Review Article: Border Crossings. Translation Studies and other disciplines

Edited by Yves Gambier and Luc van Doorslaer

Amsterdam/Philadelphia, John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2016, xvi+380 pp., €95 (hardback), ISBN 9789027258724.

Reviewed by

Chunmei Shao
Doctor Student, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Guangdong, China & Lecturer, Hubei Polytechnic University. ORCID: 0000-0001-6139-9375. Email:

 Volume 9, Number 4, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v9n4.r01

Interdisciplinarity found its way in Translation Studies since its very beginning as an independent discipline, but how Translation Studies interact with other disciplines in terms of foundations, possibilities, epistemological significance, challenges and trends lacks systematic research. That constitutes the major reason that the book is a timely welcome. And this book is a unique one because it features two authors in each chapter. Co-authors include one translation researcher and one from the interacting discipline both of whom are professionals in the interdisciplinary meeting point which makes a rather loose but real interdisciplinary research community. Co-authoring makes it much clearer for researchers to see whether such interaction is a one-way story or a two-way traffic. As interdisciplinarity only takes shape where two or more disciplines form a systematic and reciprocal relationship other than mere cross-disciplinarity. Just as the title indicates, disciplinary borders are not stable like university departments, Translation Studies is crossing borders of other disciplines. Paradoxically, Translation Studies gained its independent disciplinary status via the other way around, namely, multiple disciplines dealt with translational phenomenon which made it came to the fore. So how those multiple disciplines interact with Translation Studies nowadays and whether there emerges new disciplines or fields that have close links with Translation Studies will be manifested partially in the book. Partially here is quite positive due to the fact that the editors targets this book as an open and introductory one which will be followed by series as Translation Studies experiences interdisciplinary relationship with at least dozens of other disciplines or fields.

An overview of the disciplinary history of Translation Studies and clarification of concepts related to discipline such as multi-disciplinarity, sub-disciplinarity and trans-disciplinarity can be found in the background chapter which sets the agenda for the following chapters. The book covers 16 interacting disciplines and fields, namely history, military history, information science and terminology, communication studies, sociology, cognitive neurosciences, biosemiotics, adaptation studies, computer science, computational linguistics, international business and marketing, multilingualism studies, comparative literature, game localization research, language pedagogy and gender studies. As the book manifests itself, the breadth of scope really gives the readers a shock at first sight. Only by perusing can readers have a clear thread of each chapter because co-authoring ensures the depth of thought concerning the interaction between Translation Studies and other discipline(s). “Degrees of integration and interaction differ” (Klein, 2010) in  interdisciplinarity. And there is no exception for Translation Studies and also for the disciplines involved in the present book. As can be predicted with the progression of information technology and computer technology, Translation Studies has a relatively closer link with such disciplines especially when nowadays Translation Studies is experiencing “a technological turn”. Information science and Translation Studies are both facing the challenges from technological innovations,  Big Data and Linked Data which also become the potential converging trends for the two disciplines. Meanwhile, machine translation becomes the most prominent interface for computer science and Translation Studies which is also driven by technological development. As time elapses, post-editors and computational translators might become new professional types across the two disciplines. Interdisciplinarity of this kind will feature collaborative innovation from different specialists and researchers. In the case of machine translation, linguists, computational linguists, computer experts and professional translators/interpreters have already integrated their purview but requires more integration. Also, computational linguistics and cognitive science can shed light on the inquiry of translation process in which technology such as eye tracking appliances, keylogging equipement and MRI is a sine qua non. To sum up, technology can give impetus to interdisciplinary research and meanwhile interdisciplinary research can become a pushing hand to technology. Today’s interdisciplinarity on a large scale is interrelated to technology such as information and communication technology, language engineering technology and computer technology.

On the contrary, certain disciplines demonstrate less interest in Translation Studies as we might have expected such as sociology and biosemiotics. Some might attribute this to the fragmented knowledge system or weak epistemology of Translation Studies. Take sociology for example, sociology first investigated translation phenomenon owing to its expansion for applied research need but researchers from sociology don’t seem to conduct systematic research on translation. On the other hand, Translation Studies imported and keeps importing theories and methodology from sociology but sometimes at a superficial level. Still some disciplines consider translation merely as an equivalent pattern between source language and target language in a conventional sense which is bound to hinder the interdisciplinary endeavor. Translation Studies has more to offer as it has already had and keeps enlarging its own actual data and results from descriptive studies of translational events, certain translators, cultural encounters, etc.. What is most striking is the conclusion from the chapters on multilingualism studies and biosemiotics because the two disciplines have very few dynamic interaction achievements surveyed by corresponding authors. As apparent almost to all that translation is about at least two languages or sign systems, then most people suppose Translation Studies has deep relations and surely interdisciplinary experiences with multilingualism studies and biosemiotics. However, interdisciplinarity depends on lots of factors such as an open attitude, a consolidated knowledge of other discipline(s), and imagination as well.

Interdisciplinarity requires at least two disciplines or fields, but in the process of interdisciplinary research, translation is often employed instead of Translation Studies. This is partly due to the overuse of translation in a metaphorical way, but meta-reflections on the discipline of Translation Studies may be a way out of such a dilemma as this discipline has a relatively more solid foundation than its very beginning in 1970s. The significance of translation manifests itself from a traditional perspective, and such significance is increasing in the context of globalization. The interdisciplinary research with comparative literature can justify this point. Comparative literature is considered one of the mother disciplines from which Translation Studies was born. Nowadays the bright future of comparative literature lies in the world literature in which translation assumes an indispensable part. To add, also against the backdrop of globalization, communication studies has a lot to learn from Translation Studies because previously the dominant research paradigm in communication studies didn’t pay enough attention to written or oral language which falls into the object of investigation of Translation Studies.

Those emerging research fields such as adaptation studies and game localization can enrich Translation Studies in a reciprocal and dynamic way. Adaptation has a close relationship with translation as the word “adaptation” existed already in Translation Studies to designate one type of translation strategy. Adaptation studies focuses more on literature, drama and movies instead of translation which is unavoidable. Localization and translation closely relate to each other under the umbrella of language service industry. But what is noteworthy lies in at least two aspects. One is that game localization points to a rather enlightening collaborative way in which practitioners, professionals and researchers cooperate. The other is the participation of volunteers such as game users and script fans in the process of game localization. Diversified translation practice nowadays also feature volunteers’ participation especially in audio visual translation. The similarities can lead to more fruitful interdisciplinary outcomes.

It is worth mentioning that each chapter covers more than the two interwoven disciplines, but rather more disciplines are mentioned. For example, cultural studies, sociology and anthropology are mentioned many times. This further proves that interdisciplinarity as a paradigmatic way of knowledge production leads to more than fragmentation but rather creates a hidden knowledge web among an overwhelming majority of disciplines. As can be seen from the appendices to the book, the editors offer an invaluable source for researchers from different disciplines who wish to engage in Translation Studies. Also it is bound to be a good reference for those researchers from the disciplines covered in the book because the conclusion in each chapter provides certain future interdisciplinary directions. For those who are expecting to find how linguistics, literature, philosophy, anthropology and such conventional disciplines interact with Translation Studies might be a little disappointed. However, the potential limitation might also become the motivation for the next book.

The forward-looking dialogue opportunity for co-authors in the process of preparing for the book might be very pioneering. Hence the book constitutes a real reflection on the interdisciplinary work done within and beyond Translation Studies. The editors points out in the background chapter that “Once you begin an interdisciplinary journey, you cannot really stop it anymore” (Gambier & van Doorslaer, 2016), that is where the charm of interdisciplinarity lies.

Works cited:

Gambier Y. & van Doorslaer L. (2016). Border Crossings. Translation Studies and other disciplines. Amsterdam/Philadelphia, John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Klein, T. J. (2010). A taxonomy of interdisciplinarity. In R. Frodeman (Eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity (15-30). Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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