Translators assume the role of the censor

Adelita Husni-Bey October 26, 2016 0

Adelita: ‘Coup’ was going to be another word we were going to discuss.

Antonia: Because coup could still be a change in the system, but not supported by the population, right?

Adelita: Should we look at it up.

Lina: Coup is cutting no?

Habiba: You are the French speaking one.

Lina: ‘Couper’ is to cut.

Antonia: So not just change, but cut. So it doesn’t relate to who cuts. We translate it to ‘colpo’ in Italian, which is ‘to beat’.

Naira: Also in Spanish.

Antonia: In Italian we understand it as people probably coming from the government. So it more internal. Revolution would be mass, but a coup is actually internal.

Naira: People kept pointing out to me after June 30, regardless of weather this is a coup, or a revolution, that in Iranian, I mean Farsi, the word for ‘revolution’ is ‘inqilab’, which is what ‘coup’ is in Arabic.

[Everyone]: oooooh….

Habiba: Combbbbleex (Arabized complex).

Habiba: Ok: [reading] “coup d’etat: a sudden and decisive action in politics especially one resulting in a change of government illegally or by force.”

Naira: Can you say it again?

Habiba (slowly): “A sudden and decisive action in politics especially one resulting in a change of government illegally or by force.”

Adelita: “Illegally or by force”.

Antonia: But is it not similar to revolution?

Habiba: Kind of, except for illegally or by force. There is no specification. They don’t specify.

Adelita: There is a different type of agency involved in the notion of a mass of people…

Habiba: Into their own hands.

Naira: Can I ask Mada people, because I think almost everyone would agree that what happened on June 30 is the definition that Habiba just read out. But we don’t use the word ‘coup’. We never had a decision making process around it, but we always used words like the ‘ouster’ of Mohamed Morsi, or ‘military-backed ouster’. But we tend to use ‘ouster’ not ‘coup’ and that just kind of happened.

Adelita: What are the implications of using these three different words? Let me write them down.

Antonia: But what is your question?

Naira: Mada people, would you use the word ‘coup’?

Maha: I wouldn’t use it just like that. I would say a c’oup backed by a popular movement’.

Lina: My main problem with it is the adversaries’ use of it.

Heba: I don’t think I would use anything that suggests a judgment on my behalf. So, if it is controversial, I would just want to say something that doesn’t…

Adelita: So when we encounter terms that are more controversial, the idea is to try to be more objective, and I don’t know if that’s possible? But also more specific? Or culturally sensitive?

Heba: Specific is accurate. Descriptive, you don’t give it a name, you just describe what happened.

Adelita: Is that necessarily being more objective?

Maha: This is censoring, self-censoring. I don’t know.

Naira: It’s the conversation that we pointed out to. That was the conclusion in the end. We had a discussion of terms and then someone said how about we don’t name it, this is what Dina said.

Heba: If I was writing an opinion article, I would say ‘coup’. That’s what I think. But if it is what I think, then I don’t want to have it in a news article.

Adelita: So context specific

Dalia: My friends don’t think it is a ‘coup’ but I used the word ‘coup’. But they are against me and then we fight.

Antonia: What do they use.

Heba: Thawraaaaa (‘revolution’), no?

Dalia: They don’t use revolution per se. But they definitely don’t think it is a coup.

Heba: but if it is not a coup, and not a revolution, what is it?

Habiba: Bobular Ubrising (Arabized popular uprising).

Maha: Yea, once again, I wouldn’t define it, even with my friends, with just one term.

Heba: I am surprised that people who don’t think it is a coup don’t think it is a revolution either. If you don’t think it is a coup, what else is it? There was a president who was overthrown.

Maha: By the military.

Heba: So it has to be …

Everyone talking at once.

Adelita: What other words can we use instead of coup?

Habiba: ‘Popular uprising’.

Naira: We use ‘ouster’ actually.

Habiba: Or ‘deposition’.

Naira: ‘Military-backed ouster’.

Habiba: They use ‘uprising’ all the time.

[Everyone talking at once.]

Habiba: ‘Rebellion’. But I am not sure. Because the Campaign, the June 30 campaign was called Tamarod.

[Everyone talking at once.]


About the author: Adelita Husni-Bey View all posts by
Adelita Husni-Bey stages workshops and produces publications, radio broadcasts, archives and exhibitions focused on using collectivist and non-competitive pedagogical models within the framework of urban studies. In her 10 years of practicing as both an artist and a pedagogue, Adelita has worked with activists, architects, journalists, jurists, schoolchildren, spoken word poets, students, and teachers on unpacking the complexity of collectivity and role-making. To make good what can never be made good: what we owe each other. Recent solo exhibitions include: A Wave in the Well, Sursock Museum, Beirut, 2016, Movement Break, Kadist foundation, 2015, Playing Truant, Gasworks, 2012. She has participated in The Eighth Climate, 11th Gwangju Biennale, 2016, Ennesima, Triennale di Milano, 2015, Undiscovered Worlds, the High Line, 2015, Really Useful Knowledge, Reina Sofia museum, 2014, Utopia for Sale?, MAXXI museum, 2014 and has held workshops and lectures at ESAD Grenoble, 2016, The New School, 2015, Sandberg Institute, 2015, Museo del 900, 2013, Temple University, 2013, Birkbeck University, 2011 amongst other spaces. She is a 2012 Whitney Independent Study Program fellow and is currently working on chapter III of ‘White Paper’, a project based on the changing face of legislation in relationship to private ownership and the commons in cities.

Leave A Response