The word ‘metanoia’ in the title of this article refers to the ‘new gaze’ that the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu encourages his readers to develop with respect to the social world (Bourdieu, 1992: 251). I set it alongside the theme of this collection, ‘Translation as intercultural mediation’, with the suggestion that a Bourdieusian perspective has potential to act in this context. The term ‘mediation’ itself often involves a third party intervention towards agreement, reconciliation, and settlement, but it can also entail contestation of meaning and compromise. Clearly, translation is a cultural/intercultural event and activity, and the main argument of this article is that Bourdieu’s theory of practice, if fully appreciated and systematically applied, offers a radical new view on translating and translation as inter-culturally mediated phenomena. Of course, I am not the first to draw attention to the usefulness of Bourdieu’s ideas in understanding this area and an entire special edition of The Translator journal was dedicated to the relevance of his work to translation and interpreting in 2005 (see Inghilleri, 2005). However, the articles included in that volume each come from a personal perspective and application of the Bourdieusian lens rather than aiming for any systematicity of approach in linking his views on language, the product and process of translation, and methodological issues in any unified way. Similarly, of course, there is a long tradition of the ‘sociology of translation’ (see Cullon, 1986) and, within the present context, this implies a consideration of Bourdieu’s particular brand of sociology, and radical critique of sociologies, in assessing the value of his own (see Wolf and Fukari, 2007). In brief, what does the ‘sociology of sociology’ that Bourdieu argues for amount to as ‘a sociology of sociology of translation’, and what is to be gained in terms of translation as intercultural mediation in adopting such an approach; to what extent does it offer us the metanoia on translation alluded to at the outset? My aims in what follows are twofold: firstly, to offer an account that allows translators and those involved in translation to get to know the potential of Bourdieu’s approach as itself an intercultural mediation in such activities; secondly, to encourage greater systematicity and conformity in the understanding of and practical engagement with translation from such perspective.
What’s in a Word?
We need to begin at the most basic unit of semantic meaning – the word – and set Bourdieu within a continental tradition that includes such diverse writers as Locke, Comte, Saussure, Heidegger Habermas, Chomsky and Labov. Saussure (1857-1913) famously proposed that the study of language should proceed in terms of its formal structural properties. So, words needed to be understood as signs (signifiers) of things signified. This approach to language gave birth to linguistic structuralism – for example, in the work of the behaviourist Leonard Bloomfield (1887-1949) – which involved the study of the formal structure of language – that is, grammar and underlying structures – rather than speech itself. The accent, coming from Saussure, was consequently on langue (the totality of the linguistic system), rather than parole (individual speech acts), and on the synchronic (a-temporal) study of language rather than a diachronic (evolving) one. In terms of translation, such a perspective would be characterised as ‘the search for equivalence’ – a one-to-one match – in expressing meaning from language to another.
Bourdieu is very critical of this ‘formalist’ approach to language. For him language can never be simply a direct transfer of meaning – word for word – from one to another in a Lockean sense of transmission, but was always mediated by culture. Furthermore, he quarrels with Comte’s view as language as ‘universal treasure’, a kind of social incarnation that is sedimented in us and which we all carry in equal proportions – how we come to understand each other (see Bourdieu, 1975a: 27). For Bourdieu, this perspective overlooks differences between the ‘common’ and the ‘private’. He sees cultural anthropologists committing the same error when they act as if a culture is common to all, rather than differentiated and differential according to various social structures and groups, and the values and interests at stake within and between them. Saussure treated language similarly as ‘an object of study’ rather than as ‘a practice’; thus, constituting language as logos rather than praxis. As such:
(Saussure’s work) reduces individual practice, skill, everything that is determined practically by reference to practical ends, that is style, manner, and ultimately the agents themselves, to the actualization of a kind of historical essence, in short, nothing.
(Bourdieu 1990/80: 33)
The same might be said about equivalence in translation. In place of such structural (semantic) equivalence Bourdieu argues for a ‘structural constructivism’ or ‘constructive structuralism’ (Bourdieu, 1989: 14). The all-purpose dictionary, for him, can therefore be nothing more than a ‘product of neutralization of the practical relations within which it functions’ (1991: 39), which in fact has no reality in itself outside of its use as an arbitrary artefact. In a very Wittgensteinian sense, Bourdieu argues that language only has meaning in terms of the situations within which it is immersed at any one time and place – literally, a game! The schemes of perception which individuals hold and the language which carries them are each homologously linked to social structures, which act as both their provenance and social destiny. Just as social agents exist in network relations, therefore, words also exist in networks of semantic relations to each other – and partly acquire their meaning in terms of difference and similarity with respect to each other. Sense and meaning are always determined in the interplay between individual meaning and the social context in which language is being expressed. Such contexts are set within social space – often as fields[i] – that is bounded areas of activity: for example, education, culture, politics, etc. Words form a part of such social space and fields and are ultimately used to represent their particular way of thinking. By entering a field (implying a semantic network), a word thus takes on meaning from that field; which itself differs according to its position within the overall field and thus semantic space. The attribution of meaning is therefore also a kind of imposition (originating from the field context) – a kind of transformation and transubstantiation where meaning is changed from one context to another: ‘the substance signified is the signifying form which is realized’ (1991: 143) in practice. In other words, what is signified and signifying is socially co-terminus for Bourdieu; the meaning necessary to a field context is realised in the particular lexical/semantic form. So, words can have one meaning in one context and another elsewhere. It is an imposition because any specific meaning can be projected onto a word – signifying – prior to it being signified as a sign (word). The result is that all language socio-culturally relative:
In place of grammaticalness (this approach) puts the notion of acceptability, or, to put it another way, in place of ‘the’ language (langue), the notion of legitimate language. In place of relations of communication (or symbolic interaction) it puts relations of symbolic power, and replaces the meaning of speech with the question of the value and power of speech. Lastly, in place of specifically linguistic competence, it puts symbolic capital, which is inseparable from the speaker’s position in the social structure.
(Bourdieu, 1977a: 646 italics in the original)
These words themselves in italics – grammaticalness, acceptability, legitimate language, and symbolic power, value and capital – can be applied to any linguistic context. Indeed, Bourdieu often used the term linguistic market to draw attention to the way language always has differential value – and at any linguistic level – in terms of what is ‘bought’ and ‘sold’ when it is used in societal events, and to the social construction and consequence of language.
Of course, translation studies themselves have long since recognised that an ambition for ‘equivalence’, or rendering absolute meaning from one language to another, is insufficient and a much more socio-cultural process needs to be adopted. The alternative to equivalence, however, is then operated at a pragmatic, utilitarian level in theorising between culture and language, and its significance for translation, rather than being based on an epistemology which seeks consistently to link theory and practice with a common perspective on language, culture and methodology. Polysystem Theory of translation (Even-Zohar, 1979, 1990), for example, does break with a ‘static’, synchronic view of language and proposes instead a functionalist approach of ‘mutual relations’, seen as dynamic and evolving – diachronic. However, this theory risks simply relativizing translation and treating structure, culture and language as separate entities to be integrated. Briefly, it has an insufficient model of culture and how language operates within it.
Conversely, Bourdieu develops his own theory of culture through a critique of past traditions. For him, there are principally two: the structuralist one (culture as an instrument of communication and shared consensus; and the functionalist one (culture as an ideological force or power) (Bourdieu, 1968). In some ways, this perspective can be seen as similar to Polysystem Theory. However, Bourdieu does not seek to replace structure with function, or vice versa, but to integrate the two. The means to do this, for him, rests on our understanding of structure itself. He takes a dynamic, dialectical view of culture as structural: but structure as a structured structure in the structural tradition and a structuring structure in the functionalist tradition. In other words, structure needs to be understood as both structuring and structured. His analysis of symbolic systems then focuses on the underlying generative logic of such structures: of, ‘the basic principle behind the efficacy of symbols, that is the structured structure which confers upon systems their structuring power’ (1971: 1255 my emphasis). That ‘basic principle’ is socio-culturally determined, can be studied in its structural, manifest form, and observed through its effects in operative practice. This approach amounts to a sociology of knowledge: or, ‘the externalisation of internality and the internalisation of externality’, to adopt a phrase employed by Berger and Luckmann’s (1971). It also constitutes an attempt to go beyond dichotomies of subjectivity and objectivity in order to instigate, ‘ a science of dialectical relations between objective strictures….and the subjective dispositions within which these structures are actualised and which tend to reproduce them’ (1977b: 3).
For Bourdieu, the result constitutes a theory of practice which consequently also represents a series of breaks from paradigmatic epistemological traditions: from empirical knowledge; from phenomenological knowledge; and from objective knowledge (ibid.). It is possible to express translation and translating in terms of these traditions. ‘Empirically’, translation can be understood in its utilitarian, functional terms of semantic transfer where the translator is transparent. The outcome is the ‘objective knowledge’ of equivalence. In terms of the ‘phenomenological’, translation is expressed in terms of socio-cultural relativity. As noted, translation studies, in the light of Polysystem Theory and others, have recognised the impossibility of ‘equivalence’ in translating and the need for a socio-cultural approach to it. Extensions of this recognition are Historico-description Theory (Koller, 1989), where translated texts are interpreted through a socio-historical backdrop; Target Functionalism (Toury, 1995; Vermeer, 1989), where there a pragmatic wash-back effect from target to source text; and a greater focus on Relevance and Constructivism (Snell-Hornby, 1988), which subordinates the translated text to measures of pertinence and social applicability. Yet, none of these are developed as part of an integrated epistemology of practice that can be applied to both language and the activities of translation within a new paradigm of ‘reflexive objectivity’.
The Practice of Translation and Translating
So far in this article, I have argued that if we are to understand translation and translating, we need a more socio-culturally sensitive epistemology of language to bring to this practice and, although translation studies have indeed sought to integrate such into its frame of operations, Bourdieu provides a more comprehensive theory of practice which sees language, culture and practice as part of a single unified philosophy and method; in fact, the two are synonymous. I have referred to Bourdieu’s critique of the language disciplines and linguistic sciences. He used his own theory of language in the study of language (Bourdieu, 1991), which can be brought to empirical analysis (see Grenfell, 2011). Bourdieu is interested in analysing language and how it operates in social contexts. However, there is a third way in which language is important in Bourdieu’s theory of practice, and that is the language in which this theory itself is expressed. Bourdieu developed a sophisticated set of conceptual terms – which he calls ‘thinking tools’ (1989) – to carry this ‘science of dialectics’. These terms are needed in order to understand translation as an ‘intercultural mediation’. They are understood in and expressive of structural terms (highly charged epistemological matrices); which are intended to represent the two-way dynamic of structured and structuring structures between cognition and social materiality (see Grenfell, 2012). Three are central to this worldview: habitus, field and capital. Habitus can be defined as, ‘a set of historical relations ‘deposited’ within individual bodies in the form of mental and corporeal schemata of perception, appreciation and action’ (Bourdieu, 1992: 16) – basically, the subjective. Field, on the other hand, is used to express ’a set of objective, historical relations between positions anchored in certain forms of power’ (ibid.) – the objective. Capital, finally, is the currency of fields and mediates positions between individuals within such social space by the quantifiable forms and configurations held by them. It is valued and takes on certain specific forms: economic, symbolic, cultural, social, etc. (see Grenfell, 2012: Ch.6). These terms themselves, and because of their epistemological provenance , offer a kind of intercultural medium of mediation because they can be used to navigate through, between and within various cultural contexts; for example, source text, translators and translation, and the target text. What Bourdieu is asking, is for us to ‘think in these terms’. What then follows is a series of ‘epistemological breaks’ which are presented as necessary to developing this ‘new gaze’, or metanoia, on the social world – and at all levels, both singularly and together at one and the same time.
A Bourdieusian perspective suggests a ‘historical sociology’ of translation and translating that includes its own ‘sociological history’, and a ‘sociology of translation’, which implies a ‘sociology of sociology of translation’. As emphasised above, central to this mission is a theory of culture that allows for an understanding of translation as intercultural mediation in terms of an integration of epistemology and method. We began with a discussion of the ‘word’, yet for Bourdieu the would be researcher should ‘beware’ of them (1989: 16): for the way they risk becoming ‘more real’ than the thing they seek to represent; often existing, almost like Trojan horses, together with all sorts of implicit assumptions, misrepresentations and inclusions – socio-historic accretions – which are tacitly accepted and misrecognised as reality rather than meanings gained as part of the historical biography of words. Thus, words pass from one age period to another, and from one culture to another, in de-historicised terms, which are then historicised as truth; whilst what is needed is the re-historisation of their dehistoricisation; in other words, again sociologically historicising them through a form of historical sociology.
A 3-phase approach
How to frame this approach? Bourdieu offers a 3-phase method: firstly, the Construction of the Research Object; secondly, Field Analysis; thirdly, Participant Objectivation (see Grenfell 2012: Chapter 13).
Phase 1: The Construction of the Research Object is defined as:
…the summum of the art….to be capable of engagging very high ‘theoretical stakes’ by means of very precise and often mundane empirical objects…..what counts, in reality, is the rigor of the construction of the object…to constitute socially insignificant objects into scientific objects.
(Bourdieu, 1989: 51)
There is a general assumption that translation is the re-presentation of one objective reality to another objective representation by a subjective other. This is the objective ‘science’ of translation. One explicitly assumed in the formalist, structuralist approach of linguistic equivalence, which in turn has evolved into the more socio-culturally sensitive perspectives referred to above, and yet still lives on in ‘common sense’. A Bourdieusian view of translation would want to push its intercultural relativizing further through thinking in his conceptual terms – habitus, field and capital – and thus to see translation as a field with its own socio-cultural history, and thus structural (inter)relations and individual positionings. To do so is already to construct translation as an object of enquiry in a different way. The field of translation – not least within and across national boundaries – has its own history and ethnography: a modus operandi (structuring structure – or productive activity of consciousness), which can be studied through the construction of its own opus operandi (structured structure – or sets of relations) through a field analysis.
Phase 2: Field Analysis is described by Bourdieu in terms of three levels:
Level 1, “to analyse the position of the field vis-à-vis the field of power”;
Level 2, “to map the objective structure of the relations between the positions occupied by agents or institutions who compete for the legitimate form of specific authority of which this field is the site”;
Level 3, “the habitus of agents, the different systems of dispositions they have acquired by internalising a determinant type of social and economic conditions, and which find in a definite trajectory within the field under consideration a more or less favourable opportunity to become actualised”
(Bourdieu 1992: 104).
These levels might be summed up as studying: the field within the field of power; the field itself; and the habitus of those occupying the field.
Level 1: In the case of a professional area like translation, there is considerable overlap between the field, and the field of power and the field itself, because its activity is characterised by issues of accreditation and certification. Thus, translation has professional bodies which are involved in overseeing training and offering formal qualifications. The latter are particularly significant in the translation of legal and governmental texts, where guaranteed levels of professional competence are required and acknowledged. Outside of such sub-fields, the vast majority of translation is carried out by ‘unqualified’ individuals, or at least individuals with no other qualification than informal competence in the appropriate languages, itself often acquired through personal biography/ habitus. Indeed, different ‘professional associations’ themselves have different symbolic standing according to their constitution, their range of activity and thus their position within the field –thus, different forms and quantities of capitals. For example, compare the ‘self-help’ approach of the Translators Association (TA) (http://www.societyofauthors.org/translators-association) with the more official Institution of Translators and Interpreters (ITI) in the UK (http://www.iti.org.uk/).
Moreover, translations are required in relation to other fields – for example, political, technical, commercial, etc. – each of which, and in relation to each other, need to be understood again in terms of their structural topography, relations, and both the volume and configuration of forms of capital they retain (see also Heilbron and Saapiro, 2007).
Level 2 For Bourdieu, books and translations themselves compound a two-form capital: one commercial and one cultural, which can be expressed as cultural and economic capital. Indeed, as in every cultural field, there is an inverse play-off between the two: high cultural value implies scarcity since, ‘practice never ceases to conform to economic calculation even when it gives every appearance of disinterestedness by departing from the logic of interested calculation (in the narrow sense) and for playing for stakes that are non-material and not easily quantified’ (Bourdieu, 1977b: 177). Profit motive, therefore, has to be balanced against artistic imperative in commissioning translations. In an example taken from France in the mid 1990s, Bourdieu argues that independent individual decision making on the part of publishers, referees, readers and series editors is subordinated to economic and social conditions within the publishing field. Using Multiple Correspondence Analysis, he demonstrates an opposition in capital assets as distributed amongst 61 publishers French-language literature translations. This opposition is expressed as between longstanding firms – such as Gallimard – who accumulate all sorts of economic, commercial and symbolic capital and small, recent firms who, as they are still in an accumulation phase, are devoid of any capital. For the latter, rather than building up economic capital through large print runs of popular fiction, they specialise in acquiring symbolic capital in the form of admiration and high esteem from critics of ‘high taste’, the avant-garde, and those who present themselves as ‘informed’, and knowing of the ‘latest discoveries’. The two therefore characterise themselves according to the weight and configuration of different capital, which itself needs to be understood in terms of historical provenance and trajectory. The first group of firms also includes many commercial translations in their list, which are guaranteed to sell – for example, the consecrated classics from English! – whilst the second go for small, rare translations from the avant-garde. All this conforms to the logic of practice of cultural fields (see Bourdieu, 1993 and 1996), and of restricted and large-scale production. This phenomenon itself, a kind of synchronic view of publishing, again needs to be set against a diachronic, historical view. For Bourdieu, in antiquity, books and publishing performed a social function. However, from the mid nineteenth century, the nature of the cultural field changed with the explosion in bourgeois society that both allowed for and demanded the mass consumption in books. From that moment on, the cultural field of production worked with the forces of scarcity (cultural capital) – to assert bourgeois aesthetics – and popular(profitable) appeal (economic capital). A publisher such as Hachette represented this new breed of ‘book craftsman’, founded as a family firm in the mid-century but then becoming a limited company early in the twentieth century.
This growth of and move from the small, niche market characterises every field of cultural endeavour; for example, the way the impressionist painters were an unknown avant-garde group at the outset in the mid-nineteenth century but later became popular by the twentieth, and with that popularity lost culturally symbolic value (see Grenfell and Hardy, 2007).
A further example might be taken from Bourdieu’s own publications. Many of his most influential publications appeared in Les Editions de Minuit. This publishing house was created in 1942 under German occupation of France. It included many resistance publications, including Le Silence de la Mer, a key text offering Frenchmen and women a picture of the attitude they should take up vis-à-vis their German occupiers. After the Second World War, it went on to publish many of the literary and intellectual avant-garde: Bataille, Beckett, Robbe-Grillet, as well as Derrida and Deleuze. Bourdieu became editor of its Le sens commun series in 1962 and used his position to publish seminal texts (including translations) of key sociologists, both past and present, thus promoting and providing intellectual resources for his own adopted field; for example, texts by Durkheim, Cassirer, Mauss, Panowsky and Goffmann. This particular publishing house thus drew on and/or created a range of capital, building an expanding commercial list from its radical niche beginnings. A similar publisher from the UK has an altogether different socio-cultural profile. Polity Press was founded in 1983 by the leading British sociologist Anthony Giddens. It based itself in Cambridge, Oxford and Boston – leading academic centres – and published translations of only the most renown of international intellectuals; for example, Habermas, Derrida (and, of course, Bourdieu). It also made connections with popular culture with texts on David Bowie and Bob Marley. Polity Press therefore exhibits a totally different configuration of capital: intellectual and commercial at the start, with a shrewd positioning in the field. No wonder, Giddens went on to become Tony Blair’s ‘favourite sociologist’, with his espousal of ‘third way politics’ (Giddens, 1998), for which he was given a life peerage in 2004. The point is that all these socio-historical factors are often left unarticulated when one text is translated from one language – and thus culture – to another. For Bourdieu (1999: 221), the fact that texts circulate without their context of provenance leaves unstated the ‘conditions of their production’. Moreover, the recipients of texts, bring to them their own field of production, with all its implicit logic of practice, and indeed ‘read’ them only through their own structures. Neither the source nor the target structures are objectified in the way argued for by Bourdieusian field analysis. Result: ‘formidable misunderstandings’ (ibid.). It is why Bourdieu is at pains to call for a ‘socio-genetic’ reading of text (1993b).
Such an analysis is an example of how to highlight the objective structure of the relations between the positions occupied by agents or institutions who compete for the legitimate forms of specific authority within a field, of which translation is a site. It is, thus, possible to see how various forms of capital are historically defined and accumulated , leading to field positioning and consequent action.
Level 3 The final level for field analysis involves the actual habitus, the dispositions, acquired as part their socio-cultural trajectory that individuals build up and activate in their field activities. The example of Giddens and Bourdieu above already show two different habitus, which can be used to explain field position and what is translated when and how. For example, Bourdieu himself translated a key text by Panowsky and added a seminal statement about the relationship between field structures and modes of thought (see Bourdieu, 1967); whilst Giddens was careful to select what was and was not translated and to situate his own work within a list that included the best of international socio scientific scholarship, and thus assert his own position within the international field of intellectuals. The point is that – to use another Bourdieusian concept – translators themselves have an interest in what is translated and why (see Grenfell, 2012); an interest that is directly attributed to a certain habitus in a certain field.
A further example of the role of habitus in translated texts is also offered by Gouanvic (2005) who compares three renowned French translators: Coindreau, Vian and Duhammel. He shows how Coindreau’s own fascination with American literature from the South – Faulkner, Goyen and O’Connor – was connected to his own background from the Vendée, with its failure of counter-revolution which had structural parallels to the failure of the southern Secession. In the case of Duhammel, his background took him to Manchester in 1915 where he acquired both ‘the language of Shakespeare’ and its vernacular. On return to France, military service (something that also had an epiphanic impact on Bourdieu) led to him encountering the surrealist painter Yves Tanguy and the poet and screenwriter Jacques Prévert (social capital). After successful translations of popular American crime fiction (Burnett and Whitfield) and leading contemporary American writers (Henry Miller), Duhammel was hired by Gallimard and founded the Série Noire where he published a series of translations, known for their quality of vernacular inclusion. Finally, Boris Vian, who was an engineer, promoted science fiction in France from 1950 onwards; again, adopting a poetic approach to text which dealt with scientific themes, thus combining science, technology and literature. The point is that the social habitus of the translators was instrumental in creating a (third, processural) space within the literary field (see Wolf, 2007); so that detective and science fiction novels found a place alongside the realist novels dating from the nineteenth century. These changes themselves can be understood in terms of field changes; in particular, as avant-garde movements involving restricted and large scale symbolic production as referred to above, which ultimately led to economic consequences. The use of habitus and field thus stands somewhat opposed to Polysystem Theory, which tends to leave the translator transparent, and calls to attention the dispositional traits of translators – mostly left unarticulated – and the impact on what is translated, why and to what effect.
Phase 3 The third key aspect of a Bourdieusian metanoia is Participant Objectivation, which seeks to ‘objectify the knowing subject’. Such is important for those participating in translation activities. However, it is also important for those who seek to analyse and understand them. This latter level of practice moves us to a ‘sociology of sociology of translation’. What is it? Just to think in terms of Bourdieu’s ‘thinking tools’ is to open up the structures of production of translation and translating, but in participant objectivation a third and final phase of reflexivity is adopted where the tools of analysis are ‘turned back’ on the ‘objectifying subject’ themselves: this, in order to remove any sense of privilege they may hold, or belief in escaping from the social forces that shape us all, indeed, also in order to disarm them of any claims to universal objectivity as disconnected from their own practice. For Bourdieu, a reflexive approach – even to the sociology of translation – is more than a pragmatic option – it is an epistemological necessity. What Bourdieu is proposing is, firstly, to break from the ‘pre-given’ – in this case, translation in its common sensical form and translation studies as outlined above in various approaches – in order to arrive at a new ‘reflexive’ view of translation. Otherwise, inherent interests in the translation world, and of translators themselves, are simply reproduced in an implicit manner. Such an approach requires reflexivity on the part of translators in the course of producing the texts they do. However, it also necessitates applying the same degree of reflexivity to the acts of analysing and understanding the activities of translation; in other words, the need to apply the same epistemology of practice to both translators and translation, and those who would ‘objectify’ them. Only this second step leads from a ‘sociology of translation’ to a veritable ‘sociology of sociology of translation’. In both cases, three presuppositions are paramount – each being key dangers in potential ‘misrepresentations’ (see Bourdieu 2000: 10). Firstly, there is the presupposition associated with a certain position in the social space; in other words, the particular habitus (including gender) as constituted by a particular life trajectory, and thus the cognitive structures which orientate thought and practice – this was shown in the biography of translators discussed above. Secondly, there is the orthodoxy of the particular site of the field; in this case, translation (literary, science, etc.) and indeed a particular view of it – its doxa – with its imperatives to think (only!) in these terms as they are the only ones acknowledged as legitimate in the space – in other words, the various Translation studies perspectives and indeed a Bourdieusian approach. Thirdly, there is the whole relation to the social world implied by skholè itself: that is, scholarly detachment, or the separation from the empirical self implied by the fallacy of the ‘neutral stance’ – in this case, both the separation from the actual act of translation from the translator and a particular formalist analysis of this relationship. By performing the act of ‘objectifying the objectifying subject’, the translator and/or publisher has the possibility of seeing their activity, not as a utilitarian act but rather an intercultural mediation; that is, relational, ‘praxeologic’, and existentially dynamic. However, the same is true of those of us who would study translation in socio-cultural terms; there is constantly the need to break from un-reflexive modes of thinking about translation, not simply in terms of its cultural relativity and target functionalism, as is the case in many forms of translation studies, but to view intercultural mediation itself through such a lens. This, in order to attain a new knowledge position in both understanding translation and understanding the terms, and thus possibilities and limits, of that understanding; otherwise, presuppositions about translations remain unconscious, implied and occluded in the very nature of the thought itself of translators/ translation and those who study them.
… it is important to set out a distinction between translation, translating as an activity, and its outcome the translated text, and study of them. The Bourdieusian perspective addressed in this article applies to each of these. So, it is necessary to view translation and translation studies themselves through the lens of their construction as an object of study, a field (of three levels, field, field within fields, and habitus) and participant objectivation. Finally, translation as a field needs to hold a reflexive account of its own position – socio-historically – in the field of cultural reproduction. The same is true of a translator and the object of their work. In translating a text there is the need to attend to the source and target text as a socio-cultural/historical construction in these terms: of the field the text will enter (literary, scientific, etc.) and, with it, the relationship of that field with the field of power, the structure of the field itself, and the habitus of those in the field. To do so is, ipso facto, for the translator to objectify their participation in the field and thus render explicit their own interests which may frame the translation. Indeed, the text itself needs to be understood as a semiotic object entering a cultural space, in which it is itself valued symbolically. Representation and re-presentation of every aspect of the text is itself significant. We can again take examples from Bourdieu’s own publications. Compare, for example, the covers of La Distinction (Bourdieu, 1984/79) or La reproduction (1977c/70); the French versions with their inclusion of classical paintings set alongside the English books with contemporary designs. Or, Le sens practique (1990/80) – the French version of which has a photo taken by Bourdieu himself of an Alegerian peasant, which is completely absent from the English non-graphic design. Even the times between the appearance of the French text and the English translation ‘tell a story’. So, Les héritiers (1979/64), which was published when Bourdieu was a relatively unknown French sociologist, took 15 years to appear in English; whilst a later book, Méditations pascaliennes (2000/97), took only 3 years. As argued above, the reason for this itself does not simply rest with Bourdieu and his habitus and trajectory, but is also a reflection of the field itself. In this case, as Bourdieu himself argues concerning the ‘art field’, we can see how he was instrumental in creating his own audience and market for his ideas, which then reshape the relevant social space. These discrepancies in chronology nevertheless impact on the way Bourdieu is read and understood. Finally, in adopting a Bourdieusian stance, it is necessary to objectify the very relationship that is opened up and the potential and limits of our own consequent understanding, as compared and contrasted with our dispositional interests, in adopting such a perspective; in other words, moving towards a real ‘sociology of sociology of translation’.
The metanoia that is referred to at the outset is thus defined by a perspective based on a theory of practice, which itself has its own grounding epistemology. The point is that many of the features highlighted in this article – construction of object, field, habitus, and participant objecvtivation – are simply often passed over in conventional approaches to translation and translators, and studies of them. Even a biography of the translator is frequently absent, let alone a socio-culturally sensitive reading of the text which outlines the many issues of meaning to be set against source and target text. Although, certain of these issues are recognised in translation studies, the metanoia discussed does so in a more systematic and comprehensive manner. Translation is indeed a form of intercultural mediation; that medium, I have argued, is best understood, articulated and applied in Bourdieusian terms, the product of which amounts to a veritable ‘new gaze’ on translated texts and translating.
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[i] My practice is to put Bourdieu’s main conceptual terms in italics in order to remind the reader that their meaning is particular to his theory of practice and underlying epistemology; thus, differentiating it from their everyday sense.