Science has been about a search for translation, convertibility, mobility of meanings, and universality- which I call reductionism only when one language (guess whose?) must be enforced as the standard for all the translations and conversions. What money does in the exchange orders
of capitalism, reductionism does in the powerful mental orders of global sciences. There is, finally,
only one equation. That is the deadly fantasy that feminists and others have identified in
some versions of objectivity, those in the service of hierarchical and positivist orderings of what
can count as knowledge. That is one of the reasons the debates about objectivity matter, metaphorically and otherwise. Immortality and omnipotence are not our goals. But we could use some enforceable, reliable accounts of things not reducible to power moves and agonistic, high-status games of rhetoric or to scientistic, positivist arrogance. This point applies whether we are talking about genes, social classes, elementary particles, genders, races, or texts; the point applies to the exact, natural, social, and human sciences, despite the slippery ambiguities of the words “objectivity” and “science” as we slide around the discursive terrain. In our efforts to climb the greased pole leading to a usable doctrine of objectivity, I and most other feminists in the objectivity debates have alternatively, or even simultaneously, held on to both ends of the dichotomy, a dichotomy which Harding describes in terms of successor science projects versus postmodernist accounts of difference and which I have sketched in this essay as radical constructivism versus feminist critical empiricism. It is, of course, hard to climb when you are holding on to both ends of a pole, simultaneously or alternatively. It is, therefore, time to switch metaphors.
The “eyes” made available in modern technological sciences shatter any idea of passive vision; these prosthetic devices show us that all eyes, including our own organic ones, are active perceptual systems, building on translations and specific ways of seeing, that is, ways of life. There is no unmediated photograph or passive camera obscura in scientific accounts of bodies and machines; there are only highly specific visual possibilities, each with a wonderfully detailed, active, partial way of organizing worlds. All these pictures of the world should not be allegories of infinite mobility and interchangeability but of elaborate specificity and difference and the loving care people might take to learn how to see faithfully from another’s point of view, even when the other is our own machine.
Donna Harraway, A Cyborg Manifesto
A real translation is transparent; it does not cover the original, does not block its light, but allows
the pure language, as though reinforced by its own medium, to shine upon the original all the more fully. This may be achieved, above all, by a literal rendering of the syntax which proves words rather than sentences to be the primary element of the translator. For if the sentence is the wall before the language of the original, literalness is the arcade.
Walter Benjamin, A Task of a Translator
Thoughts pass from one individual to another, each time a little transformed, for each individual can attach to them somewhat different associations. Strictly speaking, the receiver never understands the thought exactly in the way that the transmitter intended it to be understood. After a series of such encounters, practically nothing is left of the original content. Whose thought is it that continues to circulate? It is one that obviously belongs not to any single individual but to the collective . Whether an individual construes it as truth and error, understand it correctly or not, a set of findings meanders throughout the community, becoming polished,
transformed, reinforced, or attenuated, while influencing other findings, concept formation, opinions and habits of thought.
Ludwick Fleck, Genesis and development of a Scientific Fact
The technology of memorisation as exploited by the minstrel will seem unfamiliar to ourselves for we have long been accustomed to dispense with it. Aside from ecclesiastical rituals where
the congregation may be invited to respond to the priest and repeat after him, we normally memorise if at all something that has first been read, and read not to us but by us. This involves a
complicated process by which we first use the organ of sense to see and then identify a series of printed signs. These symbols in themselves have no power over us; they are silent and lifeless.
We then do one of two things or a combination of two things; we either recollect our vision of these symbols so that we can see them again in the same order if we shut our eyes, or we translate them into sounds which in practice we have to mutter or recite ‘to ourselves’, as we say. This act of translation combined with the solitariness of the act means that we draw exclusively upon our own psychic energies in order to get something into the memory. Oral memorisation on the other hand could save a great deal of personal energy in a listener. For the sounds as spoken aloud by the poet were alive, and there was no need for translation from eye message to ear message. The audience simply imitated in as direct and as uncomplicated a manner as possible.
The modem memoriser has to practise self-hypnotism.
Eric Havelock, Preface to Plato
Spivak weiß sehr gut, dass wir mit den Mitteln der heutigen theoretischen Reflexion fast jede mögliche Identität radikal dekonstruieren können und ihren Essenzialismus als einfach erfunden, konstruiert usw. enthüllen können. Trotzdem arbeitet die Politik selbst immer noch mit diesen essenziellen Identitäten – wie etwa der Nation –, als ob wir nicht wüssten, dass diese nur unsere Illusionen darstellen. Dies ist der Grund, warum der Begriff des “strategischen Essenzialismus”
ebenfalls als eine Art Übersetzung verstanden werden sollte. Denn die historische Situation in der wir leben, artikuliert sich selbst in zwei verschiedenen Sprachen: in jener der postmodernen antiessenzialistischen Theorie sowie in jener einer parallelen, alten, essenzialistischen politischen Praxis. Spivaks Konzept des “strategischen Essenzialismus” räumt einfach ein, dass es keine
direkte Übereinstimmung zwischen beiden Sprachen gibt – sie können nicht im alten dialektischen Sinn durch einen universalen dritten Begriff, der als dialektische Einheit beider funktioniert, aufgehoben werden. Daher ist die einzige Möglichkeit einer Verständigung zwischen ihnen eine Art Übersetzung.
Buden, Boris „Kulturelle Übersetzung: Warum sie wichtig ist, und wo damit
anzufangen ist“ / „Cultural Translation: Why it is important and where to
start with it“
A foreign language can signify a total separation. It can represent, even today, the ferocity of our ignorance. To write in a new language, to penetrate its heart, no technology helps. You can’t accelerate the process, you can’t abbreviate it. The pace is slow, hesitant, there are no shortcuts. The better I understand the language, the more confusing it is. The closer I get, the farther away. Even today the disconnect between me and Italian remains insuperable. I write in a terrible, embarrassing Italian, full of mistakes. Without correcting, without a dictionary, by instinct alone. I grope my way, like a child, like a semiliterate.
I am ashamed of writing like this. I don’t understand this mysterious impulse, which emerges out of nowhere. I can’t stop. It’s like writing with my left hand, my weak hand, the one I’m not supposed to write with. It seems a transgression, a rebellion, an act of stupidity. I do my best to hit the target, but when I take aim I never know where the arrow will land. At least a hundred times while I was writing the chapters of this book I felt so demoralized, so disheartened, that I would have liked to stop. In those dark moments my Italian writing seemed to me a mad undertaking, a slope too steep. Yet if I want to go on writing in Italian I have to withstand those stormy moments when the sky darkens, when I despair, when I fear I’m at the end of my rope.
Jhumpa Lahiri: In Other Words