Between agency and erasure: Translating Narratives of Sexual Violence in Latin America by Nuala Finnegan

Between agency and erasure: Translating Narratives of Sexual Violence in Latin America by Nuala Finnegan

Mediático is delighted to be able to present an entry focused on the important work on cultural narratives of sexual violence in Latin America by Nuala Finnegan, Professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies at University College Cork, Ireland and Director of the Irish Centre for Mexican Studies. In particular, we are publishing the video recording of her recent plenary lecture at the conference of the Association of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland (thanks to the AHGBI), together with a short introduction to this lecture and a listing (with links, where possible) of the many references that she makes throughout it.

Prof. Finnegan has published in the areas of contemporary Mexican literary and visual cultural studies with a particular focus on gender. Interested in multi-disciplinary approaches and community engagement, she has worked collaboratively on many exhibitions, for example, Entre Mundos/Between Worlds: Images from Life between Mexico and Ireland in 2019, and OUTPOSTS: global borders and national boundaries in 2018-2019. Her major publications include Cultural Representations of Feminicidio on the U.S.-Mexico Border (Routledge 2018) and the essay collections, Rethinking Juan Rulfo’s Creative World: Prose, Photography, Film (Legenda 2016), with Dylan Brennan, and Ireland and Cuba: Entangled Histories/Irlanda y Cuba: Historia entretejidas (Boloña, 2020) with Margaret Brehony.

Between agency and erasure: Translating Narratives of Sexual Violence in Latin America

By Nuala Finnegan

The above embedded, deeply personal lecture focuses on my experience of translation of two performance-related pieces from Latin America on sexual violence, one about Ciudad Juárez, and the other from the extreme other end of the continent.

In the first set of reflections, I focus on the process of translating violence done to the bodies of women who I have previously described as figured, disfigured, fractured, fragmented, remoulded, reimagined, reinvented, revictimized and revitalized sometimes all at the same time (Finnegan 2018). The second half considers the problems of cultural translation of the term feminicidio in a collective performance and multilingual translation of El violador en tu camino, by the Chilean theatre group Las Tesis in February 2020 at University College Cork in Ireland. In the first section, I return to reflect on work already written and to re-imagine it in dialogue with the second set of reflections.

In this way, I go back but also forward, moving from the personal experience of translating Women of Sand by Humberto Robles to the collaborative translation of El violador en tu camino shifting through different affective registers. Drawing on insights from affect theory and translation studies, but also excavating my own positionality in both translation experiences, I contend that the cognitive, political and affective encounter with words that name deeply personal and traumatic experiences can activate a deep recognition of systemic and structural violence.

Taking this into consideration, I argue for an increased attentiveness to the potential of feminist translation and its generative energy as an ethical mode of entry into unlocking the traumas of other and charting a pathway of resistance against those structural violences that cross all our lives. 

Works Cited

Baker, Mona. 2013. “Translation as an Alternative Space for Political Action”, Social Movement Studies, 12(1):1-25. DOI:10.1080/14742837.2012.685624

Barad, Karen. 2010. “Quantum Entanglements and Hauntological Relations of Inheritance: Dis/continuities, SpaceTime Enfoldings, and Justice-to-Come”, Derrida Today, 3.2: 240–268. DOI: 10.3366/E1754850010000813

Basile, Elena. 2007. “The most intimate act of reading: affective vicissitudes in the translator’s labour” Doletiana: revista de traducció, literatura i arts, 1. Available at:

Boyle, Catherine. 2015. “A Feminist Translates.” Bulletin of the Comediantes, 67 (1): 149-166.

Braidotti, Rosi, 2021. “Posthuman Ethics”, Lecture, University College Cork, 11 March. Available at:

——– 2020. ““We” Are In This Together, But We Are Not One and the Same”, Bioethical Enquiry, 17: 465-469.

Brossard, Nicole. 1990. Mauve Desert (Le Désert Mauve). Translated by Susanne de Lotbinière-Harwood. Coach House Books.

Brook, Peter. 1990. The Empty Space. London: Penguin Books. 

Butler, Judith. 2004. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. London: Verso.

—— 2011. “Precarious Life: The Obligations of Proximity.” The Neale Wheeler Watson Lecture. Nobel Museum, Stockholm, Sweden. 24 May. 

Cvetkovich, Ann. 2012. Depression: A Public Feeling. Duke University Press. 

Driver, Alice. 2015. “Femicide in Juárez is Not a Myth”, Texas Observer. 28 September.

——- 2016. “Talking to Alice Driver about Violence against Women in Juárez” posted by Julia Wick.

Duggan, Patrick. 2012. Trauma-Tragedy: Symptoms of Contemporary Performance. Manchester University Press. 

Ergun, Emek, 2021. “Feminist Translation as a Critical Praxis of Transnational Feminism”. University of Warwick Translation and Transcultural Studies Research Seminars, Monday 15 March. [unpublished]

Finnegan, Nuala, 2018. Cultural Representations of Feminicidio on the U.S.-Mexico Border. Routledge 2018. 

—— 2018. “Translating Feminicide: Women of Sand and the Performance of Trauma,” Performance Matters, 4:3: 30-48. Available at: ​

Franks, Mary Anne, 2005. An-Aesthetic Theory: Adorno, Sexuality, and Memory. In Feminist Interpretations of Theodor Adorno [online]. Available at SSRN: [Accessed 22 June 2021].

——— and Cynthia Bejarano. 2010. “Introduction: A Cartography of Feminicide in the Américas.” In Terrorizing Women: Feminicide in the Américas, edited by Rosa Linda Fregoso and Cynthia Bejarano, 1–44. Duke University Press.

Fournier, Lauren. 2021. Autotheory as Feminist Practice in Art, Writing and Criticism. MIT Press. 

Glissant Édouard. 1997. Poetics of Relation, translated by Betsy Wing. University of Michigan Press. 

Greer, Amanda. 2017. Murder, she spoke: the female voice’s ethics of evocation and spatialisation in the true crime podcast, Sound Studies, 3:2, 152-164, DOI: 10.1080/20551940.2018.1456891

LaCapra, Dominick. 1994. Representing the holocaust: history, theory, trauma. Cornell University Press.

Lagarde y de los Ríos, Marcela. 2014. “El feminicidio no es una palabra, es toda una teoría.” Interview with José Juan de Avila. 15 November. El Universal. Available at:

Laub, Doris 1992. “Bearing Witness, or the Vicissitudes of Listening”. In Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History, edited by Shoshana Felman and Doris Laub, 57-74. London: Routledge. 

Lugones, María, 1987. “Playfulness, “World”-Travelling, and Loving Perception”, Hypatia, 2: 2 (Summer): 3-19.

Maier, Carol. 2006. “Translating as a Body: Meditations on Mediation (Excerpts 1994-2004)”. In The Translator as Writer, edited by Susan Bassnett and Peter Bush. London and New York: Continuum: 137-148.

Martin, Deborah, Shaw, Deborah. 2020. “Chilean and Transnational Performances of Disobedience: LasTesis and the Phenomenon of Un violador en tu camino”Bulletin of Latin American Research, 21 January 2021 (Early online)

Massumi, Brian. 1995. “The Autonomy of Affect”, Cultural Critique, 31, The Politics of Systems and Environments (Part II: Autumn): 83-109.  

Mbembé, J., & Meintjes, L. 2003. “Necropolitics”, Public Culture 15(1), 11-40. Available at:

Peeren, Esther. 2014. The Spectral Metaphor: Living Ghosts and the Agency of Invisibility. Palgrave. 

Piñeda-Madrid, Nancy, 2011. Suffering and Salvation in Ciudad Juárez. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. Robles, Humberto. 2002. Mujeres de arena

Reguillo, Rosanna. 2011. “La narcomáquina y el trabajo de la violencia: Apuntes para su decodificación”. E-misférica, 8 (2). Special edition: Narcomáquina. Available at:

Rivera Garza, Cristina, 2021. “Sonar Wildly: On the Trail of Gloria Anzaldúa”. Translated by Sarah Booker. The Baffler, 56.

Russell, Diana E.H., Harmes, Roberta H., 2001. Femicide in Global Perspective. Teachers College Press.

Schmidt Camacho, Alicia. 2006. “Integral Bodies: Cuerpos Íntegros: Impunity and the Pursuit of Justice in the Chihuahuan feminicidio”  E-misférica. 3 (1). Available at:

Segato, Rita Laura. 2013. La escritura en el cuerpo de las mujeres asesinadas en Ciudad Juárez, Buenos Aires, Tinta Limón.

———- “Territory, Sovereignty, and the Crimes of the Second State: The Writing on the Body of Murdered Women”. In Terrorizing Women Feminicide in the Americas, edited by Rosa-Linda Fregoso and Cynthia Bejarano. Duke University Press: 70-92. 

Spivak, Gayatri Chakrovorty. 1993. “The Politics of Translation”. In Outside in the Teaching Machine. Routledge: 179-200. 

Valencia, Sayak. 2018. Gore Capitalism. Translated by John Pluecker. MIT: Semiotexte(s). 

Veronelli, Gabriela. 2015. “The coloniality of language: race, expressivity, power, and the darker side of modernity”, Wagadu, 13 (Summer): 108-134. 

Also see

Laura Hatry, “EMA: A Premonitory Performance of Fire and Dance,Mediático, October 26, 2020 – which also discusses Un violador en tu camino.