‘Intercultural translation’, developed by Boaventura de Sousa Santos, refers to the bringing together of different knowledges in different epistemes without silencing or marginalizing the specificity of any of these knowledges. In other words, this concept seeks to put forth a conversation between different knowledges that are anchored in different cosmologies. Intercultural translation, in a sense, is a tool that inaugurates and allows the sharing of struggles and risks premised upon making absent knowledges visible and the various layers of oppression intelligible. Consequently, intercultural translation acts as the basis for opening up new spaces for communal resistance and social struggle.
Santos addresses intercultural translation as a system of empowering oppressed groups, mainly in the Global South. For this reason, intercultural translation cannot be reduced to its theoretical abstraction, but should be integrated to the political sphere. Thus, interpolitical and intercultural translation are coeval and work in tandem. Hence, intercultural translation becomes a system of languages in which communal acts of resistances work together. Intercultural translation, politically and culturally, engenders a vocabulary that works to breach the Western universal paradigm.
As a contrast to the Western paradigm, intercultural translation focuses on building an epistemology of the south addressing those who have been erased through history and marginalized by the Western logic of inferiority. It enables a breaking of silence. It is not only an individual act but also a communal one that reinvigorates erased cultures. This opens up new canons of thought, new constellations of knowledge, and other ways of being in the world. Intercultural translation, then, is conceptualized as a tool to reach ‘global social and cognitive justice’.
What intercultural translation aims at is an underlying logic for fuelling other possible worlds. Intercultural translation brings to the fore the coexistence of differences and similarities, it empowers the development of the intercommunication of social alliances between movements that work against colonialism, capitalism, imperialism, and patriarchy, opening up the possibility of a bottom-up political aggregation.
Santos, B. D. (2008). Another knowledge is possible: Beyond northern epistemologies. London: Verso.
Santos, B. D. (2017). Epistemologies of the South: Justice against epistemicide. London: Routledge/Taylor&Francis.
Santos, B. D. (2018). The end of the cognitive empire: The coming of age of epistemologies of the South. Durham: Duke University Press.
Bakhtin, M. M. (2000). The dialogic imagination: Four essays. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Bakhtin, M. M., Holquist, M., & McGee, V. W. (2014). Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Liu, L. H. (1999). Translingual practice Literature, national culture and translated modernity – China, 1900-1937. Stanford, Cal.: Stanford University Press.
Can intercultural translation be used to challenge dominant ways of thinking and producing knowledge?
How can we ensure that intercultural translation does not become a new tool of domination and imperialism?
To what extent can different cosmologies and knowledges apply intercultural translation?
Submitted by Mohamad Baker El Harake