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South-South Translation and Global Cultural Circuits Beyond the West

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Organizer: Michael Gibbs Hill

Co-Organizer: Lanie Millar

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We seek papers that use creative combinations of texts, languages, and scholarly competencies to examine South-South and South-East translation and appropriation from the nineteenth through twenty-first centuries. For example: the organizers are currently working on the circulation of African and Latin American literature in Portuguese and Spanish, and translation and intersections between Chinese and Arabic, respectively.

The seminar will grapple with how the humanities—particularly those fields that overlap with so-called area studies—still struggle to respond to the consequences of globalization both inside and outside of the university. Critiques of area studies have shown that, even as area studies fields bring the histories of places outside of Europe and North America into focus, they inevitably perpetuate a model of “the West and the Rest” in which those areas can become visible only in their relation to the metropolitan West (Sakai 2009 and 1997). Likewise, despite the promise of the study of world literature to move past the biases of a comparative literature based on European languages, the focus on works with unusual ability to circulate and be rendered in translation ensures that writings in English and French continue to serve as the most common objects of scholarly discussion (Apter 2013; Spivak 2013). Although scholars have recognized the shortcomings of scholarly work that accepts English and French as the dominant languages of global literature and critical writing (Mufti 2016; Spivak 2003), we are still left with the simple, stubborn question of how to move from critique to practice. Theorists of Global South studies have begun to identify the new perspectives that become visible when we consider cultural circuits that bypass imperial and colonial centers (López 2007; Mahler 2018; Sousa Santos 2009). We believe that linguistically rigorous projects that cross these boundaries in novel ways can open up new possibilities for inquiry in comparative literature, world literature, and international cultural history, and we hope the seminar will make steps in that direction.

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