Outline of a theory of non-translation

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Journal / PublicationAcross Languages and Cultures
Issue number1
Online published13 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


Non-translation has not been adequately theorised despite its relevance to conceptualising how texts circulate across linguistic and cultural borders. This article outlines a theory which defines non-translation in three ways: first, in terms of systemic resistance to translation; second, as a set of procedures forming part of an overarching translation strategy; third, as the result of discourse that conceals the process of translation for various purposes. It describes the characteristics of ideological, economic, and poetological resistance to translation, categorising environments as hostile or hospitable depending on the extent to which translation is prevented from happening. Moving beyond a binary opposition between translation and its negative, the article then considers how partial non-translation might be used as a procedure to facilitate the translation of the rest of a text. Finally, the ways in which translational actions are concealed or negated, and thus rendered non-translations, are examined. The overarching aim of the article is to contribute a workable theory of non-translation that will serve as the basis for future studies of translation as a practice, process and product.

Research Area(s)

  • non-translation, untranslatability, censorship, ideology, discourse