20 Pages

Epistemicide! The Tale of a Predatory Discourse

ByThe Tale of a Predatory Discourse University of Lisbon, Portugal

Abstract. English academic discourse, which emerged in the 17th century as a vehicle for the new rationalist/scientific paradigm, was initially a vehicle of liberation from the stifling feudal mindset. Spreading from the hard sciences to the social sciences and on to the humanities, it gradually became the prestige discourse of the Anglophone world, due no doubt to its associations with the power structures of modernity (technology, industry and capitalism); today, mastery of it is essential for anyone wishing to play a role on the international stage. The worldview that this discourse encodes is essentially positivist; it privileges the referential function of language at the expense of the interpersonal or textual and crystallizes the dynamic flux of experience into static, observable blocs, rendering the universe passive, inert and devoid of meaning. Despite its obvious limitations for dealing with a decentred, multi-faceted, post-modern reality, its hegemonic status in the world today is such that other knowledges are rendered invisible or are swallowed up in a process of ‘epistemicide’. This paper examines this process from the point of view of the translator, one of the primary gatekeepers of western academic culture. Drawing on surveys carried out in 2002 of Portuguese academics working in the humanities, it attempts to discover just what happens to the very different worldview encoded in traditional Portuguese academic discourse during the process of translation, and goes on to discuss the political and social consequences of the ideological imperialism manifest in editorial decisions about what counts as ‘knowledge’ in today’s world.