Decolonizing the Translation: Representation of African Literature in the Turkish Publishing Field

Author: Leyla Burcu Dündar (Baskent University, Ankara, TURKEY)
Speaker: Leyla Burcu Dündar
Topic: Linguistic Landscapes
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


Translation definitely lies at the core of contemporary humanistic study, and it serves as a means of intercultural communication. Nevertheless, it is difficult to say that the act of translation is free from dominant colonial modes of thinking. Literary field is dominated by the marketing strategies of publishing houses that decide on who is to be heard or to remain invisible, what is to be brought forward or to be left unheeded. In order to decolonise the humanities in the African context, it is essential to explore the politics of translation contextually. That investigation has multiple subjects/players shaped by the Bourdieusian field, including translators, editors, publishing houses, critics, and readers. Although translators seem to be the most apparent agent in this cross-cultural mediation, the editors and publishers play a wider role in the production of the target text. Yet, it is clear that their editorial and publishing policies are intertwined with the political atmosphere.

This paper aims to map and illustrate the corpus of African literature made available for the Turkish readership since the 1960s. My purpose here is threefold: Firstly, to concretise the corpus of African fiction in Turkish by preparing a database. Secondly, to categorise the translations in terms of historical focus, geographical distribution, literary genre, and gender in order to be able to evaluate the obtained data from a holistic perspective. Finally, to scrutinize the factors underlying the translation preferences of the publishing industry, and thus demonstrating the motivations that shape Turkish translation history spanning more than half a century.

Keywords: Decolonization, Translation, African literature, Turkish publishing industry