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Translation in non-governmental organisations

Special issue of Translation Spaces

Vol. 7(1) 2018
Edited by Wine Tesseur

Recent advances in Translation Studies have increasingly considered translation as a sociological act,
in which translators make decisions depending on their social, political, and ethical positions and the
institutional context in which they are working. The factors that have an impact on meaning-making
become particularly important when considering translation in specific institutions, where
translators are subordinate to the overall aims of the institution and the intra-institutional
procedures (Koskinen 2008). Research on institutional translation has covered a wide variety of
institutions, including news agencies, publishing companies, as well as supra-national and to some
extent non-governmental organisations (Kang 2014; Schäffner, Tcaciuc, and Tesseur 2014).
However, the body of research on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has remained limited,
and translation studies has largely overlooked the role that NGOs play as important providers and
translators of information in the new information- and knowledge-based economy (Castells 2000).
Some work that has been conducted up until now on translation in NGOs includes research on
international, UK-based NGOs such as Amnesty International (Tesseur 2014; Tesseur 2017) and
Oxfam GB (Footitt 2017), and on Spanish NGOs working on the national level (Arranz de la Torre
2001; Valero Garcés and Cata 2006). By extension, aspects of translation and language policy have
also been discussed in sociolinguistic studies such as Codó & Garrido (2010), and Kahn & Heller
(2006). Yet much remains to be said on translation in these NGOs, as well as on NGOs working in
other national and international contexts. This special issue thus aims to extend the small but
growing body of research on translation in NGOs by presenting case studies on a variety of

The Special Issue seeks to address the following questions:

 What are the language and translation policies and practices of these organisations?
 How have these evolved over time?
 What are the variables that affect choices on translation policy (e.g. focus of work, size of
the organisation, national vs. international, geographical basis)?
 How do language and translation policies and practices shape power relationships?
 How do translation policies and practices impact on translation agency and constrain or
allow translators’ choices?
 How do insights on translation policies and practices at NGOs change or extend our
understanding of other areas of Translation Studies, including:
- Translation policy
- Institutional translation
- Volunteer translation, activism and non-professional translation
- Development and translation
 What can insights on translation in NGOs add to discussions in other research disciplines
such as sociolinguistics, development studies and international relations? What can we learn
from these disciplines to understand the phenomenon of translation at NGOs better?
 What insights and tools can translation studies offer to NGOs?
The term ‘non-governmental organisation’ has remained difficult to define ever since it was first
used by the UN in its Charter in 1945. Some authors have pointed out that NGOs are easier to define
by what they are not (non-profit, non-governmental) than by what they are (Florini 2006; Willetts
2011). Since the purpose of this Special Issue is to make a start at mapping translation activities in a
sector that has remained largely overlooked, the Special Issue proposes a broad interpretation of the
term NGO, where the main rationale is to distinguish NGOs from other types of organisations such
as intergovernmental organisations (EU, UN) and multinational companies, which are characterised
by a different working ethos. This Special Issue proposes to explore organisations that share the
following characteristics (following Willets 2011: 9):
- Organisations that are non-profit-making or not engaged in commercial activities
- Organisations that are independent from governments, or that can be defined as ‘hybrid’
organisations, such as the Red Cross
- Established organisations, thus excluding ephemeral groups, informal associations, and
unstructured networks
This special issue aims to map translation practices in NGOs, covering a wide variety of geographical
locations, thematic areas, languages, and organisations that work on the national or international
level. This broad approach will allow more insight into the extent to which findings on translation
policies and practices in NGOs can be generalised and whether NGOs’ approaches are different from
those of other types of organisations.
The Special Issue is open to proposals that take an interdisciplinary approach and link translation at
NGOs to areas such as sociolinguistics, development studies or international relations. Furthermore,
practitioners who are interested in contributing are encouraged to contact the guest-editor to
discuss possible contents and format.

Instructions for contributors

Articles should be no more than 8,000 words long and should follow the journal's house style.
Articles will also need to be submitted to the Journal online. Full instructions for authors can be
found at http://benjamins.com/#catalog/journals/ts/guidelines


Contact details

Please e-mail proposals (working title and abstract) to Wine Tesseur at w.tesseur@reading.ac.uk.


October 20 - deadline for author names and abstracts
November 20 - deadline for completed articles by authors to guest editor for peer review
December 20 - feedback from peer-review to authors
January 20 - deadline for authors’ revised articles to guest editor
January 25 - guest editor deadline to submit formatted articles to JBP


Arranz de la Torre, Violeta. 2001. “Léxico Y Tenor En Documentos de ONG . Estudio de Un Caso
« Híbrido » Entre Las Convenciones Españolas Y Británicas : CUDECA.” Puentes 4: 43–54.
Castells, Manuel. 2000. The Rise of the Network Society. The Information Age: Economy, Society and
Culture, Volume 1. 2nded. Malden; Oxford: Blackwell.
Codó, Eva, and Maria Rosa Garrido. 2010. “Ideologies and Practices of Multilingualism in
Bureaucratic and Legal Advice Encounters.” Sociolinguistic Studies 4 (2): 297–332.
Florini, Ann. 2006. “International NGOs.” In The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions, edited by
R. A. W. Rhodes, Sarah A. Binder, and Bert A. Rockman, 673–90. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Footitt, Hilary. 2017. “International Aid and Development: Hearing Multilingualism, Learning from
Intercultural Encounters.” Language and Intercultural Communication.
Kahn, Emmanuel, and Monica Heller. 2006. “Idéologies et Pratiques Du Multilinguisme Au Québec.
Luttes et Mutations Dans Un Site de La Nouvelle Économie.” Langage et Société 118 (4): 43–63.
Kang, Ji-Hae. 2014. “Institutions Translated: Discourse, Identity and Power in Institutional
Mediation.” Edited by Ji-Hae Kang. Perspectives 22 (4): 469-478.
Koskinen, Kaisa. 2008. Translating Institutions: An Ethnographic Study of EU Translation.
Manchester: St. Jerome.
Schäffner, Christina, Luciana Sabina Tcaciuc, and Wine Tesseur. 2014. “Translation Practices in
Political Institutions: A Comparison of National, Supranational, and Non-Governmental
Organisations.” Perspectives 22 (4): 493-510. doi:10.1080/0907676X.2014.948890.
Tesseur, Wine. 2014. “Transformation through Translation: Translation Policies at Amnesty
International.” Unpublished PhD thesis. Aston University.
Tesseur, Wine. 2017. “Incorporating Translation into Sociolinguistic Research: Translation Policy in
an International Non-Governmental Organisation.” Journal of Sociolinguistics. doi:
Valero Garcés, Carmen, and Lenuta Cata. 2006. “Acción Y Voluntariado. Las ONG Y Los Servicios de
Traducción E Interpretación.” Revista Española de Lingüística Aplicada 19: 49–60.
Willetts, Peter. 2011. Non-Governmental Organizations in World Politics. Global Institutions.
Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

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