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A Legal History of Translation in Turkey: "Ideologue Tranlators and (State) Censorship"

The aim of this dissertation is to provide a legal history of translation in Turkey from the perspective of censorship of translated books on grounds of propagating communism.

Censorship, its patterns of operation and the imposition of censorship measures vary according to the cultural and social context in which censorship is practiced: It goes without saying that what constitutes the basic target of the censor in a certain country may cause little concern in another country. Censorship, in its covert and overt forms as fundamentally practiced by state authorities against translators aiming to import the socialist ideology into the Turkish context, constitutes the focus of this study, which is intended to make a contribution to the various approaches to translation. It aims to shed light upon the ways in which translation has been subjected to resistance by means of the threat, as well as the actual cases of conviction in Turkey, where the political regime has almost always exerted control on the press and the dissemination of ideas via published books.

Accordingly, the first chapter of the thesis is reserved for the previous literature on censorship with a view to evaluating what perspectives have so far been adopted for studying censorship in national contexts. The theoretical framework, in which the transfer of social and political Ideology through translation by self-appointed “ideologue translators”, and the role of censorship deployed by the dominant ideology in the whole process are discussed, also forms part of the first chapter.

The second chapter provides a detailed account of the historical and political background in the late Ottoman Empire with a view to questioning whether/ to what extent the changing political conjuncture (the military coups, political turmoil etc.) has played a role in shaping the practice of censorship.

The third chapter focuses on the role of translations in the formation of the Turkish leftist discourse during the late Ottoman and early Republican periods. Starting with an account of the rise of socialism as of the Second Constitutional Monarchy thanks to the efforts of “ideologue translators”, this chapter aims to provide an in-depth analysis of the socio-political background from the beginning of the twentieth century until 1938, when all socialist literature was banned with a government decision.

The last section dwells upon the political conjuncture during the first years of the multi-party regime as well as the 1960s and it provides a detailed account of the specific case studies of censorship against “ideologue translators” of socialist literature during the same period. Despite the fact that a close scrutiny of the cases might reveal that books have been banned, suppressed and censored on highly subjective grounds as the pervasive nature of censorship also hints at, the similar and divergent patterns of the practice of censorship and the court verdicts pertaining to the prosecuted books and translators are indicative of how the dominant ideology has been influential in shaping the legal proceedings.

The analyses of such cases including the defensive pleas, the discourses of the prosecuted translators and publishers as well as the paratextual material surrounding the cases help contextualize the phenomena of translation in its respective background and contemplate the mechanisms of censorship. The presence or the absence of (unified) reactions against the prosecutions certainly provides clues as regards the extent to which the cultural field has attempted to gain autonomy. 


Date:13 Oct 2016  →  13 Oct 2020
Keywords:state censorship, prosecution of translators, translation of socialist books, ideologue translators
Disciplines:Theory and methodology of literary studies
Project type:PhD project