Panel 2: Universal versus local: centre-periphery relations in audiovisual translation today (Lucile Desblache)

In the last decade, audiovisual translation has spectacularly widened its borders. The initial concept of “audiomedial”, later extended to “multimedial” translation, originally proposed by Katharina Reiss in 1971, now includes a wide range of discourses that impact on all aspects of media communication. They are produced and distributed by global industries for local and/or specific audiences targeting the widest spectrum of consumers. In media accessibility, in video games localisation, in interlingual provision for films and documentaries, in musical text adaptations, multinational companies and transnational institutions are aware that, in order to have a global impact, they need to provide local products with a universal appeal. By contrast, but also driven by the desire to be heard and read, small players and individuals producing media texts also aim for maximal audience coverage. How are translation processes and products affected by these movements between local and global? Can different mediation trends be identified as linguistic, aesthetics and cultural products move across borders? What are the effects of this ‘glocalisation’ on translators? How can exclusion be avoided for languages and cultures of limited use, particularly in countries where access to technology is restricted? What can the role of Translation Studies academics be in these respects?
These are questions investigated by a small group of researchers at the Centre for Translation and Transcultural Studies who work on different aspects of audiovisual translation today. We would therefore propose a session of four members investigating contrasting but linked features of the centre-periphery dialectics in audiovisual translation. Currently four sessions are proposed although, we would be happy to have a fifth member of panel whose theme fitted the session.

Currently, the four sections would correspond to the following themes:

1) Transcreativity in video games localisation (Miguel Bernal):
Game localisation professionals have to constantly bridge the gap between the game development centres (US and Japan) and the peripheries made up of all those countries that are avid consumers of multimedia interactive entertainment but do not have a game industry per se. Being a participative product where consumer are not only readers, listeners and viewers but protagonists, the translation of the game experience may demand high levels of creativity while posing unprecedented constraints. Since this type of media is likely to keep on growing, research in this area will no doubt benefit the discipline of Translation Studies as it continues to work towards a truly interconnected world community.

2) Film and accessibility on the borders of exclusion (Pablo Romero-Fresco)
Although increasingly important in translation and especially in audiovisual translation, the notion of media accessibility has so far been applied mainly to the developed countries. This paper focuses around the concept of accessible filmmaking in developing countries. More specifically, it concerns the Hot Sun Foundation, a film school in Kenya that aims to achieve “social transformation through media and art” by engaging the community of the slums in Kibera, Nairobi, in the process of filmmaking. Whereas the institution is still proving extremely helpful for young people in Kibera, funding is quickly running out, not least because the films made in this school, which have not been subtitled, have not had any exposure outside Africa. This paper will recount the challenges encountered during the initial stages of the project set up between the Centre for Research in Translation and Transcultural Studies (Roehampton University), “Accessible Filmmaking: The Kibera Project”. I! nitially, this collaboration will fulfill the following objectives:

  • To produce the documentary Under the Hot Sun, which will help to raise awareness of the work carried out by the foundation in Kenya and the difficulties encountered in both media production and media accessibility
  • To provide a subtitling workshop for the staff and students of the Hot Sun Foundation, to take place in the late part of 2012.

What have the main challenges been during this collaboration? What steps have been taken for the venture to be as accessible intralingually, interlingually and culturally as possible? What can be learnt from this experience on how to best develop media accessibility in developing countries? What will the subsequent stages of the project include? This paper will aim to give an overview of the answers obtained during the initial phase of this project and discuss the challenges that emerged during its development.

3) Making music accessible (Lucile Desblache)
This paper will aim to give an overview of new developments in the translation of musical texts. Exploring the interpersonal, intercultural, intralinguistic and interlinguistic bridges on which music and translation intersect, it will examine how words linked to music are currently translated and what is needed to improve the provision of such translation. This proposal outlines realistic outputs that can foster dialogue between different providers of translation in the music area and chart the most important developments to be considered so that the art that ‘hears cultures’ (Erlman) can also translate them.
In an era where globally promoted music translates local cultures, this paper will ask how these translations are taking place and promote their visibility and their development, focusing primarily on the translation of opera today. Opera companies, under pressure to provide access to an ever wider public across age, disabilities and social boundaries, are successful pioneers in the provision of translation. How far ranging is the role of translation of operatic texts as an enhancer of multilingual/multicultural performance, instrument of verbal/non verbal comprehension and tool of accessibility? What new developments in global and multimodal mediation can match the present digital and live formats of opera? How useful can such translations be in providing models for other, sometimes opposed, sometimes convergent musical genres? Can a contemporary map of translation across those genres be drawn? These interdisciplinary and transnational questions have not been fully answered and will be considered during this paper.

4) Subtitles, foreignness and “the problem of universal appeal” of film (Dionysios Kapsaskis)
This paper looks into subtitles as an element that complicates the semantics and aesthetics of films when they circulate across linguistic/cultural borders. Thanks to subtitles and other forms of audio-visual translation such as dubbing, films travel from centres of cultural production to the cultural “periphery” and in the reverse direction. On the one hand, “peripheral” non-Anglophone audiences become receptive e.g. to Hollywood by means of processes of naturalization that take place in subtitling and dubbing. On the other hand, the resistance to the foreign, especially in the Anglophone world, finds its emblematic expression in the instance of subtitles, with their connotations of artiness and distance. Audio-visual translation thus traces lines of cultural and linguistic dominance, while helping to redefine perceptions of foreignness and domesticity. The paper argues that watching films with subtitles places all audiences, whether in dominant or peripheral locations, at the intersection between a narrative assumption and a global reality. The narrative assumption, often encouraged by the film, is that it is possible to organize space-time coherently and produce visions of the real that are universally valid (pace Paul Rotha’s fears that cinema was losing its “universal appeal” in the early 1930’s). The cultural reality, suggested by the subtitles, is that films do not circulate freely, but follow predefined paths between centres and peripheries giving rise to different perceptions of the foreign and ultimately questioning the universality of the visions represented in the film.
Drawing primarily on examples from Pasolini’s Decameron, this paper will articulate a framework for the critical study of this form of media translation between image and narrative.