On what basis can we establish an alternative to the unifying of cultures brought about by economic globalization? When ideas, like objects and words, can be translated and marketed everywhere, what forms of critique are available? Straddling the fields of political philosophy, comparative literature, animal studies, global studies, and political economy, Untranslating Machines proposes to this end a weakened, defective concept of "untranslatability."
The analytic frame of Jacques Lezra's argument is rooted in Marx, Derrida and Wittgenstein. He moves historically from the moment when "translation" becomes firmly wed to mercantilism and to the consolidation of proto-national state forms, in European early modernity; to the current moment, in which the flow of information, commodities and value-creation protocols among international markets produces the regulative fantasy of a global, coherent market of markets. In a world in which translation and translatability have become a means and a model for the consolidation of a global cultural system, this book proposes an understanding of untranslatability that serves to limit the articulation between a globalized capitalist value-system and the figure and techniques of translation.
What do thinkers as disparate as Hobbes, Cervantes, Marx, Wittgenstein, Irigaray, Derrida, Cassin and Laclau have to say to each other about translation? If your answer was going to be "not much," pause, and read this book. Translation and sovereignty, the oneness and not-oneness of untranslatability, universalism's dependence on non-universal standards of commensuration, comparison and market equivalence, "widgets," animal translation, the problem of unshared natural language, the articulation of plural modes of "being" in languages - all these topics and more are considered in response to a disturbing thought: "Globalization has taken our tongues from us." To the growing list of signal works in "non-translation" studies we must add Jacques Lezra's astute and witty Untranslatating Machines.--Emily Apter, Professor of French and Comparative Literature, New York University, author of Against World Literature: On the Politics of Untranslatability
Introduction: This Untranslatability Which is Not One / 1. Two Dogmas of Translation / 2. On Contingency in Translation / 3. Nationum origo / 4. Sovereignty or Translation / 5. What is Possible in Machine Translation / 6. The Animal in Translation / Conclusion / Bibliography / Index