“The language of Europe is translation”: EST amidst new Europes and changing ideas on translation

Michaela Wolf


Umberto Eco’s statement “the language of Europe is translation” suggests that translation is one of the main assets of daily communication in Europe. While such a statement undoubtedly is a stand against national—or, in many instances, nationalistic—language cultures, it also raises a series of questions which can be discussed within a re-formulation of EST’s aims and scope: Which ‘Europe’ is meant here? What sort of translation concept underpins this statement? In which way do migration movements shape today’s translation landscapes? What are the control mechanisms behind the phenomenon of translation understood in Eco’s sense? This paper discusses the limits of Europeanness and its potentially transgressive nature against the backdrop of EST’s founding moment in Vienna and the city’s central shaping force in pluricultural issues in the Habsburg Monarchy. It argues that translation has the task of breaking the deadlock of identitarian differences and the political practices based on them. So, what is the impact of these reflections for future activities in EST?

Table of contents

The name European Society of Translation Studies suggests that this is a European institution. Of course it is not. A quick glance at the EST membership list proves the contrary, as will be shown later. So what is EST? How much Europeanness does the Society carry? How Eurocentric is it? Can we ever talk of a ‘European’ perspective on Translation Studies? Or of a ‘European’ perspective on translation? The very name of EST seems to be biased, or—at best—erroneous and deceptive. Or maybe not?

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