In contrast to hierarchical models of international law, contemporary transnational law is constituted by networks of states, international institutions, multinational corporations, and transnational activists struggling for power by producing competing norms. This essay examines how power is constructed and contested in transnational law through competing social practices of translation. By ethnographically analyzing the conflict over the “Super Banana”—a genetically modified crop funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—I show how the circulation of transnational assemblages engender networks of translation that compete for interpretive authority. I argue that translocal translation can be distinguished from hegemonic practices of transnational translation based on translators’ material and symbolic resources, epistemologies, and practices of commensuration. In doing so, this essay illuminates the often unrecognized differences in communicative labor that constitute contemporary forms of global legality.
Banana Brokers: Communicative Labor, Translocal Translation, and Transnational Law
Matthew Canfield is an assistant professor of Law, Politics, and Society at Drake University. He holds a PhD in cultural anthropology. His research investigates food activism, global governance, and transnational legal mobilization.
Matthew Canfield; Banana Brokers: Communicative Labor, Translocal Translation, and Transnational Law. Public Culture 1 January 2019; 31 (1): 69–92. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-7181844
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