Translating Worlds

The Epistemological Space of Translation

Edited by Carlo Severi and William F. Hanks

Set against the backdrop of anthropology’s recent focus on various “turns” (whether ontological, ethical, or otherwise), this pathbreaking volume returns to the question of knowledge and the role of translation as a theoretical and ethnographic guide for twenty-first century anthropology, gathering together contributions from leading thinkers in the field: Adam Yuet Chau, Emmanuel de Vienne, Carlos Fausto, William F. Hanks, John Leavitt, Geoffrey E. R. Lloyd, Bruce Mannheim, Alan Rumsey Carlo Severi, Rupert Stasch, and Anne-Christine Taylor.

Since Ferdinand de Saussure and Franz Boas, languages have been seen as systems whose differences make precise translation nearly impossible. And still others have viewed translation between languages as principally indeterminate. The contributors here argue that the challenge posed by the constant confrontation between incommensurable worlds and systems may be the most fertile ground for state-of-the-art ethnographic theory and practice. Ranging from tourism in New Guinea to shamanism in the Amazon to the globally ubiquitous restaurant menu, the contributors mix philosophy and ethnography to redefine translation not only as a key technique for understanding ethnography but as a larger principle in epistemology.


Translating Worlds Cover

338 pages
ISBN: 9780986132513
Price: $25.00

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Table of Contents

List of Contributors vii
Translating worlds: The epistemological space of translation
William F. Hanks and Carlo Severi 1
The space of translation
William F. Hanks 21
Transmutating beings: A proposal for an anthropology of thought
Carlo Severi 51
Powers of incomprehension: Linguistic otherness, translators
and political structure in New Guinea tourism encounters
Rupert Stasch 89
Healing translations: Moving between worlds in Achuar shamanism
Anne-Christine Taylor 117
vi Translating Worlds
Bilingual language learning and the translation of worlds
in the New Guinea Highlands and beyond
Alan Rumsey 147
Culinary subjectification: The translated world of menus
and orders
Adam Yuet Chau 175
All translation is radical translation
Bruce Mannheim 199
Acting translation: Ritual and prophetism in twenty-first-century
indigenous Amazonia
Carlos Fausto and Emmanuel de Vienne 221
Words and worlds: Ethnography and theories of translation
John Leavitt 259
On the very possibility of mutual intelligibility
G. E. R. Lloyd 295
Index 313


Read the Special Issue in Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory



Literary Review


Handler, Richard. “Found in Translation.” Reviews in Anthropology 45, no. 3-4 (2016): 148-157.

Translating Worlds stems from a 2014 conference on “Cognition and Cultural Translation.” It includes ten papers, plus the introduction. Taken together, the introduction and the papers by Hanks, Bruce Mannheim, John Leavitt, and G. E. R. Lloyd provide a general discussion of some issues in translation theory that are salient at the intersection of anthropology and linguistics.