Re-representing the Self: Saudi Translators’ Doxic Peritextual Practice of Deconstructing Orientalists’ Writings about Arabia

Author: Dimah Hamad Alharthi

Keywords: Bourdieu, deconstruction, doxa, peritexts, Orientalist writings, Saudi translators’ agency


This paper explores the Saudis’ employment of translation to let their country speak for itself and undermine the Orientalists’ ability to represent Saudi Arabia. The paper serves as an attempt to fill two gaps; presenting Saudi identity from a Saudi perspective and examining the Saudi translators’ agency. To fill these gaps, the following question is raised: what is the role of the Saudi translators when translating Orientalists’ accounts about Arabia to reconstruct the image of Saudi Arabia? The paper aims to examine the prevailing practices of Saudi translators of Orientalists’ writings about Arabia into Arabic. The paper adopts Bourdieu’s apparatus of doxa, and Genette’s conception of peritexts to analyze the practices of three Saudi academics/translators in Saudi History; namely, ‘Abd Allah Al ‘Askar, ‘Abd Allah Al-‘Uthaymīn, and ‘Uwaīdah Al Juhany. The argued misrepresentation of Saudi Arabia within Orientalists’ writings led Saudiacademics/translators to adopt deconstruction as a doxic critique in the peritexts of their TTs to reconstruct the image of the Self (i.e., Saudi Arabia), and hence overturn the Other’s (i.e., Orientalists’) narratives. Owing to the Saudi academics/translators’ ability to compare historical sources and evaluate Orientalists’ assumptions about the Kingdom, one of the rules of the game is that deconstruction is practiced by these academics. Saudi academics/translators perceive such a practice as a national service, considering that, through their peritexts, they grant Saudi Arabia an opportunity to represent itself through its own voice. This doxic practice presents Saudi translators, not as servants of the STs, but rather as authors, with something to say about their national identity.