Polture and Culitics

On political prospects of cultural translation

Lecture by Boris Buden: Translation: The Mother Tongue of a Future Society?
12 October 2006, 18.30
Maison de l'Europe de Paris

35, rue des Francs-Bourgeois  F-75004 Paris
(in co-operation with Transeuropéennes and Collège international de philosophie,
Séminaire 'Traduire entre les cultures', Ghislaine Glasson Deschaumes)


12-14 October 2006
(in partnership with Transeuropéennes, in cooperation with la maison de l'Europe, Paris)

The reason why we are so fascinated by the idea of cultural translation is obvious: it offers a new vision of cultural identification which promises to escape the notorious ‘clash of cultures’. Within the paradigm of liberal multiculturalism, cultural translation is believed to improve all sorts of cultural interactions and to soften the traumatic encounter between cultural differences. Understood as synonymous with an open-minded dialogue between cultures, it is supposed to secure their peaceful cohabitation and , in the end, to reconcile cultural particularism with the political universalism of contemporary democratic order. In challenging the multiculturalist belief in the originality of cultural identities, postcolonial theory has used the notion of translation to conceptualize a new space of cultural hybridity – a synonym for cultural translation – beyond the binary logic of cultural exchange, hoping to subvert the very ground for conflict between cultures. The problem with both concepts is that they retroactively recognize cultural differences as the main cause of today’s social and political conflicts. It is therefore doubtful whether these concepts can actually help in situations like the cartoon debate or the French banlieue riots. Did the youth of French suburbia really get violent because of its lack of cultural competence? Do Muslims around the World really feel offended by the Danish caricatures because they are badly informed about the hybrid character of their own culture as well as of the culture of their alleged offenders? Finally, should we really accept today’s all-embracing realm of culture as the ultimate horizon of our political mind?
Instead of mistaking the idea of cultural translation for the solution of today’s political problems too quickly, we should rather understand it as the problem in itself and ask ourselves about the hidden political motivations and historical genealogy of the concept. It is this concept of cultural translation itself which is today in desperate need of its translation into the political.

Kien Nghi Ha, Berlin: Crossing the Border? Hybridity as Late-Capitalistic Logic of Cultural Translation and National Modernisation
Rada Ivekovic, Stockholm: The General Desemantisation. Global Language and Hegemony
Suzana Milevska, Skopje: Not Quite Bare Life: Ruins of Representation
Yann Moulier Boutang, Paris: Cultegration and Bordoom : New Frontiers of Democracy in the EU
Anne Querrien, Paris Moving, caring, creating, through translation in France
Simon Sheikh, Copenhagen: A War of Words: A Review of Muhammadgate
Françoise Vergès: The future of slavery in France

Hito Steyerl, Berlin
Stefan Nowotny, Wien

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