Nothing Happened: Translation Studies before James Holmes

09 November 2023–10 November 2023, 9:00 am–6:00 pm


Event Information

Open to





Prof. Kathryn Batchelor (Centre for Translation Studies UCL, UK)


16 Taviton Street

9-10 November 2023 

Frequently rehearsed narratives of Translation Studies typically trace the origins of the discipline to James Holmes’s 1972 paper, ‘The Name and Nature of Translation Studies’, and suggest that little of interest happened prior to that date, or at least prior to the 1950s. Reflections on translation from earlier periods have been characterised as sterile, imprecise, or circular, or as taking place outside the bounds of academic or scientific endeavour. Teleological narratives of disciplinary progress and development have been widely reproduced and are rarely contested.  

Several attempts have been made to foreground the fact that Translation Studies is far more diverse than its established representation as a Western scholarly tradition that began in the 1970s (e.g. van Doorslaer and Naajkens 2021; Hang and Wakabayashi 2016; Schippel and Zwischenberger 2016; Ceccherelli, Costantino and Diddi 2015), but – as Yves Gambier (2021) has rightly concluded – the field has yet to ‘acknowledge the fragmented nature of its origins, traditions and filiations.’  

As Brian Baer (2020) observes, the standard account of the discipline’s history constitutes a ‘mythhistory’, functioning to ‘supply a foundational narrative that helps a group of people to form a collective identity’, rather than to reflect the details of historical records more closely. Baer bases his own contestation of the dominant account on its geographical, even neo-imperialist, limitations, showing that extensive institutionally anchored translation and interpreting research was taking place in Eastern Europe from 1918 onwards. Other contestations, from other geographical perspectives, are also possible, as are challenges from within Western European or Anglo-American traditions. 

This conference will explore the period in which ‘nothing happened’. The two-day programme will include three lectures by our keynote speakers: Theo Hermans, Hephzibah Israel and Daniele Monticelli. 
With 13 panel sessions in a hybrid format, the conference promises a deep exploration of often-neglected origins and historical insights from antiquity to the mid-20th century, encompassing regions across Europe, Asia, and more. Among the highlights of this scholarly event are two dedicated panel sessions, designed to delve into the ground-breaking developments in the field of Translation Studies in Ukraine before 1970s. 

For additional details regarding the programme, follow the link:


To ensure your place, we encourage you to register promptly using the ‘Book Now’ link above. Please note that registration for in-person attendance closes on 29 October. 
We look forward to your presence at the “Nothing Happened” conference! 

Prof. Kathryn Batchelor (Centre for Translation Studies UCL, UK)
Assoc. Prof. Dr Iryna Odrekhivska (School of Slavonic and East European Studies UCL, UK and Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, Ukraine)

Registration fees:
In-person attendance (includes refreshments and lunch on both days): £75 
In-person attendance discounted rate (for students and unwaged): £50  
Online attendance: free