the founding of the International Association for Translation and
Intercultural Studies (IATIS)
The IATIS was founded at its inaugural conference in
Seoul on 12-14 August 2004.
On 9 August 2004 I informed Theo Hermans (Chair of the
Executive Council) and Sung Hee Kirk ( Secretary and Treasurer) of
my intention not to seek election as a member of the IATIS Executive
Committee. I addressed these two people because they were the only
ones who had ever communicated with me about the association.
This followed my acceptance, on 6 March 2003, of a position
on the council as one of the "founders" of the association
(such is the term that appeared on the IATIS website).
My decision not to be a member of the IATIS Executive
Council was based on two main reasons:
1. The "international association" is a creation
sui generis, comprising a group of academics who selected each
other and have subsequently invited others to join them. It would
have been far preferable, I believe, to seek a federation of the existing
associations of Translation Studies. One might have brought together
the European Society for Translation Studies, the Canadian Association
of Translation Studies, and similar associations in Brazil and Japan
(for interpreting). These associations could have contributed considerable
memberships and experience.
2. One of the prime movers behind the IATIS is and remains
Mona Baker, who was a founding Vice President. Mona Baker is well
known in the Translation Studies community for her decision to remove
Professor Gideon Toury and Dr Miriam Shlesinger from the editorial
board of the journal The Translator, since those two people
are employed as academics in Israeli universities. While I very much
share the condemnation the Israeli government's systematic violation
of the basic rights of Palestinians, I do not share the petty nationalism
of the boycott (one might as well boycott Mona Baker for being employed
by a state that illegally invaded Iraq, among other iniquities). Mona
Baker has identified intellectuals with states, apparently unaware
that the best tradition of Western humanism distances intellectuals
from states. Such boycotts are ethically and intellectually incompatible
with the very nature of Intercultural Studies, at least if we understand
our work as a search for cooperation between cultures.
Both these reasons were made known to the Chair of the
IATIS Executive Council. The first one was actually aired early in
2004. Theo Hermans consequently undertook to approach the existing
national associations, although I do not know the result of those
The two reasons are, of course, related. The European
Society for Translation Studies and the Canadian Association for Translation
Studies have both publicly condemned Mona Baker's boycott. The fact
that she is now Vice President of the self-declared international
association must be taken as an affront to those other associations.
This is perhaps something that the members of the IATIS,
despite all their good intentions, are not aware.
August 20, 2004
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