Much of my current research focuses on building corpora and developing methodologies for examining the evolution and contestation of concepts across different temporal and cultural spaces, largely through the mediation of translators. This work was initiated through the Genealogies of Knolwledge project, which I led as Principal Investigator from 2016 to 2020. It continues to develop through the Genealogies of Knowledge Research Network, co-ordiated by myself, Jan Buts and Henry Jones. An open access article arising out of this work is available here.
Second Research Area
Another area of interest is examining the role played by translators and interpreters in mediating conflict. The underlying assumption of my work is that whoever undertakes it, and whatever form it takes, translation is never a by-product of social and political developments. It is part and parcel of the very process that makes these developments possible in the first place. Translation is also not innocent. It is not about "building bridges" or "enabling communication" as is commonly assumed, but about the active circulation and promotion of narratives. Morally speaking, it is neither inherently good nor inherently bad in itself - it depends on the nature of the narratives it promotes and in which it is embedded, and of course on the narrative location of the person assessing it.
In all types of conflict, but particularly in an international conflict such as the war on Iraq and the so-called war on terror, translation is central to the ability of all parties to legitimize their version of events, their narratives. Since this type of conflict is played out in the international arena and cannot simply be resolved by appealing to local constituencies at home, each party to the conflict has to rely on various processes of translation to elaborate and promote a particular narrative. I am interested in studying the way in which translation functions in this context, including the selection of texts to be translated, the type of people involved in translating them (irrespective of whether they are professional translators), and the various agendas they serve. This includes researching the use of translation by powerful, well-funded institutions as well as its use by various groups of peace activists and humanitarian organisations with little or no funding and no access to major media outlets.
Related publications include Translation and Conflict: A Narrative Account (Routledge 2006; Classic edition 2018), 'Narratives of Security and Terrorism: 'Accurate' Translations, Suspicious Frames (Critical Studies on Terrorism, 2010), 'Translation as an Alternative Space for Political Action (Social Movement Studies, 2012), "Translation and Activism: Emerging Patterns of Narrative Community" (The Massachusetts Review, 2006), "Reframing Conflict in Translation" (Social Semiotics 2007), ''Resisting State Terror: Communities of Activist Translators and Interpreters'' (in press), 'Ethics of Renarration' (interview with Andrew Chesterman, to appear in Cultus), "Contextualization in Translator- and Interpreter-mediated Events" (Journal of Pragmatics) and "Narratives in and of Translation" (SKASE Journal of Translation and Interpretation, 2005). A talk I gave at Fujian Normal University in China in 2006, entitled 'Translation as Renarration', summarises some of this work.