Framing texts/Framing social spaces: the conceptualisation of literary translation and its discourses in three centuries of Swahili literature


Serena Talento

Research Area:


My PhD research project focuses on the construction of a discourse on literary translations into Swahili in three different historical settings with the aim to explore the ways literary translation has been conceptualised and used as a symbolic resource. In the centre of this PhD project are the questions: How is the discourse of and about translation expressed? Which concepts apply to translation as an activity and a process within Swahili culture? How is the notion of the translator constructed and popularised? To what extent translations were used as resources to foster or subvert private or institutional agendas within the Swahili literary and social spaces?

A periodisation approach is designed to compare the development of discourses on and about translation within three macro-periods: pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial. The analysis proceeds by tracking translation flows and subsequently focuses on the paratexts of selected translations falling within each of the above-mentioned periods. Paratextual analysis has the scope to to tackle continuities and ruptures in the discourse surrounding the translation products within the three temporal frameworks and, therefore, to understand how a text has been conceptualised and institutionalised.

A further step aims at locating texts in contexts by means of biographical research on selected translators and the analysis of the historical and cultural background in which they were embedded.

The research pursues a history of translation which will shed light on the utilisation of translation both for cultural formation and conditioning by the agents having an interest in a specific transfer and re-production of knowledge within the Swahili context.

The results of the analysis will contribute to open new perspectives in the understanding of the development of Swahili literature.