Chapter in:Translating Asymmetry – Rewriting Power
Edited by Ovidi Carbonell i Cortés and Esther Monzó-Nebot
[Benjamins Translation Library 157] 2021
► pp. 256–268
Translation, multilingualism and power differential in contemporary African literature
Contemporary African literature is, by its very nature, a fertile ground for elucidating the rather symbiotic relation between translation and power differential, given the inherent multilingualism and the implied language hierarchy characteristic of the African postcolonial context. Asymmetry here begins with the unequal power relations between orality and literacy, between oral tradition and writing, between indigenous languages and the languages of colonization. This power differential is enhanced further by the ever-increasing gap between languages of officialdom and the evolving and rapidly assertive languages of creolization. To the extent that African literature is a window into life in contemporary African society, the aesthetic representation of Africanity in writing as well as in colonial or global languages involves translating asymmetry and negotiating, redressing or rewriting power inequalities. This underlying characteristic of African literature dovetails with literary practices in the diaspora whereby migration and identitarian politics draw heavily from the notion of translation as a mechanism for expressing discourses of resistance to oppression and asymmetrical power relations. This chapter seeks to lay bare the underpinnings of power differentials in contemporary African literature and to highlight the role of translation in resisting asymmetry and rewriting power.
Keywords: translation, multilingualism, power, African literature
Mignolo, Walter, and Catherine E. Walsh