Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Cities in translation : some proposals on method

Sherry Simon


This article argues for the existence of a category of linguistically divided cities and provides four examples: colonial Calcutta, turn of the century Trieste, Barcelona and Montreal. These are cities which—at specific historical moments—are characterized by competition between two languages each claiming entitlement to the space of the city. Because there are two strong languages claiming the allegiance of citizens, these cities are different from most other multilingual cities where there is one overarching dominant language. In the context of current debates over linguistic citizenship and increased global migration, the contact zones of divided cities offer lessons that are particularly valuable. While the potential for violence and civil war haunts every divided city, the differences of the city also offer possibilities for creative interconnections. The interactions of such cities can be studied as forms of translation.

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