TOWARDS AN ECOLOGY OF KNOWLEDGES
In the conclusion to his 2017 work Translationality, the translation scholar Douglas Robinson (2017:200-203) proposed to extend Jakobson’s (1959) famous tripartite division of translation with the introduction of a new category that he calls inter-epistemic translation. Defined as translation between different knowledge systems, it would focus on the transfer or transmission of knowledge between different ‘written genres (or semiotic worlds)’ in a process of narrative reframing ‘which is never a “cloning” of knowledge, of course, but always involves… “translationality”: adaptation, transformation’ (2017: 200). In the pages that followed, Robinson envisaged a whole series of different relations that could be studied under this rubric, ranging from the kinds of operations contemplated in translational medicine and the medical humanities, through the writing of popular science and representation of scientific issues in literary fiction to the study of how knowledges transform over time as epistemological paradigms wax and wane.
At the same time as Robinson was completing Translationality, the Portuguese sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos was refining his concept of ‘intercultural translation’ to describe a slightly different but related manoeuvre, namely the translation that could and does occur between ‘the knowledges or cultures of the global North (Eurocentric, Western-centric) and [those of] the global South, the east included’ (2018: 34). Developed most fully in his 2016 work Epistemologies of the South: Justice against Epistemicide (2016: 212-236), ‘intercultural translation’ is assumed as part of an ethical mission to undo the ‘epistemicide’ resulting from the hegemony of western science, by working towards the ‘ecologies of knowledge’ necessary to achieve ‘cognitive justice’ (2016: 188-211).
At the core of ecology of knowledges is the idea that different types of knowledge are incomplete in different ways and that raising the consciousness of such reciprocal incompleteness /…/ will be a precondition for achieving cognitive justice. Intercultural translation is the alternative both to the abstract universalism that grounds Western-centric general theories and to the idea of incommensurability between cultures” (Santos 2016: 213).
This interdisciplinary conference, organized within the ambit of the EPISTRAN project, draws on both of these proposals to investigate the semiotic processes (verbal and nonverbal) involved in the transfer of information between different ‘epistemic systems’. Its main focus are the transactions occurring between western science (the hegemonic knowledge of the globalized world, 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.
It will take place at the NOVA University of Lisbon (Avenida de Berna Campus) from 14th to 16th December and involves speakers from many different cultural and disciplinary backgrounds.
Jakobson, Roman (2000 ) ‘On linguistic aspects of translation’. In L. Venuti, ed. The Translation Studies Reader. London & New York: Routledge. 113-8
Robinson, Douglas (2017) Translationality: Essays in the Translational-Medical Humanities. London and New York: Routledge
Santos, Boaventura de Sousa (2016) Epistemologies of the South: Justice against Epistemicide. London and New York: Routledge
Santos, Boaventura de Sousa (2018) The End of the Cognitive Empire: The Coming of Age of Epistemologies of the South. Durham: Duke University Press