Translation and development: (non-)translation and material exclusion in South Africa

  • Maricel Botha


In response to a call by Kobus Marais in 2012 to bring development studies into the purview of translation studies, this article describes the relationship between translation and development in democratic South Africa by focusing on translation’s relationship with material (versus symbolic or cultural) social exclusion. Social exclusion thus represents the perspective from which development is discussed. While symbolic inclusion (attaining widespread social cohesion and solidarity) represents the ideal of development as far as it relates to translation, material inclusion (having access to public services and the possibility of social mobility) represents the most urgent developmental requirement in terms of translation. The correspondence between social distinctions and language domains in South African society is described in relation to language policy and practice. Translation’s operation is analysed against this background to indicate how the absence of translation and shortcomings in translation in the public service create material exclusion, posing serious obstacles to normal functioning and survival in society. The article finds that current translation practices perpetuate the language divides erected during the previous century. It argues for increased translation in the public service and increased English literacy to effectively combat practical social exclusion and allow social mobility.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614