Translation and The 100 Thousand Poets for Change Movement

Translation and The 100 Thousand Poets for Change Movement


Abstract uploaded today to the Globalizing Dissent conference site. See

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Translation and The 100 Thousand Poets for Change Movement

Stefania Taviano, University of Messina, Italy

Translation, both in its narrow and broad senses, is a vital component of global phenomena such as Hip Hop, where it shapes the language(s) that songs are written in, whether the language in question is English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) or Arabic. As I have argued elsewhere, translation can take different forms as a key component in the construction of Arab Hip Hoppers’ identity as musicians and activists. Translation is also central to the work of the 100 Thousand Poets for Change Movement for Peace and Sustainability (100TPC). This is a global movement of poets, writers, musicians, artists and activists who come together “to create and perform, educate and demonstrate, simultaneously with other communities around the world whose major concern is transformation towards a more sustainable and peaceful world”.

While translation, in its narrow sense, allows protest movements to communicate throughout the world, as Rizk (2013) argues, translation in the broader sense also plays a vital role in empowering and connecting these movements. Various textual, metatextual and paratextual strategies are often embedded in or used to frame the poems, songs and videos of solidarity events organized by 100TPC in ways that reveal and evoke its connections with other movements without the need for interlingual translation. Indeed, in a wider and more complex sense, translation is inherent to the 100TPC movement: it works by drawing on shared common values and goals that travel across languages and cultures and are ‘translated’ and reinterpreted in each local context. As Rothenberg explains, “What people see is common ground, a vehicle for change. They find their activism as an artist. It empowers them, knowing it’s going on all over the world” (in Ransom 2012). The fact that 100TPC could transform into 100 Thousand Mimes for Change in Egypt testifies to this. It underlines the potential for alternative forms of resistance to be born of a single initiative, defying not only the need for translation from one language to another, but even that of communication through words. Another example is the Solidarity Events for Justice for Andy Lopez, a 13-year old boy shot dead by a sheriff for carrying a toy gun, which took place on 7 June 2014 around the world. The posters used for local initiatives combined different languages in innovative ways to bring the message home to a local audience. For the Italian event in Bologna, the poster featured a logo with a portrait of Andy and the sentence I am Andy Lopez and my life matters in English. For the Los Angeles event, on the other hand, the second part of the sentence was replaced by the Spanish la brutalidad policial. Neither version restricted itself to the official language of the country in question, and yet both appealed to different constituencies within each country.

Translation also plays an important role in Girifna, a Sudanese non-violent resistance movement which, among other things, provides information about the escalating violence of the Sudanese Security Police through subtitled audio interviews as well as poems and songs. The 100TPC movement and Girifna are only two among many examples testifying to the need to engage with the role of translation in global protest movements, as well as in mediating other key issues in the global village we inhabit, including diversity and cultural identity.

Stefania Taviano teaches English Translation and Interpreting at the University of Messina, Italy. She has written extensively on theatre translation, contemporary Italian theatre and Italian American performance art. Her latest publications include Translating English as a Lingua Franca (2010) and a special issue of the Interpeter and Translator Trainer entitled English as a Lingua Franca and Translation, as well as several articles on Global Hip Hop. She is currently researching the role of translation in shaping global resistance movements and forms of art such as Hip Hop.
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