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About the Project

Mapudungun-Spanish Linguistic Mediation, 17th to 19th Centuries: An Interdisciplinary Approach: Translation Studies, Historical Anthropology, and Philosophy (Fondecyt Research Project No. 1099459, Chile).



Universidad Católica de Temuco, Chile.


In March 2009, approval of Fondecyt Research Project No. 1090459 was notified to the investigating team, for a duration of three years (2009-2011). Financing for the Project will be supplied by the Chilean Government through its National Commission on Scientific and Technological Investigation (CONICYT: Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica).

The Project was the result of a series of meetings held in Temuco in mid-2008 when the authors studied the possibility of joining the methological approaches of the fields of Translation Studies, Historical Anthropology and Philosophy, to investigate the phenomenon of translation and interpretation in the borderland context of the Araucanía, in Southern Chile, a region where early in the Hispanic American Colonial period, the Spaniards held back on their conquering quest, and, as a result, a frontier situation was created. In the military-diplomatic effort that ensued, linguistic mediation played a significant role.

This Project is related to another, previous one, sponsored by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science: “Contrastive Study of the Difficulties of Linguistic and Cultural Mediation: Historical Experience and New Challenges in Contemporary Europe” (Project No. HUM2006-05043/FILO, directed by Jesús Baigorri, Universidad de Salamanca). Within the context of the latter research, some of the initial questions on the cases of oral linguistic mediation in the Araucanian frontier, its origins and possible earlier models were brought forth.


All linguistic mediation (written and oral translation, or interpretation) brings different languages and cultures into contact, that represent power differentials, both material and symbolic. Linguistic mediation is, then, a watchtower or vantage point from which certain intercultural and inter-ethnic dynamics can be observed and analyzed.

Following this theoretical line, based on Translation Studies, our project proposes an interdisciplinary inquiry (Translation Studies, Historical Anthropology, Philosophy) into the linguistic and cultural mediation between the Mapudungun and Spanish languages in the Araucanía in the period comprised between the 17th and the late 19th centuries. Within this spatial and chronological context, a sui generis pattern of inter-ethnic relations took shape, characterized in part by the presence of Colonial political, military, and religious instances where linguistic mediation occupied a preponderant role.

On the side of oral mediation, the analysis, quality and frequency of these mediated contacts, the diverse situations and contexts, as well as the participating subjects –data much too often bypassed by traditional historiography-, can help bring forth new insights into the nature of Colonial inter-ethnic relations. Similarly, on the side of written mediation, or translation, the selection of topics, authors, and texts, the translational strategies, the personalities and affiliation of the translators, supply additional information that, when closely observed, can offer a more precise understanding of the representational images each culture formed of its counterpart, in addition to the limits and possibilities of the transactions that did take place.

Since this is a study where the fields of Translation Studies, Historical Anthropology and Philosophy converge, the methodological approach will necessarily be of an interdisciplinary nature. The objects under study and part of the methodology of observation and analysis fall within the realm of Translation Studies. While the historical anthropological method of analytical observation will help comprehend the context situations, the philosophical approach will assist in clarifying the relations of alterity and inter-ethnic communication that may come forth during the course of study or in other, observed, situations.

A corpus of cases extracted from primary and secondary sources will be analyzed by means of a computerized data base of mediation products and situations. The objective will be to gain an understanding of the dynamics of Hispanic American Colonial and Post-Colonial linguistic mediation within two of the main spheres of inter-ethnic relations: Religious education and conversion, and the political and military fields.

The study of the experience of mediation in the past from the viewpoint of Translation Studies, Historical Anthropology and Philosophy can contribute to examine present inter-ethnic relations in the light of new perspectives.

Key terms

Linguistic (oral and written) mediation patterns of interethnic relations, mediation models, forms of mediation (oral, written), modalities of mediation, contexts of mediation.