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Translation and Time: A Memento of the Curvature of the Poststructuralist Plane

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Ever since Derrida’s appropriation of Walter Benjamin’s “The Task of the Translator,” and the deconstruction of the traditional notion of translation as an unequivocal communication of meaning, “translation” has become a powerful conceptual means in many fields of the humanities to underscore the agency of the subalterns in the context of colonialism, imperialism, or globalization, and to emphasize historical contingency over against necessity. As a matter of consequence, however, the question of the historically specific condition of the possibility of such “translation” has been largely neglected. In this essay I will argue, that a profound understanding of the processes of social and cultural transformation, which have been conceptualized in terms of “translation,” can not be achieved unless global capitalism and its specific temporal dynamics are taken into consideration more seriously. Finally, this approach will also enable us to re-read Benjamin, and to reassess the significance of his “Task” for a more powerful critique of a social formation, “which produces commodities.”


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