Diaspora as translation
in Diaspora as translation and decolonisation
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This chapter uses the insights of translation studies and advances a variety of useful conceptual tools and heuristic devices for investigating diaspora. It discusses why diaspora should be conceptualised as translation, demonstrating that translation is a useful metaphor for understanding the movement and struggles of diasporas, and for explaining the asymmetry, frictions, retelling and relationships inherent in diasporic dialogues. More importantly, as the chapter shows, the field of translation studies provides much insight, from which we can learn, enabling us to apply and extend our understandings in diaspora studies.

Just as those whose native language is not English constantly translate themselves, diasporic groups have to translate their identity struggles and battles in order to communicate, interact and be accepted. Such translations of identities, cultures and battles brought from home can be conducted via different strategies – for example, diasporas can foreignise or domesticate, erase and rewrite. The chapter unpacks the lure of translation for diaspora, and introduces concepts such as ‘diaspora as rewriting and transformation’, ‘diaspora as erasure and exclusion’ and ‘diaspora as a tension between foreignisation and domestication’. It argues that diaspora should not be seen as a halfway house, employing the often-used and tired metaphors and imagery of diaspora as being stuck between the home and the host. It should instead be conceived of as comprising agents who translate, speak back and challenge the world-views in the Global North and the home left-behind.


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