Linguistics at Newcastle


Translating cultures and the legislated mediation of indigenous rights in Peru

Professor Rosaleen Howard leads a team which consists of Dr. Raquel de Pedro Ricoy of Heriot Watt University and Dr. Luis Andrade Ciudad of the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú in Lima. They will also work with Peru’s Ministry of Culture and Servicios Educativos Rurales, a Non-Governmental Organisation.

From the project description: Peru is a multicultural state where, in addition to Spanish, around 4 million people speak some 46 Amerindian languages of diverse linguistic stock, across the Andes and Amazon regions. This diversity has been bound up with social inequality since the colonial period. In this century, escalating industrial exploitation of the natural resources lying below indigenous lands has triggered serious conflicts. Today, efforts are being made to implement legislation that recognizes the interconnected principles of language rights and the right to prior consultation, where intercultural understanding between Spanish speaking representatives of the state and other outside bodies, and the indigenous language-speaking communities is needed. Among the initiatives being taken are the translation of the texts of the laws from Spanish into a range of native languages, and the training of state interpreters to work bilingually between Spanish and their mother tongues in contexts of intercultural mediation. The objectives of this project will be to examine both sets of processes: translation and interpreting between Spanish and the indigenous languages in contexts of formal interaction between agents of the state and members of the indigenous communities.

Firstly we shall look at translations of the laws into such different languages as Quechua and Aymara (spoken in the highlands), and Asháninka and Shipibo (spoken in the lowlands). Can the technical concepts and values enshrined in the laws ever be rendered into languages that have evolved in such different cultural settings? Conversely, are there not legal concepts at work in Amerindian societies that the Spanish-speaking state is not aware of and does not seek to recognize in law? Who are the translators? What was their experience of this task?

Secondly we shall look at the processes of interpreter training, organized by the Ministry of Culture, which accredits young professionals for interpreting in formal settings (such as prior consultation, judicial trials, and health) between Spanish and their mother tongues (Awajún and Wampis spoken in the northern Peruvian Amazon, Matsiguenga spoken in the eastern lowlands, and many others). We shall focus on particular language groups and individuals, and ask questions about the social, cultural and linguistic identities of the trainers and trainees, the curricular content of the training courses, and post-training employment of graduates. Who are the interpreters? What linguistic, social and cultural challenges does their job present them with?

This interdisciplinary project combines the expertise of an anthropological linguist, a specialist in community interpreting and translation, and a Peruvian indigenous language specialist. The commitment of our Project Partners will allow the project to generate considerable impact beyond the sphere of academia. The project will address the AHRC Translating Cultures strategic question regarding the politics, use, and understanding of translation and interpreting as driven by public bodies. We shall highlight issues of indigenous rights in Peru, with a focus on the role of translators and interpreters as intermediaries between cultural and socio-geographical spaces constituted by differing worldviews, economic priorities, and cultural values. We shall aim to promote interaction between researchers and practitioners from diverse disciplinary fields and institutional spaces in Peru and the UK as a means to generate new insights into these important issues for today’s world.