Map and territory: LIFE TRANSLATED FOR OTHERS (1)

by Santiago Barcaza S.

A map is a graphic and metric representation of a portion of territory. This means that, created with the purpose of knowing and showing the world to others, maps constitute a sort of translation that, not only do we see or read, but that we live to comprehend the territory that we inhabit.

In Latinamerica and in Chile in particular, map and territory, look like two concepts dissuaded and confronted since centuries, not only by authorities in place, but also by an important part of the civil society in what refers to (1) accept and include the indigenous communities that inhabit their same territory, and (2) understand and value their “maps” and all the effort they make to translate the transcendental attributes of their culture, their very life. In other words, the defense or recovery of lands, involves, for the indigenous communities, not only a matter of economic survival, but it also connects with the dream of revitalizing their culture.

In this essay -and in the successive ones that I will publish in this blog- I will deepen on the political and sociological role that indigenous movements and communities in Chile give to literature, which is generated mainly by bicultural and bilingual creators, who seek through their creations -translated by themselves to Spanish- to put in doubt the dominant / subordinate binarism; and on the other hand, I will try to explain how, through literature, It is possible to create a strategy that allows creators of indigenous origin to reverse the reduction of their cultures, languages and policies.

Under a post colonial perspective, the space / inhabitant or space / community relationship leads to a particularly rich and highly complex point: the border. This is where the roads open up to clarify the relationship between the State and the territory, the nation and territoriality, as well as the impact that the border, as a material construction, symbolic device, legal reality and literary element, has on the notions of identity and roots. The place that the border occupies as a symbol in the bilingual poetry of authors of indigenous origin in Chile and the scope that the symbol includes, helps to understand the metaphorical-conceptual character that the idea of territory can have to explain the practice of self-translation as place of transit from one cultural space to another.

But what is self-translation? By self-translation we understand the “translation of a work by its own author”; In this practice, two phenomena occur: on the one hand, author and translator skills are merged and, on the other, the “original-version” logic is challenged, since these texts elude the temporality in which they were conceived as they constitute the product of an author that interpellates two cultural spaces in simultaneity. In the territory where the poet lives, embedded in a larger territory subject to the dominant culture, translation gives and takes shape within the asymmetric power relations of colonialism. In order to critically reverse or challenge such asymmetries, there are scholars who propose a use of translation as an “outburst” to destabilize the coherence of the original and the idea of invariable identity, of unique identity.

Several philosophers agree that every human being has the need to have roots, and that almost the totality of the moral, intellectual and spiritual life of a person is reached through the environments that he has felt part of along the life. This sense of belonging, far beyond the mere fact of integrating a group, implies a personal identification, the generation of affective bonds, the adoption of shared norms and habits, and a feeling of solidarity with the rest of the members. But what happens when you live between two or more groups. Precisely in this intermediate space, the indigenous self-translation accounts for this “outburst” since the concept of the original text -as we saw previously- linked to the prerogative of temporality, is challenged in the self-translation, by the fusion of roles of author and translator who appeals to two (or more) cultural spaces at the same time. And, finally, the identity linked to the assessment of the “unique” is questioned in paragraphs and other antagonistic signs that can be found in any comparative study of versions of bilingual texts.

In the next installment, we will approach two poets of Chilean indigenous origin and we will hold a dialogue with the researcher and academic from the Universidad Diego Portales, Dr. Rodrigo Rojas.

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