Open Cultural Studies: Migration and Translation


Dr. Hab. Ewa Kołodziejczyk

(Institute of Literary Research, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland)



Migration and translation are distant but closely related phenomena that understand migration discursively as mobility of texts, international transfer of knowledge and transformation in the field of cultural literacy. Migration may be defined as translation, in line with Salman Rushdie’s proposal that migrants are “translated beings” (Rushdie, 1983). As a matter of fact, it would be easy to prove that they are constantly engaged in “translating and explaining themselves.” The migrant’s hybrid status opens up new research areas in relation to: 1). Central European émigré literature before the collapse of communism, 2). writings of post-socialist Central European migrants abroad, 3). literary writings of migrants residing in Central Europe. If translation is migrants’ modus vivendi, their literary texts may be read as testimonies to their endeavours to negotiate their identities, achieve cultural literacy or competence in host cultures.

This special issue will focus on the ways in which migrant literatures manage to capture and explore new cultural territories through translation.

Suggested topics may include:

  • creation of ethnic enclaves and myths, as alternative structures in which literature is both a channel for and a reflection of communication in the diaspora and beyond,
  • re-narrating native cultures in confrontation with the host culture (e.g. essays on home cultures and literatures written in immigration, histories of native literatures in foreign languages, searching for communities articulating similar experiences of migration, the problem of cultural memory),
  • auto-translations and problems they pose (switching codes, the use of the unspoken, e.g. genre structure, proxemic concepts, creating a “third space” as defined by Homi Bhabha)
  • inscriptions of migrant experiences (in interviews, anthologies of texts, Central European studies programs abroad),
  • translations of migrants’ writings, Central European literature abroad and foreign literature in Central Europe (roles of paratexts, translation techniques as indications of relationships in the target culture, competences of migrant translators in the context of cultural literacy, motivations in selecting texts for translation vs. relations between the source and the host culture, translation series as a form of refreshing cultural memory)
  • eco-translatology (ways to navigate the new translatological ecosystem, the relationship between the translatological and natural ecosystem, immigrant translations of natural codes into linguistic codes).

Migratory literature conceived in such a way reflects the intertwining of many identity projects within a single oeuvre or the implementation of one project in the writings of multiple authors. These projects can be defined as the melancholic, founded on the concept of loss; the negotiated, aiming at integrating past and current experiences; and the performative, in which an author or a group of authors successfully introduce their own variant of identity into the host culture.

The study of reception of migrant literatures in host cultures is another topic this call for papers wishes to explore. The reception of literature written by Central European migrants in host cultures, both in their native or adoptive tongues, is to this day an under-researched area. These migrant writers’ reliance on their native heritage, even if they are third-generation immigrants, has shaped their identities and their understanding of foreign canons. Incorporating their literary outputs with Central European literary national canons would shed light on the migration of cultural concepts, the evocation of “third spaces,” and visualizing cultural networks of Central European émigré authors.

This special issue also wishes to integrate research on Central European post-socialist émigré literature with the literary output of arrivals in Central Europe in a common framework of transculturation (as defined by Maria Tymoczko and according to later formulations). Such an inclusive critical approach is expected to grant this issue a wider perspective on intergenerational, political and intellectual formations, as well as the contextual studies on poetics, rhetoric etc.

Finally, this call on migrant translators invites researchers to take a closer look at forced migrants, called by Mary Gallagher “naked migrants.” These displaced persons, returnees and refugees are often deprived of the possibility of articulating their experience of forced displacement or exodus. Their portraits, emerging from the narratives of others, dominate the representation of Central European cultures abroad. Exploring these cultural images from the point of view of the adoptive culture can further contribute to expanding our understanding of Central European literature. The opposite gesture of examining the portraits of “naked migrants” in the literatures of Central Europe will complement the western studies of the “Other” and help to draw immigrants from the area of cultural invisibility and silence.


Complete papers followed by a short bio should be submitted to by 31 August  2017.


Gallagher, Mary. Lost and Gained in Migration: The Writing of Migrancy. In: From Literature to Cultural Literacy. Ed. N. Segal and D. Koleva, Palgrave Macmillan 2014, p. 133.

Rushdie, Salman. 1983. Shame. New York: Vintage International, p. 49. Print.

Rutherford, Jonathan. 1990. The Third Space. Interview with Homi Bhabha. In. Ders. (Hg.) Identity: Community, Culture, Difference. London: Lawrence and Wishart, p. 207-221. Print

Tymoczko, Maria. 2007. Enlarging Translation, Empowering Translators. Manchester: St. Jerome. Print.

Cite this blog post
Pablo Markin (2017, May 17). Open Cultural Studies: Migration and Translation. Open Culture. Retrieved June 25, 2024, from

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