accountabilitybloke (old blog)

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Translation and stirring the grey matter….

I am back to tracking down the historical roots of accountability, and this venture in Foucaultian archeology is leading me far afield (mine being political science). The launching point this time is Paul Ricoeur‘s observations about the roots of “responsibility” in The Just, and particularly the role that “imputability” played in the development of that concept. His passing reference to the connection between imputability and the English term of accountability (I am perhaps reading more into it than he intended) has encouraged me to return to the site of my “historical dig” in the Norman rule of England. Yes, for most it will seem that I am obsessed with this exercise in uncovering of etymological obscurities; but the explorations are paying dividends in exposing me to all sorts of interesting work that I might not otherwise have read….

Case in point, the study of “translation”. Yes, I was aware there was an important debate about acts of translation among linguists and literary scholars (after all, at home I am surrounded by two folks with PhDs in literature and one musician-poet; language matters around here!). And my interest in Lawrence Lessig’s work on constitutional interpretation has put the concept of “translation” on my radar screen as a student of American government. But it took a comment in Ricoeur’s work that has me reading George Steiner’s After Babel (first published in the mid 1970s), and now I find myself being drawn down a path that is sparking a renewed interest in the historical development of the concept of accountability. Of course, there is no direct and obvious reference to accountability or related term in Steiner, but his framing of the process of translation as an everyday act of interpretation and reinterpretation has stirred the grey matter….

More later….

May 14th, 2008 Posted by | accountability, accountabilitybloke | no comments