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Is Language a Battlefield?


It’s previous hat to emphasise that language is political. In this day and age we all know that the whole lot is political. Language is political, translation is political, and phrase selection is political. Certainly. But when, as Common Carl von Clausewitz argued, “battle is the continuation of politics through different manner,” or, as Michel Foucault did, “politics is the continuation of battle through different manner,” what does that imply for language, translation, and vocabulary? What can battles over phrases let us know concerning the human conflicts and human members of the family we try to use language to explain? And what can such conflicts additionally let us know concerning the paintings of language and translation?

Those are the questions that got here to thoughts whilst studying M. Véronique Switzer’s attention-grabbing article “Resisting Ideological English: Company and Valuing Towards Reified Abstractions and Erasures” (2021). On this article, Switzer argues that some practices of translation serve to erase company and relationality, functioning to dehumanize the themes of a textual content. She takes the average translation of the identify of Frantz Fanon’s Les Damnés de l. a. Terre as The Wretched of the Earth for instance. She argues that after thinker Lewis Gordon argues that the identify must be translated as “The Damned of the Earth” he “makes a crucial contribution” to our working out of Fanon’s textual content through “resisting ideological language equivalent to ‘the wretched’” through “preserv[ing]” the unique connotation of “the damned”—this is, the “truth of lively colonial rattlinging as a ancient procedure pushed through culpable brokers” (Switzer: 43). In different phrases, when “damnés”is translated as “wretched,” two meanings are misplaced: (1) that the situation and place of colonized folks don’t seem to be herbal however are actively imposed and (2) that this act of damnation is completed through “culpable brokers” of Ecu colonialism. The lack of those meanings works to “assum[e] away structural racial subordination, thereby taking it as herbal” (ibid). The occlusion of those meanings is the paintings of what Switzer calls “ideological English.”

This raises the query of ways the politics of language, and in particular “ideological English,” is expounded to the violence of colonialism. Throughout the paintings of Robin Wall Kimmerer, Switzer demonstrates that fashionable English is a noun-based language, which lends to practices of translation that erase human company and relationality within the objectification implied through a vocabulary ruled through nouns. She means that there could also be sides of human fact which are higher expressed as verbs, certainly, to be human, or human being, is an lively procedure made object-like in fashionable English. Colonial ideologies erase the company and members of the family of colonized folks and make topics seem as gadgets. As Switzer issues out, colonial ideologies additionally erase the company and job of colonial brokers in colonizing, bringing about what she calls “whitely” tactics of realizing that naturalize racism (Switzer: 44). Figuring out the methods of “ideological English” is vital to undoing “whitely” constraints on our concept. She follows Gordon in appearing how the interpretation “wretched” erases “the company of the verb ‘to rattling’” (Switzer: 48). The impact of this translation is that the “wretchedness” of the colonized is “indifferent” from the colonizer and the “lengthy strategy of damning a folks” (ibid).

For Switzer, “ideological English” operates via a “technique” of “containment,” “pacification,” and “neutralization” (45–6). Switzer borrows those metaphors from battle and the army, suggesting that “ideological English” is a linguistic weapon—one who assaults threats to colonial “illusions” (45). “Ideological English” assaults cognition of what is very important about human society: that this is a human artifice that may be humanly remade. The political implications of “the damned” as opposed to “the wretched” are bad as a result of they violate the protocol of colonial language: make the established order seem inevitable. What should be contained, pacified, and neutralized is the concept that structural racism is contingent on human motion and that damning is an lively procedure performed through “culpable brokers.”

Objectification closes concept; subsequently, we can’t withstand colonialism in the similar way it assaults. Switzer activates us to a technique of resistance that begins with “listening to” and “listening.” This is, “listening in opposition to ideological noise that erases being and company” (47). “Listening to such resisting” strikes to “taking nice warning” with our use of phrases and language (47 and 52). We should, she argues, be extra attentive, cautious, intentional, and accountable with phrases. Taking accountability for language, for Switzer, Gordon, and Fanon, manner taking accountability for which means, historical past, the arena, and ourselves. There are different essential causes Switzer turns to army metaphors to explain the operation of “ideological English.”

The primary reason why is that Switzer desires us to understand that language is a website online of fight and war. She desires us to comprehend that colonialism is a type of battle, and that colonial war takes language and concept as websites to be conquered in the similar approach because it perspectives our bodies and land. Thus, language and concept are an important websites of resistance to colonialism as smartly. The second one is that she desires us to listen to human company in those processes: this is a selection to translate “damnés” as “wretched” in step with the coordinates of “ideological English” up to it is usually a selection to withstand “ideological English” and combat to stay human company at the tip of our tongues.




Benjamin Stumpf

Benjamin Stumpf is a doctoral scholar of Political Idea and Global Members of the family within the Division of Political Science on the College of Connecticut, Storrs.


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