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Inaugural issue of the Journal for Translation Studies in Africa

Translating and Interpreting Development: The importance of language(s) in processes of social transformation in developing countries

Inaugural issue of the Journal for Translation Studies in Africa

Guest editor: Carmen Delgado Luchner (

The majority of the world’s population lives in what is commonly known as emerging or developing countries. Most of these countries are highly multilingual and present a wealth of institutionalised and informal translation and interpreting (T&I) practices. In numerous African countries in particular, many citizens have limited mastery of their country’s official language (Djité, 2008), and T&I can play an important developmental role by contributing to the emergence of shared representations and social forms (Mazrui, 2016). This role can only be understood by adopting a non-reductionist perspective, which takes into account the plurality of cultural, political and economic factors that influence how populations experience development (Marais, 2014) and how they embrace or resist the social changes brought about in its name (Rist, 2015; Olivier de Sardan, 1995).

Compared with industrialised market-economy countries, developing countries generally experience more acute limitations in skills and material and financial resources. These have implications for the practical implementation of multilingualism, the potential for professional T&I (Molefe and Marais, 2013; Marais, 2014) and the training of language professionals (Delgado Luchner, 2015). National governments, multilateral organisations and donors have been trying to address these limitations through a variety of national initiatives, as well as international aid.

Development practices in general and aid work in particular have in turn given rise to their own practices of translation, interpreting and cultural mediation, including monolingual practices involving the ‘translation’ of local reality into international ‘development speak’ (Cornwall and Eade, 2010). Non-governmental organisations (NGOs), in particular, have placed increasing emphasis on participatory development approaches, which rest on their ability to communicate successfully across the linguistic and cultural divide that often separates them from project beneficiaries. To implement participatory development projects, NGOs and local institutions often rely on intermediaries, i.e. “development brokers” (Bierschenk et al., 2002; Lewis and Mosse, 2006), whose role involves T&I in both its interlinguistic and intersemiotic senses.

The T&I practices of NGOs and other international organizations delivering aid have sparked some interest from translation studies scholars in recent years (Tesseur, 2014, 2017; Footitt, 2017; Delgado Luchner 2018; Delgado Luchner and Kherbiche, 2018) and have been the object of a special issue of Translation Spaces (Tesseur, 2018). However, there still remains scope for a wider theoretical engagement with development as a “discursive field” (Escobar, 1994) and social practice (Olivier de Sardan, 1995), and the role of T&I and multilingualism in development projects and more generally in developing societies remains understudied. As pointed out by Marais (2014: 143) in his seminal book, the relationship between translation and development “has been neglected by both translation studies and development studies, to the detriment of both”. This research gap might in part be the result of a eurocentric bias in many disciplines, including Translation Studies (Tymoczko, 2006), or a tendency to view development as an economic rather than a social phenomenon.

This special issue, with which the Journal for Translation Studies in Africa (JTSA) is launched, aims to establish an interdisciplinary dialogue between T&I studies and fields such as development anthropology, international relations and cultural studies. It addresses the nexus between T&I and development from complementary disciplinary angles and is open to theory, practice and pedagogy. While we place particular emphasis on African scholarship and research into development phenomena on the African continent, contributions from other regions are also encouraged.

Questions and themes for the special issue

Papers should seek aim to address the following over-arching questions:

  1. What role do T&I and other multilingual communication practices play in the social transformation that developing countries are experiencing?
  2. How do development contexts constrain these communication practices?
  3. What are the specific translation practices produced by development projects?
  4. What implications can be derived for translator and interpreter training in development contexts?

Relevant topics for the special issue include:

  • The role of translation and interpretation (T & I) in the emergence of social and cultural forms in development contexts
  • The use of T & I in the context of the development mandate of community organizations and community media
  • T & I in Public Health and other essential sectors in development contexts
  • The identity and positionality of language intermediaries in development projects and public institutions in the developing world
  • Translator and interpreter training for development contexts
  • Development-related constraints for the professionalization of T & I
  • The promotion of English or another dominant language through development aid

Instructions to contributors

Articles should be between 5000 and 7000 words and follow the guidelines on the JTSA website.

NB: Please send abstracts to

 Journal for Translation Studies in Africa

The Journal for Translation Studies in Africa is a project of the Association for Translation Studies in Africa and hosted and funded by the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein. For more information about the journal, you can visit its web page at or contact the editor, Kobus Marais, at


1 September 2018 – issue of the CfP

15 October 2018 – deadline for abstracts (500 words and preliminary list of references)

31 October 2018 – notification of acceptance of abstracts

15 January 2019 – deadline for full articles

15 March 2019 – peer review to authors

15 May 2019 – deadline for submission of revised articles, final checks by editors

15 June 2019 – submission of final articles to production

1 September 2019 – publication of the inaugural issue



Bierschenk, T., J.-P. Cauveau, and J.-P. Olivier de Sardan (2002). Local development brokers in Africa: The rise of a new social category. Arbeitspapiere. Institut für Ethnologie und Afrikastudien. Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz 13, 1–44.

Cornwall, A. and D. Eade (Eds.) (2010). Deconstructing Development Discourse. Buzzwords and Fuzzwords. Warwickshire, UK: Practical Action Publishing in association with Oxfam GB.

Delgado Luchner, C. (2015). Setting up a Master’s Programme in Conference Interpreting at the University of Nairobi: An Interdisciplinary Case Study of A Development Project Involving Universities and International Organisations, PhD thesis, Faculté de traduction et d’interprétation, University of Geneva.

Delgado Luchner, C. (2018), Contact Zones of the Aid Chain: the Multilingual Practices of Two Swiss Development NGOs. Translation Spaces 7(1), 44-64.

Delgado Luchner, C. and L. Kherbiche (2018). Without Fear or Favour? The Positionality of ICRC and UNHCR Interpreters in the Humanitarian Field. Target (online first), 1-22.

Djité, P. G. (2008). The Sociolinguistics of Development in Africa. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Escobar, A. (1994). Encountering Development. The Making and Unmaking of the Third World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Footitt, H. (2017). International aid and development: hearing multilingualism, learning from intercultural encounters in the history of OxfamGB. Language and Intercultural Communication 17(4), 518–533.

Lewis, D. and D. Mosse (2006). Development Brokers and Translators: The Ethnography of Aid and Agencies. West Hartfort, CT: Kumarian Press.

Marais, K. (2014). Translation Theory and Development Studies: A Complexity Theory Approach. London, UK: Routledge.

Mazrui, A. M. (2016). Cultural Politics of Translation: East Africa in a Global Context. London, UK: Routledge.

Molefe, M. and K. Marais (2013). The role of language practice in access to public service in South Africa: The case of Philippolis. In P. Cuvelier, T. du Plessis, M. Meeuwis, R. Vandekerckhove, and V. Webb (Eds.), Multilingualism for Empowerment, pp. 72–90. Pretoria, RSA: Van Schaik Publishers.

Olivier de Sardan, J.-P. (1995). Anthropologie et développement : essai en socio-anthropologie du changement social. Collection Hommes et sociétés. Paris, FR: Karthala.

Rist, G. (2015). Le développement: Histoire d’une croyance occidentale. 4e édition revue et augmentée. Paris, FR: Presses de Sciences Po.

Tesseur, W. (2014). Institutional multilingualism in NGOs: Amnesty International’s strategic understanding of multilingualism. Meta 59(3), 557–577.

Tesseur, W. (2017). The translation challenges of INGOs. professional and non-professional translation at Amnesty International. Translation Spaces 6(2), 209–229.

Tesseur, W. (Ed.) (2018), Translation and Interpreting in Non-Governmental Organisations. Special issue of Translation Spaces 7(1).

Tymoczko, M. (2006). Translating others, Chapter Reconceptualizing Western translation theory. Integrating non-Western thought about translation, pp. 13–32. Manchester, UK: St. Jerome.

Complexity thinking in translation studies: Methodological considerations

This new publication, edited by Kobus Marais and Reine Meylaerts, highlights a range of perspectives on the ways in which complexity thinking might be applied in translation studies.

The book introduces the topic with a brief overview of the history and conceptualization of complexity thinking. The volume then frames complexity theory through a variety of lenses, including translation and society, interpreting studies, and Bible translation, to feature case studies in which complexity thinking has successfully been or might be applied within translation studies. Using complexity thinking in translation studies as a jumping off point from which to consider the broader implications of implementing quantitative approaches in qualitative research in the humanities, this volume is key reading for graduate students and scholars in translation studies, cultural studies, semiotics, and development studies.

More information is available here.


Bursaries to attend IATIS Conference

IATIS is offering up to three bursaries to IATIS members from Bands 3 and 4 countries to attend the IATIS 2018 International Conference in Hong Kong, 3-6 July. The bursaries will cover registration fees, flights and accommodation for selected participants attending

Only scholars from Bands 3 and 4 countries whose conference paper abstracts (within or outside a thematic panel) have successfully passed the selection process will be entitled to apply for a bursary. IATIS membership must also be active at the time of applying.

Applicants must apply in writing to by 20 January 2018, and results will be announced by 3 February 2018. Please send a cover letter together with 1) the accepted abstract, 2) evidence of the abstract’s acceptance, 3) a brief bionote, 4) your institutional affiliation and address, 5) an up-to-date CV and a 6) statement of no more than 250 words describing how attending the conference will benefit your academic career and your institution.

Applications will be assessed by a sub-committee of the Executive Council, who will be looking for high quality applications from scholars in genuine need of financial assistance who will benefit significantly from attending the conference. Results will be communicated directly to all applicants and announced on the IATIS website.

Vacancy: University of Massachusetts at Amherst

The Program of Comparative Literature in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Massachusetts Amherst announces a search for a full-time, tenure-track position at the rank of Assistant Professor in Translation Studies, to begin September 1, 2018.

For further details about the position and application instructions please visit:

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer of women, minorities, protected veterans, and individuals with disabilities and encourages applications from these and other protected group members.

Registration now open for ATSA Conference 2018

Dear Colleagues

The ATSA Board is pleased to announce that registration for the 2018 ATSA Conference is now open. To register, please complete the registration form by clicking here.

More information is available in the conference section of the website (click here for a direct link).

Any questions regarding payments can be directed to ATSA Treasurer Prof Ilse Feinauer, and general inquiries can be sent to Ms Lelanie de Roubaix.

Second Call for Papers: ATSA Conference



25-26 MAY 2018



Translation and context: Perspectives on and from Africa

Call for papers

Current scholarship, whether in the humanities, social sciences or natural sciences, seems to agree that knowledge, or aspects thereof, is in some respect(s) relative to context, to a greater or lesser extent. With this as point of departure, one can argue that context, conceptualized as an environment determined by (a) particular time(s) and space(s), also plays a role in translation practices, translation products and translation processes, in short, in the type of phenomena with which translation studies scholars busy themselves. If one grants the relativizing influence of context, it means that a field like translation studies should spend a considerable part of its time on comparing the role of context in an effort to inform a global debate on translation.

As such, it seems reasonable to argue that Africa constitutes a relatively unique context and to spend some time considering the nature of the influence that Africa as a context has on translation and translation studies, in comparison to other contexts. Conversely, systems theory predicts that translation practices and the study of these practices will feed back into the systems in which it operates, i.e. the context. The ways in which contexts are co-constructed by practices and emerge out of these practices are thus relevant to translation studies.

To consider Africa as a context, one could conceptualize Africa from a number of perspectives. In translation studies, Paul Bandia has done so from a postcolonial perspective and Alamin Mazrui has done so from a political-culture perspective, to name only two. Work has also been done in descriptive translation studies on the African continent, and in some circles, linguistics studies on translation are also carried out. These perspectives, and others such as Bible translation and community interpreting, may not have been explored to their full potential and seem to allow for further research, which could be explored for this conference.

Another avenue for considering Africa as a context for translation studies would be to look for alternative conceptual perspectives from which to study translation. Recent work in conceptualising the relationship between translation and development would be one option. It also seems that many options exist for sociological approaches as not much has been written about translation in Africa from a sociological perspective. Furthermore, translation studies scholars have also not yet explored the economy, in particular the informal economy, as part of the contextual constraints. Tapping into the oral culture of Africa may open further avenues. Lastly, the teaching of translation and interpreting in Africa in response to the contextual constraints is an avenue that warrants exploration.

In light of the above, the Association for Translation Studies in Africa announces its second conference to be held at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa on 25 and 26 May 2018. We invite abstracts of between 300 and 350 words on research related to the various avenues or perspectives above. Topics related but not limited to the following will be considered:

  • Theoretical work on context and universalism in translation studies, including the implications of continentalism.
  • Conceptualisations of translation as influenced by Africa as context.
  • Empirical data on translation and interpreting practices in Africa.
  • Comparing data from Africa with data from other contexts.
  • Theorising the implications of data on African practices.
  • Considering and comparing Africa as a developmental context in translation.
  • Teaching translation and interpreting in the African context.
  • Exploring marginal practices in the African context, or comparing marginal practices across continents, for example practices in marginal languages, by marginal groups or in marginal contexts.


Abstracts should be e-mailed to before Monday, 7 August 2017, along with the title of the paper, name, affiliation and short biography of the speaker.

For more information on the conference, please visit


7 August 2017: Deadline for abstracts

1 September 2017: Accepted abstracts notified

1 October 2017 – 1 February 2018: Early-bird registration

2 February to 1 May 2018: Normal registration

25-26 May 2018: Conference

Call for chapters for planned publication on complexity thinking in Translation Studies

Complexity thinking has been challenging the reductionist, linear paradigm of Western scholarship since the late 1800s. Following chaos theory in the 1980s, current complexity thinking is growing in influence in the natural sciences as well as in social sciences and the humanities. Examples of the latter two categories are the work of Byrne and Callaghan in social sciences as well as the work of Morin, Wheeler, Queiroz and others in the humanities. One also finds numerous scholars who could be labelled complexity thinkers, but who do not necessarily use the terminology of complexity thinking. In translation studies, Marais made an effort to link translation studies and complexity thinking.

One of the many unfinished tasks of linking complexity thinking to translation studies is to consider the methodological implications of complexity thinking for translation studies.

Firstly, complexity thinking arose from within natural sciences, in particular from within mathematical and computational approaches to systems thinking. The philosophical and methodological implications of “adopting/adapting” quantitative approaches to qualitative research in the humanities are all but clear. It is not clear at all which of the quantitative approaches are adaptable, if any, and if they are to be adapted, how to do so.

Secondly, translation studies scholars need to consider the array of methodological options offered by complexity thinking and decide on the usefulness of these. For this reason, taking stock of existing methodologies from the perspective of complexity thinking seems to be an imperative.

With the above in mind, we invited two specialists in complexity thinking to introduce these topics at a two-day conference in Leuven, Belgium, in 2017, namely Joao Queiroz (University of Juiz de Fora, Brazil) and David Vampola (State University of New York, USA). In addition, we called for specialist papers that consider the methodological implications of complexity thinking in translation studies, including cultural translation, intersemiotic translation, sociological translation and translation and development.

Papers could be speculative and explore suitable methodologies for adopting complexity thinking to translation studies, or they could present case studies in which certain methodologies have been successfully applied from a complexity-thinking perspective.

We are now opening up the call for specialist papers from non-participants in the abovementioned conference with the view of publishing a collected volume with Routledge Press.

Abstracts can be sent to Reine Meylaerts ( and Kobus Marais (


Deadline for abstracts: 17 July 2017

Notification of acceptance of abstracts: 1 August 2017

Submission of chapters for review: 1 November 2017

Peer review: 1 November 2017 – 15 January 2018

Notification of accepted chapters: 15 January 2018

Reworking (if necessary): 15 January – 30 March 2018

Submission of reworked chapters: 1 April

Editing: 1 April – 10 July 2018

Submission of manuscript to publisher: 15 July 2018

Publication: Spring/Summer 2018

ATSA Conference Section Added to Website

A new section on the first official ATSA Conference, to be held 25 to 26 May 2018 in Stellenbosch, South Africa, has been added to the website. Pages containing important information has been added and will continue to be uploaded as new information becomes available. Click here to go to the ATSA Conference section of the webiste.

First ATSA Bulletin launched

The ATSA Board recently sent the first ATSA Bulletin to members.  The Bulletin will be used to communicate with members on a monthly basis. The Board will share information about ATSA-related events, but also news and items that we trust would be of interest to the ATSA community.

To view the bulletin, click here.