Translation of Modernity and Islam. The Case of Iran

Title: Translation of Modernity and Islam. The Case of Iran
Authors: Seyed Alavi, Seyed Mohammad
Date: 2014-05-08
Abstract: This study is inspired by two phenomena: first, the interest among certain translation studies scholars in sociological theories to account for the social implications of translation and translational activities; and secondly, the transformation of Iranian society along with its systematic and systemic integration into the globalized society. It attempts to analyze the role of translation –products and processes– in how modernity and Islam have been introduced to Iranian society of the 19th century and that of the 1990s, respectively. Theoretical frameworks to define translation, describe society, and study the socio-political impact of translation are derived from Niklas Luhmann’s theories of communication, society and politics. His theory of communication is used to define translation as a communication medium that makes communication across linguistic, semiotic and historical borders more probable. As a medium, translation can lend itself to two distinct levels of understandings. While the first focuses on actual translation products at textual level, i.e. inter-lingual translation products, the second addresses translation processes at macro-level, which enable professional role players in a social system such as the system of religion to draw communicatively the attention of other systems such as the system of politics. His theory of society serves to describe the semantics and structure of Iranian society during the 19th century. In the latter period Iran is caught in the avalanche of modern world politics and economy. It begins to use translation, among others, as an efficient mean to learn and derive information about the modern Europe. The new information raises communicative complexity in the society, the efficient handling of which gives birth to modern structures. Luhmann’s political theory is used to analyze Iran’s post-revolutionary political system and its interaction with the system of religion. Iranian theocracy is considered undemocratic less due to the unification of religion and politics than due to its faulty differentiation into the subsystems of administration, politics and public. The way the system understands Islam is crucial in shaping political institutions and organizations as well as in evolving political structures (defining which politically relevant issues are taken into consideration as themes for decision making). The socio-political relevance of translation processes is then demonstrated based on how religious intellectuals take the task of ‘translation proviso’ seriously by translating modern political thinking into a religious communication, and in so doing, draw the attention of theocracy. Four translations of the Quranic verse 4:34 as well as an analysis of religiously informed political theories formulated in the intellectual journal of Kiyān will serve to demonstrate how religious intellectuals’ reformist re-translation of Islam produces new communicative themes in the public opinion and hence draws the attention of theocracy. The findings, of interest for translation studies, sociology of religion, political science and Iranian studies, show that translations, by disseminating information and raising complexity in society, are basic social operations with consequences for different spheres of society.
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -