Let's talk Latin America

Feminisms in Translation workshop with Feminist Archive South

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Millie Corp and Rebecca Wilson attended the Feminist Archive South’s ‘Translating Latin American Feminisms’ workshop this Tuesday 5th June.

On Tuesday 5th June, the Feminist Archive South held a workshop in Special Collections at the ASS Library, University of Bristol. Gathered by Ellie O’Connell, Masters student and Education Co-Ordinator at FAS, and Dr. Katie Brown, Translation Teaching Fellow in Hispanic Studies at UoB; we asked questions such as:


What is a feminist politics of translation?

How do feminist concepts ‘translate’ across borders? 

How do feminist archives challenge hegemonic systems?


By way of answering these questions, we discussed key themes and challenges, before applying what had been raised to some translations of our own. We translated posters, magazines and journals from the Latin American section of the FAS archive, which we then digitally archived onto their website (currently under maintenance). These materials came from a range of Latin American countries; some were British materials in support of feminist struggle in Latin America.



So what is a feminist politics of translation?

International works translated into English are predominantly written by men. In this way, translating female writers allows for themselves and their works to receive recognition. Furthermore, it can be a political act for a woman to translate a woman, to break the paradigm of ‘subservient’ female translator and ‘genius’ male writer. Not to mention, for non-binary writers to be translated by translators who are not cis-gendered.

The predominant Latin American languages all use heavily-gendered grammar. When translating into English, the translator can make decisions to overcome the limitations of gendered grammar and semantics. For example, using ‘police officer’ over ‘policeman’.


How do feminist concepts ‘translate’ across borders?

In the materials we studied, such difficulties became apparent. It was unclear from where many materials originated, so research and deduction by our group of experts allowed us to contextualise them to then translate them. For example, political acronyms vary according to cultural context, visual symbolism may not always translate. Many of the posters were very visual, so translating them as a combination of image and text was vital. The addition of descriptions on the online archive serves as a translator’s note to clarify the nuances of these pieces.


How do feminist archives challenge hegemonic systems?

Feminism can hold a different meaning depending on where you are, who you are, what you believe. The archive draws material from many different countries and cultures and so informs an overall feminist discourse where a ‘Western’ definition need not dominate.


The archive material is available to browse upon request and translations of these materials are very welcome, forming part of a collaborative effort. Although this workshop was geared towards those with interest in Latin America, FAS warmly welcome anyone interested. Don’t fear! You don’t need an MA in translation or feminist studies to enjoy this rich collection of materials, anyone can contribute and browse. For example, the Australian traveller who stumbled across a flyer in the Arnolfini and ended up joining us for a pleasurable afternoon. “So random!”


You can contact Special Collections on 0117 928 8014 or at special-collections@bristol.ac.uk.



All photos- Elissa O’Connell, Feminist Archive South