In commemoration of 30th year since the death of Antoine Berman, a French translator and translation scholar, this research analyzed his social identity and the roles that he played in forming translation studies as a field in France. To this end, the framework of reflexive sociology, proposed by a French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, was employed to explain how the field of translation studies operates and its agents interact within the field.
Taking a French writer and translator, Philippe Jaccottet, as his role model, Berman began his career as a literary translator to participate in the movement during the 1960s in Paris, which attempted to transform literature with translation. His translation of Augusto Roa Bastos’s Yo el Supremo into French enabled him to reflect on translation theories, which explained “embracing foreignness as it is” and “enriching the mother tongue through translation” and turned him into a renowned translation scholar.
He remained at the periphery of the French translation studies field in the 1980s whether it be either the social or the academic system. However, he always took the center of academic discussions, as he had conflicts with mainstream translation scholars and educational institutions, such as Jean-René Ladmiral, Henri Meschonnic and ESIT School, over what status the translation studies occupied in the academic institutions and what purpose translation should pursue. With his works on translation and lectures, he condemned the deformation tendencies observed in all types of literary translation. His poignant criticism against the French translating tradition of extreme domestication ushered in the ethical turn in translation studies.
Berman was able to contribute to the birth and development of the translation studies field in France thanks to his habitus as a literary innovator developed with his experience as a literary translator, as well as the symbolic capital of ethicality accumulated with his continuous criticism against the ethnocentric translation tradition in France. His peripheral position within the French field of translation studies also allowed him to stand against mainstream translation scholars. We, the author of the paper, also analyzed the social identity of ourselves to enhance reflective objectivity of this study.