Interpreting and Power: Re-articulating Colonial Memories in Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible




American literature, Barbara Kingsolver, colonial interpreting, postcolonial translation theory, translation and power


This article investigates the damage enforced on interpreters in colonial and postcolonial settings. It explores the subordination of an African interpreter working for an American missionary in the Congo, as presented in Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible (1998). This is an unexplored area in the novel, and the article shows how the interpreter falls amongst the subaltern groups. The intertwined narratives about the colonization of the Congo and the oppression of women parallel the marginalization of the interpreter. The latter evokes former colonial memories of the subjugation, even the enslavement of translators in the former Portuguese Empire. Theoretically, the article is underpinned by Micheal Cronin’s ideas on translation and power and Lawrence Venuti’s poststructuralist views, which devalue symmetrical approaches to translation. Finally, this work argues how translation can be a means of subordination by the oppressor and empowerment by the oppressed. Ultimately, the interpreter’s independent voice becomes a symbolic revelation of the means marginalized groups should use to overcome dominance and imperialism.

Author Biographies

Halla Shureteh, The Hashemite University

(Associate Professor) 

Department of English Language and Literature

The Hashemite University

Raja Al-Khalili, The Hashemite University


Department of English Language and Literature

The Hashemite University



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Date of Publication


How to Cite

Shureteh, H., & Al-Khalili, R. (2024). Interpreting and Power: Re-articulating Colonial Memories in Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. International Journal of Arabic-English Studies, 24(2), 145–164.



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