Translating feminism: transfer, transgression, transformation (c. 1960–1990)

‘Sisterhood is global’, claimed feminists during the ‘second wave’ (1960s–1980s). The fact that those in the northern hemisphere tended to skim over the differences between women’s situations globally as well as power relations within feminist groups, has been duly critiqued since, mainly by women in post-colonial societies and non-white women in the West. 

Second-wave feminist writing and campaigning was nonetheless globally connected, through patterns of contact, transfer, and influence which were fully inscribed in the global relations of the time, characterised by effects of de-colonisation and the Cold War. Connections were often unexpected, and just as they offered opportunities for mutual learning and new horizons, they could be fraught with tension and conflict. 

In what ways did Indonesian feminist writing of the 1980s borrow from the distinct Western notions of women’s liberation, Islamic feminism, and communist discourses of women’s emancipation? Why was Christa Woolf the only East German author to be hailed as a ‘feminist writer’ in the UK and the US and how did this influence interpretations of her writing? And how did Afro-Brazilian feminist Lélia de Almeida Gonzalez negotiate the Afro-Latin American heritage in the translation of her work for distinct audiences across Latin America?

Photo courtesy of Arhiva Studentski Kulturni Centar, Belgrade. International Women's Conference, Belgrade, 1978. Discussed in Chiara Bonfiglioli's Belgrade, 1978. Remembering the conference 'Drugarica žena. Žensko pitanje - Novi pristup? / Comrade Women. The Women's Question: A New Approach?' 30 years after [University of Utrecht, 2008].

We study the ways in which transnationally and transculturally travelling texts were locally translated – from one language, dialect or idiom into another – and received new meaning through the re-interpretation by feminist activists and translators. We are interested in the ways in which this process leads to shifts in meaning, and to individual as well as social change. The interdisciplinary network, made up of scholars based in three continents, will explore these ideas through two academic workshops, an international conference and an activist/translator-centred workshop, presenting its findings on a webpage containing resources such as databases and an interactive map, and in academic journals.

Dr Maud Bracke
University of Glasgow