Dr Piotr Blumczynski, Queen’s University Belfast

 

This project will explore how certain evaluative concepts unique for the English language and culture are mediated through religious and devotional texts translated in various linguistic and cultural settings. By investigating the culture-specific character of supposedly universal evaluative terms (e.g. commitment, decency, fairness, humility, integrity, justice, etc.) which often lack precise equivalents in other languages, this research will help address the problem of cultural and ethnic stereotypes and clichés.

Combining a keen local focus with a broad transcultural perspective, this research will be carried out within an international network of scholars working in various languages (English, French, German, Italian, Polish, and Spanish) across a range of disciplines, in markedly different regions of Europe (Northern Ireland, Italy, Poland and Spain). It will build upon and enhance existing research collaboration inaugurated through an international symposium on the conceptual and cultural impact of the King James Bible, held at Queen’s University Belfast in October 2011. The network will proceed through a series of four thematic conferences held at different locations and addressing the various aspects of the theme. The strictly academic dimension of the networking activities will be complemented by a programme of round table discussions and community events involving representatives of various linguistic, cultural and religious backgrounds in order to promote a constructive discussion of systems of values and evaluative concepts operating in multicultural societies. Towards the end of the project, workshops will be held for translators and interpreters in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to promote research findings and apply them to actual cross-linguistic and cross-cultural encounters and contexts.

The network will consider the following questions:

– How did certain evaluative concepts (such as e.g. decent, fair, right, straight, upright, wrong; commitment, humility, integrity, justice, etc.) become established in the English linguistic and cultural tradition and what role did translated religious and devotional texts play in this process?

– How are certain values – shaped by translated religious and devotional texts and thus tied to a particular worldview – currently redefined, contested and negotiated in today’s multicultural societies?

– How are specifically English values and evaluative concepts translated into different cultural and linguistic contexts (with special focus on religious and devotional texts)?

– How do other languages and cultures engage with key evaluative concepts specific to English, despite often lacking precise equivalents for them?

This research has enormous relevance in the social, political and cultural sphere in the era of mass migration, unprecedented cultural exchange as well as multilingual and multi-ethnic societies. Recent controversies surrounding multiculturalism have revealed the pressing need to understand multiple systems of values and creatively address the incommensurability of evaluative concepts. Broadly based, collaborative investigation into these areas will significantly enhance the mutual recognition of similarities and differences in culture and worldview, both within and between societies.

The network will benefit from the oversight of an international advisory group including eminent scholars and representatives of community organizations and will rely on existing support mechanisms operating in all involved institutions. Its research findings will be disseminated though a dedicated project website, the publication of an edited collection of articles, papers submitted to leading international journals as well as through workshops for practicing translators and interpreters, and community round tables.

 

Dr Piotr Blumczynski

RCUK Gateway to Research