Translation and Epistemicide

Racialization of Languages in the Americas

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Translation has facilitated colonialism from the fifteenth century to the present day. Epistemicide, which involves destroying, marginalizing, or banishing Indigenous, subaltern, and counter-hegemonic knowledges, is one result. In the Americas, it is a racializing process. But in the hands of subaltern translators and interpreters, translation has also been used as a decolonial method.

The book gives an account of translation-as-epistemicide in the Americas, drawing on a range of examples from the early colonial period to the War on Terror. The first chapters demonstrate four distinct operations of epistemicide: the commensuration of worlds, the epistemic marginalization of subaltern translators and the knowledge they produce, the criminalization of translators and interpreters, and translation as piracy or extractivism. The second part of the book outlines decolonial translation strategies, including an epistemic posture the author calls “bewilderment.”

Translation and Epistemicide tracks how through the centuries translation practices have enabled colonialism and resulted in epistemicide, or the destruction of Indigenous and subaltern knowledge.

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction: Translation and Epistemicide 3
1. Colonization and Commensuration: Asymmetries
in the Making of Bilingual Dictionaries 23
2. The Anguish of Decolonial Translation:
José María Arguedas and Walter Benjamin 53
3. Translation as Terrorism? 75
4. Translating Performance in Latin America 107
5. La Jotería: Stereoscopic Readings Against Epistemicide 137
Conclusion: An Ethics and Politics of Bewilderment 150
References 165
Index 183

“This book draws on rich, vivid source material on the history of the Americas, particularly from the colonial era and the early to mid-twentieth century. Organized around case studies emerging from different contexts, sometimes separated by centuries, the chapters build on and speak to each other in compelling ways.”—Julia María Schiavone Camacho, author of Chinese Mexicans: Transpacific Migration and the Search for a Homeland, 1910–1960

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