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Of Presences/Absences, Identity and Power: the Ideological Role of Translation into Swahili during Late Pre-Colonial and Early Colonial Times

Universitätsbibliothek Leipzig
Publication Date
  • Identität
  • Macht
  • Übersetzungsideologien
  • Kolonialismus
  • Swahili
  • Kiswahili
  • Tansania
  • Utendi
  • Gedicht
  • Identity
  • Power
  • Translation Ideologies
  • Colonial
  • Poetry
  • Ddc:496
  • Linguistics
  • Literature


This paper results from an investigation of translation activities in Swahili literature during late pre-colonial and early colonial times. In detail, the paper addresses questions on how, for some specific groups, the choice to translate from particular languages and cultures – or even the choice to not translate at all – was related both to practices of accumulation of prestige and power and to practices of identity construction. Textual analysis, together with the inclusion of cultural-historical facts (contextual analysis), allows a comparison between the nature of literary and extra-literary discourses and therefore uncovers specific patterns underneath translation practices from the 18th until early 20th century. The objective of this study is to emphasise the link between the exercise of power and production of culture, «[…] of which production of translation is part.» (Bassnett & Lefevere 1990: 5), and thus to configure translated literature as playing an active role in Swahili literary and cultural system.

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