translation, Jennifer Hayashida

narrator Jennifer Hayashida
term translation
published June 2020, Gothenburg
affiliated institution Valand Academy

Solidarity in Translation  Translation in Solidarity


Commoning translation renders translation an act of solidarity, not fidelity or loyalty.


Commoning translation is to insist that translation is practiced by many and not by a few.


Commoning translation reminds us that translation is an act of contingency, not certainty.


Commoning translation reskills the task of the translator who is already precarious, already uprooted.


Commoning translation rejects the rarefied and fluency-based notion of translation in favor of collective, solidarity-based effort.


Commoning translation mobilizes stuttering translators who speak in whole fragments.


Commoning translation asserts the right to translate out of a shared sense of solidarity with the text or task at hand.


Commoning translation, translating in solidarity, is not colonial translation, which seeks to uplift or reveal, to civilize and sell. Solidarity is not for anyone to claim.


Commoning translation may speak to none or merely a few.


Commoning translation has as its errand to mobilize against white privilege and power.


FI! Solidarity, video still, 2016


Case studies

Commoning translation is when twenty-something Asian Americans translate an open letter in solidarity with Black Lives Matter into 23 languages, a letter addressed to earlier generations of Asian immigrants to the US who may not know about the deep history of Afro-Asian solidarities or of the ways in which white power structures have sought to erode such solidarities.


Commoning translation is when the Swedish feminist political party FI! produces a solidarity video where they, in Swedish, analyze the colonial, imperial, and racial capitalist linkages between black bodies shot dead by police in Minnesota and black bodies left to drown in the Mediterranean.


Each case study illustrates solidarity in translation or translation in solidarity, and at the same time, each also points to how we choose or are able to engage with the basic linguistic material – and thus with different nation-state scripts – of Black Lives Matter. How we translate BLM provides important windows onto how various nation-states imagine blackness, structural racism, and the notion of human life: for whom is continuous dehumanization – a life of not mattering, a life seen as having to matter – the norm? For whom are this moment of pandemic and black and brown uprising a state of exception, and for whom is it inevitable? In addition to being figured as a movement between linguistic structures, translation is situated here as intrinsic to knowledge(s) possessed by the translating body, the embodied imperatives which move such a body to translate in, and into, solidarity.


Screenshot of English-to-Swedish translation options for phrase “Black Lives Matter” (16 June 2020)