Publication details [#42416]

Sela-Sheffy, Rakefet. 2005. How to be a (recognized) translator: Rethinking habitus, norms, and the field of translation. Target 17 (1) : 1–26.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


Focusing on translators as a cultural-professional group, this article mobilizes the Bourdieusian concepts of field and habitus for explaining the tension between the constrained and the versatile nature of translators’ action, as determined by their cultural group-identification and by their position in their specific field of action. Emphasizing the basic parameter of status contests and struggle for symbolic capital, it elaborates on three important aspects of translators’ differentiating self-images and strategies of action, using examples from the field of Hebrew translation in contemporary Israel: (1) the variability of strategies translators employ while playing either conservative or innovative roles, as cultural custodians or cultural importers, in specific historical contexts; (2) the dynamic construction and stratification of the field of translation, which results from the endeavor to establish its autonomous source of prestige, oscillating between impersonal professional status and an artistic-like personal “stardom”; and (3) translators’ preferred models of self-fashioning, according to which they select and signify the facts of their life-conditions and use them for improving their status and terms of work.