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Forging post-colonial identities through acts of translation?

Winks, David (2009) Forging post-colonial identities through acts of translation? Journal of African Cultural Studies 21 (1), pp. 65-74. ISSN 1369-6815.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13696810902986458

Abstract

The process of translation is central to the formation of post-colonial identities. While its literal purpose, to convert and explain one language into another, has often served as a means of subjugation, it also works figuratively to mediate cultural messages, practices and beliefs, and to help reconcile differences. A translation can rupture insular notions of identity that may be held by both oppressed and oppressor, and which are anchored in their binary opposition towards the Other. Initially through analysis of Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart, this paper explores the use of language in post-colonial literature, placing this notion of translation as central to its production. In the fifty years since its first publication, much of the acclaim for Achebe's novel has attested precisely to his presentation of Igbo culture and concerns through the lens of English, and his use of the dominant language in such a way as to undermine and oppose its presumed authority. In turning attention to Myal, by Jamaican novelist Erna Brodber, the paper contrasts the demands facing Achebe with those experienced by a post-colonial writer working from a different geographic and cultural perspective, and one specifically informed by the legacy of Diaspora. As well as offering a critique of the pedagogical interpellation of the colonial subject, Myal portrays the adaptations of language that have occurred in order to resist the exercise of such authority and to assert an independent explanation of history and identity. The paper concludes by acknowledging the limitations of translations, but suggests that an awareness of the shortcomings of language should encourage a greater investment in the art of listening; especially when confronted with cultural difference.

Item Type: Article
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Arts > English and Humanities
Depositing User: Administrator
Date Deposited: 26 May 2011 10:15
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:20
URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/3480

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