Translation and Censorship (Panel)

Translation and Censorship (Panel)

20 February 2017, 14:00 – 16:00

Seminar Room SG1, Alison Richard Building


Francesca Billiani (Manchester)
Federico Federici (UCL)
Rory Finnin (Cambridge)


Any text can be read as an expression of a given culture or ideology. The translated text, in mediating the author’s voice through that of the translator, presents a complex juxtaposition of ideological viewpoints. As Bassnett and Lefevere state in the introduction to the volume Translation, History and Culture, ‘Translation, like all (re)writings, is never innocent’ (1990). In the late 1980s and early 90s, the so-called Manipulation School stressed the power of translation to convey an ideological message that does not necessarily replicate – and can sometimes invert – that of the original text. According to this view, ‘all translation implies a degree of manipulation of the source text for a certain purpose’ (Hermans 1985).

Censorship refers broadly to the suppression or distortion of information intended to prevent the dissemination of ideas which run counter to the prevailing ideology or notions of decorum. Censorship is typically exerted by oppressive regimes, but even within what we like to think of as free societies some forms of censorship are felt to be necessary.

The work of the censor and that of the translator are related in many ways. As Boase-Beier and Holman put it, ‘both are gatekeepers, standing at crucial points of control, monitoring what comes in and what stays outside any given cultural or linguistic territory’ (1998). It is often difficult to distinguish between institutional control and the more subtle forms of control determined by social norms (Timockzco 2009). Translators are sometimes willing censors. At other times they are subject to censorship themselves. What is the translator’s ethical responsibility? Is it ever legitimate for censorship to be channelled through translation? What means of resistance to institutional censorship are available to the translator?
The panel discussion intends to address some of the pressing questions on censorship and translation that have been the object of research in recent years. Experts in this field will reflect upon the linguistic, cultural, and socio-political implications of translation ventures that are situated close to conflict zones (of one kind or another).


Open to all.  No registration required
Part of Cambridge Conversations in Translation Research Group Seminar Series

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