Shoot the transtraitor!

The translator as homo sacer in fiction and reality

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This essay applies the concept homo sacer, as put forth by Giorgio Agamben, to the social perception of translators and interpreters when they intervene in situations of violent conflict. Examples are drawn from history, from contemporary events (including the investigation of Guantánamo 'linguists'), from nonfictional writing (such as Daoud Hari's The Translator), and from fiction (for example, Mia Couto's Last Flight of the Flamingo). Real and fictional 'case studies' agree on the parlous status of the translator. The homo sacer is a literal out-law, that is, someone who is neither punished nor protected by the law. The concept owes much to that of the pharmakos as analyzed by Jacques Derrida, and both philosophers (Agamben and Derrida) claim to be reviving concepts from the classical world, among them the necessity of logos to the polis as posited by Aristotle. The article argues that by the nature of their profession, translators and interpreters in situations of conflict do not belong fully to any of the languages they are translating into and out of; to the non-bilinguals who hired them they seem to be speaking with a forked tongue and in cipher, abandoning logos in favour of mere phoné (voice) and hence moving outside the law of the polis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTranslation and Violent Conflict
PublisherSt. Jerome Publishing
Pages295-313
Number of pages19
Edition2
ISBN (Print)9781905763238
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

Publication series

NameTranslator
Number2
Volume16
ISSN (Print)1355-6509

Fingerprint

translator
interpreter
Law
social cognition
Aristotle
flight
speaking
profession
Fiction
Homo Sacer
Translator
event
history
language
Giorgio Agamben
Jacques Derrida
Polis
Logos
Interpreter

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this

Beebee, T. O. (2010). Shoot the transtraitor! The translator as homo sacer in fiction and reality. In Translation and Violent Conflict (2 ed., pp. 295-313). (Translator; Vol. 16, No. 2). St. Jerome Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1080/13556509.2010.10799473
Beebee, Thomas Oliver. / Shoot the transtraitor! The translator as homo sacer in fiction and reality. Translation and Violent Conflict. 2. ed. St. Jerome Publishing, 2010. pp. 295-313 (Translator; 2).
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Beebee, TO 2010, Shoot the transtraitor! The translator as homo sacer in fiction and reality. in Translation and Violent Conflict. 2 edn, Translator, no. 2, vol. 16, St. Jerome Publishing, pp. 295-313. https://doi.org/10.1080/13556509.2010.10799473

Shoot the transtraitor! The translator as homo sacer in fiction and reality. / Beebee, Thomas Oliver.

Translation and Violent Conflict. 2. ed. St. Jerome Publishing, 2010. p. 295-313 (Translator; Vol. 16, No. 2).

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

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Beebee TO. Shoot the transtraitor! The translator as homo sacer in fiction and reality. In Translation and Violent Conflict. 2 ed. St. Jerome Publishing. 2010. p. 295-313. (Translator; 2). https://doi.org/10.1080/13556509.2010.10799473