Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Interdisciplinary translation or the epistemology of the archipelago

So WHAT is the translation? Or, more exactly, HOW is it? (Not a question of essence, but a question of modality, modulation.) Translation is a continuous negotiation, processuality, imperfection, therefore a permanent perfectibility, infinity, lifestyle –

Bogdan Ghiu

The average environment

To think with your hands, bit by bit. Another way of thinking. Another «image of thought» (Deleuze). Tree / Rhizome. Intuitive, artistic, poetic type of modelling, not «scientific», «rational».

NOT a «continental» thinking, dry and continent (containing) + the two types of colonial empires: the French, the Spanish, the Portuguese (only interested by the «target», by the «receiver») vs the English and, today, inchoative (as a great historical overturn and recovery) the Chinese (interested– also – by the «environment» itself, the environment as it is).

NOT dualism: NO me / you, identical / different, the same / another etc. No juxtaposition, like countries on a continent (countries contained by the continent, continents for containing human beings between the limits of the firm land, the certainty under their feet), with nothing between them, only the abstract line of the «border». There are no borders, the border being a territory in itself, the border is the alterity, but a communicating alterity, alterity – environment, not alterity – address. We need to spatialize, to corporalize the borders, as a mean of communicating, negotiating, meeting – translation.

Why the trinity (third, «tertiary», how Peirce would have said) is (just) divine? Introducing the third different-communicative, of the average-environment (you must be different in order for you to favour communication, the meeting), which is in between, the terrestrial Holy Spirit.


To review the so-called Chart of generalized translation from Everything needs to be translated, in which I «forgot» the inter-disciplinary translations. But is it really a problem of forgetting, or is, in fact, not really a translation related phenomenon?

The archi(tectures) of the archi(pelago)

Architecture is not a science, it’s not «soft», nor «hard», it’s not «natural», nor «human». But exactly this secondary, concrete, practical character, which comes close to handcrafting and diy – or, more exactly, balancing, «making a bridge» between the engineering pillar and the crafting pillar (acc. the famous dichotomy of Claude Lévi-Strauss from Wild Thinking) –, makes it having a politically strategic role: of a generalizable, transposable, «translatable» paradigm, as a universal metaphor.

Architecture is a metaphor (amongst the most widely spread) especially because it is a meta-metaphor, if you could call it that way, tying the far and the close, defining close through the far, which makes it meta-tie, meta-associate (making them make a society) the poetic (the artistic) with the political-a method which also constitutes a archi-meta-metaphor, between the ethical and the pragmatic (it is more pragmatic to behave ethical).

Architecture is a political ethical – pragmatic art. An that’s why, it is the only one keeping alive utopian character. Any architecture is a modest utopia, which learnt to historicize (to relativize) in action, meaning that it knows to hold both imperatives, without one cannibalizing the other. When designing its plans, architecture can’t not be utopic, but, considering that it has to draw in order to «translate» these plans into reality, meaning to see design in order to actually build them, it becomes, in a fraction of a a-temporal second – which is practically immediately – realistic.

A. Architecture, regardless of what it’s building, will always build bridges. And that’s exactly why it has a secondary political role, that’s why it’s strategically important, as an available metaphor for knowledge, therefore an epistemological role, a political role (epistemology is always political) for knowledges, in plural.

B. Architecture also defines the inter-: «interior» architectures and architectures of the interior, always after some walls and depending on certain thresholds.

The two above sentences (A, B) seem contradictory. Reformulation: although it wants to build bridges, architecture only manages to build islands, «houses», individualisms, between which that’s why it invites and even obliges to build bridges. Here’s a great tension, a tectonical, disruptive tension. But balance is exactly the essential piece here.

The Inter is non-architectural. Fortunately! What could have seem like a shortcoming is actually the salvation.

It is not possible to have a great over-architecture or a overall meta-architecture, that ties everything into one unified assembly, which makes assemblies, which ties the world into one unique assembly. Inevitably being tied to the earth, on which it needs to design itself, but not as the mimetic shadow of a platonic idea, architecture can build temples, but it’s fortunately not a religion. Fortunately! This is why we exist! If things weren’t this way, we’d be lost. But there are pressures towards an over-architecture which would destroy the world, transforming it into one big assembly.

Architecture stops by the threshold when it finishes building bridges, and it starts dreaming of decks and bridges.

Architecture is cursed to remain minor, incomplete, secondary, to remain «interior», «local», «punctual», to define punctuality and individuality, to build the illusion of its own individual, private, divided property. Architecture is therefore condemned to remain plural and different, multiple.


Architecture is like the translation (the translation is over-translated, as an architecture inclusively).

Because, what’s in between architectures, in the an-architectural inter and the in-architectural (fortunately)?

The translation. The sea or the planetary ocean of translation, which can make even the greatest continents become all small islands, breaking them, dislocating them in order to be able to tie them. As if mincing them into elements of lexicon.

Transforming the original (meaning as immediately, but a-temporal, after) man into an amphibious being.

Passing operational rescuing through the Other, the productive dependence of alterity, the reconciliation between the ethics with the pragmatic (starting from the Levinas).

So far we’ve talked about both literally and figuratively, metaphorically. For the given case we spoke about disciplinary architecture. Disciplines are architectures, therefore they are delimiting an exterior and interior, focusing on building it inter-: the local targeting of the universe, by encompassing it.

What is a discipline? A disciplinary (encoding) both internal and internal, i.e. an operation and a power target. Each discipline, by its claim to universality, wants to regulate the others. Epistemological war (we didn’t say in vain that epistemology means politics).

Every discipline operates a focusing lock: «the visor effect» (Derrida), manufacturing and obtaining a perspective by closing, framing, delimiting, narrowing the field and searching. Disciplines are designed as closures over a reality, which, horizontally, divides them as it itself is divided, while vertically it is probing them (the probe being the extension, the projection of the telescope). Knowledge arises from and it is an effect of focussing compartmentalization.

How can we escape from «ourselves», from the «self» or from the disciplinary «super-ego» (which may end up becoming a transcendental conditioning of knowledge, feeling and action)?

I heard talks about the (auto-) reflexivity of disciplines. But the auto-reflexivity hides a trap, a danger, which can undermine the good intention of opening: we can’t auto-reflect on ourselves, we can’t escape from ourselves by ourselves, without help, and not towards the void or the «pure», «primary», reality «as it is».

We need to be auto-objectifying (Bourdieu), to auto-«sociologize» ourselves, to escape ourselves, from the outside, but we can’t do that by ourselves.

Auto-objectification by escaping the self from the disciplinary intra to the inter-disciplinary inter.

We need to be self-objective, but this is a double motion: by auto-objectifying (epistemically and ethically) ourselves, we are un-objectifying the object that supports us as discipline (the focussing perspectives objectify and objectivalize the reality), we are escaping from our own discipline, and the object’s objecthood. But we’re not falling – the illusion of phenomenology, with putting it in brackets and its sense donations – outside, in the «pure» reality, but in between. There is no outside, there’s only the in between. Outside is the in between. Extra est inter.

Plus re-subjectivation through dis-objectiveing. Because the «subject» of the «object» are built the same.

We meet the double exteriority: «horizontal» between disciplines and «vertical» between object and reality («the substrate», «the support») from which it was elaborated-taken. Between them, both vertically and horizontally, the translation.

Extra est inter. Effractions,infractions, events, singularities

What is the translation? A different environment, which unites: the different unites.


Let us not forget about the deconstruction of the phenomenological naive illusion: we can’t escape entirely, from any discipline and disciplinarity of knowledge towards a given target, but only between disciplines, which actually is the largest space. There is no non- or pre-interpretability, «pure targeting» and virgin, direct «donation», but only inter-disciplinarity.

But – another illusion, another naivety – we cannot pass directly from one discipline to another, disciplines are not attached and separated by double walls, just like countries on a map of lands, like the firm and dry land, elevated, risen from the waters. Between disciplines, there is exactly the world: the alterity environment of the translation. The alterity is translation, traductibility.

There is no direct, unmediated. «We ourselves» could be the first / the last mediation, irreducible.

I was saying there is no reflexivity, i.e. mirroring and self-knowledge by yourself, narcissistic (the sin of narcissism is solipsism), but only through another, Another who is not the Other, but a third: the intermediate environment of translation.

Or what we might call disciplinary inter-reflexivity. The escapes from the island-disciplines take place not through a direct jump, from one island to another, but in the the planetary-intermediate ocean (l) of translation, the third Other that’s transporting us.

The cartographic-poetic model of the archipelago (Édouard Glissant) (I: archipelago, as a title of exactly a poems book): artistic and poetical models, not scientific, for knowledge. «We were never modern» (Latour) because there are no, there can’t be any sciences; sciences are some utopias given as accomplished; there is only art and architecture.

The translation does not aim for the over-architecturalisation of the ensemble. It ties, but not into an unique architecture. It maintains the utopia of the architecture at its level.

However, you can never be sure that you managed to escape to the outside, namely in the in between, beyond the walls of the disciplinary enclosures. You need to use the other, to «hang» on to the other to rip you off, and the most confident, the most useful other, for the operation of unleashing, of self-objectifying, is the enemy (Carl Schmitt: recognising the political nature of epistemology.)

But even the enemy is hard to identify. You can never know for sure who is your true enemy. He can very well be amongst your friends or allies. The enemy is not obvious: he seems to be in the outside, the Outside itself, but it can also be on the inside: the Closure (towards the Outside) itself, confining and barricading into the illusion of the individual, private property. The illusion of insularity determined in the archipelago regime.

But what is the translation? What are we translating? What is translated?

The model and paradigm of any translation, of every translation, of translations in general: the inter-linguistic translation.

THEORY. HYPOTHESIS. Only the events, i.e. the singularities, are translated, offer themself to the translation, because there are already deviations from the (written) law and from the (unwritten) norm, exits, plans and escape beginnings. Events, as a result of the singularity (not general, nor universal, or particular: between, or more precisely between them), are deviations, exceptions, «accidents» of the systems, not their normal, current operation (or, in fact, exactly the «normal», «current», trans-systemic – or «metastable», according to Simondon – operation of systems) is just a discontinuous stream of events-singularities: collective identities, co-individualizations). Events-singularities are infractions / effractions: deviations through which escapes are initiated, escape (becoming) routes are sketched (Deleuze-Guattari).

Event – infraction – effraction – deviation from the rule / escape from the system – outside-between (extra est inter) – in the space of the translation, of traductibility, of the possibility, which needs to be confirmed and helped through will, of deviation from the rule, not of uniformity.

The age of translations, the time of translators: precisely because we are in the Age of Translations (unique, of the multiple in One, particular-general), we must establish, it needs to be the Age of the Translators (singular-singular).

I am talking about two concepts not only different, but quite opposite, hostile, of translation, which, although they seem one and the same, they are never translated from one to the other, but on the contrary, under the appearance (at shelter of the image) and under the pretext (alibi) of identity, of peace and harmony protected by the Same, a (certain) one always seeks to oppress and even exterminate, eliminate the other.

The tendency towards scientific domination and uniformity (reductive translation: multiple-one). For it to be able to issue the claim to dominate, the power allegation, disciplines pretend to be sciences, i.e. they try to mathematize even in a caricatural fashion: the justified domination of science, of the strong, unreasonable rationality. Politics, authoritarianism, epistemological totalitarianism. Power: which cannot be contradicted, disputed, ultimate, indefinable truths, as primal, immediate truths. Mathematics de-pluralized as mathematic, as arithmetic. Totalitarianisms can be recognised – and unify, treating unitarily, beyond their seemingly pure intestinal disputes (and stinking as such), simple struggles for domination – exactly after the scientificity claims, i.e. mathematization (of measuring the real: to measure: to impose over all things their «own» measure, that you discover and you turn back, re-applying it; «turned» immanence, transcendently imposed):

nazism: biology, race;

historical communism: scientific materialism;

today: the economy as a «science» and, especially, the «technological solutionism» (Evgeny Morozov, To Save Everything Click Here. The Folly of Technological Solutionism, 2013). Intensive globalization. The two (solutionism and technology) go hand in hand, one translates the other and they are overlapped redundantly (in order to ensure domination as/through redundancy: not only a closing effect, but also of latching): the idea that the solution needs to involve a technological thinking, of a technological type, even without explicit technology; the idea that there is a solution, and that this solution consists of simplification through modelling, manipulating, through technical intervention, through «algorithmization»: you double the field of reality (social media doubling, therefore modelling the internet, for example), you cover it and you exploit it, making it seem natural.

The only «solution» without a solution: the ethics of translation and the ethical translation (to escape into the third-intermediary space, between disciplines, and to practice the small and great trade, a constant back and forth).

Today, post the current of thinking according to the prefix post-, the current of thinking according to the prefix DE-: after deconstruction, but in its historical milestone, de-crease and de-colonization (post-postcolonial).

Are we, however, repeating with naivety the illusion of the possibility of totally escaping into «reality», from any disciplinary perspective, in the i-mmediate, without any inter-disciplinary translations?

So WHAT is the translation? Or, more exactly, HOW is it? (Not a question of essence, but a question of modality, modulation.)

Translation is a continuous negotiation, processuality, imperfection, therefore a permanent perfectibility, infinity, lifestyle – the irresoluble.

Translation is relative, temporary, open, multiple, collaborative, cooperative, collegial, positively precarious, open.

Translation is the unfinished and endless as a work together, the productive provisional instead of the deadly false, the non-fixed.

Etc. Synonymy in chain, linking us together, strap of the world.

Review overview