How to be a (recognized) translator: Rethinking habitus, norms, and the field of translation
Unit of Culture Research, Tel Aviv University
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.
Recently, attempts have been made to introduce the Bourdieusian concepts of field and habitus into Translation Studies (e.g., Gouanvic 1995, Simeoni 1998, Inghilleri 2003). From the standpoint of culture research, which is where I am coming from, the strongest point of these attempts lies in approaching the practice of translation as a social activity, which, like any other human activity, [ p. 2 ]is organized and regulated through social forces (Sela-Sheffy 2000). An immediate implication of this approach is that translators can no longer be dispensed with as a transparent medium of textual procedures. Instead, their formation as a cultural group, with its own interests and aspirations, constraints and access to resources, becomes an important object of study. However, this is apparently not the main direction where the mentioned attempts are leading. On the whole, the framework they suggest remains focused on the communicative and linguistic contexts of translation performance per se, rather than on the dynamics of translators as a cultural group. I therefore find it worthwhile to revisit the use of field and habitus analysis in translation research and take it a step further. Since Simeoni’s 1998 contribution in Target presents the most detailed discussion of the subject, I would like to take up in this paper some threads offered by him with respect to the following three main intertwined issues: (a) the relations between translation norms and the habitus of translators; (b) the nature of “the field of translation”, and the question of its autonomy; and (c) the question of the translator’s “personality”. To illustrate my argument I shall use examples from the field of literary translation in contemporary Israel.
1988The system of professions: An essay on the division of expert labor. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.
1941 “On popular music”. Studies in philosophy and social science 9. 17–48.
1941 “On popular music.” Studies in philosophy and social science 9.. 9–17.
Aldridge, Meryl, and Julia Evetts
2003 “Rethinking the concept of professionalism: The case of journalism.” British journal of sociology 54:4. 547–564.
1988Norms underlying translation of German literature into English, French and Italian. Tel Aviv University. [Unpublished M.A Thesis.]
1994Language, identity and social division. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
2003 “Habitus, field and discourse: Interpreting as a socially situated activity”. Target 15:2. 243–268.
1996 “What translators of plays think about their work.” Target 8:2. 341–364.
1992 “Practice, habitus and field”. Pierre Bourdieu. London: Routledge1992.66–102.
Kernan, Alvin B.
1979 “The poet’s place in the world: Images of the poet in the Renaissance”. The playwright as magician. New Haven and London: Yale University Press 1979 1–23.
1998 “Translation norms and uses of TV models in Israel”. Seminar paper. Haifa University, Department of Hebrew and Comparative Literature. [Hebrew]
2003 “From the habitus to an individual heritage of dispositions: Towards a sociology at the Level of the individual.” Poetics 31. 31–329.
1992Money, morals, manners: The culture of French and American Upper-Middle Class. The University of Chicago Press.
2003The dignity of working men: Morality and the boundaries of race, class and immigration. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Lamont, Michele and Marcel Fournier
eds.1992Cultivating differences: Symbolic boundaries and the making of inequality. University of Chicago Press.
Lau, Raymond W.K.
2004 “Habitus and the practical logic of practice: An interpretation”. Sociology 8:2. 369–387.
1990 (1988) “‘Ever dearer in our thoughts:’ Patina and the representation of status before and after the eighteenth century.” Grant McCracken. Culture and consumption: New approaches to the symbolic character of consumer goods and activities. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press 1990. 31–43.
Noble, Greg and Megan Watkins
2003 “So, how did Bourdieu learn to play tennis?: Habitus, consciousness and habituation.” Cultural studies 17:3/4. 520–538.
Nooy, Wouter de
2002 “The dynamics of artistic prestige.” Poetics 30. 147–167.
Peterson, Richard A.
1997 “Changing representation of status through taste displays: An introduction”. Poetics 25. 7–73.
1998 “On the margins: Belonging in general practice for women part-timer and non-principles”. Family practice 15. 363–368.
Rapoport, Tamar and Edna Lomsky-Feder
2002 “‘Intelligentsia’ as an ethnic habitus: The inculcation and restructuring of intelligentsia among Russian Jews.” British journal of sociology of education 23:2. 233–248.
1949 (1927) “The unconscious patterning of behavior in society”. Selected writings of Edward Sapir in language, culture and personality, ed. David G. Mandelbaum. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press 1949 544–559.
2004 “Translation and identity: Social trajectories of the translators of Hebrew literature in French.” Paper presented at the conference Institutions, habituses and individuals: Social, historical and political aspects of cultural exchange. Tel Aviv, May 2–5.
1998 “The concept of norms in Translation Studies”. Current issues in language & society 5:1&2. 2–9.
1999Literarische Dynamik und Kulturbildung: Zur Konstruktion des Repertoires deutscher Literatur im ausgehenden 18. Jahrhundert. Gerlingen: Bleicher Verlag.
[ p. 25 ]
2000 “The suspended potential of culture research in TS”. Target 12:2. 345–355.
2004 “The translators’ personae: Marketing translatorial images in Israel as pursuit of capital”. Paper presented at the conference Institutions, habituses and individuals: Social, historical and political aspects of cultural exchange
. Tel Aviv, May 2–5 2004.
1997 “Models and habituses: Problems in the idea of cultural repertoires”. Canadian review of comparative literature / Revue Canadienne de Littérature Comparée XXIV:1. 35–47.
1997 “The star system in literary studies”. PMLA 12:1. 85–100.
1998 “The pivotal status of the translator’s habitus”. Target 10. 1–39.
2003 “Ethos, habitus and situation for learning: An ecology”. British journal of sociology of education 24:4. 463–470.
Snell-Hornby, Mary, Zuzana Jettmarová and Klaus Kaindl
eds.1995Translation as intercultural communication. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
1986 “Culture in action”. American sociological review 51. 273–286.
Stokmans, Mia J.W.
2003 “How heterogeneity in cultural tastes is captured by psychological factors: A study of reading fiction”. Poetics 31. 423–439.
1971 (1923)Literature and biography”. Ladislav, Matejka and Krystyna Pomorska, ed. Readings in Russian poetics. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 1974–55.
1978 “The nature and role of norms in literary translation”. James S Holmes et al., eds. Literature and translation: New perspectives in literary studies. Leuven: Acco 1978 83–100. (Revised version in Toury 1995a: 53–69
1995aDescriptive Translation Studies and beyond. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
1995b “A bilingual speaker becomes a translator: A tentative development model”. In Toury 1995a
1999 “A handful of paragraphs on ‘translation’ and ‘Norms’”. Christina Schäffner ed. Translation and norms. Clevedon etc.: Multilingual Matters, 1999 10–32
2002 “Translation as a means of planning and the planning of translation: A theoretical framework and an exemplary case”. Translations: (Re)shaping of literature and culture. Istanbul: Boğaziçi University Press, 2002 148–165
2003 “Valuation as rational decision-making: A critique of Bourdieu’ analysis of cultural value”. Poetics 31. 357–374.
1995 “The translator’s invisibility: A history of translationLondon and New York: Routledge.
Green, Yaacov (Geofrey)
1990 “On the situation of the translator”. Yedi’ot Aharonot 17.8.1990: 24. [Hebrew]
2003 “Everyone thinks they know how to translate”. Maariv 12.6.2003. [Hebrew]]
[ p. 26 ]
2000 “The new translators, the state of the art”. Yediot Aharonot 13.10.2000. [Hebrew]