Zionism, translation and the politics of erasure

Neve Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This paper examines the translation of classic political philosophy into Hebrew, arguing that a variety of ideological positions can be disclosed simply by examining the erasure process employed during translation. Exploring the connection between translation and nation-building, I claim that segments from John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, John Locke's Two Treaties of Government and Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan were excised in the service of a Zionist identity politics. Insofar as Zionism is a discursive formation, its production and maintenance involves the expulsion of components that may hinder the fabrication of a unified identity. Counter-narratives of the nation that disrupt its totalizing boundaries may disturb, in Homi Bhabha's words, 'those ideological maneuvers through which "imagined communities" are given essentialist identities'. By way of conclusion, I argue that the altered texts are in effect a sign that one ideology overpowered another and led, as it were, to the corruption of the spirit underlying the original project of translating classics into Hebrew, a project that was initiated by Leon Roth for different ideological reasons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)811-828
Number of pages18
JournalPolitical Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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