[Events] ARTIS@Beirut2019: Translation and Interpreting in Conflict Zones Beirut (Lebanon), 17-18 January 2019

Translation and Interpreting in Conflict Zones

Beirut (Lebanon), 17-18 January 2019

Lebanese American University (LAU)


About the event

Conflicts driven by issues of culture, identity, power, and religion continue to plague the Middle East. In this context, gaining and promoting a better understanding of the multi-faceted role of translators and interpreters in conflict zones is paramount. This event will explore a range of theoretical frameworks and research methods for the study of translators and interpreters in conflict zones as agents of positive social change – whether by implementing foreign policy and intervention agendas, facilitating intercultural understanding and relieving tensions, exercising agency by intervening in texts and fostering specific narratives at the expense of others.

This two-day ARTIS event, the first to be organized in the Middle East region and the Arab world, will consist of a series of lectures and workshops delivered by renowned translation scholars from leading universities in the UK, USA and Lebanon, and is open to students, professionals, instructors and early career researchers from universities across the region. A roundtable discussion will examine the question of translating for refugees, which is a major concern for the international community. Postgraduate students will enjoy the opportunity to present their work, in the form of posters, to international translation studies scholars.


Speakers’ Abstracts

Lecture 1 | Researching Volunteer Translation during an Unfolding Political Conflict

Mona Baker

This presentation will draw on a study of the textual and non-textual behavior of volunteer subtitlers and filmmakers during a particularly tense and conflictual period in 2012-2014 in Egypt. The period in question was characterized by extremely volatile and dangerous political developments that could not have been predicted at the start of the research project. The dangerous context and the challenges posed by a fast-paced, fluid, non-hierarchical pattern of collaboration between relatively distinct groups (filmmakers and volunteer subtitlers) who do not interact regularly despite producing prolific output collaboratively both impacted the research in distinct ways and called for an unusual degree of flexibility in dealing with events as they unfolded. The discussion will explore the difficulty of offering traditional research ‘findings’ in contexts where intense human relations and experiences are unfolding and taking unpredictable directions during the research period, rendering any notion of optimal researcher distance from the object of study both unworkable and undesirable and placing issues of trust and ethics at the centre of the research agenda. These difficulties are further exasperated by the ethos of contemporary movements of collective action, where there is often no interest in maintaining a record of individual contributions to any output or even a basic hierarchical structure that prevents any member from editing a (subtitled) video after it has been published.

LECTURE 2 | The Representation of War Victims in the Translation of Politically Sensitive Texts

Dr. Samia Bazzi

This paper argues that news narratives in a given society are often structured according to binary oppositions, whereby there is a tendency to find one particular aggressor pitched against one particular worthy victim. A unique model of analysis will be employed to examine the representation of war victims in political texts in order to exemplify and describe the macro-representations of “worthy” vs. “unworthy” victims in news stories. The study suggests that we categorise meanings on a scale of oppositions and according to our habits of categorisation. Additionally, and by speculating on some linguistic questions, the paper investigates to what extent we are objective when we categorise victims in a political struggle, e.g. by considering the incrimination of war victims through the language structure itself. It argues that the ideological context exerts pressure on the text structure in order to reproduce preferred ideological readings and power inequality. The paper furthermore explores the role of translation in constructing hegemonic orders and in legitimising the production of politically sensitive texts about war victims. In summary, the discussion will illustrate how media products are influenced not only by editorial control and the hegemonic systems in a particular society, but also by translation work carried out by journalistic translators. However, by drawing on the proposed framework of analysis, the analyst can gain an insight into the political struggle and suppressed realities of war victims in media/political representations.

LECTURE 3 |On Encounters and Ethics in War Zones

Moira Inghilleri

In her contribution “Words of War” to The Cambridge Companion to War Writing (2009) Kate McLoughlin notes that finding words for writing about war is itself a “complex ethical issue”. Given the multiple motives involved in such writing, there is no way of telling whether exposing the violence of war to a wider audience will produce more or less war, or even if this is amongst its goals. Similarly, words in war can have multiple motives: they can be used in the interest of mediation or aggression; as weapons or overtures of reconciliation. My lecture will consider the social and ethical nature of war-related encounters as represented in fictional and non-fictional accounts produced by veterans of war and interpreters and translators who have worked in war zones. I will refer to the theoretical work of Erving Goffman, Kurt Lewin and Emmanuel Lévinas to articulate a framework for research on this topic.

WORKSHOP 1 | The Temporal and Spatial Dynamics of Translation in Times of Political Conflict

Mona Baker

Time and space are heavily interdependent aspects of temporality, a key dimension of narration, and the way they are woven together signals the moral import of a narrative. At the same time, concrete human time and physical space obstruct or provide access to specific resources for narrating the world and may offer opportunities that are unique to a given historical or geographical setting, with implications for translation during periods of political conflict. Drawing on concrete examples of various modes and genres of translation, this workshop will examine some of the ways in which temporal and spatial location impacts translators’ chances of success in communicating unfolding meanings within a fast paced environment, as well as their ability to shape aspects of the future as they wish to envision it. It will conclude by offering examples of aspirational translation that attempt to take control of the terminology of the urban environment, in order to create a language that can describe “the spaces we desire, spaces we want to bring into existence” (Gaber 2016:105).


Gaber, Sherief (2016) ‘What Word Is This Place? Translating urban social justice and governance’, in Mona Baker (ed.) Translating Dissent: Voices from and with the Egyptian revolution, London & New York: Routledge, 97-106.

WORKSHOP 2 | Translation and Violent Conflict: A Case Study

Sue-Ann Harding

This session will look at how social narrative theory has been used to inform the design and dynamics of a doctoral research project. Published as Beslan: Six Stories of the Siege (Manchester University Press 2012), the project investigates the reportage of the 2004 Beslan hostage-taking published by three very different Russian-language websites, tracking the ways in which these sites constructed six different narratives in response to what happened at Beslan, even as events were still taking place. By investigating both Russian and English reports, the project also considers ways in which translation impacts on the reconstruction of these narratives, and reflects on the role of both narratives and translation in perpetuating or dissolving violent political conflict. Looking alternately at questions of theory and data, we will trace the development of the research from its inception to completion and further on to its afterlife. Concrete examples will be used to discuss the selection of data, engagement with theory, the structuring of analysis and drawing conclusions, all crucial components of the work of research with which emerging researchers grapple. The session is designed to “unpack” some of the mysteries and difficulties surrounding these essential skills, and aims to assist participants in finding creative solutions to the problems encountered in their own work.

WORKSHOP 3 |Representing Moral Injuries and Ambiguities of War

Moira Inghilleri

Workshop participants will read short texts or excerpts from a selection of fictional texts and memoirs that examine the social and ethical nature of war, and how this plays out in encounters within conflict zones. The session will focus on representations of face-to-face encounters that take place between interpreters/translators and members of the military, interpreters and members of the local population, soldiers’ communication with one another, and their communication about the war with friends and family upon their return. The theoretical insights introduced in the lecture will be used as a framework for the discussion.


Speakers’ Biodata

Mona Baker is Professor Emerita of Translation Studies at the Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies, University of Manchester, UK, Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded project Genealogies of Knowledge: The Evolution and Contestation of Concepts across Time and Space, Director of the Baker Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies (Jiao Tong University, Shanghai), and co-editor, with Luis Pérez-González and Bolette Blaagaard, of the Routledge series Critical Perspectives on Citizen Media.  She is author of In Other Words: A Coursebook on Translation (Routledge, 1992, third edition 2018) and Translation and Conflict: A Narrative Account (Routledge, 2006, Classics edition 2018), Editor of several collected volumes, as well as the Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies (1998, third edition, co-edited with Gabriela Saldanha, forthcoming); Critical Concepts: Translation Studies (4 volumes, Routledge, 2009); and Critical Readings in Translation Studies (Routledge, 2010). Her articles have appeared in a wide range of international journals, including Social Movement Studies, Critical Studies on Terrorism, The Translator and Target. She is founding Editor of The Translator (St. Jerome Publishing, 1995-2013), former Editorial Director of St. Jerome Publishing (1995-2013), and founding Vice-President of IATIS, the International Association for Translation & Intercultural Studies (2004-2015). She posts on translation, citizen media and Palestine on her personal website, http://www.monabaker.org.

Samia Bazzi is Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies and Linguistics at the Centre for Languages and Translation at the Lebanese University as well as an academic and research coordinator for the university’s Research Centre for Human Sciences. She has published extensively and widely on language and ideology, e.g. in the Journal of Language and Politics, and in the Journal of Translation and Translanguaging in Multilingual Contexts. As a leading authority on discourse analysis in the context of translation studies, her influential book Arab News and Conflict: A Multidisciplinary Discourse Study (2009, John Benjamins) is a primary reference for students studying the relationship between language and power in many universities across the world. Dr Bazzi is recipient of the National Council for Scientific Research Excellence Award in Social Sciences, under the auspices of the Prime Minister Saed Elhariri, Beirut 2017.

Sue-Ann Harding is a Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies at Queen’s University Belfast. Her main research interests are in social-narrative theory as a mode of inquiry into translations and translated events, with a particular interest in sites of conflict and narrative contestation. This has led to a diverse research profile that includes the Beslan hostage disaster in 2004 and its subsequent anniversary commemorations; Qatar’s efforts to cultivate a literary and culturally-engaged population; the translation of police interviews in South Africa; the Arabic and Russian translations of Frantz Fanon, and the resonances between narrative and complexity theory. She is currently writing a book exploring ways in which historical and contemporary narratives translate the natural and urban landscapes of Qatar. Recent publications include The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Culture co-edited with Ovidi Carbonell Cortés (Routledge 2018); Translating Frantz Fanon Across Continents and Languages, coedited with Kathryn Batchelor (Routledge 2017); and Beslan: Six Stories of the Siege (Manchester University Press 2012). She is the Chair of the Executive Council for the International Association of Translation and Intercultural Studies (IATIS), Reviews Editor for The Translator (Taylor and Francis), a member of the Advisory Board for the Shanghai Jiao Tong Baker Centre for Translation & Intercultural Studies, and serves as an ARTIS Associate (Advancing Research in Translation and Interpreting Studies).

Moira Inghilleri is Associate Professor of Translation and Interpreting Studies and the Director of Translation and Interpreting Studies. She is the author of Translation and Migration (Routledge 2017) and Interpreting Justice: Ethics, Politics and Language (Routledge 2012). She was co-editor of The Translator from 2011-2014 and review editor from 2006-2011 and served as series co-editor for the Routledge series New Perspectives in Translation and Interpreting Studies. She guest-edited and contributed articles in two special issues of The Translator: Bourdieu and the Sociology of Translating and Interpreting (2005) and Translation and Violent Conflict (2010, co-edited with Sue-Ann Harding). In 2017 she was appointed to the Fulbright Specialist Roster for 2017-2020 in the field of translation and migration studies.



Dr Nuwar Mawlawi Diab
Lebanese American University
P.O Box: 13-5053 Chouran, Beirut, 1102 2801 Lebanon
+961-1-786456; +961-1-786464 | extension number 1458


More information is available at: https://artisinitiative.org/events/upcoming-events/artisbeirut2019/