Marie Bourguignon, Bieke Nouws, and Heleen van Gerwen | Translation Policies in Legal and Institutional Settings

21st January, 2022 in Author’s corner


“This book gives a sense of how much attitudes to translation can vary over time and space and what impact legal and institutional translation have on the relationship between citizens and governments.”

Using case studies of past and present translation policies in different parts of the world, Translation Policies in Legal and Institutional Settings effectively illustrates how a multidisciplinary perspective furthers our understanding of translation policies and unveils their intrinsic connection to issues such as multilingualism, linguistic justice, minority rights, and citizenship. In this Q&A, editors Marie Bourguignon, Bieke Nouws, and Heleen van Gerwen discuss the story behind the project and offer recommendations for those interested in the topic.

Briefly and concisely explain in plain language what the book is about.
The book is a collection of original contributions on policies (management, practices and/or beliefs) with regard to legal and institutional translation in varying historical and geographical contexts.

What or who inspired you to choose this topic?
This book is the outcome of an international conference held at KU Leuven in September 2018, organised by us, the three editors (then PhD students) and our supervisors. The conference was an exponent of our joint interdisciplinary research project on translation policies in 19th-century Belgium, and an occasion for comparison with similar research, on a topic that is slowly making its way into mainstream Translation Studies. Over the course of three days, we had many interesting presentations and stimulating discussions, that we felt should absolutely be added to the general literature and discussion on legal and institutional translation policies.

Do you have any reading suggestions to share (books, blogs, journals, …) for anyone who wants to know more about the subject?
Our recommendations include the articles and books by KU Leuven professors Lieven D’hulst and Reine Meylaerts and the work of the Transius Centre in Geneva. In our book, several young scholars offer a glimpse into the intellectually and/or empirically highly original work they have been doing in recent years. We recommend following their work, as well as that of all the other, already established and highly esteemed, authors, who share in this book their new findings and insights that have matured over many years.

How did the writing process for this book go? Did you experience anything surprising, amusing or strange?
It has been quite a process, starting in fall 2018 and ending in fall 2021. Looking back on these three years, a lot has happened: PhD defences, starting new jobs outside academia, a global pandemic … It has not always been easy to juggle our other responsibilities with this book, but we are more than satisfied with the result, which reflects the excellent oral exchanges we had during those three conference days in Leuven, both from an academic and a personal point of view. We are therefore grateful to our supervisors and the authors. It is truly the crown on our joint PhD journey!

What would you like readers to remember about your book?
So many topics that are fundamental to a society are discussed in this book: human rights, citizenship, nationalism, racism, migration, identity… We think there is something in it for everyone, with or without a background in Translation Studies or any of the other named disciplines mentioned that are explicitly involved, so much to take away. This book certainly gives a sense of how much attitudes to translation can vary over time and space and what impact legal and institutional translation have on the relationship between citizens and governments.

Your book is published open access thanks to the support of the KU Leuven Fund for Fair Open Access. How did the open access publication process go? What makes open access so attractive for you/your book? Have you thus far noticed that your book reaches a wider audience?
We were delighted to learn that we could acquire funding to publish our book in open access: we have always shared the view that our research output should be as accessible as possible. Our book has only been recently published, but we hope that many readers have already found their way to it!

Do you have any plans yet for another publication? What will it be about? Would you consider publishing the book open access?
No plans yet, but if possible, we would definitely publish open access again.

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