The Return to Ethics
Special Issue of The Translator (Volume 7/2, 2001)
If civilizations are to cooperate as well as clash, our mediators must solve problems using serious thought about relations between Self and Other.
Translation Studies has thus returned to questions of ethics. But this is no return to any prescriptive linguistics of equivalence. As the articles in this volume show, ethics is now a broadly contextual question, dependent on practice in specific cultural locations and situational determinants. It concerns people, perhaps more than texts. It involves representing dynamics, seeking specific goals, challenging established norms, and bringing theory closer to historical practice.
The contributions to this volume study a wide range of translational activity, questioning global copyright regimes, denouncing exploitation within the translation profession, defending a Bible translation in terms of mutlilateral loyalty, and delving into the dynamics of popular genres, the culture bubbles of talk shows, the horrors of disaster relief in Turkey, military interpreters in the Balkans, and urgent political pleas from a Greek prison. The theoretical approaches range from empirical text analysis to applications of fuzzy logic, passing through a proposed Translator's Oath and converging in a common concern with cross-cultural alterity
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Return to Ethics in Translation Studies, Anthony Pym, pp 129-138
Proposal for a Hieronymic Oath, Andrew Chesterman, pp 139-154
Four current models of translation ethics are described, based on the ideas of representation, service, communication and norms. There are problems with all these models: they are in several respects incompatible, and have different ranges of application. An alternative approach is therefore offered based on Alasdair MacIntyre's ideas about virtues and the deontic force of excellence in a social practice. This leads to a fifth possible model, an ethics of professional commitment, comparable with Maria Tymoczko's suggestion that translation is a commissive act. At the centre of such a model there might be an official oath, comparable to the Hyppocratic Oath for the medical profession. I end with a proposal for a Hieronymic Oath for translators.
The Thorn of Translation in the Side of the Law: Toward Ethical Copyright and Translation Rights, Salah Basalamah, pp 155-167
As far as issues touching on translation are concerned, international copyright law is inadequate to the realities and perspectives of a multicultural world, particularly with respect to the right to translate educational works in developing countries. This inadequacy may be traced through the history of copyright agreements, from the Berne Convention (1971) to the Nairobi Recommendations (1976) and the Trips Agreement of the World Trade Organization (1995). Calls to integrate ethical and cultural considerations into such international conventions tend to conflict with the purely economic trends that dominate the World Trade Organization, which is currently appropriating a large part of the international law system. Here it is proposed that far more than being a mere practice, translation can be the horizon and pretext for a new opening to the Other, for an ethics of rights and solidarity.
Death of a Ghost: A Case Study of Ethics in Cross-Generation Relations between Translators, Arnaud Laygues, pp 169-183
Generations of translators are constantly being renewed, as seniors ideally pass on knowledge and ethical norms to young translators entering the profession. This transfer is of special importance for the translation of minority languages such as Finnish. Here a young translator is found to have been exploited by one of her seniors, who capitalized on her lack of knowledge and experience by offering merely symbolic remuneration. Marcel's concept of fidelity and Bourdieu's habitus are used to stress the conditions leading to such ethical problems. Analysis is made of the written and moral contracts involved, how the young translator's responsibility evolved, and how her visibility was harmed. The solutions suggested include offering young translators more practical information during their initial training and providing better support from professional associations.
Loyalty Revisited: Bible Translation as a Case in Point, Christiane Nord, pp 185-202
Loyalty is understood as an ethical concept governing translators' responsibility to their partners in the cooperative activity of translation, beyond 'fidelity' as a relation between texts. It may operate within the frame of functionalism, understood as a set of strategies that give priority to the intended purpose of the target text. These concepts become key in cases where there is a wide gap between the source and target cultures, especially when receivers have their own 'subjective theories' about the ideal role of the translator. In the case of a translation of the New Testament and Early Christian texts into German by the Heidelberg theologian Klaus Berger and Christiane Nord, it is found that reviewers' reactions were based on absolutist conceptions of their own subjective theories. In such a context, loyalty can be achieved by making the translation strategies explicit in a preface, by adopting clear choices at points of source-text ambiguity, and by using the most advanced theological and philological scholarship to ensure loyalty to the source-text author's intentions.
Ethos, Ethics and Translation: Toward a Community of Destinies, Jean-Marc Gouanvic, pp 203-212
Antoine Berman's theory of translation ethics is open to criticism in terms of Pierre Bourdieu's analysis of symbolic productions. To understand the general ethics of translation, our scope should be wide enough to include both lowbrow and highbrow genres. If ethics is then situated in the significance of translated texts compared with the significance of their source texts, it must be based on a construction of potential homologies or a 'community of destinies'. Here a case of unethical translation is found in the French version of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath carried out in Nazi-occupied Belgium. As a case of ethical translating, Boris Vian's versions of Alfred E. van Vogt's science-fiction novels modify the language register, introduce implicitation and fictionalization of the scientific discourse, and yet preserve the significance of the source text, contributing to a more thorough adherence to the genre.
Look Who's Talking: The Ethics of Entertainment and Talkshow Interpreting, David Katan & Francesco Straniero-Sergio, pp 213-237
The role of interpreters working on Italian television is undergoing change. The traditional role, that of an invisible black box, is being challenged by what we define as an ethics of entertainment. The three principal factors affecting this ethics are professional performing capacity, 'the comfort factor', and the context of culture. A corpus of 200 hours of Italian talk show interpreting is drawn on to illustrate the tension between the traditional norms of fidelity or invisibility and the needs of TV emotainment (visible involvement and performance). In analyzing the successful interpreter's strategies and behaviour we suggest that a solution to this double bind lies in an expansion of the traditional role toward multivariate mediation encompassing varying perceptual positions and sensitivity to context.
Translating Urgent Messages, Maria Sidiropoulou, pp 239-248
Translation research has focused on parameters that affect the translation product in various ways. Cultural identities, normative conventions, and ethical issues have all been taken into account in quality assessment. Here an attempt is made to underline a parameter that affects the translation product by triggering unexpected variation in target texts. The analysis of empirical data shows that the urgency to transmit a message - and consequently an increase in the translator's involvement - is a parameter that may distort preferred target-culture patterns in the construction of the message. This situation points to an ethics of communication where emphasis is not on representing the Other but on communicating with the Other. Here the translator has an explicit presence and does not remain an invisible linguistic figure, as professional ethics might otherwise require.
Interpreters-in-Aid at Disasters: Community Interpreting in the Process of Disaster Management, Alev Bulut & Turgay Kurultay, pp 249-263
Voluntary interpreting services for foreign Search and Rescue teams at disaster sites remain one of the least institutionalized forms of community interpreting. Yet training and careful planning are required in order to eliminate possible conflicts due to race, culture, religion, language, ethnicity and the like. The success of such interpreting depends on the careful handling of sensitive cross-cultural issues. The earthquakes that devastated part of Turkey in 1999 revealed the need to plan interpreting services within the overall process of disaster management. Here issues are raised concerning the international search and rescue operation guidelines and the code of conduct of the relief interpreters, especially as such questions affect an Interpreter-in-Aid at Disasters (IAD) training project. The ethical framework of IAD, practised by qualified independent voluntary interpreters in order to help save lives in disasters, is purely communicative and situation-oriented. The mutual benefit hypothesis thus works for the voluntary interpreter thanks to the satisfaction of being an indispensable intermediary, helping to rescue the largest number of lives possible via effective and efficient communication, and undertaking full responsibility for the initiatives required.
Ethics in the Fuzzy Domain of Interpreting: A 'Military' Perspective, Claudia Monacelli & Roberto Punzo, pp 265-282
Military interpreters are being trained to perform locally during peace support operations. This dynamic environment suggests that their ethical role should be seen as situated and enacted rather than as responding to pre-established norms. We first discuss epistemological issues concerning communication and then offer a pragmatic description of face-to-face mediated encounters. Instead of reasoning in terms of fidelity and equivalence when assessing an interpreter's behaviour, we turn to fuzzy logic and probability, in light of the indeterminant nature of communication as described here. Interpreting samples taken from the first military interpreter training course in Italy are analyzed in terms of peculiar ethical issues resulting from the military context. Suggestions are offered as to how to deal with these at a metacommunicative level.
Revisiting the Classics
In Praise of Betrayal (On re-reading Berman) (Alexis Nouss)
Kaisa Koskinen: Beyond Ambivalence. Postmodernity and the Ethics of Translation (Lieven Tack)
Umberto Eco: Experiences in Translation; Milan Kundera: Testaments Betrayed (John Style)
Basil Hatim & Ian Mason: The Translator as Communicator; Leo Hickey (ed.): The Pragmatics of Translation; Ernst-August Gutt: Translation and Relevance (Daniel Linder)
Martin Buber: I and Thou; Gabriel Marcel: Être et avoir; Emmanuel Levinas: Altérité et transcendance (Arnaud Laygues)
Francisco J. Varela: Ethical Know-How (Derek Boothman)