CAS-E Lecture Series with Prof. Dr. Birgit Menzel (CAS-E), “Translation and the Study of Esotericism”

“Translation and the Study of Esotericism”

Prof. Dr. Birgit Menzel (CAS-E)

In an interdisciplinary project on esoteric practices from a global perspective translation is omnipresent. However, both translations and their agents often remain invisible. Texts, terms, ideas, and cultures are being translated, in written, oral or intersemiotic ways; often the term is used in a metaphorical sense. The same invisibility applies to the social and political role of the translators. Scholars and practitioners are often unaware of the fact that they serve as interlingual and/or intercultural translators. They are social agents, who make choices. But why and how do they make their choices? In an increasingly monolingual global English academic community, many obstacles pass unnoticed. Scholars of various cultures convene, often unaware of the constant bumpy road of translation they ride towards the goal of global communication. Translation can connect and mediate; but it can also create boundaries. Some translations become dominant hegemonic, others are deviant, innovative or even transformative texts. This is especially significant in the context of esotericism (‘rejected knowledge’). Translation Studies offer tools for a critical and more self-reflexive action when studying religious and esoteric practices. In this lecture, I will explore in which ways Translation Studies could cross-pollinate the study of esotericism. I will introduce a culturally oriented approach (microsociology of translation). The aim is to invite scholars with different disciplinary backgrounds to make more conscious, non-normative strategic decisions when they are confronted with multiple ways of translation in their work and life.


09.01.2024 – 18:15-19:45

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