22/04/2021 – Margherita Laera: “Be My Guest? Practicing Reciprocal Hospitality Through Theatre Translation.”

Margherita Laera’s main point was to explain that translation is a matter of ethic and social justice.

She presented hospitality in theatre as a form of activism and uses the metaphor of theatre as hospitality. To do so, she borrows Derrida’s idea according to which: “Hospitality is culture itself […] ethic is hospitality.” (“On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness”) Hospitality means unconditional hospitality yet it implies that the owner of the place unwillingly control their guest. Hospitality and properties / ownership are then intertwined.

Translation always means the reconfiguration of a message into another message with the cultural codes of the translated message. She talked about the British model of hospitality which treats migrants as a minority group which inevitably leads to “foreign fetishism,” she said.

Margherita Laera also explained that if the majority becomes a minority group, there is a risk that the nation disappears. She wondered how we can be good host, and where we can look for models. “Perhaps,” she said, “that we should let translation reconfigure theatre insofar as the encounter has to be equitable and the host needs to change their way of shaping the world”.

She also mentioned “The Cosmopolitan City of Refuge” and the fact that theatre can be a refuge for foreign people because it might offer unconditional hospitality without making them feel like “exotic communities”. To assert her statement, she mentioned Paul Ricoeur who gives 3 models of integration: “the model of translation”, “the model of the exchange of memories” and “the model of forgiveness”. (Reflections on a New Ethos for Europe (p. 3-10))

The speaker uses Edouard Glissant’s thesis on “Créolisation” and the act of thinking about translation in light of hospitality. The latter speaks of the “hybridation de la culture”. According to Stuart Hall, other thinkers who use the notion of Creolisation regardless of its initial definition are dangerous because they bowdlerise its original thesis.

Margherita Laera explained that foreignisation is a translation ethics that aims to pay respect to cultural otherness. The goal of foreignisation is to stage an alien reading experience.

To achieve these effects, we can use selected texts which choices must disrupt target language translation. Then, the speaker talked about translation as a way to questions upper-class reading analyses, especially since Shelley and her introduction of a new literary genre.

Concerning stage performance, she said that telling a story requires intellectual an emotional capacities. Nevertheless, the risks of re-appropriation, invisibilisation and carelessness are reel, hence the emergency to learn how to receive foreigners stories.

She eventually gave answer to the following question: How can we intervene in this sphere, and can we change the perception of the audience who goes to the theatre?

1) By speaking to students about this topic during courses or by turning upside down the dominant forces during rehearsals and performance.

2) By performing international plays, Margherita Laera puts that into practice at the university she works in.

During the Q&A session, a senior lecturer commented on British as major language lacking hospitality, and Margherita Laera added that publishing houses and education are not helping insofar as the whole system is geared towards the exclusion of minorities.

Another professor spoke about the guilt that she feels because she perpetuates the cultural domination, and then begged her colleagues to give her pieces of advice about a way to give voice to minority groups.

A third senior lecturer suggested that we should replace written and oral exams as we know them today by something else which benefits the students and the curriculum.

An attendee asked her how she will manage to make theatre viable given that people won’t pay for plays which do not belong to the literary canon. The speaker acknowledged that because it is linked with the market, it is hard to convince people to pay for something they would probably not like to attend. She also insisted on the fact that theatre is a very elitist organisation, as well as a restrictive field.

She ended this seminar session stating that: “We need to change taste” that is to say that we need to reform institutionalisation and canonisation.