autumn 2016
REL-8004 Translations: Indigenous, Religion, Tradition, Culture - 5 ECTS

Application deadline

Person with academic responsibility:
Professor Siv Ellen Kraft and Associated Professor Bjørn Ola Tafjord

Application deadline: 1 June SøknadsWeb. (Application code 9303).

Registration deadline in Studentweb for PhD students at UiT: 1. august

Course duration: 17-19 August.

Submission of paper: 1 October.

Type of course

This course may be taken as a single/elective course by students who meet the admission requirements for the PhD program in humanities and social sciences.

The course includes perspectives from the study of religions, history, cultural history, anthropology, indigenous studies, and philosophy, but the foundational issues that are raised make it relevant also for PhD students from other academic disciplines.

Admission requirements

PhD students or holders of a Norwegian master´s degree of five years or 3+ 2 years (or equivalent) in humanities or social sciences may be admitted. Valid documentation is a statement from your institution that you are a registered PhD student, or a Master´s Diploma with Diploma Supplement / English translation of the diploma. PhD students are exempt from semester fee.

Course content

Translations may be linguistic, cultural, corporeal, spatial, temporal, and much more. Today the concept of translation is used in a wide variety of ways within and across different academic disciplines to describe or explore processes of replacement or exchange. It brings attention to moves that are made to make something available, by at once transporting and transforming this something, from one frame and form to another. Both scholars and others perform translations regularly as part of shifts between different vantage points, modes, codes, and contexts.

This PhD course focuses on translations that are performed by means of the category "indigenous" in combination with categories like "religion," "spirituality," "tradition," "knowledge," and "culture," as well as associated vocabularies and schemata of classification.

The category "indigenous" plays highly significant roles in a broad range of contexts today, not just in numerous local, national, and regional settings but also on a global scale. The categories "religion," "spirituality," "tradition," "knowledge," and "culture" are perhaps even more common in contemporary hegemonic ways of speaking about the orders of the world. Academicians, politicians, and ordinary people alike make frequent use of these tags in diverse projects of translation. Studies of particular instances or trajectories of translation in which "indigenous" is used in combination with any of these other categories, as academic apparatuses, as political instruments, or as everyday tools of orientation, identification, and communication, shed light on critical and creative processes of entity-formation, entity-maintenance, and entity-questioning.

Objectives of the course

The students will obtain the following learning outcomes:


The student will obtain knowledge at an advanced level on:

  • critical and creative processes of translations with "indigenous" in combination with other categories like "religion," "spirituality," "tradition," "knowledge," and "culture"
  • contemporary theories and debates about translation and about uses of the category "indigenous"


The student will be able to:

  • develop critical approaches to the roles of translations in empirical matters as well as in methods and theories
  • bring more reflexivity to processes of translation in her own research project


The student will gain competence in:

  • critical thinking about translations
  • writing, presenting, and discussing academic papers

Language of instruction and examination


Teaching methods

A 3 day workshop with lectures, presentations of papers, and discussions.

Prior to the workshop: Readings and preparation of paper.

At the workshop: Lectures (total 15 hours), a full day for students' presentations of papers, and generous time for discussions.

After workshop: Completion of written paper based on insights from the workshop.

All courses will be evaluated once during the period of the study program. The board of the program decides which courses will be evaluated by students and teacher each year. 


The following coursework requirements must be completed and approved in order to take the final exam: Presentation of a paper at the workshop. The paper must be relevant to the topic of the course and build on the student's particular PhD project.

The exam will consist of: An essay (approximately 5000 words) based on the presentation at the workshop, to be handed in no later than a month after the workshop.

The exam will be assessed on a Pass/Fail basis.

Deferred examination is offered if the student is unable to take the final exam due to illness or other exceptional circumstances.

Recommended reading/syllabus


Cadena, Marisol de la. 2015. Earth Beings: Ecologies of Practice Across Andean Worlds. Durham: Duke University Press.

Oskal, Nils. 2014. The character of the milk bowl as a separate world, and the world as a multitudinous totality of references. Sámi Stories, pp. 78-89. Stamsund: Orkana.

SELECTED READINGS (students must read at least 500 pages from this list)

Asad, Talal. 1986. The concept of cultural translation in British social anthropology. Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography, ed. by J. Clifford & G. E. Marcus, pp. 141-164. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Bal, Mieke. 2007. Translating translation. Journal of Visual Culture 6, 1, pp. 109-124.

Bhabha, Homi K. 1994. How newness enters the world: postmodern space, postcolonial times and the trials of cultural translation. The Location of Culture, pp. 212-235. London: Routledge.

Burke, Peter. 2007. Cultures of translation in early modern Europe. Cultural Translation in Early Modern Europe, ed. by P. Burke & R. P. Hsia, pp. 7-38. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Callon, Michel. 1986. Some elements of a sociology of translation: domestication of the scallops and the fishermen of St Brieuc Bay. Power, Action and Belief: A New Sociology of Knowledge?, ed. by J. Law, pp. 196-223. London: Routledge.

Clifford, James. 2013. Among histories. Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty-First Century, pp. 13-49. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Clifford, James. 2013. Ishi's story. Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty-First Century, pp. 91-191. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Engler, Steven & Mark Gardiner. 2015. Translation. Vocabulary for the Study of Religion, P-Z, pp. 521-526. Brill.

Evans-Pritchard, E. E. 1956. [Chapter I] God. [And chapter V] The problem of symbols. Nuer Religion, pp. 1-27, 123-143. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Felski, Rita & Susan Stanford Friedman (eds.). 2013. Comparison: Theories, Approaches, Uses. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. [contains texts by Rita Felski and Susan Stanford Friedman, R. Radhakrishnan, Zhang Longxi, Haun Saussy, Shu-mei Shih, Walter D. Mignolo, Robert Stam and Ella Shohat, Ania Loomba, Pheng Cheah, Bruce Robbins, Mary N. Layoun, Rebecca L. Walkowitz, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Richard Handler, Caroline B. Brettell, and Linda Gordon]

Gluck, Carol & Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing (eds.). 2009. Words in Motion: Toward a Global Lexicon. Durham: Duke University Press. [contains texts by Carol Gluck, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Itty Abraham, Mona Abaza, Driss Maghraoui, Alan Tansman, Seteney Shami, Claudia Koonz, Lydia H. Liu, Vicente L. Rafael, Partha Chatterjee, Huri Islamoglu, Craig J. Reynolds, and Kasian Tejapira]

Hanks, William F. & Carlo Severi (eds.). 2014. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 4, 2, Special issue: Translating worlds: the epistemological space of translation, pp. 1-235. [contains texts by William F. Hanks, Carlo Severi, Rupert Stasch, Anne-Christine Taylor, Alan Rumsey, Adam Yuet Chau, Carlos Fausto and Emmanuel de Vienne, John Leavitt, and G. E. R. Lloyd]

Hsia, R. Po-chia. 2007. The Catholic mission and translations in China, 1583¿1700. Cultural Translation in Early Modern Europe, ed. by P. Burke & R. P. Hsia, pp. 39-51. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mignolo, Walter D. & Freya Schiwy. 2003. Double translation: transculturation and the colonial difference. Translation and Ethnograpy: The Anthropological Challenge of Intercultural Understanding, ed. by T. Maranhão & B. Streck, pp. 3-29. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Sahlins, Marshall. 1992. The economics of develop-man in the Pacific. RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics 21, pp. 12-25.

Sahlins, Marshall. 1999. Two or three things I know about culture. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 5, 3, pp. 399-421.

Smith, Jonathan Z. (1999) 2004. Bible and religion. Relating Religion: Essays in the Study of Religion, pp. 197-214. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. 1988. Can the subaltern speak? Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, ed. by C. Nelson & L. Grossberg, pp. 271-313. Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Tsing, Anna L. 2010. Worlding the matsutake diaspora: or, can actor-network theory experiment with holism? Experiments in Holism: Theory and Practice in Contemporary Anthropology, ed. by T. Otto & N. Bubandt, pp. 47-66. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Tsing, Anna L. 2015. Science as translation. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, pp. 217-225. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Venuti, Lawrence (ed.). 2012. The Translation Studies Reader, third edition. London: Routledge. [contains texts by Jerome, Nicolas Perrot D'Ablancourt, John Dryden, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Nietzsche, Walter Benjamin, Ezra Pound, Jorge Luis Borges, Vladimir Nabokov, Roman Jakobson, Eugene Nida, George Steiner, Itamar Even-Zohar, Gideon Toury, Hans J. Vermeer, André Lefevere, Philip E. Lewis, Antoine Berman, Lori Chamberlain, Annie Brisset, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Keith Harvey, Jacques Derrida, Ian Mason, David Damrosch, Sherry Simon, Vicente L. Rafael, Michael Cronin, and Lawrence Venuti]

Viveiros de Castro, Eduardo. 2004. Perspectival anthropology and the method of controlled equivocation. Tipití: Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America 2, 1, pp. 3-22.

Wintroub, Michael. 2015. Translations: words, things, going native, and staying true. The American Historical Review 120, 4, pp. 1185-1217.

Yeh, Emily T. 2007. Tibetan indigeneity: translations, resemblances, and uptake. Indigenous Experience Today, ed. by M. de la Cadena & O. Starn, pp. 69-97. Oxford: Berg.

Ødemark, John. 2011. Genealogies and analogies of 'culture' in the history of cultural translation: on Boturini's translation of Tlaloc and Vico in Idea of a New General History of Northern America. Bulletin of Latin American Research 30.

  • About the course
  • Campus: Tromsø |
  • ECTS: 5
  • Course code: REL-8004