Found in translation: differences, tolerance and enriching diversity

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Biermann, S 2008, 'Found in translation: differences, tolerance and enriching diversity', in R Garbutt (ed.), Activating Human Rights and Peace: Universal Responsibility Conference 2008 Conference Proceedings, Byron Bay, NSW, 1-4 July, Centre for Peace and Social Justice, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW., pp. 124-130.


In her insightful book Ornament of the World, Maria Rosa Menocal describes medieval Andalusia where Jews, Muslims and Christians lived and thrived together as a ‘culture of translation, [that was] perforce a culture of tolerance’ (2002, p. 197). The collective act of translating, Menocal implies, necessitates tolerance towards the ideas and the bodies of the other culture, even if there are deep disagreements on existential religious or political questions. Beginning from an understanding of human rights in terms of the quality of people’s lived realities, this paper argues that developing a culture of translation leads to a more tolerant society and that multilingualism is a vital part of such a project. Taking that idea as a starting point, this paper will present an inquiry into the possibilities a dialogical cultural translation process may offer in terms of a human rights-oriented and decolonising approach to education in a contemporary multicultural Western society such as Australia. As part of this process, it will consider the tension between multicultural realities and monocultural educational traditions and discuss the possibilities and constraints of developing a culture of translation.