Tuesday, 19 April 2016
Siting Translation: History, Post-Structuralism and the Colonial Context,
Tejaswini Niranjana, University of California Press, 2015, page 34
Although modern missionaries would firmly rebuff suggestions that their work was part of an effort to dominate or subjugate the peoples of third world countries, study of the past shows that co-option to the colonial agenda is all too easily done!
The desire of colonial discourse to translate in order to contain (and to contain and control in order to translate, since symbolic domination is as crucial as physical domination) is evidenced in colonial-missionary efforts to compile grammars of 'unknown' languages.
It was the European missionaries who compiled the western-style dictionaries ... they needed to communicate - widely and quickly - so invested in 'local' language studies, generating the tools that documented and explained the local tribal and regional languages. Intended for missionary use, for communicating the gospel quickly and accurately to the native populations, they quickly became important tools for the colonial powers.
European missionaries were the first to prepare Western-style dictionaries for most of the Indian languages, participating thereby in the enormous project of collection and codification on which colonial power was based.
When you control the language, you control the speakers.