Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Awards

Hosna Sheikholeslami

Yale University, Department of Anthropology

2018 Winner (Social Sciences)

Hosna Sheikholeslami

Hosna Sheikholeslami

Thinking through Translation: Translators, Publishers, and the Formation of Publics in Contemporary Iran
Yale University, Department of Anthropology
Supervised by Karen Nakamura and Joseph Errington

The selection committee unanimously and unequivocally selected “Thinking through Translation” for this award because it is highly original, theoretically strong, empirically rich, and compellingly written. Its conceptualization and execution demonstrates a rare sophistication that makes it worthy of this recognition. “Thinking through Translation” examines the circulation of Western-origin political and philosophical thought in Iran, effectively connecting translation, publishing and dissemination of these texts to the sociopolitical context and civil society dynamics in Iran and to the relationship between Iran and the West. The chapters focus on three main actors that shape the intellectual social science publishing life in Iran: translators, publishers and government censors. Rather than the dominant focus on audiences, this focus on the production side of translated texts produces new insights by showing bureaucracy in action, how different imaginaries and discourses are set off against one another, and productively moving between spheres of government, political economy, and society.  The study gives a close sense of the materiality of the production and circulation process by providing remarkable ethnographic depth to how actors translate, publish, censor, read, and debate as actual books and form publics through constant negotiation. The dissertation opens up new ways of thinking about the relationship between the Iranian state and society and vividly demonstrates Iran’s highly regulated but deeply vibrant public culture. Its implications go well beyond Iran and promote novel insights for translation theory, state-society dynamics, and public life in the Middle East and globally.

2018 Review Committee
Banu Gokariksel (chair), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Fahad A. Bishara, Duke University
Aomar Boum, University of California, Los Angeles
Steven Heydemann, Smith College

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