Einleitung. Wissenschaft als Übersetzung? Translation und Wandel polnischsprachiger Wissenschaft im langen 19. Jahrhundert. Eine Einführung

Jan Surman


For a few decades now, a growing amount of scholarship has been dealing with the issue of the translation in science. This introduction discusses the translational perspective on the history of science with the help of the example of Polish-language scholarship in the long nineteenth century. In the period without Polish statehood, when Polish speakers were scattered over three empires, language and scholarship were pivotal for the reaffirmation of cultural identity. On the other hand, it was produced in a multicultural environment, requiring daily ‘habitualized translations’ (Michaela Wolf) to and from German, Russian or Ukrainian. Already from the start of the Commission of National Education’s activities (1773), translations were seen as a means to reform and internationalize Polish education system and scholarship. During the time of partitions, various institutions and publishing houses entertained translation projects, both into Polish and – in particular by the Academy of Science in Cracow – of Polish scholarship into foreign languages. Although no translation policy was prevailing, translation was clearly utilized to achieve particular means, from popularization of Polish knowledge abroad to strengthening scholarly currents, like positivism, among Polish readers. Although translation was an important act of cultural reaffirmation, some scholars, like Maurycy Mochnacki, discussed its negative outcomes, like diminishing multilingualism and limited space on the book market. This discussion was far from over at the end of the period in question. Another point of dispute were norms of translation. Here scholars varied in their assess¬ment on foreignizing and domesticizing translation, but also about more substantial inter¬ventions in the text: actualizations, amendments or corrections. The norms varied over time, but also according to intended readership allowing, or even requiring, more far-reaching changes in cases of popularizing publications. Finally the article introduces three further points where looking at scholarship with a translational perspective proves particularly fruitful. First, the bottom-up translation of knowledge of lay scholars into academic discourse, particularly important for a scarcely institutionalized community. Second, the importance of translators as “secondary authors”, appreciating this usually invisible group as actors of knowledge production. Third, migration and mobility as cultural translation: Since scholars identifying as Poles and writing in Polish were both frequent migrants and also receivers of long-terms travel scholarships of the imperial institutions, this perspective helps not only to substantiate the circulatory movement of knowledge in Central European space, but also provides a good case study for transnational translational research on scholarly community.