Translating Institutions: An Ethnographic Study of EU Translation, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Translating Institutions

An Ethnographic Study of EU Translation, 1st Edition

By Kaisa Koskinen


178 pages

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Paperback: 9781905763085
pub: 2008-04-04
Hardback: 9781138141322
pub: 2016-05-09
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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

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings: