Translating Feminism into Telugu: A Socio-Historical Study of Agents


  • Raj Kumar Eligedi Translation Studies, English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, India


Rajkumar Eligedi is working as an Assistant Professor at Prince Sattam bin Abdulaziz University, KSA. He has worked as an Assistant Professor at Symbiosis International University from 2015 Dec to 2016 January. He is recently graduated from the English and Foreign Languages University with a Ph.D. in English (Translation Studies). He worked on gender in translations at Technische Universität Dresden (TUD) for a semester. He has made presentations on translating feminism, and Dalit feminism at NeMLA in New York, Stuttgart, and Potsdam.


The study attempts to understand the role of intermediary agencies in the area of translating global feminist knowledge into the Telugu society. Identifying translators, organizations, publishing houses and magazines as such agencies, it provides an analysis of the Skopos (purpose) and function of this feminist knowledge. The study further discusses the intentions/ ideologies of agents in using translation as a significant socio-political instrument in the construction of the feminist discourse in the Telugu society. While demonstrating how translation was used as a transmitter for the circulation and distribution of feminist ideas in the Telugu society, it will try and gauge the influence of International feminist thinking on Telugu feminist translators, writers and activists. It also throws light on the opposition met in translating feminist ideas into Telugu, and the intellectual efforts and resistance provided by the feminist translators, writers, activists and publishers as agents of social change, thereby bringing acceptability to the discussion on feminism in public sphere is also attempted. 

The study attempts to discuss “feminism” as a travelling concept journeying from one space to another through translation: from socio-political contexts across the world to the Telugu context and vice versa. The first significant feminist translator in Telugu was Volga. To protest against male domination, she left revolutionary organizations and began translating feminist texts and ideas into the Telugu language. Basic concepts of feminism like patriarchy, oppression, sexuality, motherhood, reproductive rights and sexual freedom were worked on to educate and enlighten progressive groups and others. This was met with severe criticism. Numerous translators like, Popuri Lalitha Kumari, popularly known through her penname as Volga, P. Satyavathi, a few organizations like, Stree Shakti Sanghatana, Feminist Study Circle, Anveshi and Asmita, the publishing houses like Hyderabad Book Trust, and magazines like Bhumika and Mahila Margam played a key role in translating feminist ideas and bringing their acceptability to the discourse on feminism in Telugu. 

In the globalised world, ideas travel from one setting to another including from one language to another, one culture to another and one society to a different one. Feminist ideas, just like all other ideas and ideologies, have travelled across the world through translations. Likewise their ‘travel’ from the international context into the Telugu society was necessitated by the needs of women and demands of women’s movement. Ideas of feminism have travelled across the world through translation in the context of the international feminist movement. Ideas are considered important determinants of change in a society. We need to consciously acknowledge Telugu Feminists in their characteristic role in trying to bring social change to the existing patriarchal society by introducing a certain version of feminism, made accessible through translation, which combined theory with practice to the Telugu-speaking readership. They sought to do this by bringing to light painful narratives of women’s sufferings, voicing different forms of their suppression and subsequent stories of their journey to liberation from dominant patriarchal institutions. 

This dissertation consists of six chapters. The introductory chapter surveys debates and reviews of existing studies that lie at the critical juncture of Feminist thought and Translation Studies. The second chapter analyses Volga’s role in stimulating a debate on feminism in Telugu, through her translations, original texts and her role as an activist. Here, it particularly discusses the opposition met in translating feminist texts or ideas into Telugu and the struggles of Volga in establishing feminism as a serious discipline of thought. The third chapter discusses the emergence of feminist organizations like Stree Shakti Sanghatana, Feminist Study Circle, Anveshi and Asmita and the influence of international feminist thinking on Telugu feminist writers, translators and activists.

The fourth chapter attempts to study the role of Gita Ramaswamy as a publisher of Hyderabad Book Trust (HBT) in translating the feminist knowledge into Telugu. The fifth chapter analyses the role of the translations published in two Telugu feminist magazines Mahila Margam and Bhumika between 1989 and 2008 in translating feminist ideas into Telugu. Thus, this dissertation shows how translation has played a significant role in the dispersal and dissemination of Feminist ideas and knowledge in the Telugu public sphere. As an agency of knowledge production and dispersion, its function was carried through various functionaries, both individual and institutional, and this dissertation attempted to locate them within the socio-historical frame.

KEY WORDS: Feminist Translation, Agency, Ideologies, Skopos, Social Change, Translation Historiography, History of Ideas, Translation/Globalisation of Knowledge

Completion of thesis: 

Place: The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, India
Year: 2015
Supervisor: Prof. H. Laxmi
Advisors: Dr. V.B. Tharakeshwar, and Prof. K. Satyanarayana.