The McDonald’s Theory of Conflict Resolution”, and unpacks the confusion of genres which converge to 4 Introduction create a message that is ultimately ideological and globalising. The discussion is illustrated by a number of case studies of advertisements, including McDonald’s web pages, which cater for a number of countries and adopt different localisation strategies. She concludes her essay by calling on the translator to engage in ‘conflict transformation’ and to feel empowered to fight for a citizen’s world.
The translator’s agency in the manipulation and rewriting of conflict is demonstrated in Ian Foster’s discussion of the German translation of an English work of popular fiction. In his essay “What Germany made of scaremongering in the Daily Mail: the translation of William Le Queux’s The Invasion of 1910”, Foster examines the imperial and nationalist agenda which underpinned the writing of an invasion story, belonging to the genre of popular fiction. Foster shows how the
German translator’s editing and abstracting strategies transformed what was, in essence, an argument in favour of greater preparation for war by the British, and reconstructed it, in his translation, as a prophecy of impending German victory. It can be argued that John R. William’s essay “Ferdinand Freiligrath: translating English conflicts into 19th Century German Nationalism” provides yet another example of translation which can re-invent conflict, in order to give voice to new political preoccupations and concerns and to confront issues of nationalism and patriotism.
Williams examines the dissemination of Wordsworth’s poetry in nineteenth-century Germany, and discusses Freiligrath’s selection and translation of Wordsworth’s poetry, with reference to the translation constructs of Schleiermacher and Steiner, and also to the wider context of the translator’s political engagement. Conflict (in its social, military and aesthetic forms) underpins and generates the material discussed in Brian Chadwick’s “Translating the Enemy: A ‘hip-hop’ translation of a poem by the Russian Futurist poet Velimir Khlebnikov (1885-1922)”.
In order to foreground the conflictual relationship that Russian Futurism had with its contemporary literary norms and aesthetics, and its representation of social transgression against the backdrop of the Bolchevik revolution and the civil war, Chadwick, as an English translator of Khlebnikov’s poetry, explores the unchartered territory of rap poetry. The essay suggests that the potential of rap poetry to disrupt literary canons is a possible mapping for the tensions of the Russian poems. This self-reflexive account is framed in terms of Venuti’s construct of foreignising and domesticating translation.
Thus far the essays have addressed the translator and interpreter’s intervention in varying degrees of immediacy. The next two essays, by Sathya Rao and Beverley Curran, focus on the fictional translator who is embroiled in narratives of conflict. The hero of Amadou Hampate Ba’s novel, which is the object of study of Rao’s essay “Wangrin or the political accommodation of translation”, operates in the context of French colonial 5 Myriam Salama-Carr authority over Africa, and of the ensuing conflict between coloniser and colonised, which preceded decolonisation and its choice of orientations.
Rao argues that Wangrin’s approach is one of ‘accommodation’, which transcends geopolitical and geolinguistic boundaries, and goes beyond mere opposition, constituting a truly complex and dynamic illustration of conflict. As in Rao’s essay, the notion of ‘fidelity’ or ‘loyalty’ as a cornerstone of traditional writing on translation is unpacked and dislodged in Curran’s “The Embedded Translator: A Coming Out Story”. This essay examines the figure of the translator as portrayed in recent Canadian novels that explore World War II and its aftermath.
The figure that emerges from Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, and Kerri Sakamoto’s The Electrical Field is that of an enigmatic, complex and manipulative agent whose conflicting loyalties and allegiances counter the unproblematic representation which is often made of the translator. The ethical implications of much of the above cannot be overestimated. To claim that the translator and the interpreter are constantly confronted with decisions that are essentially ethical in nature is not new.
The works of Henri Meschonnic (1970, 1973) and Antoine Berman (1984, 1985), which hinge on the question of fidelity, are a case in point. In the same vein, the translation project of feminist translators has articulated the ethical take. So has Lawrence Venuti’s forceful plea for a visible translation and for more social and ideological commitment. A “return to ethics” was argued in Pym 2001. The ‘ethical responsibility’ of the translator and the interpreter can take different forms with regard to conflicts, be they real or fictional.
As the essays included in this volume demonstrate, this responsibility goes beyond, and indeed sometimes against, the more narrowly defined realm of ‘professional ethics’ and ‘good practice’. It may reside in awareness, in testimony, or in open ideological commitment and involvement. It is to the increased visibility and accountability of translators and interpreters, and to the very real risks that this entails2, that Carol Maier turns, drawing on her own practice of translation, on actual stances taken by translators and interpreters, and on figures of fictional translators in narratives of conflict.
Maier frames and problematises the issue of responsibility in “The Translator’s Visibility and the Rights and Responsibilities thereof”, arguing that the increased visibility of the translator has not led to a stronger awareness of his/her responsibilities. Questioning the universal applicability of the metaphor of translation as ‘in-betweeness’ and ‘bridge-building’, her essay is an overarching plea for translators and trainers to be prepared to “address[ing] the presence of conflict as an integral part of much translation practice”.
As this volume illustrates, translators and interpreters can be confronted with many different forms and varying degrees of immediacy of conflict. They may be operating as agents placed on the frontline of war zones, with all 6 Introduction the occupational hazards which the posting entails. They could also be dealing with highly-charged texts which narrate and comment on current and past conflicts, albeit from a ‘safer’ distance’, but where neutrality is not necessarily an option, and they may feel compelled to ‘overstep’ their brief.
Any of these situations will call for a degree of intervention, which is inevitably linked with ethical issues. The essays in this volume span a variety of historical, linguistic and literary contexts, raising issues which are as relevant to high profile cases, such as those of the GCHQ translator Katherine Gunn, and the FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, as they are to the work of the less visible translator or interpreter. Pierre Bourdieu has called on intellectuals to recognise that they are social actors as well as observers.
And the time may have come to accept that the mediation of translators and interpreters, who themselves are social actors, is not always that of detached observers. The relatively new phenomenon of activist networks amongst translators and interpreters, together with an increased awareness of the use of translation and interpreting to serve institutional and political agendas have begun to be addressed in translation and interpreting studies. This does not mean that the professional requirement for neutrality should be challenged, or that advocacy should become the norm, but these issues should nevertheless be problematised.
Evidence suggests that neutrality can easily mask complicity and unilaterality. When, in the wake of the 11th September 2001 attacks on New York, the editor of an online translation journal call for translators to “keep in mind the moral distinction between unintended ‘collateral damage’ in the course of military operations and the deliberate slaughter of civilians”3, it can be argued that the juxtaposition of ‘neutral’ euphemistic language and
emotionally-charged terms contradicts the plea for neutrality, itself defined in the statement as ‘not taking sides in political disputes’. Further, when the need for such ‘neutrality’ is underpinned by the argument put forward in the statement that “we, ordinary citizens (sic) do not have all the information available to our readers”, it does not seem to be dictated by an ethical stand, and the need to know becomes even more pressing for the language mediator.
Nudler 1990, proposes a pattern of conflict resolution stages to address the clash of ‘worlds’ and ‘frames’ as sets of assumptions and principles, identifying ‘primitive Conflict’, ‘coexistence’, ‘dialogue’ and ‘restructuring’, where this last stage means that ‘[n]ew forms of conflict may emerge and new cycles of conflict resolution may then occur’ (ibid: 178).
Drawing on this proposed pattern I would like to suggest that the translator and the interpreter’s intervention occurs precisely at this stage of restructuring, whereby their mediation can lead to conflictive representations as much as it can ensure dialogue and conform with the much used metaphor of translation as ‘bridge-building’. 7 Myriam Salama-Carr
The realities of social and political allegiance and commitment, and the ethical stakes of language mediation when personal and collective discourses can sometimes clash, which are increasingly foregrounded within and without translation studies, as evidenced by the growing number of conferences on the subject4, and the search for new research paradigms, sought mostly from within social sciences5, must be addressed more explicitly both in the practice of, and in the teaching of translation and interpreting.
1 See for instance the following definition of ‘neutrality’ encountered on a professional translation website: “The concept that establishes that the translator’s job is to convey the meaning of the source text and under no circumstance may he or she allow personal opinion to tinge the translation”. On line at: http: barinas. com (consulted June 2005). 2 The recent Sydney Pollack’s film thriller The Interpreter provides a snapshot of this increased visibility (with a dose of glamour to boot! ) and illustrates how both vulnerable (“you’re only the interpreter”) and powerful (“words are slower than guns. But they are better”) the position of the linguistic mediator can be. 3 On line at: www. accurapid. com/journal/18editor. htm (consulted 3. 8. 2006).
4 As evidenced, for instance, by the recent Salford, Manchester and Kent State Translation and Conflict II conference (November 2006) and the forthcoming Granada Translation and Activism conference (April 2007). 5 The most recent example being Mona Baker’s convincing use of the concept of narrative as expounded in social theory (Baker 2006). References Baker, Mona. 2006. Translation and Conflict.
A Narrative Account. London and New York:Routledge Barthes, Roland. 1957. ‘Grammaire africaine’ in Barthes, Roland (1957) Mythologies. Paris: Editions du Seuil. Bassnett, Susan and Andre Lefevere (eds). 1998. Constructing Cultures. Essays on Literary Translation. Clevedon etc. : Multilingual Matters. Berman, Antoine. 1984. L’epreuve de l’etranger – Culture et traduction dans l’Allemagne Romantique. Paris: Gallimard. ——1985. ‘La traduction et la lettre – ou l’auberge du lointain’ in Berman et al (eds) Les tours de Babel – Essais sur la traduction.
Mauvezin: Trans-Europ-Repress. 35-91. Even-Zohar, Itamar. 1990. Poetics Today 11(1). Fowler, Roger. 1991. Language in the News: Discourse and Ideology in the Press. London and New York: Routledge Harris, Brian. 1990. ’Norms in Interpretation’ in Target 2: 115-119. Hermans, Theo (ed. ). 1985. The Manipulation of Literature. Studies in Literary Translation. London and Sidney: Croom Helm. ——1994. ‘Translation between Poetics and Ideology’ in Translation and Literature 3. 138145. Hirsch, Marianne. 1997. ‘Kraut und Ruben, Choux et navets, kaposta es repak’ in Grenoble, Lenore A.
and John M. Kopper (eds) Essays in the Art and Theory of Translation. Queenston, Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press. 25-33. Huntingdon, Samuel. 2002. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order. Free Press. 8 Introduction Levefere, Andre. 1992. Translation, Rewriting and the Manipulation of Literary Fame. London and New York: Routledge. Meschonnic, Henri. 1970. Pour la poetique. Paris: Gallimard. ——. 1973. Pour la poetique II.. Paris: Gallimard Nudler, Oscar. 1990. ‘On Conflicts and Metaphors: Toward an Extended Rationality’ in Burton, John (ed.).
Conflict: Human Needs Theory. New York: St Martin’s Press. 177-201. Pym, Anthony. 1995. ‘Translation as a Transaction Cost’ in Meta 40(4): 564-605. ——(ed. ). 2001. The Return to Ethics. Manchester: St Jerome Publishing. Special issue of The Translator 7(2). Robinson, Douglas. 1997. Translation and Empire. Postcolonial Theories Explained Manchester: St Jerome Publishing. Salama-Carr, Myriam (ed. ). 2007. Translation and Conflict. Special issue of Social Semiotics 17(1). Steiner, George. 1975. After Babel. London: Oxford University Press.
Toury, Gideon. 1995. Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins. Tymoczko, Maria and Edwin Gentzler. 2002. ‘Introduction’ in Tymoczko, Maria and Edwin Gentzler (eds) Translation and Power. Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press. xi-xxviii. Venuti, Lawrence. 1995. The Translator’s invisibility. A History of Translation. London & NewYork: Routledge. 9 This page intentionally left blank Part I Interpreters and Translators on the Front Line This page intentionally left blank.
Interpreting and Translation for Western Media in Iraq Jerry Palmer This essay deals with the role of interpreters/translators working for Western media organisations in Iraq since the Anglo-American invasion of 2003. The fault-lines in the political situation in Iraq post-2003 mean that any Iraqi working for Western media – or indeed, any Western organisation – is placed in a situation characterised by potentially conflicting loyalties; and create a situation in which other Iraqis are apt to make different evaluations of their role.
The paper deals with the uses to which translation and translators are put rather than the question of the translator’s choices concerning their role. For resource reasons it is based on interviews with a number of Western journalists – mostly UK and French – who have worked in Iraq since 2003. It is thus concerned with the uses to which translation is put in particular circumstances: newsgathering in a conflict situation, and therefore in a particular ‘target culture’, the professional sub-culture of journalism. Key words: news, fixers, embedding.
The role of the interpreter or translator can be regarded in many ways. At one end on a continuum of possibilities, the interpreter can be seen as little more than a technical relay, that which is necessary in order to ensure the transparent transition of information from one language to another, where translation would be “a uniform and generalized means of exchange, a transparent medium of fluid exchange” (Cronin 1998: 152). In this “conduit theory” of translation (Wadensjo 1998: 7-8), the translator would be replaceable by a machine, should a sufficiently sophisticated one be developed.
At the other end of the continuum of possibilities lies the translator who operates in a situation where his or her own cultural belonging is a problematic element in the act of translation. In a recent paper, Cronin gave the example of Henry O’Kane, the Irishman who in 1798 acted as an interpreter for the French Republican Army that invaded what is now the Republic of Ireland to help the United Irishmen in their uprising against British rule: his role – as is clear from contemporary accounts – was both that of a military/political figure in the uprising/invasion and as a translator, interpreting between French and Gaelic.
Under these circumstances, the relationship between political commitment and interpreting is clearly a key element in the translator’s role. Cronin quotes Charles Taylor, to the effect that such a position clearly means that we must “… recover an understanding of the agent as engaged, as embedded in a culture”, in other words as an Jerry Palmer “embodied agent” (Cronin 2004). Alternatively, we could say that in such situations, the translator is suspended between cultures, since neutrality is close to impossible.
Of the two commitments, (s)he may contingently make a commitment to either (or all) of the sides to the conflict. By the same token, others engaged in the same situation may ask him/her to undertake a variety of different roles, from translator in the limited technical sense, through informant to committed activist: in other words, they may find a variety of uses for this person’s translation skills. The commitment that is made is largely responsible for the use to which the act of translation is put.
In terms of translation theory, one could say that this involves attention to the “expectations and needs of a target culture” rather than to translation as a technical process (Wadensjo 1998: 5). Additionally, the target culture(s) may well make varied evaluations of the role of the ‘interpreter’: O’Kane was both admired and feared by different groups in the Irish population – admired as a committed orator, feared as a recruitment agent who placed people in positions of difficult choice about allegiance.
The British could potentially have considered him as rebel/traitor; however, as he wore French military uniform, he was treated as a soldier after the suppression of the uprising and was sent to France (Cronin 2004). There are many combinations and intermediary positions along this continuum of possibilities for interpretation/translation and the uses to which the translator is put. This paper deals with one such: the role of interpreters/translators working for Western media organisations in Iraq since the Anglo-American invasion of 2003.
1 The fault-lines in the political situation in Iraq post-2003 mean that any Iraqi working for Western media – or indeed, any Western organisation – is placed in a situation characterised by potentially conflicting loyalties; and create a situation in which other Iraqis are apt to make different evaluations of their role. The paper deals with the uses to which translation and translators are put rather than the question of the translator’s choices concerning their role. For resource reasons it is based on interviews with a number of Western journalists – mostly UK and French – who have worked in Iraq since 2003. It is t.