ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Being and becoming : language and translation


Kothari Rita - Ashoka, English, Sonepat, India


20 – Self-translation, translating the self: Multilingual writers in South Asia


 My talk will draw from a range of poetry, novels and also real-life situations to understand what happens when the self needs to be reinvented and its vocabulary moves from one language to another. Do we become different people by using different words for ourselves? Do certain bodies that have faced shame by being who they are retrieve respect and dignity by a translation of the self into another language? I am  intrigued by the idea of the syntax of the self, the languages that travel with, interrupt and inform people. I believe that the most profound role of language is manifest in the idea of self-fashioning, in ways that it gets mobilised in acquiring a new vocabulary for the self. The essay is not only about being in many languages but also staying with the idea of language—of words, traces of memory and power, the interactions of caste and class and desires to leave hurting words behind embracing new ones. Most of all, I  foreground the necessity of not looking at languages as isolated affects, but rather noting that these very affects are interlaced with experience. The talk will not be a linguistic exposition but an embodied relationship of a translator with language/s.