The American University in Cairo has decided to shut down its Center for Translation Studies (CTS), director Samia Mehrez announced Sunday:
The CTS was launched in December 2009 as a research center, fostering “collaborative outreach programs and research in translation and translation studies within an interdisciplinary context.” The first in its signature lecture series was by translator Denys Johnson-Davies that same month.
The center’s early lectures seem to no longer be on YouTube, but, according to al-Bawaba, Johnson-Davies spoke about the difficulties he faced in publishing the anthology Modern Arabic Short Stories: “The year was 1967; not the best year in which to produce a volume of Arabic short stories, and several English publications refused to review the book. The situation was not helped by the fact that no Arab government or institution bought a single copy of the book, and Oxford University Press was unable to sell the very limited edition they had printed; it was later sold off as a paperback in Lebanon only.”
Other early lectures were given by Humphrey Davies (February 2010), Jonathan Wright (March 2010), and Ahdaf Soueif (April 2010).
The CTS went on to host dozens of other lectures in Arabic and English, many of which remain available online. As scholar Raph Cormack wrote on Twitter, “Many of the best talks I have been to in Cairo were organised by the centre.”
Novelist Ahmed Naji called it “sad news, but in the end it reflects the poor management from the current @AUC administration.. CTS was the most valuable literature initiative the @AUC done in the last decade.”
In addition to the CTS’s lectures, they also co-sponsored “Translation, Gender and Knowledge Production,” ran several workshops, and published two anthologies of work that drew from the lecture series.
In her email announcement, Dr. Mehrez said:
Much as I am saddened by this regrettable decision, I am proud of the accomplishments of the center and its legacy. Many of you know that most, if not all, the center’s valuable lectures are available on YouTube. The two anthologies that we have published, In the Shoes of the Other: Interdisciplinary Essays in Translation Studies (2019) and Translating Egypt’s Revolution: The Language of Tahrir (2013) are available through Al-Kotob Khan and AUC Press respectively.
Gratitude to Dr. Mehrez, to administrative assistant Iman Zarif, and to everyone who contributed to the CTS’s work over the years. It is doubtful that ArabLit exist without Dr. Mehrez’s early encouragement.
A sad day for translators, writers, academics, and readers. Culture is going through a crisis, but it will survive this one as it did the previous ones.
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