Power relations in the translation industry

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By Shaifali Khulbe

The power relations express relations of domination and suggest that translation cannot be neutral. These power relations may be political, economic or cultural and portray the hierarchical trend in the global system of translations. 

Accordingly, the worldwide distribution of translation in  languages maybe categorized into 4 sections:

•  Hyper-Central: English  which hold a top spot in the hierarchy and is the source text in most of the translation works.
•  Central: Languages like French and German which are positioned in the second rung of the hierarchical ladder.
•  Semi-Peripheral: Spanish, Italian etc.
•  Peripheral: Rest of the languages which rank lowest in the distribution of translational works.

The hierarchy among the languages is irrespective of the number of speakers they have, rather it depends on social, economic and cultural
factors. These power relations are universal in nature and their manifestations can be seen when narrowed down in on to the languages that are spoken in a particular geographical area, let's say in a particular country.

In the context of India, different regional languages hold different positions as per their cultural, economic and political influence and
the flow of translation activities moves from Central to peripheral zones. The peripheral languages have more acceptance for the dominant
languages and the Cental languages are usually less receptive towards the other and they have larger share in the number of books translated
into other languages.  As a translator we may observe  that a language garnering more capital value being the dominant language takes
precedence in translational works and has a clear sway over other languages. The dominated language being constantly shaped under the
influence of the Central language. 

Power relations, as well explained in the article are of three types: Political, cultural and economic. Thus we see how the power relations work in the translation work on analysing the cultural status of hierarchy explained above.  Also, the international cultural exchange depends upon the political relations between countries and political orientation of the government and ecnomic relations like the international book market involving liberalization of the book market.

Cultural exchange between countries in the form of literal exchange is what favours the translation industry which can again be analysed through the point of view of dominant languages. As explained in the article ' the dominated languages are those endowed with little literary capital and low international recognition. The dominant languages, due to their specific prestige, their antiquity, and the number of texts that are written in these languages and that are universally regarded as important, possess much literary capital.'
Concerning International cultural exchange, government institutions such as embassies, cultural institutes, translation institutes etc. play the role of agents. 

Thus we observe how translation is a socially regulated activity completing working on powe relations. Like any other succesful industry, its important to undertand and work according the knowledge of power relations in the translation industry.

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