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Panel: Prefigurative Politics and Creative Subtitling

Panel on "prefigurative politics and creative subtitling" convened by Mona Baker at For the 2015 conference of the International Association for Translation & Intercultural Studies, Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 7-10 July 2015 Link

Absolutely Non-negotiatiable Deadline for Submission of Abstracts: 1st August 2014

Submissions must be made through the START Management system: https://www.softconf.com/f/iatis2015/ before 1 August 2014.

Panel Outline:

One of the cornerstones of contemporary movements of protest is a commitment to prefiguration, or 'prefigurative politics'. Prefiguration involves experimenting with ways of enacting the principles being advocated by an activist group in the here and now, rather than at some future point when the conditions for the 'ideal society' have already been created, thus collapsing the traditional distinction between means and ends. Experimentation and innovation are central to this process. Melucci (1996) talks of contemporary social movements as 'laboratories of experience', and Yates (2013:15) explains that "[e]mphasis on experimentation ... is what differentiates prefigurative politics from other political logics". In practice this often means that both the political vision and the means by which the vision might be actualized are significantly different from those characterizing mainstream society and regulating interaction among its members.

Commitment to prefigurative politics also distinguishes some groups of activist translators and interpreters – such as Babels, Tlaxcala, Translator Brigades and Translate for Justice – from other groups who offer volunteer translation to humanitarian organizations and similar institutions. In many ways, discursive as well as behavioural, activist translators and interpreters practise the principles they support themselves, rather than remaining within the rigid boundaries of their professional role and entrusting the political work to others, at the same time as advocating these principles and enabling others to articulate them in a range of languages. They further apply the principles, often in highly innovative ways, in the present, rather than work towards applying them at some point in the future, when certain tangible and well defined political aims have been achieved (Baker 2013).

This panel will aim to explore various aspects of the prefigurative practices of volunteer subtitlers involved in contemporary protest movements – in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Greece, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, Ukraine, etc. The focus on subtitling acknowledges the growing reliance of activist projects on the circulation of video clips of varying lengths, subtitled into a variety of languages. Forms of prefiguration can include both interactional practices among subtitlers, or between them and film makers and other activists, as well as textual and aesthetic innovations directly evident in the space and format of subtitles. Contributors to this panel are invited to engage with both actual practices of prefiguration as well as potential strategies that are not attested in activist subtitling but could be deployed to enhance its political import.

For a related event, see http://globalizingdissent.wordpress.com


For other thematic panels organised as part of the IATIS conference, see http://www.iatis.org/index.php/iatis-belo-horizonte-conference/item/968-annoucement-panels-accepted#list

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