Call for papers: Interpreting in Conflict Situations and in Conflict Zones throughout History

coverGuest editors: Lucía Ruiz Rosendo (University Pablo de Olavide) & Clementina Persaud (University Pablo de Olavide)
The figure of the interpreter as an intercultural and linguistic mediator in zones devastated by conflict has always existed due to the fact that conflicts have been intrinsic to the development of history. The distinctive trait of these interpreters is that, unlike other interpreters who are seldom in danger when exercising their profession, they risk being subjected to psychological and emotional pressure or physical harm and are often unable to find politically or linguistically neutral spaces, and the combatants do not recognise them either (Kahane 2008).
Although in some civilisations, such as the Babylon Empire (Kurz 1985), interpreters enjoyed great prestige, it was only in the second half of the twentieth century that interpreting was recognised as a profession with the creation and development of simultaneous interpreting during the Nuremberg trials and the subsequent establishment of the first interpreting schools. Since then, interpreting as a profession has achieved a high level of professionalisation and specialisation. However, language brokering in conflict zones has continued to be a non-regulated occupation mainly carried out by interpreters who have not undergone any formal training and lack the professional skills that are essential if they are to perform adequately as interpreters. Furthermore, there is a lack of recognition of the specialised role that conflict interpreters play.
Nevertheless, in the last few decades international associations have become more aware of the complexity of the role that interpreters play in conflict zones and of their vulnerability and need for special protection. As a consequence, some initiatives have been developed and the role of interpreters in conflict has attracted more attention in the literature on interpreting with works such as those by Balaban (2005), Carr (2007), Tipton (2008, 2011), Baker (2010), Inghilleri (2005, 2010), Inghilleri and Harding (2010), Greene (2013), Footitt and Kelly (2012), Footitt et al. (2012), Kelly and Baker (2012), among others.
In spite of the increasing awareness of the role of interpreters in conflict and the expanding literature on interpreting in conflict, we believe that few studies to date have dealt with the role of interpreters in conflict zones in different chapters and periods of history —from prehistory to contemporary history—and how their status has developed.
The main objective of his issue is therefore to focus on the role of interpreters in conflict zones and situations in different chapters and specific conflicts of history with the ultimate goal of shedding light on the particularities of each period or conflict in terms of working practices and procedures, policies and norms, ethics, status and profile, neutrality, identity and ideology, and/or to compare these aspects in different periods or conflicts.
We invite proposals dealing with one or more of the following topics:

  • What has been the role of interpreters in conflict zones and in conflict situations in certain episodes of history with a special view to working practices and procedures?
  • How could the interpreter working in conflict be described in terms of profile and status, neutrality, identity and ideology? Have these concepts changed throughout history?
  • What are the policies and norms that have regulated the role of conflict interpreters throughout history?
  • What are the ethics underlying the work of the conflict interpreter in specific periods of history?
  • What has been the role of the interpreter in recent conflicts?
  • What role have interpreters played in the different stages of conflicts (conflict settlement, conflict transformation and conflict resolution)?
  • What is the role of the interpreter in protracted conflicts? Has this role changed or developed in any way, or has it remained the same?
  • What are the present and future directions that research on this topic might take with regard to  current and future practices and training that might enhance the status of these interpreters?

Abad Merino, M. (2005). Intérpretes latentes y patentes en el periodo morisco (1501-1568). Del medio oral al medio escrito. Miscelánea medieval murciana 29, 9-26.
Alonso, I. y Baigorri Jalón, J. (2004). Iconography of interpreters in the conquest of the Americas. TTR 17(1), 129-153.
Baigorri Jalón, J. (2000). La interpretación de conferencias: el nacimiento de una profesión. De París a Nuremberg. Comares: Granada.
Baigorri Jalón, J. (2010). Wars, languages and the role(s) of interpreters. Les liaisons dangereuses: langues, traduction, interprétation. Beyrouth, Lebanon, 173-204.
Baker, M. (2010). Interpreters and Translators in the War Zone: Narrated and Narrators. The Translator 16(2). Special Issue: Translation and Violent Conflict, 197-222.
Carr, S. (2007). Translating and interpreting conflict. Approaches to translation studies. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
Cronin, M. (2002). The Empire Talks Back: Orality, Heteronomy and the Cultural Turn in Interpreting Studies. In Pöchhacker, F. and M. Shlesinger (eds.), The interpreting studies reader. Routledge: London, 386-397.
Delisle, J. and Woodsworth, J. (2012). Translators through History. Benjamins Translation Library, John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Footitt, H. and Kelly, M. (2012). Languages and the Military: alliances, occupation and peace building. Palgrave Studies in Languages at War. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.
Footitt, H., Kelly, M., Tobia , S. , Baker , C. and Askew , L. (2012). Languages at war: policies and practices of language contacts in conflictPalgrave Studies in Languages at War. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, Hampshire.
Franco, H. G. (2003). Intérpretes militares en el” limes” del Danubio. Aquila legionis: cuadernos de estudios sobre el Ejército Romano 4, 27-44.
Galán, J. M. (2012). Intérpretes y traducciones en el Egipto imperial. Sémata: Ciencias Sociais e Humanidades 23.
Kurz, I. (1985). The rock tombs of the princes of Elephantine: Earliest references to interpretation in Pharaonic Egypt. Babel 31(4), 213-218.
Moser-Mercer, B. and Bali, G. (2013). Interpreting in zones of crisis and war. Available in
Tipton, R. (2011). Relationships of Learning between Military Personnel and Interpreters in Situations of Violent Conflict: Dual Pedagogies and Communities of Practice. Interpreter and Translator Trainer 5(1), 15-40.
Practical information and deadlines
Proposals: abstracts of approximately 500 words, including some relevant bibliography, should be submitted by 1st of April 2015Please send your proposals to Lucía Ruiz Rosendo(
Acceptance of proposals: 1st of May 2015
Submission of articles: 1st of December 2016
Acceptance of articles: 30th of February  2016
Publication: November-December 2016

ISSN: 2295-5739