Translation and Performance

Instructor: Sruti Bala
Register: send an email to Eloe Kingma at before March 15. Please be sure to specify your master program and university

The course investigates translation in the realm of theatre and performance. This includes translation in the linguistic sense in which it is most commonly understood, but extends to an array of questions pertaining to translation in its root sense of a carrying overacross a much broader range of semiotic, embodied and inter-subjective forms and practices. The task of translation in performance practice takes on both pragmatic as well as philosophical dimensions. At a pragmatic level, the challenges of translation in performance include the conveying of gestures, styles, dramaturgy, and genres, moving across media, historical periods, cultural contexts and physical spaces. It is an inquiry into how translation is practiced by makers and audiences alike. At a philosophical level, the module asks what translation means beyond the search for equivalence, in the encounter with inassimilable otherness and difference? This includes questions of cultural appropriation, hybridity, logocentrism, representation and (un)translatability.

The module is completed with a translation assignment, wherein students engage through linguistic and extra-linguistic means with chosen source material and reflect on the politics of translation. The schedule consists of weekly sessions involving discussions of readings, performative experiments and additional visits to performances and art exhibitions.



Walter Benjamin, “The Task of the Translator: An Introduction to the Translation of Baudelaire’s Tableaux Parisiens [1921],” in Illuminations (London: Pimlico, 1999), pp. 70–82.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Introduction”, An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012). pp. 1-32

Boaventura De Sousa Santos, Epistemologies of the South: Justice Against Epistemicide (London: Routledge/Paradigm, 2014). Ch. 8, pp. 212-235.

Emily Apter, Against World Literature: On the Politics of Untranslatability (London: Verso, 2013). Ch. 5 “Checkpoints and Sovereign Borders”, pp. 99-114.

Sara Ahmed, Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in Post-Coloniality (London: Routledge, 2000), Ch. 3 “Knowing Strangers,” pp. 55-74.

Edouard Glissant, The Poetics of Relation (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997). “For Opacity”, pp. 189-194.


This is a NICA core activity. Completing this activity earns you a certificate specifying the number of EC credits at stake. You can have this certificate formally registered at your institution’s administrative office. You may need to acquire the permission of your program coordinator and/or board of examinations in order to participate and earn credits for this activity.