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August 19, 2015

Launch of the Migration, Identity, and Translation Network

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MITN Post-Launch Report

On August 10, Prof. Andrew Coats, the Academic Vice-President of the Monash-Warwick Alliance officially launched the Migration, Identity, and Translation Network (MITN):

MITN Launch 1

MITN’s launch was held at Translating Pain: An International Forum on Language, Text, and Suffering, hosted by the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation (ACJC). Translating Pain brought together a range of researchers working in genocide studies, literary studies, history, translation studies, the medical humanities, and law, to look at how pain is ‘translated’; or, how we conceptualize, transmit, and receive notions of pain. On Aug. 10, the Forum was opened by Prof. Seàn Hand, head of the School of Modern Languages and Linguistics (Warwick) with an opening keynote on ‘Translating pain: from expression to ethics in genocide testimony’. Prof. Hand considered Elaine Scarry’s critical notion of the ‘inexpressibility’ of pain through the lenses of literature about three of the major genocides of the twentieth century: the Holocaust (Elie Wiesel, La Nuit, 1958), the Cambodian genocide, (Rithy Panh, L’Elimination, 2012), and the Rwandan genocide (Jean Hatzfield, La stratégie des antilopes, 2007). Hand’s lecture dealt with how his three texts approached the ‘translation’ of the incomprehensible: how does the act of translation (either specifically in a process of linguistic articulation; or in a more broad sense of the communication of the observed and the inner self to the outside world) attempt to re/mediate between victims and perpetrators, observers and participants? Hand also discussed the role of French as a post-colonial and occasionally guiltily collaborative linguistic heritage in all three texts. Prof. Hand’s opening keynote touched on a number of themes that came to typify the Forum: the re/mediation of pain; the role of the observer in trauma-translation; the geopolitics of pain and its expressions.

Click here to watch Prof. Hand's opening keynote

Following Prof. Hand’s keynote lecture, Prof. Coats and the ACJC hosted the MITN launch. Academic Co-Directors Prof. Rita Wilson (Monash) and Loredana Polezzi (Warwick) laid out the role of MITN in facilitating international research exchange on issues relating to migration, identity, and translation. They introduced the Network team (Gavin Schwartz-Leeper, project officer; Kerryn Morey, project administrator; Jessica Trevitt, Monash PhD representative; Gioia Panzarella, Warwick PhD representative) and invited expressions of interest for collaborations.

Prof Coats

Prof. Coats marks the launch of MITN

Polezzi MITN Launch

Prof. Polezzi introduces MITN and invites contributions

On Aug. 11, Translating Pain hosted an academic colloquium designed to explore the ‘translation of pain’. With Noah Shenker (Monash) as chair, speakers discussed pre-circulated papers and define a shared sense of this theme. Papers dealt with a range of cultural, literary, linguistic, and sociological issues on Ebola in Sierra Leone, pyschoprophylaxis in the Soviet Union, the role of the archive in the Holocaust, portrayals of the Rwandan genocide, and memoirs from World War II.

Speakers: Rosanne Kennedy (ANU), David Simon (Yale), Beatrice Trefalt (Monash), Ernst van Alphen (Leiden), Paula Michaels (Monash), and Seán Hand (Warwick).

Simon MITN Launch

David Simon (Yale) discusses his paper, ‘Bounded Translations of Pain in Rwanda’

On Aug. 12, a wider group convened to hear papers presented in a traditional lecture format. The conference consisted of four sessions: ‘Narrating Pain’, ‘Interpreting Pain—medical and legal scenarios’, ‘Remembering Pain’, and ‘Representing the Pain of the “Other”’. The papers engaged most closely with representations of the memory of pain—the attempt to communicate the nature of prior suffering, either in interpersonal, intergenerational, or intercultural contexts.

Barbara SpadaroBarbara Spadaro (Bristol/Transnationalizing Modern Languages) delivers her paper on transcultural memories of the Libyan-Jewish diaspora.

These themes were brought together neatly by Prof. Ernst van Alphen’s closing keynote, ‘Second generation testimony: the transmission of trauma and postmemory’. Van Alphen looked at Carl Friedman’s novel Nightfather (1994) and the complex traumas of the generation of Jews born after the Holocaust. Doubly burdened with traumatised parents and the terrible weight of events they themselves never experienced, how do post-Holocaust Jews deal with the traumatic past? Engaging closely with Marianne Hirsch’s critical framework of ‘postmemory’, the lecture was also well-attended by members of Melbourne’s Jewish diaspora—themselves members of this ‘second generation’. The discussion about the nature of Holocaust ‘postmemories’, whether transmitted or constructed, made for an apt close to the proceedings.

Van Alphen Lecture MITN Launch

Click here to watch Ernst van Alphen's closing keynote

While Translating Pain officially concluded on Aug. 12, MITN and the ACJC hosted several more events related to the Forum and the launch of the Network. On Aug. 13,MITN hosted its first postgraduate virtual exchange and masterclass. Using the International Portal (a Monash-Warwick Alliance joint project), two cohorts of doctoral researchers at Monash and Warwick met to present their research and discuss possible areas for Monash-Warwick postgraduate and postdoctoral collaboration. Our MITN doctoral fellows (Jessica Trevitt and Gioia Panzarella) have written a post-exchange report that will be posted shortly. On Aug. 14, the final event of the week was a special screening of Peter Forgac’s 1997 film, The Maelstrom: A Family Chronicle. Like many of Forgacs’ works, The MaelstromForgacs used home films shot by two families: the Peerebooms, a Dutch Jewish family, and the Seyss-Inquarts, a German family tied to the Nazis.

Following on from Translating Pain, MITN is developing a number of projects and events that further explore our thematic strands in interdisciplinary contexts, ranging from work on the ‘global’ Renaissance to issues of multiculturalism in modern cities. MITN is also supporting developing projects on intercultural communication, blended learning environments, and cultural literacy. We are very eager to hear from potential collaborators from within Monash and Warwick as well as from external organizations. If you are interested in learning more, please visit our website at

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