The discourse on translation is haunted by hermeneutics. Positing the possibility of understanding linguistic statements as their end, hermeneutic approaches to language represent the practice of translation as an exemplary instance of the communicative transfer of “meaning” between two imagined consciousnesses: a “self” and an “other.” Each with its own “horizon of understanding” is imagined to approach the other in a dialog and come to understanding through an ongoing “fusion of horizons.”1 The diﬀerence in languages in the scene of translation is imagined to illustrate this process of the “self” confronting not only the “meaning” of the “other” but also the “otherness” of the “other.” What haunts theoretical approaches to translation is this representation of translation as an encounter between the language of the “self” and the language of the “other,” as if languages were systematic unities subject to such representation. Indeed, it is as though the self/other opposition, without which philosophical hermeneutics would cease, were so self-evidently “applicable” to the scene of translation that even those who refute hermeneutics might accept this opposition as empirically given. However, the commonsensicality of this representation of translation should
suﬃce to provoke one’s doubt. Naoki Sakai argues that the actual practice of translation is radically heterogeneous to its representation as an encounter between two linguistic unities imagined as “self” and “other” (Sakai 1997: 54). The practice of translation is heterogeneous to its representation to the extent that languages too are heterogeneous to their representation as systematic unities. Both translation and language manifest themselves as temporal events incommensurate to the spatiality of representation. Nevertheless, the self/ other opposition persists as a governing paradigm in theoretical discussions on translation. If this persistence is not simply the result of a simple theoretical “mistake,” as it very well may be, then might it have another function in these discussions? What does it license in these arguments? To what does its recurrence testify about translation? The short answer, which will require further complication, is the imagination and politics of the cultural “exterior” upon which hermeneutic approaches to translation depend in denial.