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Mistranslation and understanding constructs international relationships

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International politics often requires two or more languages. The resulting interlingual relations mean translation, either by interpreters who are quite literally in the middle of conversations, or by bilingual statesmen who negotiate internationally in one language and then legitimize domestically in another. Since no two languages are the same, what can be argued in one language may be impossible in another. Political concepts can thus be significantly reformulated in the translation process. State of Translation examines this phenomenon using the case of how 19th-century Ottoman and later Turkish statesmen struggled to reconcile their arguments in external languages (French, then English) with those in their internal language (Ottoman, later Turkish), and in the process further entangled them. Einar Wigen shows how this process structured social relations between the Ottoman state and its interlocutors, both domestically and internationally, and shaped the dynamics of Turkish relations with Europe.

Einar Wigen is Associate Professor of Turkish studies in the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages at the University of Oslo.

“A stunning example of what we can learn about international relations and political change when we attend carefully to language and translation. The chapters on civilization, empire, citizenship, and democracy are gems. Wigen has put the study of ‘interlingual relations’ on the map.”
—Frederic Charles Schaffer, University of Massachusetts Amherst

“This book sets the agenda for studying what happens to key political concepts when they enter unfamiliar semantic terrain. International relations have always been among languages and not just states. Anybody interested in interlingual relations should read this book.”
—Jörg Friedrichs, University of Oxford

State of Translation advances an innovative argument about the importance of translation across linguistic divides in international relations. This pioneering monograph will trigger other studies exploring politics across other linguistic divides.”
—Bahar Rumelili, Koç University

Winner: International Studies Association (ISA) 2019 Yale H. Ferguson Award

- ISA Yale H. Ferguson Award