Beyond “Eurocentrism”?

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This paper deals with the recurrent criticism in Translation studies in general and Anglophone Translation studies in particular that the discipline labors under a ‘Eurocentric’ bias. The author develops two arguments in relation to this. First, the charge of ‘Eurocentrism’ serves a number ends that have less to do with an actual desire to reach out to ‘non-Western’ discourses on translation (although the globalization of the discipline has definitely broadened the scope and concerns of translation scholars) than with a generation gap among translation scholars. Drawing on literature from the last two decades, the author argues that ‘Eurocentrism’ often functions as an asymmetrical counterconcept, in Reinhart Koselleck’s sense, which allows translation scholars to legitimize their scholarly project by investing it with a sense of urgency and political relevance. In a second step, the author argues that the rhetorical debate on ‘Eurocentrism’ often suffers from an overextension of identity claims, whereby translation processes are reduced to either an imposition of or reaction against hegemonic power structures. This focus on identity, however legitimate, may result in linguistic paternalism. To counteract this negative effect, the author calls for a revalorization of instrumentalist justifications of language use by drawing on linguistic justice theory, arguing that, following recent insights by political philosophers and contrary to the prevalent view held by translation scholars, when it comes to determining a just translation policy, (non-linguistic) instrumental concerns tend to override (intrinsic) identity concerns.


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