Institutional silences : the role of the translator in heritage narratives

Côme, Pauline (2020) Institutional silences : the role of the translator in heritage narratives. In: Association for the Study of Modern and Contemporary France and Society for the Study of French History Postgraduate Study Day, 2020-03-07 - 2020-03-07, Queen's University Belfast.

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In the same way that they chose which objects to display from their collections or which parts of a building can be visited, museums and heritage sites present a sanctioned version of the past through the type and content of their interpretive material. This narrative is shaped by what Laurajane Smith (2006) calls Authorised Heritage Discourse (AHD) and effectively serves to endorse the silencing of some (hi)stories in favour of a dominant narrative. With the ever-increasing popularity of international travel and heritage tourism, heritage sites are also increasingly confronted to foreign audiences and to the need to translate their interpretive material. In this context, translation plays an essential role for the circulation of this dominant narrative and of cultural knowledge. Yet, to date, there has been little research into translation for museums or heritage sites. This paper seeks to explore the role of the translator in the linguistic and cultural mediation of the master narrative that heritage sites disseminate. By putting in parallel interpretive texts from a range of Scottish heritage sites with their French translations in a comparative analysis based on Halliday’s Systemic Functional Linguistics (1961), this paper surveys the different strategies used in translation to either sanction the dominant narrative or give voice to alternative interpretations: from absent translations that are just silence to poor translations where words are simply ‘noise’, from literal translations that reproduce the same silences of the source text, to the étoffement of the target text that gives voice to other narratives.