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  • Approaching Self-Translation in Latin American Indigenous Literatures.The Mapuche Bilingual Poetry of Elicura Chihuailaf and Liliana Ancalao
  • Melisa Stocco

Self-translation can be understood as a creative practice which articulates cultural difference, and produces, negotiates and confronts meanings in a space between languages and cultures, with the particularity of the double agency of its "author-translator". The text authored through this practice can be defined as 'bilingual' (Hokenson and Munson 1), and the process involved poses a theoretical and methodological challenge for translation studies, as it can frequently operate at the limits of the presumptions and assumptions of this field (Santoyo 36). Self-translation also challenges core concepts of translation studies such as those of author and translator, original and target text, equivalence and the target reader (Klimkiewicz 189-90). In all its complexity, self-translation is one of the most intriguing translation practices, whose study is gradually growing within the disciplines of literary and translation studies.

Because of the fusion of the competencies of author and translator, self-translation has generated interesting debates regarding its nature. Views on the matter range from conceiving it as just another translation, to considering the practice as a re-creation that produces a "second original", or as a form of writing that "escapes temporal sequencing, as it is a product of one hand addressing two cultural spaces existing simultaneously" (Hokenson and Munson 207). The latter is the definition that we prefer, since it considers self-translation from the spatial and cultural perspective we will develop in the present work. The status of the self-translator has [End Page 141] also been subject of debate. Whereas some consider him/her a translator using the same strategies as any other person dedicated to the task (Tanqueiro 19), there are different positions that highlight the creative character of the self-translator and his/her role of cultural mediator and rewriter (Mercuri 2009; Bassnett 2013).

As we review the literature available on the matter of self-translation, we realize that very little has been written about the situation of Indigenous literatures in Latin America. Except for some particular and relevant cases, such as the works of Gustavo Pérez Firmat (Tongue Ties, 2003), Debra Castillo (Redreaming America, 2005), Doris Sommer (Bilingual Games, 2003), or Isabel de Courtivron (Lives in Translation, 2003), which, in the area of Latin American Studies, have focused on the bilingual operations of Anglo-Hispanic literature, the study of self-translation has been mainly focused on European authors. If we consider postcolonial self-translations other than the ones belonging to the Hispanic scene of the United States, attention has been drawn to the French-English bilingual literature from Canada and some cases from Africa and India (Bassnett and Trivedi; Cordingley). Since scholars have emphasized the fact that the study of self-translation has been quite limited to the work of canonical European authors such as Vladimir Nabokov, Julien Green, Joseph Brodsky or Samuel Beckett (Recuenco Peñalver 197-98), there is still a lot to be done to move towards points of reference other than the Eurocentric. It is therefore crucial to analyze the phenomenon of self-translation as a practice of great relevance in the current production of Native authors of Latin America. In fact, the work of bilingual Indigenous authorship in the continent has had an enormous development in the past years, extending from Mexico to the south of Chile and Argentina. In their varied agencies and motivations for taking up bilingual discursive practices, these authors challenge not only the monolingual and monocultural paradigms of national literatures in Latin American countries, but also what is generally assumed to be the telos of self-translators: an intention to become affiliated with a particular receiving literary system or culture. Instead, many Indigenous self-translators seek to make a reverse movement: that of reappropriating the lost language of their ancestors and thus re-elaborate some features of their own identity.

In this study we propose to approach the issue of self-translation in contemporary Indigenous literatures from the perspective of the 'spatial turn' and through the productive and dynamic concept of 'ch'ixV developed by Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui. Ch'ixi is a notion that...


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