[CFP] The Conceptualisation of Translation in Translation Studies: Past, Present and Future

Special Issue Editor(s)

Sergey TyulenevDurham University

Binghan ZhengDurham University

Kobus MaraisUniversity of the Free State

The Conceptualisation of Translation in Translation Studies: Past, Present and Future

So far, the predominant tendency in Translation Studies (TS) has been to prioritise, implicitly or explicitly, (inter)lingual types of translation and interpreting. Having said that, there have also been various attempts to go beyond such a narrow conceptualisation. Why is there an urge to do this? To what past or present tendencies in theorizing translation can it be traced? Is this a welcome development in the discipline? If so, where might it lead us? These the some of the questions that this special issue seeks to address.

Traditionally, the development of TS has been viewed as a succession of turns (Snell-Hornby 2006). Yet the concept of a turn in TS is questionable in at least two respects. First, it suggests that the entire scholarly community in TS changes the direction of their research – yet, if we stick to this spatial imagery, research into translation appears increasingly less like a valley carved by a single river that takes various turns it flows but rather like a delta, a complex network of interconnected streams, leading to a vast ocean somewhere ahead. Secondly – and this aspect is especially important for the theme of this special issue – whatever turns there have been in TS, they have not changed the main optics on translational phenomena. The transfixing gaze has always been on lingual manifestations of translation, primarily interlingual, “translation proper”. Yet, how epistemologically justified is this dominant focus? Can we learn more about the phenomenon of translation if we take into account its non-lingual types? Would that shift in focus (from lingual translation to translation per se) result in the need to redraw the boundary of TS as a discipline, and its relationship with other disciplines dealing with various kinds of translation?

The aim of this special issue is to address these crucial, discipline-defining but also inter- or trans-disciplinary questions. The conceptualisation of translation will be explored along various axes: synchronically (analysing the situation in present-day TS and exploring the inchoate “turns”) and diachronically (looking back at historical conceptualisations of translation as well as inviting informed predictions about the ocean to which the richness of the discipline and its bold inroads into adjacent terrains are leading us).

Abstracts are invited for articles that delve into the conceptualisation of translation in TS. Potential topics include, but are not restricted to, the following:

  • How can practices that might be described as translational but not belonging to the lingual types of translation (or at least not only to them) be theorised? An example of such translational, non-lingual practice is found in the actor-network theory (ANT, Latour 1987), where one agent recruits other agents into a social project. The sociologists who developed ANT saw the social activity of such recruiting as best describable as “translation” and the entire theory is subtitled as “a sociology of translation” (une sociologie de la traduction). The sociological theory of translational relations (Übersetzungsverhältnisse) elaborated in Renn (2006) is another example of translational practices in society: each social act is different from any other but social agents translate their knowledge about other similar acts onto their interpretation of the case at hand. In anthropology, we find the idea of cultural translation which also goes beyond the lingual dimension (Bachmann-Medick 2006) and centres on encounter (Blumczynski 2016). Contributions are welcome to discuss such practices and the rationale of their being theorizable as translational in any point of space or time.
  • What new do we learn about translation by observing it when it mediates between different semiotic systems (Petrilli 2003; Marais 2019)? For instance, how do filmic adaptations of written texts or scripts enrich or problematise our understanding of the translator’s profile? How does the problem of (in)visibility of interlingual translation play out in filmic or musical types of translation? When a composer translates a bird’s song into his or her score, s/he performs translation without understanding the meaning of the “source text”; how does translation between nature and music enrich our understanding of translation as a semantically focussed practice?
  • How are technological advances over the next 50 years, for instance in artificial intelligence and intelligent communication devices, likely to challenge our conceptualisation of both translation and translator (Chesterman 2009; Kaindl 2021)? Linked to this question, how may developments in cognitive and neurological research over the next 50 years challenge our conceptualisation of both translation and translator? Consider here, among other phenomena, hybrid forms of intelligence in which the natural human intelligence is enhanced through technology (for example, a pair of glasses linked to a computer that allows one to live in a reality that is both virtual and real).
  • Is some consensus possible on the broadest terms in which to conceptualise translation, both in TS and beyond? What value, if any, would such a broad conceptualisation add to TS? What would be the future of TS if it keeps its ambit limited to interlingual translation? To what extent are the concerns about blurring the disciplinary boundaries of TS through interdisciplinarity and transcisciplinarity justifiable? Are there dangers in blurring these boundaries, and what consequences might there be for the academic status of TS?

Abstract deadline
15 October 2021

Manuscript deadline
15 July 2022

Submission Instructions

Articles will be 5,000–8,000 words in length, in English (including notes and references).

Detailed style guidelines are available below.

Abstracts of 700–800 words (excluding references) should be sent to the guest editors at sergey.tyulenev@durham.ac.ukbinghan.zheng@durham.ac.uk and jmarais@ufs.ac.za ‎by 15 October 2021.


15 December 2021: decisions on proposals
15 July 2022: submission of papers for peer review
31 December 2022: submission of completed articles
May 2023: publication date

Translation Studies: The Conceptualisation of Translation in Translation Studies: Past, Present and Future