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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Structuring Knowledges

It is now nearly half a century since Kuhn’s highly influential book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. According to Kuhn the coming together of a set of anomalies acts as an impetus, causing a state of crisis. The result is either that a way is found to reconcile these anomalies by modifying the current paradigm, or by a radical shift towards a new paradigm. The subject has developed significantly since then with, for example, the advent of constructivism, in which it is suggested that there can be no direct access to a singular, stable or knowable external reality. The emphasis here is on the active ‘construction’ of personal meaning. This offers considerable scope for debate between scientists and other disciplines, for example in relation to the veracity of a monolithic vision of ‘Western science’.

Translating Structure/Structuring Translation

Taking as a point of departure Pierre Bourdieu’s understanding of habitus as an attempt to bridge the gap between structure and agency, this strand argues that translation can productively be seen as a structure structured by such social phenomena as language and culture or as a structure structuring, i.e. influencing, their development. Expanding beyond the field of Translation and Interpretation as traditionally defined, the activities of this strand will thus explore how translation structures and is structured by its various engagements and applications. Such an exploration is timely, as the AHRC Translating Cultures funded theme recognizes, in an era of ever-increasing global connectivity, international crisis, and planetary precarity all of which necessitate new forms of intercultural exchange.

This strand aims to foster constructive dialogue between translators and interpreters, experts in translations studies, and scholars making use of translation in other fields. What can these different groups learn from each other about translation and its study that might alter or even transform disciplinary limitations? More broadly, what can we learn through comparative and interdisciplinary dialogue about how translation functions as a travelling concept, used in more or less metaphorical ways in a range of disciplines? Finally, given that we work in an academic climate in which interdisciplinarity and collaboration are both constantly being promoted, what might translation have to teach us about the opportunities and pitfalls of collective work requiring mediation across disciplinary boundaries both within and beyond the academy?

Translating Structure/Structuring Translation is organized by Marc Schachter (MLAC, French), Sergey Tyulenev (MLAC, Translation Studies) and Binghan Zheng (MLAC, Translation Studies) and co-sponsored by the IAS, the Translation Repositioned stream of the AHRC’s Open World Research Initiative, and Durham’s Centre for Intercultural Mediation. The strand will host three speakers, one in each term.

The programme:

In Michaelmas term (19 October 2017), the strand will co-sponsor a talk and a workshop with Dr. Karen Emmerich, an award-winning translator and Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at Princeton University. Dr. Emmerich has translated nearly a dozen book-length works of poetry and prose from Modern Greek to English. In Dr. Emmerich’s talk, she will challenge one of the commonplaces undergirding how we tend to think about translation, namely that it is a process by which a source is transferred into a derivative form in another language. Dr. Emmerich will explore how literary translations are not only structured by but also structure originals. Dr. Emmerich will also facilitate a dialogue entitled “Translation as Advocacy: For and Against” which will draw on her experiences as a translator and interpreter working with refugees in Greece to dwell on the problem of advocacy, the discomfort of speaking for, and by extension the idea that literature in translation always becomes about representation.

In Epiphany Term (22 February 2018), the strand will host a talk by Professor Gisèle Sapiro. Professor Sapiro is Director of Research at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique and Director of Studies and Vice President for International Affairs at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales. Her research has explored among other topics the notion of the responsibility of the author and how asymmetrical political and economic relations structure literary markets. Professor Sapiro will speak to us drawing on her work on the sociology of translation and international cultural exchange.

In Easter Term (7 June 2018), Todd Reeser, Professor of French and Director of the Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Program at the University of Pittsburgh, will lead a workshop drawing on his award-winning book, Setting Plato Straight: Translating Ancient Sexuality in the Renaissance. This event will be co-organized with Dr. Jennifer Ingleheart of Durham’s Department of Classics and Ancient History. Broadly speaking, the workshop will explore the reciprocal structuring of translations of classical texts about sex and the social organization of “sexuality,” a particularly fraught relationship given the incommensurability of ancient, early modern and modern forms of sexuality which also diverge widely depending on geographic location and social strata among other variables.

All events will be open to the public. It is the organizers’ hope that the conversations sparked by these events will provide the impetus for further, more broadly collaborative endeavours.


For additional information please contact Dr Marc Schachter marc.schachter@durham.ac.uk.

Restructuring Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (AD c.300-c.800)

Late antiquity and the early Middle Ages (AD c.300-c.800) are characterised by restructuring and fragmentation: this is the period in which the Roman Empire reconfigured itself (in the East) and disintegrated (in the North and West), to a greater or lesser extent depending on time and place. During and after this process contemporary polities, societies and communities responded at different levels to a variety of significant political, economic, technological, cultural, environmental and epistemological changes which amounted to a wholescale restructuring of the interconnected European and Mediterranean world, which affected its development for many centuries to come. Variations within these processes of change affect the classification of these periods and subject areas themselves. The early Middle Ages is usually understood to begin following the end of the Roman structures of late antiquity, but this happened at different times in various parts of Europe and around the Mediterranean. This means that AD 600 in the Italian peninsula is understood to be still firmly part of ‘late antiquity’ (and is often studied in Classics departments), while in northern Europe, particularly in Britain, the same period is perceived as the ‘early Middle Ages’ (and therefore usually treated in History departments) – even though these areas were connected via political, economic, cultural and other networks. Moreover, fragmentation in scholarship – by discipline, geographical area and chronological period – tends to make it difficult to explore this process of restructuring across periods and regions in an informed comparative way.

These issues will be developed and expanded upon through a series of events during 2017/18. These activities aim to open up new debates about the ways in which people in this period restructured the world around them, or perceived its restructuring to be taking place, at both macro-and micro-levels. Previous research has tended to focus on issues such as the causes of ‘barbarian migrations’ and the collapse of ‘Roman central government’ (both problematic concepts in themselves!), but recent study of the transformations within this period has sought to explore instead how people experienced and negotiated these changes to create new structures for a new, post-imperial world. Questions for discussion might centre on issues such as the disintegration and restructuring of knowledge and technologies; new structures and networks for trade, exchange and communication which were built up across Europe and around the Mediterranean; the restructuring of ideologies as new religions – particularly Christianity and Islam – circulated and began to take root.

The second and associated aim is to investigate the disciplinary structures, approaches and assumptions which underpin research into late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, centring particularly on the issue of how to bring different disciplines together for fruitful dialogue across periods, regions and methodologies. Scholars working in these areas tend to be more willing to use a range of different types of evidence or disciplinary approaches than in some other (particularly later) periods, but even so interdisciplinary study presents challenges as well as offering potential. Moreover, even the concept of ‘interdisciplinary research’ is taken in substantially different ways by practitioners who operate within the frameworks of different scholarly traditions, disciplines or departments, and with unspoken disciplinary assumptions.

For further details about this programme of work please contact Dr Helen Foxhall Forbes (History) h.g.foxhallforbes@durham.ac.uk.

Structuring Knowledges: Molecules and Models: seeing structures - Workshop

Molecular models participate in attempts to understand the structure of matter; they are one of the most recognizable of scientific artefacts, featuring for example in Maggie Hambling’s celebrated portrait of Dorothy Hodgkin and in the much-reproduced photograph of Watson and Crick beside a model of DNA. There is now a scholarly literature on models in general and on specific ones, such as DNA.

The search for the structure of the universe is centuries old. We often identify the work on John Dalton as marking a significant change in thinking about the nature of matter. Work on the structure of matter, that is, of everything, includes many of the best-known scientific advances of the last two hundred years.
Organised by the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture (CVAC) this workshop will draw attention to the importance of these changes in how the world is visualized, and by extension ourselves. CVAC’s annual public lecture on ‘The Construction of Knowledge’ will be part of the workshop.
A number of significant questions will be raised at the workshop:

- What role have molecular models played in scientific practice?

- Can they therefore help us understand the nature of that practice?

- What role do they play in non-specialist representations of science?

- How do they illuminate the theme of ‘structure’?

- Might studies of molecular models and representations of them help us understand ‘visual thinking’?

It is hoped to present a proposal for a special issue to the Science Museum Group Journal (a peer-reviewed e-journal) following the meeting.

The workshop will be held from early afternoon on 21 November 2017 until lunchtime on 22 November 2017 at St Mary’s College (Kenworthy Hall). For further information contact Professor Ludmilla Jordanova ludmilla.jordanova@durham.ac.uk or cvac@durham.ac.uk.