HASS Translation Symposium – The Art and Politics of Translation

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Keynote speakers
John Gilmore, University of Warwick
Samia Mehrez, American University of Cairo
Also featuring
Lee Yew Leong, Asymptote
Jeremy Tiang, translator of
Su Wei-Chen & Zhang Yeuran
Max Lane, translator of
Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Organised by
N. Bahrawi and C. Habbard


Register at: hass@sutd.edu.sg
Date: 21 – 22 April 2016 9:30 am – 6:00 pm

The issue of multiculturalism or, more broadly, of the dialogue between different cultures, understood as bodies of thought, history, language and representations, figures prominently in today’s political landscape. The art of translation lies at the heart of this question; translation is not a mere linguistic problem, a simple issue of technical accuracy: translating is about acceding to another set of representations, about enabling an “enlarged mode of thinking”, in Kant’s famous expression. It allows us to think more broadly, to open up to other identities and thus construct our own in a more open, generous way. Our purpose is to reflect on the theory, the art and the political meaning of translation, as an intellectual, political and literary object in its own right.

Reflecting on the meaning and scope of translation is particularly interesting in the contemporary South East Asian context. Its increasingly widely available body of literature embodies the importance of cultural, linguistic and political bridges. Singapore is ideally placed to initiate a reflection on this question, as a nation built on multi-culturalism, and on an ethos of pluri-linguism.

Our symposium aims at reflecting on the various political and cultural aspects of translation:

  • How can we conceptualise the political and historical importance of translation?
  • What role does translation play in enabling (or disabling) the dialogue between languages? What is translated, and what is not, from one body of thought to the other?
  • How do linguistics and politics intersect?
  • What is the specificity of the Southeast Asian situation to analyse the issue of translation?
  • Are some things untranslatable?

Programme (Day1)

21 April, 2016

9:30am Translation and the World

  • Alan Kolata, Head of Dept., SUTD, Introduction
  • John Gilmore, University of Warwick, Keynote : Fidus Interpres? Translation into Latin and the Art of Poetry in East and West
  • Tan Dan Feng, The Select Centre, Singapore, Moderator

[Morning tea break]

11:30am South East Asia in its Own Words?

  • Max Lane, Translator, Indonesia : Southeast Asia in Its Own Words 
  • Cheryl Naruse, NTU : The Anglophone and the Partial: Lessons from Translation Theory
  • J. Casey Hammond, SUTD : Translation as Dubbing: Giving English Language Voices to Indonesian Comic Book Characters


3:00pm The Politics of Translation

  • Lee Yew Leong, editor-in-chief, Asymptote : World Literature: Centre and Periphery
  • Arunava Sinha, Ashoka University : Why English, which English, whose English?
  • Gabriel Tusinski, SUTD : Catholic Language Policy, Anti-Colonial Resistance, and the Afterlife of Translation in Timor-Leste
  • Jun Zubillaga-Pow, U. of Liverpool : Les liaisons dangereuses: The Necropolitics of Translating Singapore Literature into French

Programme (Day2)

22 April, 2016

9.30am Translating the ‘Other’

  • Samia Mehrez, American University of Cairo, Keynote: Translation in Revolution
  • Nazry Bahrawi, SUTD, Moderator

[Morning tea break]

11.30am The Untranslatable, and the Possibility of Misunderstanding

  • C. J. W.-L. Wee, NTU : Modernisation, the West and Translation: The cultural work of Singapore’s Kuo Pao Kun (1939-2002)
  • Jeremy Tiang, Playwright, Translator: Naming Rights: the Politics of Proper Nouns in Translation
  • Nazry Bahrawi, SUTD : Jungle books: Translating the animal in Malay and Arabic fiction


3.00pm Translation in Action

  • Gioia Guerzoni, Translator: Gained in Translation
  • Paolo di Leo, SUTD: Translating the Soul into the Self
  • Teng Qian Xi, Translator: Bilingualism is Not a Moral Imperative: Thoughts of an Angmoh Pai Chinese-Singaporean Translator of Chinese
  • William Phuan, The Select Centre, Singapore


Dr. John T. Gilmore has taught at the University of Warwick since 1996, and has been a member of the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies there since 2009. His interests include Translation Studies, Eighteenth-Century Literature (in English and Latin), Caribbean Literature, and the history of cultural relations between Europe and other parts of the world, with special reference to the translation of poetry. His many publications include “A Hundred Flowers: English-language versions of the Poems of Mao Zedong,” in Laurence K. P. Wong and Chan Sin-wai, ed., The Dancer and the Dance: Essays in Translation Studies (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013), pp. 40-56. His verse translation of Caffaeum, Carmen (“Coffee: A Poem”) from the Latin of Guillaume Massieu (1655-1722) is forthcoming in the Arc Classic Translations series, and he is currently writing a book on Satire for the New Critical Idiom series published by Routledge.

Samia Mehrez is Professor of Arabic Literature and Director of the Center for Translation Studies at the American University in Cairo. She has published widely in the fields of modern Arabic literature, postcolonial studies, translation studies, gender studies and cultural studies. She is the author of Egyptian Writers between History and Fiction: Essays on Naguib Mahfouz, Sonallah Ibrahim and Gamal al-Ghitani, AUC Press, 1994 and 2005 and Egypt’s Culture Wars: Politics and Practice, Routledge 2008, AUC Press 2010. Her edited anthologies The Literary Atlas of Cairo: One Hundred Years in the Life of the City and The Literary Life of Cairo: One Hundred Years in the Heart of the City in which she translated the works of numerous Egyptian writers are published by AUC Press 2010, 2011 and in Arabic by Dar Al-Shorouk, Cairo. She is the editor of Translating Egypt’s Revolution: The Language of Tahrir, AUC Press, 2012. She has recently completed a translation from Arabic into English of Mona Prince’s memoir, Ismi Thawra (Revolution is My Name), AUC Press 2014 and is currently co-editing with Mona Abaza an anthology of essays entitled Arts and the Uprising: A Culture of Dissent? forthcoming from AUC Press.

Lee Yew Leong is the Singaporean founder of Asymptote, an innovative audio-visual platform showcasing writing from more than 100 countries and 80 languages. In 2015, Asymptote bagged the London Book Fair Award for International Literary Translation Initiative, and in 2016, Yew Leong himself was nominated by Lawrence Venuti for the Ottaway Award for the Promotion of International Literature. As Asymptote’s fiction editor and editor-in-chief, Yew Leong has presented a newly translated story or poem in The Guardian every Tuesday since November 2015. Based in Taipei, he works as a freelance editor and translator of contemporary Taiwanese literature. Among the three book-length works he has translated, Fu-chen Lo’s From Taiwan to the World and Back is the most recent publication. His translation of Chang Hui-Ching’s “War Among the Insects” was selected for the anthology Chutzpah!: New Voices from China (University of Oklahoma Press). Winner of the James Assatly Memorial Prize for Fiction (Brown University), he has written for The New York Times, among others, and currently serves as one of the judges for PEN International’s 2016 New Voices Award.

Jeremy Tiang has translated more than ten books from Chinese, including work by You Jin, Yeng Pway Ngon, Zhang Yueran, Yu Qiuyu and Chan Ho-Kei, and was awarded a PEN/ Heim Translation Grant, an NEA Literary Translation Fellowship, and a People’s Literature Prize Mao-Tai Cup for Translation. He also writes and translates plays, including an adaptation of the eighteenth century classic Hong Lou Meng, and translations of plays by Quah Sy Ren and Han Lao Da that were performed at the Arts House. Jeremy won the Golden Point Award in 2009; his short story collection, It Never Rains on National Day, was published by Epigram Books in 2015.

Gioia Guerzoni lives in Milan and has been translating fiction, mainly from English into Italian, for the past twenty years. She has worked on American and British authors – Iris Murdoch, David James Poissant, Jenny Offill, Ben Marcus, Teju Cole, Jonathan Lethem, Siri Hustvedt, Paula Fox, Colm Tóibín – as well as on several Indian writers – Lavanya Sankaran, Altaf Tyrewala, Tishani Doshi, Kiran Nagarkar and Amruta Patil. The latter she has grown to know and appreciate through her extensive travels in urban India. In 2008 she edited and translated an anthology of fiction, non-fiction and graphic short stories by new Indian writers.
url: http://gioiaguerzoni.tumblr.com/

Jun Zubillaga-Pow is honorary lecturer in Criminology at the University of Liverpool in Singapore. He obtained his PhD in Historical Musicology and MA in French Theory from King’s College London. He is a musicologist and sexual historian specializing in Germanic and Singapore cultures of the twentieth century. Jun is the co-editor of Queer Singapore: Illiberal Citizenship and Mediated Cultures (2012) and Singapore Soundscape: Musical Renaissance of a Global City (2014), and is currently editing two separate volumes on Schoenberg studies and Islamicate sexualities.

Arunava Sinha translates classic, modern and contemporary Bengali fiction, non-fiction and poetry from India and Bangladesh into English. He also edits the India List of translated Indian literature from Seagull Books, Calcutta, and the Library of Bangladesh series of translated Bangladeshi literature from Bengal Lights Books, Dhaka. He teaches a course in Indian Literature in Translation at Ashoka University, India, and has conducted translation workshops in India, Bangladesh, the UK and the US. He is the Books Editor of the politics and culture magazine Scroll.in.

Dr. Max Lane is author of UNFINISHED NATION: Indonesia before and after Suharto (Verso, 2008), Catastrophe in Indonesia (Seagull, 2010), De-centralization and its Discontents (ISEAS, 2014). He is also translator of Rendra’s The Struggle of the Naga Tribe (St. Martins Press, 1978; Methuen Asian Drama 2014) and many of Rendra’s poems. He also translated Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s THIS EARTH OF MANKIND and its three sequels (all published by Penguin) as well as Toer’s AROK OF JAVA and THE CHINESE IN INDONESIA. He is also translator of SOCIAL SCIENCES AND POWER IN INDONESIA (Equinox, 2004).
Publications expected this year include a collection of poetry and prose, relating to Indonesia, the Philippines, and Australia as well as books on the works of Pramoedya and Rendra.
Dr. Lane is currently a Visiting Senior Fellow at ISEAS.

Cheryl Narumi Naruse is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Dayton and Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Global Asia research cluster at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (2015-16). Naruse’s latest publications appear in biography, Genre, and Verge: Studies in Global Asias. She recently co-edited a special issue of Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies on Singapore literature and culture. She is completing her book manuscript Incorporating Singapore: Capitalist Cultures of Mobility in a Twenty-first Century Global Hub.

William Phuan is the Managing Director and co-founder of The Select Centre, a Singapore-based non-for-profit organisation that aims to advance translation and intercultural communication. William was formerly the director of The Arts House at the Old Parliament, a multidisciplinary arts and cultural centre with a focus on literary arts. He was the Programme Director of the New York Asian American International Film for seven years. William has close to 20 years of experience working in various sectors, including journalism, government policy, film curation, and the non-for-profit arts sector in both the US and Singapore.

Teng Qian Xi has been translating since she was sixteen. Her translations have appeared in Asymptote (2011) and Lion’s Heart, Painted Thoughts (National Book Development Council of Singapore, 2015), among others. Her poetry has been featured in various anthologies and journals, including Over There: Poems from Singapore and Australia, and Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia and Beyond. Her poetry collection, They hear salt crystallising (firstfruits publications, Singapore, 2010) was shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize in 2012. She graduated from Columbia University with a degree in Comparative Literature.

J. Casey Hammond began his career as a Chinese translator in the emerging markets of Asia and eventually became a director of research for merchant banks in Taiwan and Indonesia. After nearly a dozen years in the South China Sea region, he left the financial practice to pursue graduate studies in the humanities at the University of Pennsylvania. In doing so, he shifted his regional focus to the West in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the world and to pick up another set of languages through which to explore it.

Interested in cultural traditions and critical perspectives of persons whose lives cross various boundaries, Dr Hammond studies tensions and transformations in modern Catholicism. He earned his doctorate in December 2010 with a dissertation that examines these issues in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Milan, a leading center of social, political and religious engagement on the part of intellectual Catholic laity. Projects on which he is currently working examine encounters between Catholicism and Asian traditions in colonial and post-colonial contexts.

Dr Hammond has taught both European and East Asian history at the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton. He has also taught core texts in history, literature and philosophy, as well as the critical skills needed for interpreting them, to undergraduates in the Villanova Center for Liberal Education. He returns to this part of the world with a wealth and breadth of cross-cultural knowledge and experience that he is eager to share with his students.

Dr. Nazry Bahrawi specialises in the study of world literature, translation studies as well as religion and literature in the Muslim world and the wider Global South. Trained in comparative literature, his current research explores the trope of the journey in light of myth-making in modern Arab and Malay fiction.

Dr. Nazry holds a joint appointment at the National University of Singapore as a research fellow of the Middle East Institute. He is also an associate editor of Critical Muslim (Hurst Publishers), a UK-based quarterly of ideas and issues which presents Muslim perspectives on the great debates of our times.

Outside the academia, Dr. Nazry has published op-ed commentaries on culture, society and politics in international newspapers, spanning Al Jazeera,The Guardian, South China Morning Post and Today. His broadcast media appearances as a cultural critic include current affairs programmes aired on Al-Jazeera, Channel NewsAsia and Suria. An enthusiast of literary translation, Dr. Nazry has translated Nadiputra’s Malay play Lorong Buang Kok (Cokelat: 2012) into English, and was formerly interview editor of the international translation journal Asymptote.

Gabriel Tusinski recently joined the faculty of the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences as Assistant Professor after receiving his PhD from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. He is excited to join SUTD’s lively and innovative community of scholars and students, and to contribute to the new Social Science core and his own elective courses on domestic and vernacular architecture and interdisciplinary material culture studies.

Trained in sociocultural and linguistic anthropology, his research draws on semiotic approaches to material and visual culture to examine contemporary political transformations in urban Southeast Asia. His dissertation “The Spectral City: Cultural Belonging, Urban Space, and Post-Conflict Reconstruction in Dili, Timor-Leste” explored how post-conflict urban architectural reconstruction projects and nation-building discourses in the capital city of Timor-Leste at once revitalize indigenous Timorese cultural sensibilities about house-based kinship and simultaneously frame these kinship practices as incompatible with democratic ideals. Some of his current scholarly interests include: urban space, the social characteristics and effects of domestic architecture, material culture studies, kinship, violence, sovereignty and nation-building, multilingualism, language and semiotic ideologies, and space, place, and landscape.

Paolo Di Leo’s commitment to Classical Studies brought him to wander from his native Southern Italy through Europe and North America. He obtained his PhD at the department of Classics of the University of Pennsylvania, with a dissertation on Augustine and Plotinus. His main research interests are ancient philosophy, above all Plato and Plotinus, and Patristics: currently he is working on a commentary on one of Plotinus’ treatises. He studies also the influence of Platonism and Augustinism in the subsequent Western tradition, as well as the intersection of Platonism with non Western traditions: in the past two years he has been studying the works of Sohrawardi, the main representative of what has been defined as Persian Platonism, as well as the relation between the monism of Plotinus’ philosophy and that of the Upanishads. Finally, he has a deep interest in architecture and painting, with a particular emphasis on the works of Marcello Piacentini and Louis Kahn on the one hand, Giorgio De Chirico and Renato Guttuso.

J. W.-L. Wee
is Professor of English at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He has held Visiting Fellowships at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi, and the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and the Humanities, Cambridge University, among other institutions. Wee is the author of Culture, Empire, and the Question of Being Modern (2003) and The Asian Modern: Culture, Capitalist Development, Singapore (2007); he is also a co-editor of Contesting Performance: Global Sites of Research (2010) and the editor of The Complete Works of Kuo Pao Kun, vol. 4: Plays in English (2012).