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Retranslation as Symbolic Violence: Examples from Arabic Literature

Dr Abdel-Wahab Khalifa - Retranslation as Symbolic Violence: Examples from Arabic Literature

Retranslation as Symbolic Violence: Examples from Arabic Literature

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What prompts the translation of a text when one or more translations of it already exist? In this talk, I explore the motives for retranslation and define the phenomenon as an act of symbolic violence. Using paratextual examples from the translation of Arabic literature into English, I trace the symbolic struggle for distinction that characterises the work of translators, focusing on the dynamics of their conflict-ridden interactions and practices and how those contribute to constructing or unveiling symbolic violence. I argue that retranslation should not be perceived as a mere act of linguistic or stylistic improvement on an earlier translation but as a site of struggle and competition where differences between the translatorial agents are created and maintained.

Abdel-Wahab Khalifa is a Lecturer in Translation and Interpreting at Cardiff University. Prior to joining Cardiff, he lectured at other universities in Egypt, Austria and the UK. He has also been working as a professional translator and interpreter for over ten years. Khalifa is the editor of Translators Have Their Say? Translation and the Power of Agency and the co-editor of The Routledge Handbook of Arabic Translation. He is also the recipient of the 2019-2020 Alfred A. and Blanche W. Knopf Fellowship and a member of the Executive Board of the Association for Translation Studies in Africa. Khalifa is currently working on a monograph on the socio- cultural determinants of translating modern Arabic fiction into English.