In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • What is Queer Translation?1
  • Nir Kedem (bio)

In 1990, the editors of Translation, History, and Culture suggested that the new emerging trends in the theory and practice of translation attest to a "cultural turn" in translation studies (Bassnett and Lefevere 1990). Like many other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences influenced by the critical theories and practices of cultural studies, translation studies saw a shift in the very understanding of its own terminology, scope, and concerns, which were now challenged most notably by feminist and postcolonial theories that drew critical attention to the intricacies of power, ideology, and ethics involved in the work of translation, as well as to the translator's agency.2 Bassnett later concluded that "the development of Translation Studies in the 1990s can best be seen as the establishment of a series of new alliances that brought together research into the history, practice and philosophy of translation with other intellectual trends" (2002, 10).

Queer theory came late to the party, despite that it made itself known in academia in the very same years as the cultural turn in translation studies. Recently, two edited volumes have been attempting to fill this gap by bringing queer theory and translation studies into dialogue through the notion of queer translation. It seems surprising, however, that a "notoriously slippery term" such as queer (Epstein and Gillett 2017, 1)—the proclaimed marker of non-binary difference, famous for its in principle strangeness, indeterminacy, and malleability—ends up looking pretty familiar once it is paired up with translation in the concept "queer translation"; so much so, that it will hardly baffle anyone to learn that new concepts of translation made possible by [End Page 157] the cultural turn "mark it out as always already queer and as an appropriate metaphor for the exploration of queerness itself" (1). Gesturing in the so-called critical, tiredly rehearsed deconstructionist strategy that has been dominating queer theory, the editors of Queer in Translation consider it "the first multi-focus in-depth study on translating queer, queering translation, queer as translation and translation as queer" (7). Conversely, the editors of Queering Translation, Translating the Queer are more interested in how "queer theory can support an interrogation of the dominant models of the theory and practice of translation" (Baer and Kaindl 2018a, 2) than in the common ground between queer theory and translation studies. While it is resemblance and analogy, rather than difference, that grounds the concept of queer translation in Epstein and Gillett's volume, here the theorization of queer translation (discussed primarily in the essays of the first section) begins with the other conspicuous sense of queer, namely, non-heterosexual identities and "any nonnormative experience or expression of sexual desire" (2). Relying on the sexual sense of queer in this regard, for example, one of the essays suggests that a "queer turn" in translation studies may facilitate a critique of sexuality and translation as categories (Santaemilia 2018, 13), which are interrogated through the dual process of translating sexuality and the sexualization of translation. The political potential of queer theory as reflexive critical practice is clearly drawn on by both volumes. But has queer theory, plural and open-ended as it may claim to be, subjected itself to such a critique?

As many queer theorists insisted in the past, for queer theory to be an effective critical mode of thinking it must constantly cultivate a self-critical dimension, that is, an instance that will secure its elasticity as a political practice, guarantee its dynamic and plural form, and can thus also provide the means to counter its critics (Butler 1993, 227). Since Kant's monumental Critique of Pure Reason, critique has indicated a reflexive procedure that investigates the conditions of knowledge and, at the same time, delimits the scope of reason itself by deducing immanent criteria for its legitimate use. For Kant, critique is to be autonomous—a critique of reason by reason itself—and, according to Gilles Deleuze, critique's autonomy thus attests to it being an immanent critique (Deleuze 1985, 3). The immanence of critique means that legitimate criteria are not dependent on some authoritative transcendent values and methods of investigation, which lie safely...