Epistran International Conference

Keynote Speakers


Douglas Robinson is currently Professor of Translating and Interpreting at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Emeritus Professor of Translation, Interpreting, and Intercultural Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University. He has written widely on many aspects of translation, with a particular interest in the bodily experienced (somatic) and outwardly staged performative) dimensions of human communication, and the influence of religion upon western translation theory and cultural history more generally. His most relevant works include: Translationality: Essays in the Translational-Medical Humanities (London and New York: Routledge, 2017); ‘Rhythm as knowledge-translation, knowledge as rhythm-translation’ (Global Media Journal - Canadian Edition 5, no. 1, 2012: 75–94); The Translator’s Turn (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991); Translation and Taboo (DeKalb, Ill: Northern Illinois University Press, 1996). 

What is interepistemic translation?

This paper begins with the story behind the suggestion that in addition to intralingual, interlingual, and intersemiotic translation we might need interepistemic translation: how I was standing in line for the Lion King show with my young daughter at Hong Kong Disneyland trying to figure out how to justify joining an essay on the Capgras delusion in Richard Powers’ novel The Echo-Maker and an essay on the history of medical literature from Galen to Rhazes to Vesalius to Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy to Rabelais to Sir Thomas Urquhart’s translation of Rabelais (continued by Peter le Motteux and John Ozell) to Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy to Manuel Portela’s Portuguese translation of Sterne. and an essay on a social-neuroscience-of-empathy approach to the feeling-based hermeneutics of the German Romantics from Herder through Schleiermacher to Dilthey. I thought of the medical humanities, first, as a rubric for the discussion of Capgras; then considered translational medicine as the translation of clinical research into patient care; then began to track phenomenological pathways through translation, medicine, and the humanities. Medical humanities conjoins medicine and the humanities; translational medicine conjoins translation and medicine; why not consider the literary history of medicine and the novel as the translational medicine of the humanities (TMH)? Why not consider the social neuroscience of empathy in the history of hermeneutics as the medical humanities of translation (MHT)? And why not explore dramatic and literary portrayals of the human experience of being sick and dying, of patient care that cures and patient care that palliates dying, as the humanities of translational medicine (HTM)? The result was Translationality: Essays in the Translational-Medical Humanities (Robinson 2017) and the exploratory theorization of interepistemic translation.

After this story, I track several other monographs that have begun as what I have tended to trope as “driving a square peg into a round hole”—forcibly joining disciplines that don’t seem to fit as the main engine powering my research—with a focus on recent work on experimental translation: 


Kobus Marais is Professor of Translation Studies at University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. He has been particularly instrumental in promoting the expansion of the concept of translation beyond the merely verbal, with a focus on biosemiotics and complexity thinking. His most relevant works include  Trajectories of Translation: The Thermodynamics of Semiosis (forthcoming, June 2023); Translation beyond Translation Studies (London: Bloomsbury, 2022); A (Bio)Semiotic Theory of Translation: The Emergency of Social-Cultural Reality (New York and London: Routledge, 2019); Complexity Thinking in Translation Studies: Methodological Considerations (with Reine Meylaerts, New York: Routledge, 2019); Translation Theory and Development Studies: A Complexity Theory Approach (New York: Routledge, 2014). 

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.


Mª Carmen África Vidal Claramonte is Professor of Translation at the University of Salamanca, Spain. She has written extensively on the expansion of the concept of translation to include art, music and historiography, amongst other things. Her recent publications include Translation and Contemporary Art: Transdisciplinary Encounters (London and New York: Routledge, 2022); La traducción y la(s) historia(s): nuevas vías para la investigación (Granada: Comares, 2018); “Dile que le he escrito un blues”: del texto como partitura a la partitura como traducción en la literatura latinoamericana (Frankfurt: Veurvert Iberoamericana, 2017); La traducción y los espacios (Granada: Comares, 2012); Traducción y asimetría (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2010). 

Ethnotranslation: Rewriting Knowledge from/with Indigenous Epistemologies 

My talk pertains to "Strand 2. Knowledges of the World" of the EPISTRAN project. Taking don Juan as my guiding shaman, I will first explore the differences between indigenous epistemology and forms of knowledge in the West. With don Juan, I will reflect on the four enemies one has to overcome to become “a man of knowledge”. I will also include the epistemology of another shaman, Davi Kopenawa and his translator (?) (Kopenawa and Albert 2013: 444-455), Bruce Albert. Don Juan will show us that indigenous knowledges possess an epistemology that is completely different from the epistemology of the West. Western knowledge is based on the distinction between human and non-human and has rejected magic and all that is non-intellectual, such as the body, emotions, as well as the indigenous enhancement with hallucinogens and plants, Mescalito and humito, as a potential way of creating knowledge. In contrast, indigenous peoples propose the shaman (Castaneda 1968) as the healer. The shaman is the ‘scientist’ who expands knowledge by relating the human community to the non-human animate environment (Abram 1997). All bodies participate in the entanglement (Omura et al. 2019) and interaction with their surroundings. This interaction gives rise to an indigenous epistemology that eschews Western epistemicide (Santos 2016) and makes possible a “pluriverse” (De la Cadena and Blaser 2018: 4).

New modes of communication arise from this indigenous epistemology. Instead of transmitting meanings through words, communication happens through human and non-human bodies (De la Cadena and Baser 2018; Viveiros de Castro 2017, 2004; Abram 2010, 1997; Kohn 2013; Derrida 2008). Knowledge stems from connections of a mystical nature that go beyond causal logic and transcend conscious and directed thought. Through the use of magic and metamorphosis (Abram 2010) the shaman invites us to expand knowledge and to communicate through alternative ‘languages’ that go beyond the phonetic alphabet, and which are based on the abstraction and alienation from nature include the Australian aborigine concept of ‘Dreamtime’, the Navajo concept of ‘Holy Wind’, as well as breath and bodily rhythms. Becoming and encountering human and non-human others (Derrida 2008; Deleuze and Guattari 1987) is the key. It thus follows that “the idea according to which man is the only speaking being […] seems […] at once undisplaceable and highly problematic” (Derrida 1991: 116).

Based on the assumption that there are other non-Western epistemologies and alternative forms of human and non-human communication, I will finally argue that those non-Western epistemologies need to be translated by using a non-Cartesian, pre-logic translation. My proposal is ‘ethnotranslation’. It stems from Jerome Rothenberg's "total translation", from Viveiro de Castro’s (2015/2017) “ontological turn” and his definition of translation as “a process of controlled equivocation” (Viveiros de Castro 2004: 5), and from Manuella Carneiro da Cunha’s (1998) and Taylor’s (2015) “shamanic translation”. Taking these as my starting point, I propose a corporeal, “sensuous” (Abram 1997) ethnotranslation that does not rewrite knowledge with the intellect but with all the senses and rewrites everything communicated by humans and non-humans. This includes the meaning of all elements that are not strictly words. By translating everything – bodies, winds, forests, gestures, movements, noises, sounds, vibrations–somatic communication promotes transfer, intimacy and active participation.


Piotr Blumczynski is Senior Lecturer in Translation and Interpreting at Queen's University Belfast and Editor of Translation Studies journal. He has been particularly instrumental in studying the application of translation theory to disciplines such as philosophy, theology, linguistics and anthropology. His most relevant works include Experiencing Translationality (Routledge 2023), Ubiquitous Translation (Routledge 2017); Translating Values (Palgrave Macmillan 2016) and ‘Processualizing process in Cognitive Translation and Interpreting Studies’ (in Halverston and García, eds. Contesting Epistemologies in Cognitive Translation and Interpreting Studies, London and New York: Routledge, 2022). 

Translating Experience, Experiencing Translationality  

The Polish-Australian linguist Anna Wierzbicka, in her 2010 book Experience, Evidence, & Sense, makes a claim that all three titular keywords denote uniquely English cultural themes. In relation to the first one, she argues that experience – traceable to the intellectual and ideological tradition of the Enlightenment – carries a “hidden cultural legacy” and continues to cast its long shadow over English-language knowledges, both popular and specialist. She makes a strong case that universalizing the theme of experience, as lexicalised in English, is “both Anglocentric and unfair to Anglo culture itself” because if fails to recognize its “culture-specific slant” (2010: 35). Drawing on a wealth of examples from literature (including classics such as Shakespeare, Eliot, Hardy, Twain, or Defoe), lexicography, philosophy (Locke, Searle), religion, art and history, Wierzbicka reconstructs the semantic history of experience in English, which includes “past experience, accumulated knowledge” and “current experience, sensory, or sensory-like”. Against detailed comparisons with lexical counterparts in other languages, she concludes that “the word experience plays a vital role in English speakers’ ways of thinking and provides a prism through which they interpret the world” (31). Wierzbicka posits that despite its broad range of use and several distinct senses, experience in English “reflects a characteristically Anglo perspective on the world and on human life” (ibid.). That is why, she argues, “the word experience is often untranslatable (without distortion) into other languages, even European languages” (ibid.). This is a strong claim, with potentially serious repercussions for the discussions of ecology of knowledges. It compels us to examine not only how knowledges are translated but also to what extent our epistemic foundations may be inflected by semiotic, linguistic, and cultural patterns of which we are only vaguely aware.

Now, here’s a paradox: even though many of Wierzbicka’s ethnolinguistic observations are extremely perceptive and genuinely revealing, her conceptual and methodological apparatus (built on her theory of universal semantic primitives, which in turn rests on Whorfian ideas of linguistic relativity) raises serious objections from a translation studies perspective (e.g. Blumczynski 2013). Clearly, it is possible to obtain valid findings whilst using not entirely adequate or poorly calibrated instruments; however, an epistemologically urgent question is whether explanatory power is achieved thanks to or despite of the instruments and methods used.

Emerging from a critical engagement with Wierzbicka’s ethnolinguistic research on experience as a culturally and epistemologically inflected notion, this lecture sets itself two broad though intersecting aims. The first one is to sketch an onomasiological map of experience, as conceptualised and lexicalised in several languages: how is experience different from Erfahrung/Erlebnis in German or doświadczenie/doznanie/przeżycie in Polish, and why does it matter? What are some of the epistemic, ethical, political, and linguistic considerations in representing experiential knowledge (e.g. Susam-Saraeva 2021)? The second aim is to suggest an epistemology that is experientially grounded in translation (Blumczynski 2023). What can we learn from knowledges drawing on complex, composite, both sensory and imagined, experience (as when musicians assess an instrument’s “playability”)? Could translationality be something to be similarly experienced in complex ways? 


Blumczynski, Piotr. 2013. “Turning the tide: A critique of Natural Semantic Metalanguage from a translation studies perspective”.  Translation Studies 6 (3): 261–276. DOI: 10.1080/14781700.2013.781484

Blumczynski, Piotr. 2023. Experiencing Translationality. Material and Metaphorical Journeys. London: Routledge.

Susam-Saraeva, Şebnem. 2021. “Representing experiential knowledge: Who may translate whom?” Translation Studies 14 (1): 84–113.

Wierzbicka, Anna. 2010. Experience, Evidence, & Sense. The Hidden Cultural Legacy of English. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Michael Cronin holds the Chair of French at Trinity College, Dublin, and Senior Researcher in the Trinity Centre for Literary and Cultural Translation. He has written extensively on many different aspects of translation, in recent years extending the concept beyond the merely human to include bio- and geosemiotics. His most relevant works include Eco-Translation: Translation and Ecology in the Age of the Anthropocene (London and New York: Routledge, 2017); Translation in the Digital Age (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2013); Translation and Identity (London and New York: Routledge, 2006) and Translation and Globalization (London: Routledge, 2003). 

A Slice of Life: Food Knowledge and Transversal Subjectivity   

In advocating for “more-than-human” histories, Emily O’Gorman and Andrea Gaynor claim that the more-than-human is “not a synonym for “nature” or the “nonhuman” but, rather, a term that highlights the primacy of relations over entities (including the “human”)” (O’Gorman and Gaynor 2020, 7). The basic principle here is “co-constitution – that organisms, elements and forces cannot be considered in isolation but must always be considered in relation” (717). There is no external “nature” or “environment” with which humans interact. They are always, already, involved in the “more-than-human.” It is not a question of demonstrating that “the “natural” is really “cultural” or to reassert a biophysical reality” (724) but to recognise the full range of participants in the more-than-human world of multispecies co-existence and non-human entanglements. In Rosi Braidotti's interpretation of Spinoza's monism the emphasis is not on the tyranny of oneness or the narcissism of separateness often associated with monism as on the freedom of relationality, '[monism] implies the open-ended, inter-relational, multi-sexed and trans-species flows of becoming through interactions with multiple others' (Braidotti 2013: 89). Being 'matter-realist' to use her term is to take seriously our multiple connections to natural and material worlds. If we conceive of the notion of subjectivity to include the non-human then the task for critical thinking is, as Braidotti herself admits, 'momentous'. This involves visualizing the subject as 'a transversal entity encompassing the human, our genetic neighbours the animals and the earth as a whole, and to do so within an understandable language' (82).  The emphasis on relationality begs the question as to how this relationality is to be established or understood. How is a notion of transversal subjectivity to function in a more-than-human world populated by radically different forms of ontological and epistemic expression? In this lecture, we will be looking at inter-epistemic translation from the standpoint of food translation and suggesting that food as commodity and process provides valuable insights into the connection between the emerging paradigm of eco-translation and specific tensions around inter-epistemic contacts in both past and present geopolitical scenarios.



Braidotti, Rosi. 2013. The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity.

O’Gorman, Emily and Gaynor, Andrea. 2020. “More-Than-Human Histories.” Environmental History 25 (4): 711-735.