How (Not) to Disappear in Translation
‘Interpreters are not used to speaking in their own name: it’s a professional tic.’
‘The interpreter disappears. Disappearing is just her expertise, her value.’
‘I am not here. I must be invisible. It allows me to keep a certain distance.’
As part of broader research on political and affective practices of translation, Virginie Bobin has been engaging in conversations with professional and volunteer interpreters working alongside people who have requested political asylum in France. In the framework of asylum rights, interpreters are exposed daily to stories of violence, which they are charged to render intelligible to the French administration. They operate at the intersection of two regimes of truth: the storyteller’s truth, which often ‘overflows the boundaries of patriarchal time and truth’ (Trinh T. Minh-ha); and the legal ears that evaluate her story according to specific criteria of credibility and evidence, in order to grant – or refuse – her access to a series of rights. Caught in between, interpreters are expected to maintain strict neutrality, i. e. to ‘disappear’, a verb often recurring in the conversations. In reaction to this impossible demand, some of them explain that they learned to consider their interventions as a performance, as role play. Yet, when interpreters speak in their own name, what rather seems to emerge is a ‘performance of witnessing’ (Amber Jamila Musser), which exposes the mechanisms of power at play in the State management of exile.
During two workshops, Virginie Bobin invites participants to experiment with various modalities of reading, voicing, listening, and scoring around a script composed of excerpts from her conversations with interpreters. The script emphasises different relational, ethical, and political aspects of what occurs when translation intervenes to mediate and complicate processes of storytelling, witnessing and listening within the codified space of the law. The workshops will attempt to craft a space for listening together in-between the lines – to what has been silenced, unsaid or untranslated. By testing different ways of interpreting the script, we will consider how an affected practice of translation may elicit a more caring attunement to ‘impossible stories’ (Saidiya Hartman) and refuse neutrality and disappearance.
is a PhD-in-practice candidate at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, and the co-founder of Qalqalah قلقلة She develops collaborative projects that take the forms of exhibitions, publications, workshops, seminars, texts, translations or ongoing conversations with artists, curators, researchers, performers, and art students. She is interested in a feminist approach to translation as a way of unlearning with others.
Workshop #1 workshop is open to professional and volunteer interpreters, as well as to persons who are active in the context of asylum rights in Vienna.
Workshop #2 is open to all.
The main language of the workshops will be English, although we will do our best to accommodate other languages and modalities of translation if necessary.