Translatorial hexis

The politics of Pinkard’s translation of Hegel’s Phenomenology

RP 186 () / Article

Most branches of philosophy and many other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences studied in the anglophone academy draw on texts written in languages other than English and therefore rely on the products of translation, especially translations of historical, European philosophy. However, surprisingly little philosophical attention has been paid to the role of individual translators in mediating and relocating philosophical narratives across cultural and linguistic boundaries. The blind spot may be attributable to a long-cherished philosophical aspiration to evolve a universal, purely rational or scientific language and discourse which are, perhaps implausibly, immune from such translational and/ or translatorial mediation and dislocation. Since it is situated outside the philosophical mainstream, the now well-established interdiscipline of translation studies1 may be able to shed light on an unjustifiably neglected corner of philosophical enquiry. With reference to a topical case study of the English translations of Hegel’s Phenomenology,2 the present article draws on textual analysis and social psychology to raise awareness about the manner in which translators of philosophy engage demonstrably, through what I will call their translatorial hexis3 – a post-Bourdieusian manifestation of the translator’s will to power – in the linguistic and social practice of re-describing and disseminating putatively universal philosophical truths.