Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Indeed, we are superior; just ask us

“By assuming that English terms are somehow universal or the best representations of reality, one can quickly enact violence when translating and interpreting foreign works because the networks of association presupposed by the source language are often missed. This type of interpretive practice subtly embodies neocolonialist discourse, wherein the Western model is assumed to be universal, and foreign conceptions are perceived as mere reflections of Western norms. Such unselfconscious appropriation of Western emotion categories serves only to reinforce Western ideologies about the self, the individual, and the perceived dichotomy between reason and emotion.”— From Fratricide to Forgiveness: The Language and Ethics of Anger in Genesis , page 28

<idle musing>
I love his introductory stuff. We're on page 28 and he hasn't even really touched on Genesis—but what he has said is wonderful!
</idle musing>


Peter Kirk said...

Is he by any chance referring to Bible translation here? If so, I accept that some translators in the past have been guilty of this kind of cultural imperialism. But this is something which reputable Bible translation agencies, such as Wycliffe and the Bible Societies, currently try very hard to avoid. I hope this author realises that.

jps said...


No. He isn't referring to translations; he is referring to exegetical principles that are too easily forgotten.

The UBS and Wycliffe have been very good at avoiding these errors. Unfortunately, exegetes haven't been as careful :(


Peter Kirk said...

Thank you, James. I thought he was talking about translation when he wrote "translating and interpreting foreign works". But I'm sure the broader context, which you have, makes that clear.