This essay inquires into the relationship between translation and empire in the United States. It argues that such a relationship cannot be understood apart from a critical appreciation of the Americanization, which is to say, translation of English from an imperial into a national language that required the reorganization of the nation's linguistic diversity into a hierarchy of languages resulting in the emergence of a monolingual hegemony. However, this American notion of translation as monolingual assimilation was always contested, and we can see its limits in the context of the recent U.S. occupation of Iraq. As an examination of the vexed position of Iraqi translators working for the U.S. military shows, attempts to deploy American notions of translation in war have devolved instead into the circulation of what in fact remains untranslatable and so unassimilable to U.S. imperialist projects.

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