‘Lost in Translation’: Case Studies in the Linguistic, Semantic, Cultural and Political Complexities of Translating Professional Standards and Terminology in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia

Anne Gilliland


Professional standards and terminology today are integral to archivistics in most countries around the world. Sometimes these are developed nationally and sometimes they are locally translated from another language into that/those of the country in question. International professional bodies and research projects also seek to support technological and linguistic interoperability across nations and language spaces through translations of international standards and key professional texts as well as by developing multilingual glossaries. Such interoperability promotes heightened knowledge about and accessibility to archival resources around the globe, as well as increased interaction between the world’s archivists and archives. These are obviously highly desirable goals as the archival world grapples with transnational records creation and use. But how can we ensure that these efforts and tools are aware of and responsive to semantic, cultural and political complexities, nuances and ongoing shifts within the linguistic and socio-political spaces at which they are directed, especially when addressing minority and rapidly diverging languages or regions and nations with histories of strong colonial or political control over their archival infrastructure? This paper will report on case studies examining the linguistic, semantic, cultural and political complexities of translating professional standards and terminology in the countries of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia that were formerly republics of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.


Anne Gilliland (www.dunrunda.co) is Professor and Director of the Archival Studies specialization in the Department of Information Studies, as we​ll as Director of the Center for Information as Evidence, Graduate School of Education & Information Studies at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). She is a faculty affiliate of UCLA’s Center for Digital Humanities. She is also the Director of the Archival Education and Research Initiative (AERI). She is a Fellow of the Society of American Archivists and recipient of numerous awards in archival and information studies. She is an Honorary Research Fellow of the Centre for Global Research, RMIT University in Melbourne and has served as a NORSLIS (Nordic Research School in Library and Information Science) Professor (with Tampere University, Finland; Lund University, Sweden; and the Royal School, Denmark), and as an Honorary Professorial Research Fellow, Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute, University of Glasgow. She has also taught courses as a visiting faculty member at Renmin University of China in Beijing and the University of Zadar, Croatia. Her interests relate broadly to the history, nature, human impact, and technologies associated with archives, recordkeeping and memory, particularly in translocal and international contexts. Specifically her work addresses recordkeeping and archival systems and practices in support of human rights and daily life in post-conflict settings, particularly in the countries emerging out of the former Yugoslavia; rights in records for refugees and other persons displaced due to factors such as conflict, politics, climate change or economic hardship; the role of community memory in promoting reconciliation in the wake of ethnic conflict; bureaucratic violence and the politics of metadata; digital recordkeeping and archival informatics; and research methods and design in archival studies.