Protest and Dissent

Conflicting Spaces in Translation and Culture

by Agnieszka Pantuchowicz (Volume editor) Anna Warso (Volume editor)
©2020 Edited Collection 284 Pages
Series: Cultures in Translation, Volume 3


Essays collected in this book discuss textual and discursive formulations of dominance and resistance. The authors analyze how they are narrated and re-narrated, framed and reframed in different social, political and language communities and realities, through different media and means, and translated into different contexts and languages. As the ways we name, rename, or label events, people and places have implications in the real world, the essays are also meant to investigate the ways in which we partake in negotiating its construction, its changing meanings and senses through the stories we tell and the practices we live by.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • References
  • Dimensions of Dissent: Cross-disciplinary Perspectives
  • “The Nation Again in the Twenty-First Century?”, or How Do I Translate My Dissent Such that You Might Understand?
  • Rights, the Human, and the Everyday
  • The Nation: Help or Hindrance?
  • Answer: Hindrance
  • Works Cited
  • Rrose Sélavy: Duchamp Challenges Gender Stereotypes
  • Art and Dissent
  • Marcel Duchamp/Rrose Sélavy
  • Gender Performativity
  • Works Cited
  • Veering Dissent: Derrida’s Descent into Literature and Nature
  • Porousness
  • Hyperobjects
  • Veer Ecology
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • Protesting over and through the Language
  • Introduction
  • Conflicts over the Status of Languages
  • National Identity and Language Protests
  • Linguistic Protests and the Self
  • Protest Methods
  • Linguistic Conflicts in Education
  • Conclusion: A Need for Effective Conflict Prevention
  • Works Cited
  • Resistance in/through Translation
  • Translating Dissent: Austrian Refugees in Manhattan
  • Works Cited
  • Translation as an Asymmetric Response to Soviet Colonialism in the Works of Ukrainian Dissident Poet-Translator Hryhoriy Kochur
  • Works Cited
  • “Raining bombs in the house of the Lord”: A Note on Translation and Dissent in the Work of Baron d’Holbach
  • Works Cited
  • Translating Dissent in Modern Austrian Poetry
  • Works Cited
  • Translating Vietnam
  • Works Cited
  • Reclaiming Voices
  • P.H.*reaks:
  • Introduction
  • Freak Show
  • Pathology and Invisibility
  • The Movement
  • Independent Living
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • Ability Trouble?
  • Works Cited
  • Re-triangulating Triangles: Homoerotic Desire in Marilyn Hacker’s Sonnet Cycle
  • Erotic Triangles
  • The Oedipal Triangle
  • The Nuclear Family Triangle
  • Works Cited
  • Sounds of Dissent: AIDS Activism and the Music of Diamanda Galás, 1984–1993
  • “Le plus beau des Anges…”
  • “Oh Lord Jesus, do you think I served my time?”
  • “There are no more tickets to the funeral”
  • “My Golgotha is not over”
  • “Let’s not Chat about Despair”
  • Blasphemous Prayer as Protest
  • Works Cited
  • The Classics Retold. An Analysis of Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler, a Contemporary Retelling of The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
  • Works Cited
  • John Clare as a Poet of Protest and Dissent
  • Works Cited
  • Protesting America
  • Protesting Lynching: The Anti-lynching Campaigns of the Early NAACP
  • Works Cited
  • Indian Cultural Dissent in the US and Canada1
  • Works Cited
  • The Strategic Role of Humor in Contemporary Race-Related Student Activism on the Basis of “I, Too, Am Harvard” Project and Justin Simien’s Dear White People
  • Microaggressions and the Role of Humor in Countering Unconscious Bias
  • The Resurgence of Student Activism
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • Contributors’ Notes


Protest and dissent seem to be strongly linked with politics and with political actions, yet the range of their senses and uses is much broader and, as Amit Chaudhuri has noted, dissent is inscribed in the very idea of the literary which, “in its resistance to interpretation, is a peculiar species of dissent” (43). The common ground of protest and dissent is, very generally, a disagreement with what is, and an expression of the necessity of some change which seems to be standing behind the very gestures of dissension or protestation. This expression may take various forms and make use of various modalities coming from different cultures, states and places. Protest and dissent may sometimes be individual gestures, as seems to be the case with Melville’s Bartleby’s famous “I would prefer not to”, though the outdoor reading of Bartleby, the Scrivener organized by Occupy Wall Street supporters at Zuccotti Park in New York in November 2011 was an event which not only questioned the assumed hierarchy and expressed the strength of passive resistance, but also because it was set on Wall Street. Dominance and resistance seem to be inevitably speaking through various narratives and stories we live by, the stories which are narrated and renarrated, framed and reframed in different social, political and language communities and realities, through different media and means, and translated into different contexts and languages. The notion of framing, Mona Baker claims in “Reframing Conflict in Translation,” allows us “to see translational choices not merely as local linguistic challenges but as contributing directly to the narratives that shape our social world”. The ways in which we name, rename, or label events, groups of people, even places have implications in the real world and may help us realize that the world is not made up of universally accepted norms, but that we also partake in negotiating its construction, its changing meanings and senses. Protest and dissent do not necessarily have to be an incentive to a revolutionary change, to a shift of the dominant, but may testify to there being what Edward Said called simply “something beyond the reach of dominating systems” (216), something which limits power and “hobbles” it also through the translatological resistance to finality.

If Jacques Rancière is right saying that “the essence of politics is the manifestation of dissensus as the presence of two worlds in one” (Rancière 2001, Thesis 8), then translation, as an inevitably divided activity, may be a kind of discourse ←7 | 8→which reveals that oneness may be one of those ideas which harbor consensual dominance and the end of politics (la politique), the end of dissensual plurality and the beginning of the police which, in different disguises, finds these days its way to not only the streets of numerous places of the world, but is also activated in the sphere of discourse as disavowal of plurality of senses and meanings among which we all live.

Dissent can be homonymously paired with descent. Noting the potential of this pairing Tymon Adamczewski offers in his paper an overview of Jacques Derrida’s philosophical practice and its relation to the traditions of ecocritical and literary studies. Adamczewski finds parallels between the dissenting quality inherent in literature and the transgressive dissent of Derrida’s mode of thinking, and highlights the “porous” nature of all “borders, thresholds and demarcation lines” viewed as spaces which evade complete regulation. Applying, among others, Timothy Morton’s and Nicholas Royle’s concepts of veering, whose whirl he locates also in Derrida’s deconstruction, the author investigates the various ways of “making ourselves at home in nature” as we rethink the notions of border, home and self and navigate the veering flux of anthropocene.

Ben Dorfman’s essay brings in the question of politicizing this home and looks at the current political culture as highly confrontational and divisive. He thus asks the following, basic question: “how do I translate my dissent such that you might understand?” In other words, is there a way to alleviate the conflict and lessen the risk of violence among the dissidents from both sides of the divide so that “senses of alienation might be reduced for all” while communication, reconciliation and inclusion become an actual possibility? This can be achieved, Dorfman argues, by rephrasing the issues expressed by dissenting voices using the lexicon of human rights, if not directly, then by alluding to the sentiments behind those ideals. He proceeds to discuss examples of those ideals and sentiments, pointing also to the existence of a “conceptual shield” provided by the nation states whose interests seem to lie exactly in upholding the dichotomy of “us” versus “them”.

The dichotomy is strongly present in the works of avant-garde artists of the 20th century some of whom have been known as radical dissenters against contemporary norms, hierarchies, conventions and structures of power. In her analysis of Marcel Duchamp’s female alter ego, which could be read as the artist’s way to challenge the standard of heteronormativity, Agata Sitko pays particular attention to his attribution of specific artworks to the male and female personas. Was the invention of Rrose Sélavy an instance of the “Tootsie syndrome”, Sitko asks, or an actual gesture of subversion? The essay proceeds to present other artists and artworks experimenting with gender identity, contextualized by an overview of some of the key texts on the distinction between sex and gender, and the ←8 | 9→latter’s constructed and performative nature, commenting also on the potential dangers of male “usurpation or liquidation of feminine element.”

Various forms of protest “over and through the language” are examined in Hanna Komorowska’s essay on the relations between language, education policies and identity development. Komorowska discusses, among others, conflicts over the status of language varieties, clashes between the individual’s self-identification and the state-imposed national identity, expressions of dissent through the use of language and silence, finally, the sphere of education as one of the social dimensions where protesting through and over language often takes place. Komorowska’s text concludes with remarks on the need for strategies of successful conflict prevention, achievable, perhaps, through the promotion of pluri- and multilingualism attempted by the key European institutions.

Some voices of dissent remain unheard exactly because of a certain monolingualism. Joshua Parker’s essay focuses on dissent voiced by the Austrian refugee authors who escaped to America after their country’s annexation into Nazi Germany and continued to write in their native language. Poetry, declares Parker, is “one of the simplest, plainest ways of registering political dissent and frustration”. Published by small exile presses and magazines between 1930s and 1950s and read mostly by a dwindling number of German-speaking Americans, Austrian refugee poetry remains largely untranslated, he adds, even though the themes it addresses “recur in contemporary culture and politics perhaps more now than at any other time”. Parker’s reading of selected poems and poem passages is accompanied by his English translations of the text and a commentary on the pitfalls of the process.

Lada Kolomiyets discusses what she calls “anti-dictatorship aesthetics” and the anti-colonial stance in the work of Ukrainian dissident poet and literary scholar Hryhoriy Kochur, known also as the “unwavering translator”. Imprisoned for a decade in a gulag, Kochur became the heart of a multiethnic community of artists and intellectuals from all over the USSR: “the repressive Soviet system unwillingly created unique platforms for intercultural interaction … and aided in creating multinational pluriversal intellectual communities within the labor camp” Kolomiyets adds, noting also a degree of strange resemblance between the environment of a multinational prison camp and the hybrid nature of the postmodern, postcolonial space. It was in the gulag that Kochur decided to translate, which gave him a means to oppose Russian expansionism and compulsory monolingualism, and resulted in the re-animation of the Neoclassical School of translation in Ukraine

Patrick Leech’s analysis of Baron D’Holbach’s 18th-century translations of English deists provides a fascinating insight into in the role of translators ←9 | 10→as political actors and “gate-keepers” capable of effecting cultural and political change, empowered, and fully aware of their power. Emphasizing the Enlightenment’s often overlooked reliance on translation, necessary to make possible the exchange and dissemination of ideas and contributing to their ultimately heterogeneous, transnational character, Leech rightly notes that the Enlightenment itself was a form of – often radical – dissent from the prevailing religious, political and ideological structures and hierarchies. D’Holbach’s work, he adds, “puts translation at the heart of Enlightenment ferment”, while the invisibility resulting from the fact that the translated texts tended to be published secretly, anonymously, under false names and/or as original works not only allowed the translators to avoid persecution but also promoted “a perception of a sort of general consensus regarding the radical materialist and anticlerical ideas that were flooding the market.”

David Malcom and Wolfgang Görtschacher discuss the problems of translating dissent voiced by three modern Austrian poets, Jura Soyfer, Ilse Aichinger and Ernst Jandl who, apart from addressing complex historical and spiritual matters, represent a “dissenting” kind of poetics, characterized by a high degree of formal experimentation, a lack of coherence and cohesion, disturbing fragmentariness, syntactic ambiguity as well as an internally contradictory, elliptical and enigmatic expression. Malcolm and Görtschacher comment on their own attempts to render in English Soyfer’s “Matuska spricht” (Matuska Speaks), Aichinger’s “Wunsch” (Wish) and Jandl’s “lichtung” noting that while the task is certainly challenging, a degree of the poems’ dissenting nature can be nonetheless retained in the “Englished” versions.

Ewa Kujawska-Lis addresses the challenge of translating the experience of war in her essay entitled “Translating Vietnam”. The word translation refers here both to the efforts of war correspondents and soldier authors who in their works try to explain the conflict (and Vietnam itself) to the lay Americans, and to the attempts at rendering these accounts in other languages. Kujawska-Lis provides an analysis of the hermeneutic paratexts included in many of the discussed novels, and proceeds to outline what she calls the “linguistic line of resistance”, reinforced in the texts by the use of military slang, which on the one hand contributes to the sense of realism and reliability, but on the other, renders the stories less accessible to civilians. A deeply divisive conflict, the Vietnam War (known to some as the Resistance War against America or the American War, and labeled the first postmodern war in history) constitutes a particularly interesting case for linguistic, historical, translation and literary analysis also because of the language’s apparent inadequacy to “faithfully” transfer the “truth” or “reality” of the conflict.

←10 |

Reclaiming voices once silenced by various cultural, social and political circumstances and contexts are also a matter of approaches to human vulnerability. In her essay titled P.H.*reaks: The Hidden History of People with Disabilities, Edyta Lorek-Jezińska investigates the theater’s potential as a space where artists with disabilities can comment on the cultural, medical and political constructions of disability, and protest about the resulting mechanisms of exclusion, pathologization, humiliation and objectification. The title of the play, alluding to the tradition of “freak shows” and a discriminatory civil service categorization (“physically handicapped”) constitutes, according to Lorek-Jezińska, a gesture of “reclaiming the terms that could be seen as symbols of oppression, similarly to the ways in which the words cripple or crip have been claimed back”. Basing on a comprehensive reading of the play’s three parts, she proceeds to elucidate the stages of historical/discursive (in)visibility of people with disabilities, problematizes the origins and consequences of the onlooker’s stare and discusses the process of reclaiming the power by the disability right activists, accompanied by the crucial shift from “individual scattered invisibility” to “disruptive collective display” where vulnerability becomes mobilized for the purpose of political action.

Female voices of protest and dissent against the constraints of able-bodiness are analyzed in Justyna Dąbrowska’s interpretation of peeling and Woman of Flowers, two plays by Kaite O’Reilly. Following Robert McRuer’s argument outlined in Crip Theory, Dąbrowska points to the correspondence between the normative violence of ableism and heterosexuality, positioned as “superior identities” in the patriarchal systems which pathologize disability and homosexuality. The characters of both plays, Dąbrowska notes, not only refuse to be defined as inferior by the able-bodied standard, but also directly challenge the fear and the prying gaze of the spectators by refusing to feel embarrassed while they are stared upon. Giving voice to characters whose very bodies constitute a transgression, O’Reilly’s plays offer a chance to “broaden the scope of homo-sapiens possibilities” and posit “impairment” as an inevitable, not to say normal, fact of life.

In her essay entitled “Re-triangulating Triangles: Homoerotic Desire in Marilyn Hacker’s Sonnet Cycle Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons” Agnieszka Gotchold analyzes the ways in which Marilyn Hacker’s poems question the canonically triangular structure of desire imposed by the heteronormative societies and literary tradition. While Hacker’s volume consists of apparently traditional Petrarchan sonnets on love, loss and sorrow caused by the dissolution of a relationship, Gotchold notes that the poet thoroughly reworks the archetypal erotic triangle typical of courtly love, parodies and decanonizes the patrilineal Oedipal triangle and deconstructs the notion of a nuclear family (consisting of a ←11 | 12→father, mother a child) by offering all-female matrilineal triadic structures in an attempt “to restore a human being as a free subject in her choices.”

The politics and poetics of loudness, used by the queer activists as a form of protest against the silencing and misrepresentation of the “minority” voices during the AIDS epidemic, provides the context for Przemysław Uściński’s comprehensive readings of Diamanda Galás’s highly complex and intertextual work. If “Silence=Death”, as declared by the famous ACT UP slogan, Galás’s radical use of voice could be viewed as a powerful cry of and for all the lives deemed unworthy by the state authorities and the mainstream media and in the 1980s and early 1990s. While it may appear extreme and militant, Uściński concludes, Galás’s vision “remains one of the most serious, enduringly challenging, multi-faceted artistic works that explore the cultural, political and institutional causes and implications of the AIDS crisis.”

The theme of dissent and its varieties is investigated in Katarzyna Kukuła’s analysis of Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl, a 2016 rendering of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Intrigued by the regularities in the historical reappearances of literary classics Kukuła discusses the adaptation with the help of André Lefevere’s theory of rewriting as a form of adapting texts to the needs of certain ideologies and poetics. Kukuła comments on the changing perspectives of the eponymous “shrew” but also on the cultural, social and artistic systems sanctioning her portrayals. Kate’s refusal to be “tamed” translated to the modern context in Anne Tyler’s adaptation, but also the instances of her self-censorship and compliance certainly deserve a nuanced reading.

Meanwhile, Jacek Wiśniewski discusses protest and dissent in the poetry of John Clare, a British Romantic whose work was censored and suppressed by the contemporary editors, only to be rediscovered by later scholars. While his voice could not resound fully in the 19th century, rejected, among others, for its “radical slang” and country vernacular, that which remained of it and that which was restored seem to suggest that John Clare was indeed an outspoken political and social poet in the times of strong anti-revolutionary sentiment, enclosure and strict trespassing laws.

The last part of the volume gives examples of a few aspects of protest and dissent in American contexts. Jerzy Sobieraj explores the history of anti-lynching campaigns organized by the early NAACP providing an account of several atrocities which led to the waves of protest as well as the unsuccessful efforts to pass an anti-lynching legislation in the early decades of the 20th century. Sobieraj’s research uses data provided by The Crisis, a magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, as well as other contemporary ←12 | 13→publications, noting the role of the media in voicing dissent and its contribution to the anti-lynching action.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (February)
Literary translation Translating difference Normative violence Discursive practices Translation activism Discursive dominance
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 284 pp.

Biographical notes

Agnieszka Pantuchowicz (Volume editor) Anna Warso (Volume editor)

Agnieszka Pantuchowicz and Anna Warso are assistant professors at the Department of Anglophone Cultures, SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw, Poland, where they teach literature and translation.


Title: Protest and Dissent
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286 pages