Traduttore, traitore; translatio studii; translatio imperii. The matter of translation is central to the study of the histories, literatures, and cultures of the early Americas, where speakers of indigenous, Indo-European, African, and Asian languages negotiated what words meant and who had the power to wield them.
From nuanced accommodations of Nahuatl to Spanish and polemical land transfer treatises negotiated in Algonquin and English, to “talking books” and African interpreters who shaped seventeenth-century debates on slavery, acts of translation marked the practices of daily life and enabled sweeping imperial policies. (These are not random examples; they are drawn from the rich variety of papers that will be presented at the conference. The full program is online.)
Given the importance of translation in the colonial era, it is not surprising that scholars in a variety of disciplines are working on issues of translation, transmission, and interpretation. But all too often, conversations in one discipline don’t make their way into other fields, so we wanted to provide a space in which historians, art historians, anthropologists, literary scholars, linguists – anyone working on language acquisition, linguistic exchange, or the movement of power through language in the colonial Americas – could talk to each other. Although it has been a lot of work (and a lot of email, proving once again that OIEAHC webmaster Kim Foley is strong of html and patience), we are really excited about the collaborative possibilities for research and teaching that might emerge from the conference.
This conference will be the fourth in a series that has come to be known among colonial (Latin) Americanists as the Early Americanist “Summits.” Over the past decade and a half or so, the “Summits” have been bringing together senior and junior scholars from various fields interested in the early Americas across disciplinary boundaries. While its first iteration, which took place in Tucson, AZ, in 2002, primarily targeted scholars working on colonial Ibero- and Anglo-America, subsequent events have become ever more inclusive, featuring also scholars working in Native American, French, Dutch, and German American studies. Thus, the second conference in the series was entitled “Beyond Colonial Studies” (Providence, RI, 2006) and investigated the concept of coloniality in various historical and geographical contexts in the early Americas; and the third Summit, entitled “Early American Borderlands” (St. Augustine, FL, 2010), explored cultural boundaries, frontiers, and borders throughout the Western hemisphere through the eighteenth century. The program committee for this fourth iteration, “Translation and Transmission in the colonial Americas,” includes Ralph Bauer (University of Maryland), Allison Bigelow (University of Virginia), Alejandra Dubcovsky (Yale University), Patrick Erben (University of West Georgia), Carlos Jáuregui (University of Notre Dame), and Luis Fernando Restrepo (University of Arkansas).
With generous support from the Kislak Family Foundation, Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture (☺), Society of Early Americanists, University of Maryland, and the Buckner W. Clay Foundation at the University of Virginia’s Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures, the conference will run from 2-5 June in Washington, DC and the University of Maryland. Our keynote speakers, Davíd Carrasco, Michael Witgen, and Anna Brickhouse will deliver their addresses at the Mexican Cultural Institute, National Museum of the American Indian, and University of Maryland, all of which have donated their spaces to make these events possible.
Thank you again to all of our sponsors and participants. We hope to see you all in DC!
—Ralph Bauer and Allison Bigelow