SOAS University of London

Centre for Translation Studies

Translation, echoes of the mind or a very deliberate act?: Analysing translation manipulation through the lens of psychology

Date: 11 March 2020Time: 3:00 PM

Finishes: 11 March 2020Time: 4:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G51A

Type of Event: Seminar

Speaker: Dr. Burcin K Mustafa


Historically translation has been an essential force in the casting of socially dominant ideologies and the narratives they spawn. However, the cultural turn in translation studies unearthed the manner ideological forces can exploit translation and thus illustrated its manipulative ability. Drawing from previous works, this seminar will present various instances of translation manipulation, but to account for these the focus will be shifted from external ideological forces to the internal cognitive system. This involves presenting findings from comprehension experiments and a discussion on the ambiguity of language and how it is alleviated through the imposition of subjective beliefs. Accordingly, theories from psychology such as schema theory and gestalt theory, will be employed to explore the interaction between beliefs, cognition and translation. From this discussion a hypothesis will be presented that asserts there is a separate component of the cognitive system, ‘the cognitive loop’, which habitually exploits the plasticity of language to produce meanings that cohere with existing beliefs. Within this paradigm it will be argued that the primary agent which produces variations in meaning observed between the source text and the target text and different translations of the same text is not an external ideological force, but rather is an inherent component of the cognitive system.

Biographical note:

Burçin K. Mustafa initially undertook an MA in translation to pursue a career in translating from Arabic into English. However, during his studies he was exposed to the theoretical complexities of translation. This encounter inspired him to change course and embark on a PhD research program into the ideological influences on translation with reference to the propagation of post 9/11 narratives. He completed his PhD in 2017 and currently is a senior lecturer at SOAS University of London, where he teaches courses related to translation theory and translation technology. His research interests are focused on the relationship between ideology and translation, and he is also working on mapping the cognitive processes used during translating.