The argument presented so far begs the question of translation. In reflecting on writing and its theorization, a range of materials from Bali has been considered. Yet at no point has an account been given of the ‘movement between languages’ on which this line of enquiry has depended. The aim of Chapter Seven is to face the problem squarely, and specify what we are actually doing when we presume to ‘translate’. It is noted that even our most radically detotalizing theorists (e.g., Derrida, Butler) have tended to fall back on a totalizing theory of language and culture when it comes to accounting for translation. To draw out the problematic nature of these assumptions, the chapter presents a pair of ethnographic vignettes in which key terms are caught between rival understandings of human agency and collective life. This sheds new light on the examples from previous chapters.
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