Between empires: Language and identity in Brazilian science since the belle époque
William F. Hanes
Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina
While Tropical Medicine developed as a new discipline at the turn of the 20th century, Rio de Janeiro’s Instituto Oswaldo Cruz was the only major center not directly linked with neocolonialism, although through a program of multilingual study, personnel exchange and an avant-garde translation policy in its journal Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, it parlayed with the science of the colonial powers and made important discoveries. However, political developments led to increasing isolation for the Institute and increasing monolingualism in its journal. By the late 1970s, Memórias had suspended publication and the Institute was on the verge of collapse. Nevertheless, new leadership and a drive towards globalized English helped form Memórias into the most-cited scientific journal in Latin America. This narrative holds important lessons for Translation Studies, the first of which is that the international scientific community, which has historically depended on translation, is worth more careful consideration as an object of study. In this peripheral institute, translation effected international self-projection, which consolidated national prestige through recognition from authorities abroad. Moreover, the questions of power involved in the literature’s current English-language hegemony, faced even by former European colonizers, are removed only circumstantially from those dealt with in the periphery a century ago.
By the close of the 19th century, the microbial theory of disease was becoming firmly entrenched in Europe. Louis Pasteur had famously overthrown the theory of spontaneous generation in 1862, and his institute, inaugurated in 1888, was developing and manufacturing vaccines in continuation of Edward Jenner’s work in the previous century. In Germany, Robert Koch had identified the causative agents of tuberculosis, cholera, and anthrax, while in England, Patrick Manson called for ‘Tropical Medicine’ as a new medical specialty in 1897, implying study of ‘exotic’ diseases alien to European medicine (Hanes 2017, 232–233). However, the developing discipline was called by other names throughout Europe, including (in translation) ‘Naval’, ‘Overseas’, ‘Hot Countries’, ‘Exotic’ and, tellingly, ‘Colonial’ Medicine, which more clearly frames its nature within the context of the neocolonial order.
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