One of the things that studies (listening!) in indigeneity teaches us is that we have to struggle—and it is a real struggle with our own unrecognized cauterizations—to avoid absorbing cultural ideas in a way that eviscerates and cannibalizes them for our own purposes (which is so easy to do… the North American academy did it, by and large, for example, to “deconstruction,” till Derrida was left to protest and to regret he’d ever used the word). Appropriation, always a part of art-making, has to be called into question when it involves eviscerating the cultural markings of another’s speaking or inscription, particularly when that “another” does not have the same societal privilege we do, or when our privilege rests upon the crushing of theirs.
Better that we eviscerate ourselves, realize our own agency (for appropriation is always done by an agent, a decider, an ego), open out and allow the collapse of our own instrumentalized reason and force.
One of the powers of translation is that it (as act and as actual work) causes us to examine identity formations, the formation first and foremost of our own identity as translators: what we are absorbing, how our cultural structuration as public beings effaces memory in the work that is translated, in fact, destroys the work in the act of translation. Or risks such destruction. It is that bad, my friends: it is that bad. Or that good.
Translation tears a strip off me, a bark, a coalesce of snot and varnish and spit. It takes months to grow my skin back.
In this regard, one of the crucial challenges to translation today in 2012 is the work done on indigeneity, poetics and translation, by the incredible writer and thinker from the austral regions of the Americas, from Chile, the south of Chile (which is like our North in its impact on human memory, inhabitation and bearing), Andrés Ajens.