Panel 5: Customs officers or smugglers?: the mediating role of intercultural actors. Towards new interdisciplinary models for cultural transfer. (Reine Meylaerts)

As recently claimed by D’hulst (2012: 150), “more work is needed to understand how translation relates to other transfer techniques and how this relation determines the specifics of translation. The concept of assumed transfer (…) is a tool to identify and describe the forms, meanings and functions of a broad spectrum of exchange activities taking place both between and within cultures. (…) One essential task is to reconstruct the interrelations between different techniques and between transfer techniques, their carriers and their agents”.

The purpose of this panel is to study precisely the broad range of transfer activities of intercultural actors and their role for the building of national, international or infra-national models of culture. Transfer activities occur in particular in so-called emerging and heterogeneous cultures, in which several languages and cultural domains interact. They are a major, yet rarely acknowledged, type of cultural practices. An efficient way to get a grip on the forms and functions of these activities, as well as on the institutional means to organize and control them, is to approach them through their concrete agents, esp. the intercultural actors that bridge languages and cultural domains (literature, art etc.).

Intercultural actors are indeed often, and much more than the prominent figures canonized by mainstream cultural and literary history, the true architects of new and multiform sets of transfer practices within multilingual and multicultural contexts. Firstly, being multilingual poets and/or novelists and/or critics, these actors may have translated, adapted and manipulated in many ways (parodies, summaries, censorship) discursive products (poems, novels, song texts, opera libretto’s) of other language communities. As such, they may have served as discursive bridges between linguistic communities. Secondly, they may have undertaken targeted inter-artistic (field-transgressing) and intercultural activities (transgressing national borders), which embedded their multi-faceted discursive products in intercultural and inter-artistic networks. They may have founded or taken an active part in the editing boards of national and international (French, Dutch, German, British) magazines and periodicals, salons, literary and artistic associations, art and music academies, artists’ workshops, reading circles etc. In sum, their transfer roles are much more complex than usually pointed out in national studies of the inception and development of literary and artistic repertoires or in single discipline approaches, like history or literary studies. Contrary to the usual framing, it is not opportune to confine these actors to a single language, artistic activity or cultural group. They were active across all these borders – without necessarily annulling them –, in such a way that they managed to configure their own hybrid, i.e. national as well as international, intercultural and inter-artistic, identities.

Possible research questions are:
(1) what were the aims, forms and functions of intercultural actors\' transfer activities: multilingual writing, translation, self-translation, plagiarism, summarizing, parodying, censoring, …;
(2) which inter-artistic and intercultural networks organized and controlled these transfer activities: membership in editorial boards of national and international periodicals, salons, literary and artistic associations, art and music academies, artists’ workshops, reading circles etc.;
(3) which effects did these activities and networks have on the process of cultural nation building (affirmation, problematization, rejection of specific subsets) and on the relations between the cultural communities they represented.
(4) what are the methodological and theoretical consequences for Translation Studies and its concepts?