METM15 presentation

Blurring the boundaries: academic advising, author's editing and translation in a graduate degree program

Susan M. DiGiacomo, Ph.D., Barcelona, Spain

The spread of English as a global lingua franca affects not only established researchers who use English as an additional language in order to publish their work in major international journals. It has also created pressure on PhD students at universities in non-English-speaking EU member countries to avail themselves of the European Doctorate and International doctorate options, which require them to write part of their thesis in English so that outside examiners can read it. This presentation is based on a doctoral thesis in cultural anthropology (specifically, medical anthropology) that I co-advise with another colleague in my department. The student is a native Italian speaker and a competent writer in Spanish who has opted for the International Doctorate and decided to write her thesis almost entirely in English, with one chapter in Spanish. This student also experiments with ethnography as a literary genre, blurring it significantly by interweaving ethnography with the short story.

The challenges for the academic adviser/author's editor/post-translation editor/translator are substantial. My contributions to the final product are those of the anthropologist as well as the language professional, but both involve teaching. The goal is both to help the student create an account of her research that is a positive contribution to knowledge in medical anthropology and more broadly to anthropology in general, and to help her develop a greater command of English as a scholarly and literary instrument. The complexity of this work underlines the need for all language professionals working with graduate students to be attentive to genre, register, and voice as well as to grammar, syntax and citation, and suggests a need for start-to-finish involvement in the thesis writing process as an alternative to end-stage translation or “proofreading” services.

Susan M. DiGiacomo is professor of anthropology at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona, Catalonia, and adjunct professor of anthropology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, USA. She has more than 20 years' experience as a translator of anthropology from Catalan and Spanish to English and English to Catalan, and offers a departmental publication support service for her colleagues at URV that includes critical review of manuscripts, editorial assistance and translation.