Co-constructing the Vredefort Dome?: The Implications of New Materialism for Epistemic Translation
If the creation of knowledge is itself a translation process, as the call for papers for this conference suggests, translation studies scholars need to be able to account for this process and for the translationality (Blumczynski, 2023; Robinson, 2017) that the process entails. In Kant and the platypus, Umberto Eco (1997) provides a fascinating description of the process through which the knowledge about the platypus was constructed by the first groups of Europeans to sail to Australia. Equally, Bruno Latour (1992) has written fascinating texts on the social work performed by mundane artefacts like doors. From a biosemiotic-philosophical perspective, John Deely (2009; 2014) suggests that knowledge is created through an entanglement between reality and organism. The entanglement theme is taken up by new materialists like Karen Barad (2007) to argue for the irreducibility of reality, observation and observer in the knowledge creation process. In translation studies, Robinson (2017) considers the role of the socio-neurology of the brain in the creation of knowledge and Bennett (2007; 2023) has done foundational work in setting out the parameters of ‘knowledge translation’ or epistemic translation.
In order to delve further into this issue, I start with a description of the history of knowledge creation about the Vredefort Dome, a meteorite impact site in South Africa, using a variety of sources from the field of geology (e.g., Reimold & Gibson, 2005). I then analyse this history from the perspective of knowledge translation, bringing the scholars mentioned above into a dialogue with one another. I pay particular attention to the implications of recent work in ‘new materialism’ with the aim of synthesising the views into something like a ‘constructive realism’ or, as John Deely calls it, a ‘semiotic realism’, which is able to account for the role material reality (including the brain) as well as ideation plays in in the translation process through which knowledge is created.
Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the universe halfway: Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. London: Duke University Press.
Bennett, K. (2007). Epistemicide!: The tale of a predatory discourse. The Translator, 13(2), 151-169. doi:10.1080/13556509.2007.10799236
Bennett, K. (2023). Approaches to knowledge translation. In R. Meylaerts, & K. Marais (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of translation theory and concepts (pp. 443-462). New York: Routledge.
Blumczynski, P. (2023). Experiencing translationality: Material and metaphorical journeys. London: Routledge.
Deely, J. (2009). Purely objective reality. Berlin: De Gruyter/Mouton.
Deely, J. (2014). Semiotic entanglement: The concepts of environment, Umwelt, and Lebenswelt in semiotic perspective. Semiotica, 199, 7-42.
Eco, U. (1997). Kant and the platypus: Essays on language and cognition. London: Harcourt Inc.
Latour, B. 1992. ‘Where are the missing masses?: The sociology of a few mundane artifacts’. In W Bijker and J Law (Eds.). Shaping technology (pp. 225-258). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Reimold, W. U., & Gibson, R. L. (2005). Meteorite impact!: The danger from space and South Africa's mega-impact: The Vredefort Structure. Pretoria: Chris van Rensburg Publications and Council for Geoscience.
Robinson, D. (2017). Translationality: Essays in the translational-medical humanities. London: Routledge.