CFP: ACLA 2021 Seminar: Translation and (Latin) America: Translating Linguistic and Literary Multiplicity

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Translation and (Latin) America: Translating Linguistic and Literary Multiplicity

This is a call for papers for a seminar at the 2021 American Comparative Literature Association annual congress, which will be held entirely online April 8-11 (

What does it mean to translate within, from, for, and/or in relation to the land mass named by many as the American continent (understood here in its hemispheric sense)? Given that over 400 languages are spoken within the continent, the relations between which are articulated within a colonial matrix of power, this question is simultaneously of extreme urgency and, at the same time, apparently irresolvable. Moreover, the interlocking forces that constitute American settlement—invasive conquest, colonial expansion, enslaved arrival, free migration, forced displacement, resistant occupation, intercultural dialogue, imposed education, and so on—lend added weight to the cultural politics of such an interrogation. Indeed, this issue of the differentiated hemispheric mobility of bodies, languages, and cultures can be found directly within the name, “the American continent”: to assume such a name is, in some sense, to privilege the settler name dating back to Amerigo Vespucci and to deny those names assigned to the continent by Indigenous communities (such as Abya Yala) and Black arrivant communities (such as Améfrica).

Recognizing the linguistic and cultural diversity of the continent, translation—especially the construction of so-called ‘accessible’ translations to English “through a language quickly learnt with an idea that you transfer content” (Spivak 2003: 407)—threatens to be a process of cultural homogenization and to erase continental multiplicity in favor of linguistic uniformity. A task of the translator of and for the continent, in other words, seems to be: How does translation recognize and maintain open the multiplicity of the continent? How does one deconstruct the relations of power in which inter-linguistic and inter-cultural connections are forged? What does it mean to try to assign a singular name to such a continental space?

This seminar seeks to address this broad problematic of translating within the hemispheric space called ‘America.’ As such, we welcome proposals related to questions including, but not limited to:

  • What does an ‘American’ translation mean? What does it mean to translate in a particularly ‘American’ manner?
  • What does translation within, of, for, and/or in relation to specifically Latin America signify, given the recent discussions of the coloniality of the idea of Latinity? How might this coloniality itself be a translation of the coloniality of Latinity under the Roman Empire?
  • In a continent with various names and in which various languages are spoken, how can we translate in a manner that reflects such multiplicity?
  • How do we translate works that include inter-linguistic and intercultural discussions? For instance, various colonial-era chronicles include mistranslations of Indigenous terms to Spanish—leading Garcilaso de la Vega to comment that Spaniards “corrupt…almost all words that they take from the language of the Indians.” How does one translate (mis)translations? How does one translate the cultural politics between two languages to a third language?
  • How does one translate between media? In other words, what does the translation of a novel to cinema look like, and how does such translation’s relation to the American continent affect its articulation?
  • Reflecting current discussions of decolonization and decoloniality in Abya Yala, what does it mean to decolonize American translation? How does translation respond to Emil Keme’s call, “So that Abya Yala lives, the Americas must die”?
  • The generation of place names and nature words are often highly dependent upon local vernacular, linguistic specificity, and cultural difference. Taking an ecocritical perspective, how does one translate across ecosystems and differing socioenvironmental relations? How does one grapple, for instance, with the cultural politics of translating between concepts such as Pachamama, Mother Earth, Ñuke Mapu, and so on?

A wide range of paper proposals are encouraged from different periods, places, positions, and media. The goal of this panel is to open a critical space in which to examine the problematics of translation of—understood here in its widest sense—the American continent.

The official shortened version of the CfP for this panel can be found here: 


Keme, Emil. “Para que Abiayala viva, las Américas deben morir: hacia una indigeneidad transhemisférica," Native American and Indigenous Studies vol. 5, no. 1, 2018, pp. 21-41.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “The Politics of Translation.” The Translation Studies Reader. Ed. Lawrence Venuti, Routledge, 2000, pp. 397-416.



Virginia Mattioli (independent scholar)

Maxwell Woods (Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez)

Manuel Florencio Sanfuentes Vio (Corporación Cultural Amereida - Ciudad Abierta)

Adriana Laura Massidda (Leicester School of Architecture)


Interested parties are encouraged to contact by the 24th October.

The final deadline to submit papers to the American Comparative Literature Association virtual 2021 congress is the 31st October 2020.