At the American Literary Translators Association conference this past October, I attended an excellent panel entitled Re-Queering Translation that included several participants from the University of Oregon which, as chance would have it, is officially launching its Oregon Center for Translation Studies today. If you’re in or near Eugene, check it out! One of the presentations on this panel was the reading of a manifesto written by U. of Oregon graduate student Jon D. Jaramillo. This manifesto, “Queer(ing) Translation,” pushes back against translation practices that serve to codify and enforce heteronormative cisgender modes, calling instead for playful, inventive explorations into alternative translation practices that better support and represent a wider range of identities. Here’s the manifesto’s opening gambit:
Queer(ing) translation (QT) is a political process that emphasizes bodies. It is a practice that emphasizes alternative bodies on the margins of exclusions, abjections, and oppressions, in movement, in transformation, and in a fluidity of expressions, embodiments, and manifestations. QT practice challenges and complicates the grammar of identity with synonyms, antonyms, and rhetorical dissonance. It rejects the binary use of gendered pronouns that erases same sex desire. It embraces pronoun playfulness. It underscores the relationship between translation and Walter Benjamin’s trans-living, the survival or “living on” of an original text rendered in translation.
As we know from reading Schleiermacher, language shapes us as much as we shape it, and thinking critically about our language use in translation as well as other forms of writing has to be part of any mindful literary practice. I found Jaramillo’s project immediately compelling (and clearly influenced by the manifestos on Discomfortable Writing, Ultratranslation, and Language Justice put out by Antena). So I was delighted to see that “Queer(ing) Translation” – like these other manifestos – is now available online. It’s presented as a cornerstone of a new translation community, the Queer Translation Collective, which is actively seeking new members. If the project interests you, I hope you’ll sign up and contribute, since a community like this needs participants to make progress toward its goals. On the QTC website, you’ll find a blog open to posts by community members, and also the full text of the manifesto ready to download and share. Bravo to Jon Jaramillo for calling this project into being; I look forward to watching it grow.