Translation as invasion in post-colonial northern Ghana.
Esala, Nathan Adam.
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This thesis explores agency in African translation practices across time and space. The foregrounded space of this study is the northern Ghanaian context, especially the area south of the Gambaga escarpment. In that space, the study uses Achille Mbembe’s notion of “entanglement” as applied to time. Accordingly, the study traces translation practices in the northern Ghanaian context across entangled eras of time: indigenous time, indigenous/pre colonial time, colonial/neo-indigenous time, post-colonial/neo-colonial time. The study describes a diversity of translation practices in each era, using an intentionally selected set of analytical tools to help the reader understand how and why the author is highlighting particular practices. The study explores how colonial translation and religious translation have been entangled, often in a mirroring relationship. I describe the dominant paradigm of entangled missionary colonial translation, translation as invasion. Some contemporary forms of African Christianity have become entangled in this dominant mode of translating: evangelical neo-colonial modes of translating, the developmentalist mode of translating, and the neo-liberal and neo-indigenous prosperity method of re-translating. Other Africans have recovered indigenous religious resources for Christian re-translation that resists missionary-colonial and neo-colonial neo-indigenous practices in various ways. Some re-translate to build community resilience. Some prophetically rework the method and purpose of translating. And still ‘others’ re-translate to resist the oppressive and extractionary intentions of the translation-as invasion paradigm. The study attempts to rework the translation-as-invasion paradigm. It describes a collaborative post-colonial mode of re-translating biblical texts for liberation in which translators become facilitators of translation for ‘other’ sectors of society. Facilitators offer the Contextual Bible Study method as a prompt to re-translate and re-interpret biblical texts from the perspectives of the study participants. Groups of ‘ordinary’ and ‘marginalized’ Africans participate with (biblical) ancestors as they re-translate texts in their projects of social healing. The first case study involves groups of people living with bodily dis(abilities) who re translate Job in ways that respond to the health and wealth gospel in their communities. The second case study explores women re-translating the story of Ruth for survival in a context where neo-liberal Christianity has allied itself with patriarchal custom and neo-patrimonial economics. The final case study suggests that women and men re-translate ethnicity and patriarchy in the biblical text of Judges 6—9 as they resist forces that are causing inter-ethnic and intra-ethnic violence in their communities, violence that harms women’s bodies, ravages the environment, and harms the community’s moral base. The colonial translation-as-invasion paradigm offers little room for neutrality. The conclusion of the study suggests that post-colonial emancipatory re-translation offers resources for conventional African Bible translation to rework the inner logics of invasion by ‘re membering’ why communities engage in re-translating, which perspectives are privileged in re-translating, how re-translating is carried out, and in what order re-translating should occur.