Anthony Pym

On 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 contacts.

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.

Anthony Pym
August 20, 2004

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