Define: traducture

While writing an earlier post on this blog, I realised that we didn’t have a short piece on traducture which is one of the cornerstones of the IKM programme, and that when I googled the term, there was not a  clear definition available. For this reason, I am adapting part of a 2009 Newsletter and adding some additional resources.

Since its inception in 2007, IKM Emergent has become increasingly aware of the importance of translation to the issues it raises about the exchanges of knowledges across the various boundaries and layers which exist within the development sector. These extend far beyond the literal translation of language, although this remains fundamental, to cover the expression of ideas and meanings, formed in one context, and received and interpreted, in very different ones. The difficulties of this process still plague cross-cultural, inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary discourse about development amongst ‘experts’ and play a still larger role in communication between ‘experts’ and the rest of us, and the communities on whom development is performed. For some of the issues, please consult the article Lost in translation, one of the resources on the KMIC website.

The introduction of the word traducture by Wangui wa Goro, coined originally in 1997 as part of her doctoral thesis where she explores issues of translating inequality (wa Goro 2005), drew attention to the inadequacy of the term translation. Traducture enabled recognition that our explorations of development issues raised could be limited by too literal an interpretation of the words used. In this context, traducture better encompasses the range of ‘translations’ that the programme wishes to explore, as well as the science, art, technology and craft of making them.
Traducture is based on conceptual frameworks of translation, which offer a variety of avenues for engaging from different standpoints, including perspectives which seek to unravel dominant discourses, particularly where they distort reality through misrepresentation, such as stereotyping or exclusion. It seeks to re-centre humanity in its fullness or create new discourses or draw attention to existing discourses in varied locations. This enables the possibility of bringing various knowledges, experienced through diverse locations, to bear on what is already known and of articulating them in ways that are or are not known or that are known elsewhere. Additionally, it enables unknown knowledges to surface, reflecting a desire to assert different discourses, which take into account cultures, locations, ideologies, different and multiple ways of knowing, the environment, the past, the present and also possibilities for the future, either from within the discourse or through connections or discoveries within our own knowledges as well to those of others. It is derived from the deconstructive uses of the words traduction and ecriture, which encompasses the deconstruction or critical consciousness in craft, style and content of writing and transfer through translation as rewriting.

Here is an audio file of Wangui wa Goro talking about traducture at the EADI General Conference in 2008 during a presentation on Knowledges, dialogues and translations.

wa Goro, Wangui (2005) unpublished thesis “Hectorosexism in translation: A comparative study of Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Matigari and Devil on the Cross, Middlesex University.
wa Goro, Wangui (2006/2007) Problematizing the gaze through traducture. Does it matter if you’re back or white? In: White matter/Il bianco in questione. Athanor 17(10): 52-61

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