Translating norms: strenghts and weaknesses of a concept

Ringvorlesung "Translating Normativity: New Perspectives on Law and Legal Transfers"

5. Februar 2014, 18.15 Uhr
Peter Burke (University of Cambridge, UK)

Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Campus Westend, Casino 1801

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Abstract
‘Cultural translation’ is one of a cluster of concepts such as ‘transfer’, ‘exchange’ and ‘hybridization’, that has come into use to describe cultural change (in domains such as language, architecture, music, religion and so on). Like its competitors, it has advantages and disadvantages.
The model of translation between languages has at least two advantages. Compared with ‘transfer’, it emphasizes the point that what travels changes. In the second place, the model has the advantage of emphasizing agency, the conscious adaptation of a text to a new context. Of course the model itself needs adaptation when it is used to discuss other kinds of cultural change, for example the work of missionaries in a culture very different from their own. There are obvious differences between translating forms, as in the case of architecture, and translating knowledge or ideas, when the problem of contradiction may arise. The problems of translation from one region to another, from one medium to another and from one domain to another are rather different.
Translators like other people follow norms in their work, while norms like forms or ideas can be transated. In the case of law, one thinks of the problems of translating laws from one language to another, of the translation of oral custom into written law, and of imposing laws formulated in one context or culture in a different context or culture.
Despite its advantages, the model of cultural translation is not universally applicable. Like other paradigms, perhaps all paradigms, it casts shadows as well as light. What it does not illuminate (essentially changes that are not the result of conscious action) requires other concepts such as ‘hybridization’ or ‘habitus’.

CV
Peter Burke studied at Oxford and taught at the new University of Sussex (1962-78) before moving to Cambridge, where he became Professor of Cultural History. He retired from the Chair in 2004 but remains a Life Fellow of Emmanuel College. He is also a Fellow of the British Academy, an Honorary Fellow of St John’s College Oxford, and has been awarded honorary degrees by the Universities of Lund, Copenhagen, Bucharest and Zürich. He has published 26 books and his work has so far been translated into 31 languages. For most of his career he has worked on the cultural and social history of early modern Europe, with some incursions into the 19th and 20th centuries.

Bildergalerie:

  • Prof. Peter Burke (University of Cambridge, UK)
  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Duve, Professor für vergleichende Rechtsgeschichte der Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Direktor des Max-Planck-Instituts für europäische Rechtsgeschichte und Partner Investigator des Exzellenzclusters „Die Herausbildung normativer Ordnungen“
  • Dr. Lena Foljanty, Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin des Max-Planck-Instituts für europäische Rechtsgeschichte
  • Dr. Lena Foljanty, Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin des Max-Planck-Instituts für europäische Rechtsgeschichte
  • Dr. des. Daniel Föller, Post Doc des Exzellenzclusters "Die Herausbildung normativer Ordnungen"

 

Veranstalter:
Exzellenzcluster "Die Herausbildung normativer Ordnungen" in besonderer Zusammenarbeit mit dem Partner des Exzellenzclusters, dem Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte


 

 


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