1st Edition

Translating Institutions An Ethnographic Study of EU Translation

By Kaisa Koskinen Copyright 2008
    188 Pages
    by Routledge

    187 Pages
    by Routledge

    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.

    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    


    PART I


    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    



    Kaisa Koskinen is Lecturer and Adjunct Professor at the School of Modern Languages and Translation Studies, University of Tampere, Finland. She is author of Beyond Ambivalence: Postmodernity and the Ethics of Translation (2000) and various articles that examine theoretical and methodological questions in translation studies, retranslation, translation in the European Union, and the ethics of translation. Her interest in EU translation stems from her previous insider role as a translator working for the European Commission.