• Motherless Tongues: The Insurgency of Language amid Wars of Translation

    Pages: 272
    Illustrations: 13 illustrations
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  • Acknowledgments  xi

    Introduction. The Aporia of Translation  1

    Part I. Vernacularizing the Political

    1. Welcoming What Comes: Translating Sovereignty in the Revolutionary Philippines  21

    2. Wars of Translation: American English, Colonial Schooling,and Tagalog Slang  43

    3. The Cell Phone and the Crowd: Messianic Politics in the EDSA II Uprising  70

    Part II. Weaponizing Babel

    4. Translation, American English, and the National Insecurities of Empire  99

    5. Targeting Translation: Counterinsurgency and the Weaponization of Language  120

    Part III. Translating Lives

    6. The Accidents of Area Studies: Benedict Anderson and Arjun Appadurai  149

    7. Contracting Nostalgia: On Renato Rosaldo  162

    8. Language, History, and Autobiograhy: Becoming Reynaldo Ileto  173

    9. Interview: Translation Speaks with Vicente Rafael  189

    Notes  203

    Bibliography  233

    Index  247
  • "Vincente Rafael's latest work, Motherless Tongues, brings an innovative perspective to the field of translation studies."


  • "Vincente Rafael's latest work, Motherless Tongues, brings an innovative perspective to the field of translation studies."

  • "In this rich compendium, Vicente L. Rafael continues to teach us how to think about the long, unpredictable afterlives of empire—their entangled, translingual socioscapes, their webs of attraction, their insurgent, untameable energies. His pages are populated by intellects of remarkable imagination and insight, including, above all, his own."  — Mary Louise Pratt, author of Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation

    "Motherless Tongues presents the most compelling and deft analyses of the role of translation in the contexts of revolution, revolt, war, and empire in the Philippines and the United States. No work of this kind brings the Philippines and the United States together with its singular attention to the politics of translation, or with the kind of deep linguistic and cultural fluency that Vicente L. Rafael possesses. A significant figure in translation studies, Rafael is positioned to open new pathways to thinking about what translation brings to light in the contemporary moment."  — Neferti X. M. Tadiar, author of Things Fall Away: Philippine Historical Experience and the Makings of Globalization

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  • Description

    In Motherless Tongues, Vicente L. Rafael examines the vexed relationship between language and history gleaned from the workings of translation in the Philippines, the United States, and beyond. Moving across a range of colonial and postcolonial settings, he demonstrates translation's agency in the making and understanding of events. These include nationalist efforts to vernacularize politics, U.S. projects to weaponize languages in wartime, and autobiographical attempts by area studies scholars to translate the otherness of their lives amid the Cold War. In all cases, translation is at war with itself, generating divergent effects. It deploys as well as distorts American English in counterinsurgency and colonial education, for example, just as it re-articulates European notions of sovereignty among Filipino revolutionaries in the nineteenth century and spurs the circulation of text messages in a civilian-driven coup in the twenty-first. Along the way, Rafael delineates the untranslatable that inheres in every act of translation, asking about the politics and ethics of uneven linguistic and semiotic exchanges. Mapping those moments where translation and historical imagination give rise to one another, Motherless Tongues shows how translation, in unleashing the insurgency of language, simultaneously sustains and subverts regimes of knowledge and relations of power. 

    About The Author(s)

    Vicente L. Rafael is Professor of History at the University of Washington. His books include The Promise of the Foreign, White Love and Other Events in Filipino History, and Contracting Colonialism, all also published by Duke University Press.
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