BELTRANS conference: Book translation in multilingual states (1945-2024)

Book translation involves border crossings of many kinds: between languages, cultures, geographies, historical periods, genres, etc. In this conference we want to focus on how literature crosses language borders within states, foregrounding in particular the actors, institutions and dynamics that shape translation in multilingual states. Large-scale histories of (literary) translation are most often written in and about countries whose territorial borders equal language borders (e.g. Frank & Turk 2004; Schögler 2023; Sapiro 2008; Schoenaers 2021).

But monolingual states are rather the exception than the rule in the international system, and many officially monolingual states sustain multilingual literary cultures, whether via officially recognized regional and local languages, or non-recognized variants. How can the state of the art of translation research be enriched by singling out “those situations in which nation state and linguistic unity do not overlap” (Leperlier 2022: 130; Leperlier 2021)? Within any given state, books are indeed often produced in ‘plurilingual spaces’ and in different (variants of) languages (Leperlier 2021).

Do these books reach the citizens of the other linguistic community(ies) within that state, and if so, how? How is multilingual book production organised in a single-state context and what are its implications for nation-building and transnational relations? These questions can be addressed by drawing inspiration from recent work on multilingual spaces and national (literary) translation histories (e.g. Riikonen e.a. 2007; Kahn 2017), literary and cultural historiography (e.g. Chapman 2003; Schreiber 2016; Vanacker & Verschaffel 2022), cultural transfer and reception studies (e.g. D’hulst e.a. 2014; D’hulst & Koskinen 2021), sociology of translation (e.g. Sapiro 2008, Heilbron 2010), cultural policy and translation policy research (e.g. Meylaerts 2011 & 2018, Schreiber & D’hulst 2017, Maumevi?ien? e.a. 2019, Paquette 2019, McMartin 2019, Schögler 2023), transcultural studies (Bachmann-Medick 2019), memory studies (Erll 2011, Deane-Cox & Spiessens 2022) and big translation history (Roig-Sanz & Folica 2021).

The project Intra-Belgian literary translations since 1970 (BELTRANS) studies the untold history of literary translation flows in Belgium between French and Dutch in the period 1970-2020. BELTRANS examines the link between intra-Belgian cultural transfers and the mutual knowledge and perception of each other’s culture in a period of increasing regionalisation of the state, which caused a growing distance between Belgium’s linguistic and cultural communities.

The upcoming BELTRANS conference will take place on 28 - 29 November 2024 at KBR. For more information see: or contact: contact: