Mona Baker

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Dr. Mona Baker

Mona Baker (born 1953) is an Egyptian professor of translation studies and Director of the Centre for Translation and International Studies at the University of Manchester in England.[1]

Career[edit]

Baker studied at the American University in Cairo, where she gained a BA in English and Comparative Literature. Afterwards she studied in applied linguistics at the University of Birmingham, obtaining an MA. In 1995 she moved to UMIST where she became a professor in 1997. She currently holds the Chair in Translation Studies[2]

She is the founder of St. Jerome Publishing where she is editorial director. She also founded the international magazine The Translator.[3]

Since 2009 she has been an honorary member of IAPTI.[4] In the framework of this association she delivered a speech on "Ethics in the Translation/Interpreting Curriculum" [5] She is also co-Vice-president of the International Association of Translation and Intercultural Studies.[6]

As a researcher, she is interested in translation and conflict, the role of ethics in research and training in Translation Studies, the application of narrative theory to translation and interpretation, activist communities in translation and corpus-based translation studies; she has published extensively in these areas. She has also edited reference works.

Middle East conflict and Israeli academics[edit]

Mona Baker provides commentary on the Middle East conflict, and research in translation and intercultural studies. Her website also has sections on the boycott of Israeli academic institutions, Israel and Palestinian universities, general opinions on the Middle East and calls for boycott of Israeli products and services.

Baker was a signatory of the 2002 open letter to boycott Israeli institutions.

She received much criticism and created great controversy when she removed two Israeli academics, Dr. Miriam Shlesinger of Bar-Ilan University and Professor Gideon Toury of Tel Aviv University, Israel, from the editorial boards of her journals Translator and Translation Studies Abstracts, based on their affiliation to Israeli institutions.[7][8]

Baker stated that the interpretation of the boycott was her own and she did not necessarily expect other signatories in a similar position to adopt the same course of action. Prof Baker, of Egyptian origin, said she was bemused by the row over two "tiny" journals. A spokeswoman for the university stated that: "This is nothing to do with Umist. The boycott documentation clearly states Mona Baker signs it as an individual."[9]

Response from Professors[edit]

In an email sent to Professor Toury on 8 June 2002, Baker asked him to resign and warned him that she would "unappoint you" if he refused. Baker justified her action by stating that "I do not wish to continue an official association with any Israeli under the present circumstances", although she also stated that her decision was "political, not personal" and that she still regarded Professor Toury and Professor Shlesinger as friends.[9]

Professor Toury subsequently responded that "I would appreciate it if the announcement made it clear that 'he' (that is, I) was appointed as a scholar and unappointed as an Israeli." Toury also stated that "I am certainly worried, not because of the boycott itself but because it may get bigger and bigger so that people will not be invited to conferences or lectures, or periodicals will be judged not on merit, but the identity of the place where the author lives."[9]

Dr Shlesinger responded that: "I don't think [Israeli prime minister] Ariel Sharon is going to withdraw from the West Bank because Israeli academics are being boycotted. The idea is to boycott me as an Israeli, but I don't think it achieves anything."[9]

Criticism[edit]

Baker's actions were sharply criticised by Professor Stephen Greenblatt of Harvard University and the president of the Modern Language Association of America, who called the firings "repellent", "dangerous" and "morally bankrupt".[10] British Prime Minister Tony Blair also criticised Baker's actions, and stated that he will "do anything necessary" to stop the academic boycott of Israeli scholars.[11]

In the British House of Commons, an Early Day Motion (EDM 1590) condemning Baker's actions was passed, stating that Parliament "deplores discrimination against academics of any nationality, as being inconsistent with the principle of academic freedom, regards such discrimination as downright anti-semitic while pretending simply to be opposed to Israeli government policy... and calls upon UMIST to apologise for this disgusting act and to dismiss Professor Baker."[12]

Judith Butler suggested that Baker had "engaged established anti-semitic stereotypes."[13] According to Butler, to claim, as Baker does, "that all Jews hold a given view on Israel or are adequately represented by Israel … is to conflate Jews with Israel and, thereby, to commit an anti-semitic reduction of Jewishness."[14] According to Professor Jon Pike, "Mona Baker's policy is, in effect, anti-semitic: she doesn't want to have contact with any individuals who are affiliated with Israeli institutions, and those people will largely be Jews. And we know, of course, that Mona Baker thinks these actions are "appropriate" (and, when criticised, complains bitterly about the Jewish press)."[15]

The National Union of Students (NUS), in addition to condemning academic boycotts as a whole, specifically condemning Baker's sackings of the two Israeli professors as "racist." Mandy Telford, president of the NUS, stated that "The National Union of Students stands firmly against all forms of discrimination. This is an abuse of academic freedom that can only have a negative impact on students at Umist...We wouldn't support the infringement of [people] being able to study because of where they live and where they are." Daniel Rose, the NUS's anti-racism campaign convenor, said: "To exclude people based on their nationality is abhorrent and nothing short of racism, and should be universally condemned."[16]

In 2002 the European Society for Translation Studies condemned the ousting of Toury and Shlesinger, both members of the Society, arguing that "in their intellectual work they are not representatives of their country but individuals who are known for their research, their desire to develop translation studies and to promote translation and intercultural dialogue."[17]

Support[edit]

Baker received support from a number of sources, including the Muslim Association of Britain and the Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign[18]

Baker's Response[edit]

Baker wrote a detailed response to her critics (a brief summary of which was published in the London Review of Books). Baker wrote that "the Jewish press in Britain is shamelessly and exclusively pro-Israel" and cited support for her position from Israeli Professor Ilan Pappe. She also cited a letter to the editor supporting her from Seymour Alexander, who identified himself as a British Jew, and Lawrence Davidson, an American Jew who co-authored "In Defence of the Academic Boycott" with her. She also criticised "the intense and highly distorting smear campaign led mostly by the Jewish press in the UK against me."[19]

In an interview with Al-Ahram, Baker stated that

Baker also stated that her decision to fire the two Israelis was "intended as a minor symbolic gesture but simply because of the arrogance of the Zionist lobby it's out of the bag now. And it's doing some good, I believe, in that it's forcing people to really confront the issues.[12]

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Baker stated that she was the victim of "a large intimidation machine out there" that attempts to silence criticism of Israel and that "the Americans are the worst offenders". When asked about the dismissals, she responded to her critics by stating, "I'm damned if I'm going to be intimidated. This is my interpretation of the boycott statement that I've signed and I've tried to make that clear but it doesn't seem to be getting through. I am not actually boycotting Israelis, I am boycotting Israeli institutions". In the same interview, Baker sharply criticised Israeli policies, stating that: "Israel has gone beyond just war crimes. It is horrific what is going on there. Many of us would like to talk about it as some kind of Holocaust which the world will eventually wake up to, much too late, of course, as they did with the last one."[9][20]

At a conference held in London in 2004 to discuss the implementation of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, Baker stated that a boycott of Israel must avoid the appearance of discrimination and the risk of dilution due to individually chosen exceptions, and proposed that the academic boycott be cast as an economic boycott, which implies that all academics at Israeli institutions should be boycotted "to undermine the institutions that allow a pariah state to function and claim membership of the international community." In support of boycott, Baker stated "supporters of an economic boycott [against Tourism to Israel] do not ask whether the individual hotel workers who are being laid off in Israel are individually for or against the occupation.[21]

Works[edit]

  • Editor of Critical Concepts: Translation Studies (London and New York: Routledge, 2009).
  • Editor of Critical Readings in Translation Studies (London and New York: Routledge, 2009).
  • Editor, together with Gabriela Saldanha, of Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies (London and New York: Routledge, 2008).
  • Translation and Conflict: A Narrative Account (London and New York: Routledge, 2006).
  • In Other Words: A Coursebook on Translation (first edition, 1992, Routledge; upcoming revised and extended edition, 2010).

References[edit]

  1. ^ Professor Mona Baker, Webpage at the University of Manchester Institute of Technology (UMIST)
  2. ^ Prof. Mona Baker (University of Manchester)
  3. ^ CV of Mona Baker at IAPTI
  4. ^ Mona Baker, honorary member of IAPTI
  5. ^ Meeting with Mona Baker (in Spanish)
  6. ^ Mona Baker at IATIS
  7. ^ Israeli boycott divides academics The Guardian, Monday 8 July 2002
  8. ^ Baker London Conference
  9. ^ a b c d e Suzanne Goldenberg and Will Woodward "Israeli boycott divides academics", The Guardian, 8 July 2002. (retrieved on 7 December 2009).
  10. ^ David Harrison "Professor's anti-Israeli tirade revives sacked academics row", Daily Telegraph, 29 September 2002 (retrieved on 1 November 2009).
  11. ^ Francis Elliott and Catherine Milner "Blair vows to end dons' boycott of Israeli scholars", Daily Telegraph, 17 November 2002. (retrieved on November 2009).
  12. ^ a b Descending the ivory tower by Amina Elbendary, Al-Ahram, 23 – 29 January 2003, Issue No. 622.
  13. ^ Judith Butler Precarious Life, Verso, 2004, pp. 124–125
  14. ^ Judith Butler "No, it’s not anti-semitic", London Review of Books, 25:16, 21 August 2003, pp 19–21, (retrieved on 17 February 2012)
  15. ^ NATFHE: Chuck out 198C! – Jon Pike [1] and Wrong in principle, wrong in practice [2]
  16. ^ Will Woodward "Students attack Israel boycott", The Guardian, 9 July 2002.
  17. ^ EST Newsletter 20, June 2002 [3]
  18. ^ Urgent: Support Mona Baker at UMIST!, Forwarded by Manchester PSC in solidarity with The Muslim Association of Britain, 11 July 2002.
  19. ^ Crying Wolf: Anti-semitism, the Jewish Press in Britain, and Academic Boycotts by Mona Baker, Monabaker.com.
  20. ^ David Tell "Boycotting the Juden", The Weekly Standard, 11 July 2002. (retrieved on 1 November 2009)
  21. ^ Paul de Rooij "Special Report: London Conference a Prelude to Academic Boycott of Israel", Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January/February 2005, p.15, 77.

External links[edit]