Intercultural Translation

‘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.


Essential Readings:
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.


Further Readings:
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

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3 thoughts on “Transnationalism”

  • As a recent recipient of the graduate school certificate in African studies at ASU, my final drew from or focused in part on the settler narrative movement of the antebellum era. Despite the discovery of over 100 burials from this era that came to light recently, it was all treated in a quite troubing manner. Settler Colonial mentality was pervasive. It is clear, the slave labor narrative must be preserved at all cost. Local professional organizations and offices were disrespected and ignored as if the descended community did not exist. People wear the continuance of mixed relationships from this history and it is only now that they are finding their voice and their heritage in some cases. Global social theory is spot on.

  • I’m interested in colonialism,settler colonialism and decolonisation as it speaks to the original ownership of the land/country[?].
    I was interested to read ‘the tendency among some scholars of settler colonialism to treat settlement as inevitable, simultaneously relieving settler societies and states of the burden of reconciling with indigenous peoples, and placing the burden of accommodating settler sovereignty onto those same indigenous peoples'[above]
    I have been tentatively searching for references to the morality/legality of colonialisation,which could possibly have huge ramifications,and they are scarce.

  • Interesting. Could you please add Maria Lugones’s work in the further reading section please? She not only engaged with Quijano’s concept but revised it significantly to demonstrate the coloniality of gender. Thank you.

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