Did Anyone Say Power? Rethinking Domination and Hegemony in Translation location:Bangor, Wales (UK) date:5-6 September 2013
When Belgium appears in foreign media, the perspective very often is that of a country with linguistic quarrels. Election results are interpreted through the (sole) frame of nationalistic and language-related antagonisms, sometimes more than in Belgium itself: the Dutch-speaking Flanders against the French-speaking Wallonia. This lecture will start with a brief historical overview of the legal situation and show how language policy and linguistic power relationships have developed in the 20th century. It will also concentrate on the crucial position of translation in (every?) language policy.
Only few foreigners know that Belgium actually has three official languages. In the eastern part of the country exists a small German-speaking community. On the basis of the history and the paradoxical position of German (the major language in the European Union, the minor language in Belgium), this presentation will use the situation of German in Belgium to focus on linguistic power relationships (both in Europe and in Belgium). In particular it will relate these power relationships to translation policy. Despite the clear legal position of translation into German in Belgium, official translation policy and translation practice often look very different. This situation seems to be inextricably linked to the institutional situation of Belgium and based upon a strict bipolar thinking in national categories about translation.
Recently Michaela Wolf published a book on the language and translation policy in the Habsburg monarchy (Die vielsprachige Seele Kakaniens, 2012). Her sociological and partly postcolonial framework for approaching translation policy yields interesting concepts that may put the basic principles of Belgian translation policy into question or at least problematize them from a translation studies researcher’s point of view.