Lydia Cabrera in Translation


Friday, April 21, 2017, 12:00pm to 2:00pm


CGIS South, S-216, 1730 Cambridge Street


Speakers: Marial Iglesias Utset: Translating Cultures: Lydia Cabrera’s Liminal Worlds; Erwan Dianteill: The French Translation of El Monte (2003): Genesis, Difficulties and Reception of a Cuban Classic; Patricia González Gómez-Cásseres, and Ivor Miller: Translating Lydia Cabrera’s La lengua sagrada de los ñáñigos.

Lydia Cabrera’s two decades of ethnographic research among Afro-Cuban communities produced an extraordinary body of publications on Afro Caribbean religions and folklore. Nevertheless, her oeuvre remains relatively unknown outside the Spanish-speaking world and very little of it has been translated. A white upper- middle class woman without formal training as an ethnographer or anthropologist, Cabrera considered herself a sort of cultural translator, whose task was recording in writing the voices of her Afro-Cuban informants. However, discerning between what she was really “translating” and her own literary creations is often difficult. Because the Afro-Cuban culture she documented was never a single, coherent entity but a complex mix of different African traditions with diverse linguistic and religious backgrounds, the multi-vocality distinguishing Cabrera’s narrative also makes the translation of her work a very complex endeavour. The scholars on this panel will explore the challenges of translating Cabrera's work, including the French edition of “El Monte” and, an in-progress critical English edition of “La lengua sagrada de los Náñigos.

Marial Iglesias Utset is a Visiting Research Scholar at the Afro-Latin American Research Institute, Hutchins Center, Harvard.

Erwan Dianteill is a professor of anthropology at Paris Descartes University – Sorbonne, Head of the Center for cultural anthropology (CANTHEL) in Paris, and Visiting Professor at Harvard Divinity School.

Ivor Miller a is Senior Lecturer at Bassey Andah, Institute for African and Asian Studies at the University of Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria; Cuban Lukumí Bàtá: Ajúbà to Oba Ilu; Hutchins Center Mark Claster Mamolen Fellow, 2016-2017.

Patricia González Gómez-Cásseres is a Senior Lecturer in Spanish & Portuguese, Smith College.