1st Edition

Translating Institutions
An Ethnographic Study of EU Translation

ISBN 9781905763085
Published June 23, 2016 by Routledge
188 Pages

USD $46.95

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

Translating Institutions outlines a framework for research on translation in institutional settings, using the Finnish translation unit at the European Commission as a case study. Because of their foundational multilingualism, the institutions of the European Union could be described as both translating and translated institutions. The European Commission alone employs nearly two thousand translators, and it is translators who draft the vast majority of outgoing EU messages. Translating Institutions sets out to explore the organizational role and professional identity of this group of cultural mediators, a group that has remained relatively invisible despite its size and central institutional role, and to use the analysis of this data to elaborate broader methodological and theoretical issues.

Translating Institutions adopts an ethnographic approach to explore the life and work of the translators at the centre of this study. In practice, this entails employing a number of different methods and interrogating various types of data. The three-level research design used covers the study of the institutional framework, the study of translators working in specific institutional settings, and the study of translated documents and their source texts. This is therefore a study of both texts and people in their institutional habitat. Given the methodological focus of the volume, the different methods and data are outlined in independent chapters: the institutional framework of translation (institutional ethnography), the physical location of the unit (observation), translators' own views of their role (focus group discussions), and a sociologically-oriented text analysis of a sample document (shifts analysis).

Translating Institutions constitutes a valuable contribution to the sociology of translation. It opens up new avenues for research and offers a detailed framework for the study of institutional translation.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction       


The European Commission as a translated institution 

Ethnography: a weaving method    

Small is beautiful      

Role of the researcher      

The logic of both/and      

Aims and structure of the book    




2. Translating institutions and institutional translation  

2.1. Institutions      

2.2. Rules, norms, and beliefs     

2.3. Institutional translation     

2.4. Categories of translated institutions   

   Supra-national institutions    

   Multilingual and bilingual administration  

   Public services     

2.5. Translating institutions and translator training in Finland 


3. Ethnographic approach to institutional translation   

3.1. How to research institutional translation?  

3.2. Essentials of ethnography    

3.3. Ethnography in translating institutions   

3.4. Probing cultural relations      

   Operationalizing culture    

   Nexus approach to culture    

3.5. Identifications      

   Split identities      

   Questioning identification    

   Textual identities     

3.6. Who is who: Positioning myself    


   Ethical considerations     




4. Language work in the European Commission   

4.1. Institutional Ethnography     

4.2. Framework documents     

   Institutional multilingualism    

   Building Europe     

   Legal selves in a law-based administration: Staff Regulation

4.3. Translating in the European Commission  



   Material environment: JMO    

   The Finnish Unit     

4.4. Living in Luxembourg     

4.5. Conclusions     


5. Institutional identifications

5.1. European identities     

5.2. Provoking representations with the help of focus groups

   Ethnography and focus groups   

   Focus groups in the translation unit   

   Mind map and questionnaire    

   Transcription and translation    

   Limits of focus groups    

5.3. Translation unit as a nexus of relations   

   Officials and translators    

   Socialization to the organization   

   Socialization to the profession: the issue of educational background   

        Readers and readability    

   Transnational expatriates    

5.4. The role of laughter     

   Laughing together     

   Laughing at ambiguities    

5.5. Conclusion      


6. Institutional text production

6.1. Social study of texts     

   Mapping the process     

   Focus on shifts     

   Focus on interpersonal shifts    

6.2. Drafting process      

   Political redrafting (ORI-00 → ORI-01)  

   Institutional redrafting (ORI-01 → ORI-02)  

   Reframing the document (ORI-02 → ORI-03) 

   Drafting process: summary    

6.3. Translation process     

   Communicating in Finnish (independent reading of TRA-02) 

   Continued institutionalization (ORI-02 → TRA-02) 

   Analysis of shifts vs. independent reading  

   Improved AND deteriorated version (ORI-03 →TRA-03)

   Translation process: summary   

6.4. From shouldness to maybeness?    

6.5. Conclusions: Us and them    


7. Net results       

7.1. Rules, norms and beliefs: the question of culture in institutional translation 

7.2. Readability      

7.3. Recognition      

7.4. Towards reflexive practice    


View More