Epistemic Translation: Towards an Ecology of Knowledges
The Epistran Project
Responding to a challenge raised by Douglas Robinson in the conclusion of his book Translationality (2017: 200-202), this transdisciplinary research project uses concepts, methods and theories from Translation Studies to investigate the semiotic processes (verbal and nonverbal) involved in the transfer of information between different ‘epistemic systems’. The main focus is on the relationship between technical ‘scientific’ knowledge (i.e. the kind of knowledge which purports to be objective, rational and universal) and the various embedded, embodied and subjective forms of knowledge that have served as its Others in different times and places. Starting from the assumption that these are different modes of discourse and thus susceptible to translational operations, the project seeks to investigate the mechanisms at work in three distinct areas:
Science and Humanities – how specialist science is reformulated into popular and educational science, or reworked into imaginative literature, audiovisual content or even works of art
Knowledges of the World – how forms of epistemic translation are/can be used to transmit scientific and medical knowledge to indigenous communities in the Global South, and, conversely, how indigenous knowledges from these regions are/can be translated into formats that are meaningful to the sophisticated North
The Invention of Science – the translational processes involved in the Early Modern transition to a scientific mode of inquiry
The research, which makes use of methods drawn from Descriptive Translation Studies, supplemented with considerations from recent work in the fields of multimodality, neuroscience and information technology, is conducted by a transdisciplinary team with a shared interest in translation.
EPISTRAN was launched in Spring 2023 and the first phase will continue until the end of 2024.
KEYWORDS: epistemic translation, ecology of knowledges, epistemicide, epistemologies of the South, ‘two cultures’, science and literature