Luciana Villas Bôas
Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation (Peter Szondi Institut)
September 2013 – February 2015
The Language and Politics of Colonial Translation in Sixteenth-Century Brazil
Luciana Villas Bôas holds a PhD in German and Comparative Literature (Columbia University, NY, 2005) and has been teaching at the Department of Anglo-Germanic Languages at Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro since 2009. Her current project, titled "The Language and Politics of Colonial Translation in Sixteenth-Century Brazil," addresses the interrelation between translation and colonial history by drawing attention to the first interpreters and translators of sixteenth-century Brazil. Rather than exploring the gradual process of Portuguese colonization, it focuses upon the fierce competition among European powers in sixteenth-century Brazil based upon Portuguese, French, as well as German and English records. Based upon an archaeology of exiles, mercenaries and pirates who played a key role as third parties, it examines the specific media through which the political power of European authorities extended overseas. By joining a broad comparative framework with a focus on particular colonial settings, this approach to colonial writing makes an argument about the study of colonialism. Much scholarship directed towards the concepts of ‘hybridity’ or ‘transculturation’ privileges an understanding of colonialism as a discourse and relies on the linguistic qualities of texts to elicit the difference between colonial subjects. This project seeks to move beyond this tendency by, first, drawing a distinction between the semantics of texts and their historical contexts, and second by correlating the transformation of concepts to actual historical processes. Taking inspiration from Begriffsgeschichte (history of concepts) as an interdisciplinary field and a branch of the theory of history this work explicitly addresses conceptions of historical change and available narratives of colonization.