référence : http://listes.cru.fr/arc/mascarene/1996-05/msg00058.html
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Vocabulaire! romero_ana



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I have recently found myself in the same venture when translating
these words into Spanish. Two months ago I had to translate a
lecture given by Mr. Jonathan Culler at Pompeu Fabra University,
Barcelona, Spain,  entitled "The Fortunes of the Performative in
Literary and Cultural Theory". A whole section of his paper
concerned the discussion of the notion of the performative in
recent critical theory (feminism and gay&lesbian studies, what he
called "Queer Theory"). He himself offered a French translation for
the term "queer" used as an insult which was "Pede" (with accents)
and we translated the word into Spanish as "Marica" with the same
usage (it could have been "Sarasa' too), though of course we
decided better not to use it as a qualifier (at least in Spanish, I
don't know in French) for this trend of critical theory. So other
ocurrences of the word not employed as an insult were left
untranslated, to my dissatisfaction. Afterwards I have been
thinking that a Spanish word with a force similar to the English
one should be found to qualify this type of critical activity,
since, as Mr.Culler explained, its proud use involves a reversal of
its pejorative meaning, being such reversal an instance of more
recent understandings of performativity. The example he gave of
this sort of gender performativity was a slogan used by  ACT-UP
groups in demonstrations: "We're here, we're queer, get used to
it".
Perhaps our (non-English) academic vocabulary should also get used
to it, not only to the people but to the word I mean. We all
already know the effects of naming and unnamig practices, in our
case we could talk of translating and untranslating ones. Not to
translate the word into our own language is a way of supressing the
power of these discourses into our own culture, and it may even
show a cultural inferiority complex. I mean that Spanish 'maricas'
might not be exactly the same as English 'queers'. If so, we better
interrogate ourselves about the people and the word in our language
and be prepared to let it come out as it is. If they (marica/queer)
are two different concepts and forms of gender identity existing at
the same time in the same place, none of them should be ignore; if
they refer to 'equivalent' experiences in different places it
should be clear that the language should reflect their cultural
specificity.  The same, for instance, could be said of 'drag
performances', which are a growing phenomena here in Spain but have
had their own local forms here now and before.
With regards to the word "gender", it is usually given a
straightforward translation  ("genero") in Spanish academic texts
and institutions. And I find it OK. In Spanish "genero" applies
both to literature and gender (id)entities.
A word which I find specially difficult though perhaps not so
politically important to translate is 'performace' and its
cognates, but this you don't mention as relevant.
I don't know if this will be of help. In any case I believe it
shows some of the problems encountered by the non-English speaking
world when developing its own institutions and knowledge in the
light of  Anglo-saxon models. As a Spanish-Catalan scholar with
English roots and specialisation I am as fond of one culture as of
the other two and feel that the state of the languages of theory is
specially worrying and revealing of linguistic dangers. I believe
that literary theory is one of the disciplines in the humanities
which is allowing more foreign words to enter languages without
being translated or being poorly transferred. A great effort is
always needed for finding 'good' translations for foreign terms in
any language, but the responsibility for doing this  is even larger
when you live and work in a language with a short tradition and
small possibilities of scientific impact. If Spanish and even
French scholars working in literary theory find it difficult,
imagine the case of smaller languages and cultures (such is also my
case) like Catalan here in Barcelona (Catalonia, Spain).
I apologize for communicating in English, I can read French but
don't write it.

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End of QUEATRE Digest 249
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