The Many Tasks of the Marxist Translator

Approaching Marxism as/in/with Translation from Antonio Gramsci to the Zapatistas

In: Historical Materialism
Gavin Arnall University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Michigan United States

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This article examines numerous conceptions of translation within the Marxist tradition. It begins with Antonio Gramsci’s theorisation of the concept before turning to the problem of Marxism in Latin America and how the Zapatistas have dealt with this problem. The aim is to shed light on a critical school of Marxist thinking, which requires that Marxism’s universalist claims be translated in response to changing historical conditions so that they may become concrete formulations capable of speaking to and intervening in concrete situations. Yet the Zapatistas go further by maintaining that translation must also occur between the universalist claims of Marxist theory and the competing universalist claims of indigenous Maya cosmology. The article thus underscores what can be gleaned from different modes of translation in terms of Marxism’s future and its capacity to enter into mutually beneficial alliances with distinct worldviews and ongoing social movements.

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