Research Projects

2014-16: Conversion, Translation and the Language of Autobiography: Re-inventing the Self in Transitions to Christianity in India (1700 - 1947)

This is a two-year interdisciplinary project that investigates the role of translation in the movement of religious ideas and beliefs across cultures and historical periods. The project explores to what extent translation theory and methods can offer conceptual and linguistic frameworks to study the way religions travel; and to what extent linguistic and conceptual elements of translation are linked to the articulation of religious identity. Focusing on narratives of religious conversion written by South Asians, the team explore links between the translation of Protestant values across languages and how religious conversions to Protestant Christianity were represented through a range of narratives.

The project led by Dr. Hephzibah Israel of the University of Edinburgh brings together an international team of academics from the UK, India and Germany: Dr. John Zavos (University of Manchester), Dr. Milind Wakankar (Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi) and Dr. Matthias Frenz (German research consultant). The team will identify and study conversion accounts written in and translated into one of the four languages of the project: English, German, Marathi and Tamil. They will study how conversion to Protestant Christianity was signalled through choice of words, narrative structures and ‘paratextual’ materials that accompanied the accounts. How does an individual who has self-consciously converted from one religious system to another indicate their ‘translation,’ so to speak, from one linguistic perceptual universe to another? What is lost or gained in translation?

More details can be found on the project website.

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