Call for Papers: Translating the Caribbean in small axe

Several decades ago, Édouard Glissant wrote in Le Discours antillais of the “undeniable” reality of a common Caribbean culture that had emerged from the shared history of the plantation, island living, creolization, and social systems. For Glissant, however, this reality remained “virtual”: although it was “inscribed in facts,” it was also “endangered” as it was not “inscribed in consciences.”

Glissant was not the first to at once posit the potentiality and question the viability of a common transcolonial Caribbean culture, nor was he the last. For despite the oft-expressed aim of transcending the local, Caribbean studies remains largely balkanized, its limits and contours often determined by national borders. Perhaps the single most important element in this balkanization of Caribbean studies is language. To Glissant, the European idioms spoken in the Caribbean were inevitably “languages of compromise,” each a lingua franca that only reinforced colonial boundaries and worked against the full realization of common Caribbeanness. Consequently, the practice of translation takes on a special significance in the Caribbean. The word’s Latin etymology—“to carry across” or “to bring across”—reminds us of the traveling function of translation, that it acts as an admittedly privileged intermediary between languages and cultures.

Small Axe shares this function: as a pan-Caribbean enterprise, we are increasingly attentive to the importance of expanding beyond the Anglo-Creole Caribbean. Since 2005, we have published three issues devoted exclusively to the French-speaking Caribbean, and it is our intention now to initiate a fuller integration of sustained critical reflections on the literary, political, historical, and visual cultures of the wide range of linguistic communities in the region. Our project, “Translating the Caribbean” aims to further the goal of pan-Caribbean linguistic and critical integration in a series of activities over the next three years. The first of these is a special issue of the journal, themed around the question of translation within the context of a changing Caribbean modernity—or perhaps, rather, a changing awareness of what modernity means in the Caribbean. Foregrounding at once the historical and the contemporary geo-political concerns embedded in issues of translation, we aim to look at the points of tension between elite opportunities for translation—understood as extra-insular/regional circulation on very literal and very literary levels—and the class and language bounded-ness of non-elite Caribbean citizens.

We invite contributors working in any of the languages of the Caribbean to participate in a generative conversation surrounding translation and the real and imagined multiculturalism of the Americas in papers that might address (among other topics):

  • language(s) in/and/of exile – class, travel, and writing from the Caribbean
  • francophonie in/and Haiti
  • multilinguality, scholarship, and pedagogy in Caribbean Studies
  • the viability and legitimacy of a designated lingua franca in the Caribbean
  • the relevance of translation to issues of (il)literacy
  • the place of Creole(s) in scholarship of the Caribbean
  • translation and the literary history of the Caribbean
  • translation in Caribbean cultural theory
  • translation and the history of Caribbean journals
  • the limitations of translation: what is untranslatable in the transcolonial Caribbean?

Abstracts of 250-300 words and short bios should be sent by 15 December 2011. Accepted abstracts will be confirmed by 15 January 2012. Final papers of no more than 6000 words must be submitted 31 May 2012.

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