Governmentality and the good offices of translation in 20th-century South Africa

  • Anne-Marie Beukes Department of Linguistics and Literary Theory, University of Johannesburg, PO Box 524, Auckland Park 2006


A postmodern approach to language policy and planning suggests a rethinking of our social, economic, and political categories in favor of a more localised understanding of modes of governmentality (Pennycook, 2006: 71). This article provides an overview of the ideological discourses and processes that helped shape the translation profession and the activities of translators in 20th-century South Africa. Drawing on the work of Pennycook (2002, 2006) on language governmentality, translation is linked to language policy as an instance of ‘cultural governance'. The notion of language governmentality allows for an investigation of the more localised mechanisms and diverse operations of power embodied and enacted by professional translation practices, language use and discourses. The role that translators and organised translation activities played in legitimising and institutionalising the Afrikaans language as a tool for building a collective political consciousness is investigated against the backdrop of the grand narrative of Afrikaner nationalism. An account is also given of the modes of governmentality embodied by the South African Translators' Association.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2007, 25(2): 115–130

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614