Circulation of Academic Thought

Rethinking Translation in the Academic Field

by Rafael Y. Schögler (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 216 Pages


Academic thought circulates on a time-space continuum: authors, ideas and methods are discovered, discussed, discarded, praised, rewritten, refracted, transformed, transposed and translated. The contributors of this anthology develop cross-disciplinary approaches to study and understand translation of academic thought. They critically engage with the relationship of translation and meaning formation, context and style, as well as with the social and discursive positioning of translators in academic fields and beyond. Furthermore, the agents negotiating intellectual exchange are placed in specific political and historical contexts as well as respective scholarly frameworks of economics, philosophy, sociology and related fields.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Preface and Acknowledgements
  • About the editor
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Circulation of Academic Thought: Rethinking Translation in the Academic Field
  • 1 Translation and the academic field
  • 2 Studying the translation of academic thought
  • 3 The structure
  • 3.1 Translation and the construction of meaning
  • 3.2 Positioning in knowledge circulation
  • 3.3 Agents negotiating intellectual exchange
  • 4 Creating transformations
  • References
  • Between Paradigms: A Critical Rhetorical Approach to the Study of Academic Translation
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Critical translation studies
  • 3 Bruno Bettelheim on the English translations of Freud
  • 4 Rhetorical Criticism applied to the study of translations
  • References
  • Style and Substance in Non-Literary Translation
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Literariness and translation
  • 3 Style and historical linguistics
  • 4 Translating a seventeenth-century Austrian tract into twenty-first century (British) English
  • 5 Conclusion
  • References
  • Diversity of Translational Data in Contemporary Social Knowledge-Making
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 What is natural/positive birth movement and why to focus on it?
  • 3 Data-collection and relevant frameworks and methods
  • 3.1 Professional vs. non-professional uses of source texts in NBM
  • 3.2 The power of the audio-visual
  • 3.3 The power of networks
  • 3.4 The power of storytelling
  • 4 Conclusion
  • References
  • Peritexts, Positioning and the Circulation of Academic Thought
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Translation perceived as a problem
  • 3 Peritexts in translation studies
  • 4 Positioning self and others in translation
  • 4.1 Positioning theory
  • 4.2 Positioning in translation studies
  • 5 Positioning translators in Luchterhand’s Soziologische Texte
  • 5.1 A corpus of translations
  • 5.2 (Self-)Positioning as experts, translators and scholars
  • 5.3 Types of effects
  • 6 Conclusion
  • 7 Appendix: List of translated works in Soziologische Texte
  • References
  • Paratexts as Patronage: The Case of John Desmond Bernal and The Social Function of Science in the GDR
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Paratexts as an instrument for controlling academic translations in the GDR
  • 3 The example of John Desmond Bernal and The social function of science (1939)
  • 4 The paratexts of Die soziale Funktion der Wissenschaft (1986)2
  • 5 Conclusion
  • References
  • Transfer and Transformation: Methodical Thoughts on ‘Translating’ as a Branch of Publishing
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 The presupposition of sense and contingency
  • 2.1 Naturalization as an effect of reception
  • 2.2 The editor as mediator, or: The author who does not write
  • 2.3 Black box or publishing archive: two competing narratives
  • 3 Receptive needs and accommodating currents
  • References
  • Norbert Elias’s Struggle to ‘Civilize’ Translators: On Elias’s Frustrations with Being Translated and Interpreted1
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Translation as epistemic practice: the case of Norbert Elias’s Über den Prozess der Zivilisation
  • 3 The impossibility of meeting Elias’s standards
  • 4 Translating Über den Prozess der Zivilisation
  • 5 What it takes to translate Elias
  • References
  • Arendt in Translation: A Comparative Study between Germany and Italy1
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Why Arendt? Translation and reception of a major thinker
  • 3 Italy and Germany: Two different ways of canonization
  • 4 Concluding remarks
  • References
  • List of Contributors
  • Subject Index
  • Name Index

Rafael Y. Schögler

Circulation of Academic Thought: Rethinking Translation in the Academic Field

Academic thought circulates on a space-time continuum. Authors, ideas and methods are discovered, discussed, discarded, displaced, excoriated, forgotten, praised, rewritten, refracted, reinterpreted, reinvented, transformed, transposed and translated. Translation takes a particular position in this list. First, translation always transgresses linguistic boundaries. Second, and this stands in stark contrast to other forms of rewriting, translations, although a mediated intervention, sometimes create the impression of being an “original” with all its consequences. Third, translations are a sign of social appreciation: The temporal and financial expenses of translating imply an approval for the translated author, while the translated author’s repute might in turn reflect on the editors, publishers and eventually translators. Most pertinently and most specific of the translation of knowledge, translations are a mediated space where epistemic authority is negotiated and the situative and contextual attribution of meaning and authorship allocated.

Translation can be studied from a plethora of perspectives. Not least can this be seen in the history of translation studies, which is often narrated along the lines of paradigmatic turns (Snell-Hornby 2006; Leppihalme 2008) that have (more or less) radically shifted the attention of the discipline towards new theories, methods and translatorial issues. In very general terms, one might state that the interdiscipline (Prunč 2005; Snell-Hornby/Kaindl/Pöchhacker 1994) of translation studies is interested as much in the products/translations as it is in the social practice of translating (Wolf/Fukari 2007; Wolf 2010) or the agents carrying out these practices (Chesterman 2009; Pym 2009). Translation studies’ turns towards and away from different disciplines, theoretical frameworks and levels of explanation led to a diversification of topics on the one hand and the development of a large set of methodological perspectives on the other. In the late 1990s, a first wave of handbooks dealing with theoretical and thematic foci of translation studies was produced (Shuttleworth/Cowie 1997; Baker 1998; Snell-Hornby 1998) that completed the establishment of translation studies as a discipline drawing on a common theoretical and thematic ground (Prunč 2008: 5). Currently, we can observe another wave of disciplinary institutionalization that is the result of methodological diversification and maybe saturation, ←9 | 10→which culminates in the publication of a series of handbooks dealing with methods in translation studies. Following the role model of other disciplines, these publications develop guidelines for data gathering and data analysis that are widely inscribed in an empirical tradition already dominant in the social sciences and partly so in the humanities. These publications are explicitly directed towards the study of translation and can be general (Angelelli and Baer 2016; Laviosa et al. 2017) or focused on quantitative methods (Mellinger and Hanson 2017), corpus-based studies (Corpas Pastor and Seghiri 2016) or the study of specific fields such as audio-visual translation (Pérez González 2014), interpreting (Hale and Napier 2014) or sign-language interpreting (Orfanidou, Woll, and Morgan 2015).

Translation studies is by now a well-established discipline. Nonetheless, topics such as translation of academic thought obtain little attention and thus gathering diverging approaches to study this phenomenon seems a valuable undertaking. The anthology sets out to explore different vantagepoints for studying the translation of academic thought by bringing together authors from several disciplines. In their form, the presentation of vantagepoints are neither meta-theoretical tracts nor discussions of technicalities of data gathering and data analysis. Rather, the contributions implicitly and explicitly put forth different understandings of how translation of academic thought can be studied and where translatorial transformation can or could be observed in this particular field. The translatorial transformations uncovered in this process are by far not restricted to changes in the words altered when translating from one language to another. More particularly, the approaches presented here discuss translatorial transformation that relate to the relationship of meaning, context and style, or that affect the agents and their position in the academic field, as well as the linguistic, geographic and cultural contextual frameworks in and outside of which translation of academic thought takes place.

1 Translation and the academic field

The four characteristics of translation laid out at the beginning of this introduction might be valid for almost any translatorial practice. Accordingly, they also shape our understanding of translation and the circulation of academic thought in very specific ways. While the academic world has many mechanisms that lead to favour the national circulation of ideas and the reproduction of academic elites (see Bourdieu 2002), academia is a social space often described as a transnational (Bielsa 2005; Heilbron/Guilhot/Jeanpierre 2008; Hönig 2017), cosmopolitan (Beck/Sznaider 2006) or global field (Keim/Çelik/Ersche/Wöhrer ←10 | 11→2014). In any of these conceptions, transgressing linguistic boundaries is seen as inherent to the functioning of the academic field and the circulation of academic knowledge. The means of circulation are, however, not restricted to translation and reach from contributions written in a lingua franca to the circulation of ideas forced upon a social space through colonial power structures. It is fair to state that the transnational character of academia and academic knowledge circulation coincides with mechanisms of social and symbolic recognition (see for example Sapiro/Bustamante 2009). Put simply, academic thought and its thinkers obtain legitimacy through recognition by peers. The wider this recognition, the higher the symbolic capital of those who earn such recognition for their knowledge-making. Especially in interpretative currents of the social sciences and humanities – but also in other fields including the sciences – knowledge-making cannot be reduced to an empiricist exercise of gathering and analyzing countable or categorizable elements of our reality. Rather, the forms of theoretical and empirical knowledge that are deemed acceptable and those forms of knowledge that ought to earn recognition are continuously negotiated between those in possession of and those on a quest for (more) epistemic authority. In this anthology, the practice of translation of academic thought is understood within this frame. It indicates the specificity – and at the same time the unspecificity – of translation taking place in this social realm. This frame also explains the particular interest in questions dealing with the relationship of translation and meaning, translation and the attribution of meaning, its (re)interpretation, positioning and transformation.

The statement that translations can create the impression of being an original has severe implications on the theoretical modelling and practical observation of the relationship between the translator and the source text author of academic texts. It implies that in such cases, epistemic authority and social recognition are solely claimed by the author of the target text, although in fact the translators were those interpreting, transforming and (re)creating the target text. Such a “pseudo-original” (Pym 1998/2014: 60) can take two forms: either a text is actually presented as being an original without providing any paratextual details that hint at its relationship to another text; or it can simply be received as an original and stripped from its status as translation. In the latter case, the effects of a translation in terms of social and symbolic recognition (or criticism) are presented as though they were referring to the source text and its author. Nonetheless, the agents creating the translations are the translators who necessarily exercise epistemic power by selecting, transforming and sometimes contextualizing a target text. The translator thus always participates in knowledge-making although she or he (or they) might not receive social and/or symbolic recognition for doing ←11 | 12→so (see Schögler 2017, 2018). The implications for theoretical and empirical approaches to translation of academic knowledge are twofold. First, it puts the focus on questions of recognition: who receives recognition for doing what and in which form? What is the translatorial practice recognized for and by whom? Is it the practice of translating that provides agents social recognition? Does this take place in a translatorial field (for the difficult definition of such a field in a Bourdieusian sense, see Wolf 2007), by the translation studies scholar or the historian of ideas? The second implication that we can draw from this digression into the status of translation and original draws on the apparent negotiability of translation and original, or to put it into the language of the academic field, of reproduction and production of knowledge. The permeability between translation and original is not solely a question of social construction and recognition. It should rather be understood as a multi-layered relationship that is – or at least can be – negotiated on many levels. Starting with stylistic questions, to those dealing with concepts, rhetoric, discourses or, on a very different level, organizations and institutions.

This anthology’s title, “Rethinking Translation in the Academic Field”, creates diffuse expectations. In fact, it aims to transport two modest messages connected to the introductory statements made above. First, translation in the academic field remains a topic placed at the fringe of translation studies. It has always had a presence in the disciplinary discourse, while simultaneously remaining underexplored in contrast to fields of translatorial practice such as literary or – to a lesser extent – technical translation. In that sense, rethinking alludes to the necessity to sharpen our thinking concerning the translation of academic thought regarding established strands of thought in translation studies. Second, historians and sociologists of (social scientific) knowledge, literary scholars and practicing translators have been and are reflecting, researching and writing about translation in these fields (see below). Consequently, rethinking indicates the ambition of the anthology to contribute to an interdisciplinary conversation concerning approaches to studying translation of academic thought. Interdisciplinary approaches often attempt to opt for the biggest common denominator to increase the mutual learning experience. Where this common denominator lies, however, is difficult to define. From every specialist’s point of view there are missing elements such as references, contextualization, critique of certain narratives or even technicalities in methodology. This is certainly also the case here, where a historian of knowledge might find the analysis of Simmel-paratexts shallow, or the translation studies scholar the references to established discourses within the field missing in other contributions. It remains open for debate whether ←12 | 13→these are shortcomings that should solely be seen as such, or whether these might prepare the ground for a fruitful interdisciplinary exchange. After all, these irritations may lead agents from the “other” discipline(s) to comment, complement or reinterpret a case, a method or an approach.

2 Studying the translation of academic thought

Recently, efforts to coordinate and institutionalize research dealing with “translating science” were made within the field of translation studies (Olohan 2009, 2017; Olohan/Salama-Carr 2011b; Vandaele and Boulanger 2016; Baker 2018). Such endeavours are necessarily interdisciplinary and seek to gather approaches that complement each other in their understandings of translation. The concerted discussion of translatorial questions related to the circulation of academic thought for most part remains restricted to the fields of science and technology. This trend is further reflected in the production of dedicated handbooks with an explicit focus on these fields of knowledge (Pinchuck 1977; Wright and Wright 1993; Olohan 2015). Furthermore, specific subparts of the wide field relating to language for a specific purpose (Busch-Lauer 2012; Vandaele 2015; Ehlich 2016) were developed that engage with terminological questions relating to translation in science and technology. However, translation studies’ engagement with scientific translation is not restricted to offering manuals or providing technical solutions for technical problems. Rather, focusing on this specific subfield of academia has led to an exchange of ideas between disciplines and people interested in explaining the manifold forms and faces translation can take in the sciences. For example, sociologically inspired approaches helped to disclose social and historical contexts that shape and are shaped by scientific translation (Olohan and Salama-Carr 2011a: 181). Further, especially within the history of science, narratives dealing with the translation of science link translation to questions relating to the historical development of scientific terminology in specific languages, or the use of different languages as lingua franca over time (Montgomery 2000; Gordin 2015; ISIS 2018). More recently, there is even a discussion of translation as scientific practice (Dietz 2016).

In comparison to the study of translation in science (and technology), the study of translatorial practices and translations in fields that are commonly referred to as the social sciences and humanities is considerably more dispersed (see for example Schögler 2016). Notable exceptions and recurrent topics are works dealing with translation and philosophy, as well as in the more general theme of translation of concepts; the latter entailing or at least leading to discussions of the relationship of translation and knowledge-making.

←13 | 14→

Translation has received considerable attention in connection with philosophy and philosophical thinking. On the one hand, as an object of reflection (for example: Benjamin 1923/1963; Derrida 2001), and on the other as an object of study (Venuti 2003; Arrojo 2010; Foran 2012; Lapidot 2012; Uribarri Zenekorta 2008). The interest in translation and philosophy seems to be widely associated with the interrelatedness of language and philosophical thought (Arrojo 2010: 247–9), or more specifically the assumptions made concerning the relationship of the signified and the signifier, the sign and the thing that ultimately shapes our very understanding(s) of translation. This philosophical debate – often discussed in reference to thinkers such as Derrida or Ricœur – touches upon questions of translatability and untranslatability and by doing so implicitly deals with the demarcation of the Self and the Other (Foran 2012).

Translating concepts of social and political thought is another topic that has received some attention by individual scholars (such as Wallerstein 1996) as well as (limited) interdisciplinary attention. Martin Burke and Melvin Richter (2012) are a notable exception when they bring together differing perspectives in Translation of Social and Political Thought. Their focus lies on connecting the history of social and political thought with the field of translation studies (Richter 2012: 1–2) to discuss the theory and practice of translation in these fields. This effort deserves great appreciation, which is reflected in this anthology by contributions taking up discussions from their volume (Tribe, Kemper, Link). Nonetheless, the disentanglement between disciplines interested in the functioning or development of the social sciences and humanities and disciplines interested in translation per se remains high. As Munday (2012) and Pym (2012) assert in Burke and Richter’s anthology, the often implicit or even explicit prescriptive statements made by some historians of ideas (and other disciplinary historians) when discussing translation(s) could be exchanged with, or complemented by other models of translation, translation criticism or descriptive translation studies that were developed in translation studies. On the other hand, translation studies scholars often struggle with historical methods, as well as the knowledge they need to acquire for in-depth interpretations of the effects of translations on academic discourses or historical shifts in meaning when dealing with the translation of concepts. Also, the broader institutional histories and epistemological frameworks that define disciplines, schools of thought or thought collectives are not part of their usual repertoire. Although the “translation scholar” might not have an intrinsic interest in explaining social science knowledge-making, s/he might nevertheless be interested in developing theories and models that explain the specificities of translation in these fields.

←14 | 15→

Probably the most distinctive specificity of translation of academic thought lies in its potential to form and transform knowledge. The imaginary of translation as a rewriting (Lefevere 1992), a refraction of the source text, helps to allude to the translator’s agency, which provides the power to transform knowledge when taken from one context or situation to the next. These transformations can take place over time, space and language, and affect the presentation of knowledge as much as the content of ideas. The presentation of knowledge includes but is not restricted to repositioning or reframing a source text author, work or idea into a new intellectual environment. In the course of that, the publishing house, editorial support, title and even layout of the front cover and other peritextual framings of a translated book will necessarily influence the reading of the target text. The content of ideas is what historians of ideas are most interested in. They try to track the transformations of concepts taking place in translation (see Wallerstein 1981; Lukes 2012; Palonen 2012) and often call for a translatorial practice that aims at reconstructing the “original” sense, connotations and intertextual links of these ideas (Ghosh calls this “translation as a conceptual act”; see Ghosh 2001). An indirect result of these narratives, and at the same time one of the most impressive works dealing with the translation of philosophical concepts over time, space and linguistic boundaries is the Dictionnaire des Intraduisibles (Cassin 2004; Cassin/Apter/Lezra/Wood 2014), where the manifold dimensions of translation of academic thought become visible in every entry, where the bifurcations of meaning-formation advocated by different agents, schools or disciplines are explained for individual philosophical terms.

Separating the presentation from the ideas themselves, however, seems ill-fated not last seen from the perspective of the so-called “new sociology of ideas” (Camic, Gross, and Lamont 2011). This approach challenges the distinction traditionally sustained “between the content of ideas, their ‘internal’ substance, and the social and therefore ‘external’ factors that condition this content” (Camic and Gross 2004: 238). In other words, this approach to knowledge-making argues that the context in which an idea has been developed, interpreted or reinterpreted is inseparable from the idea itself. Translation, then, is an act of creative transformation that entails the (re)interpretation of knowledge in new contextual realms and in that way turns into a practice of knowledge-making itself (see Schögler 2018); even if the recognition for knowledge-making is not necessarily attributed to the translator.

In this anthology, academic thought may entail knowledge issued from the fields of the sciences as well as the social sciences and humanities. Although most contributions in this anthology draw their empirical material from cases that are part of the social sciences and humanities, which offers a counterbalance ←15 | 16→to existing literature on translation in academia, others have no explicit disciplinary focus. More importantly, this anthology can be read as a continuation of recent efforts to combine different fields that deal with translation and to carve out the transformative powers of translation in the circulation of academic thought.

3 The structure

The contributions are organized in three sections, which remain intrinsically connected to each other. The first three contributions offer approaches that deal with translation and the construction of meaning. They challenge established assumptions relating to shifts in style and meaning as well as the social spaces deemed relevant for the study of translation of academic thought. The second set of papers focuses on positioning in knowledge circulation and makes use of paratexts as spaces where translators and translations position themselves and are positioned in the academic field and beyond. Paratexts represent the link between the text, the field and the social spaces a translation operates in, thus leading to questions of ideology and power. The approaches in the third section turn towards the agents negotiating intellectual exchange. The term “intellectual” indicates the breadth of the argument and the variety of agents which require our attention. Specifically, the relationship of publishers, authors, translators and their (potential) readers, or fields of reception, will be discussed. The contributions present different approaches that can help us understand the means of production and reception of translations of academic thought as well as how these are connected.

3.1 Translation and the construction of meaning

Language is the material used by translators to work, create and participate in the construction of meaning. The kind and order of words used, the reading and interpretation as well as the spaces of presentation and dissemination are all part of translatorial practice and the construction of meaning. Karen Bennett, Keith Tribe and Şebnem Susam-Saraeva choose very different avenues to tackle the relationship of translation and transnational meaning-formation.

Karen Bennett argues that the hegemonic position of English academic discourse and the dominant empiricist paradigm that flows from it defines acceptable worldviews – in other words, the limits of epistemic freedoms – in a globalized academic sphere. She emphasizes that this is particularly true for the social sciences and humanities, where the paradigmatic approaches developed in different languages and thought cultures are not necessarily compatible with ←16 | 17→the empiricist paradigm that prevails in the lingua franca English. Within this ideological context, she suggests a critical rhetorical approach to the study of translation of academic thought as it becomes necessary “to problematize the very vehicle through which knowledge is construed and transmitted” (Bennett, in this volume). More specifically, she recurs to rhetorical criticism as a method of textual analysis that can be broadly applied to different forms of academic output and which allows for a focus on unconscious assumptions that are transported in a text and thus transformed through translation. Interpreting individual instances by emphasising the emotive, ethical and aesthetic aspects of translatorial transformation puts the focus on unconscious assumptions, which stands in stark contrast to descriptive approaches of translation studies that primarily deal with the conscious and visible elements of translation.

Keith Tribe turns the attention towards aspects of style, the historical transformation of expectations related to stylistic choices in the field of economics and how the translation (or non-translation) of style influences the production of meaning. His approach is nurtured by his work as a translator on the one hand, and as an economic historian on the other. The discussion of stylistic variants and the effects stylistic choices may have on the perception, visibility and “success” of a translation in the academic field draws on seventeenth-century and “archaic” economic language and its translation for modern use. Albeit not explicitly discussing methodological choices, the methodological consequences of Tribe’s essay are lucid: for one, it shows that the study of translation of academic thought cannot concentrate simply on terminological choices or the recontextualization of a text in a new discursive environment, but has to gain an understanding of the stylistic habits of an author, time-period or specific field to understand shifts on these levels. Second, it shows that this understanding is necessary on the one hand for setting up translation strategies, and on the other hand it refers to questions relating to the units being transformed through translation. The contributor reflects on the transformation of stylistic elements of language and manipulations taking place under the constraints of temporal progression. Also, an implicitly functional approach to translation is discussed when addressing the translator’s interest in transforming a text according to the imagined usages a text will have, as well as the pre- or self-defined effects a text should have in the target context. Tribe thus shows that deciding on the stylistic arrangement contributes to the epistemological setup of an argument and thus its transformation. The adaptation of a text in the service of “clarity” may well reflect a transformation in the service of predominant epistemic traditions and is thus not only a superficial decision (on epistemicide see Bennett 2007).


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (February)
Translation Studies Sociology of Translation Translating Social Sciences Translating Humanities Agents of Translation Knowledge Circulation
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 216 pp., 7 tables

Biographical notes

Rafael Y. Schögler (Volume editor)

Rafael Y. Schögler works in the field of translation studies at the University of Graz. His research interests include sociology of translation, translation theory and translation in the social sciences and humanities.


Title: Circulation of Academic Thought