There is no equality and justice among languages. While some are ruling the world, others struggle to survive or are already extinct. Theory has always been aware of this, which is why it chooses the elite languages as its mother tongues. When it comes to the others, plebeian ones, it considers them as foreign and visits only in translation. This, however, seems to be changing today.
Practicing theory in smaller and weaker languages has always been an intrinsically translational activity. Although more than obvious, this fact has been systematically suppressed – due to the hegemonic homolingual concept of translation, which posits languages as separate from each other and reduces translation to the paradigm of communication. As a consequence, translation is, firstly, experienced as a merely linguistic auxiliary to the proper theory production, which is considered to be essentially monolingual. Secondly, theory appears as organically attached to its linguistic original, which, alone, is able to protect its truths from historical change and political contingency. Using the example of the author’s own translations (of S. Freud’s works into Croatian) the lecture will critically deal with the homolingual concept of translation and the implied understanding of theory. It will pay special attention to the recent socio-linguistic transformations, before all, to the emergence of a new global lingua franca and the process of re-vernacularization of the traditional cultural languages like German.
Boris Buden is a writer, cultural theorist and translator. He studied philosophy in Zagreb and cultural theory at Humboldt University in Berlin. Since the beginning of the 1980s Buden publishes essays and books on critical and cultural theory, psychoanalysis, politics and contemporary art in Croatian, German and English. He teaches at universities in Europe and lectures worldwide. Buden currently lives in Berlin.
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