Publication details [#9835]

Gouanvic, Jean-Marc. 2005. A Bourdieusian theory of translation, or the coincidence of practical instances: field, 'habitus', capital and 'illusio'. The Translator 11 (2) : 147–166.


This article attempts to adapt Pierre Bourdieu's sociological theory of symbolic goods to translation by highlighting points of convergence between the reflections of the sociologist and questions of translation. Founded upon a theory of action, Bourdieu's sociology allows for an integration of translation practice into his heuristic model. The practice of translation is based upon a coincidence of two instances: the external instance of literary texts and the internal instance. Using examples from American literature translated in France in the 19th and 20th centuries, this paper analyzes the effect on translation of the existence, or nonexistence, of American and French literary fields, with emphasis on the censorship that the judicial fields attempted to impose upon the literary field during the period under consideration. It then analyzes the 'habitus' of a number of translators and the way in which their social trajectories developed. Finally, it is suggested that the 'illusio' is ultimately the object of the translator's task. Governed by the principle of homology, translation is the work of a translator who, embodied in his or her bi-cultural 'habitus', imports the foreign text into the target culture, thus orienting this culture towards a new social future. [Based on abstract in journal]