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Basque Studies program hosts international conference

Group stands next to Basque studies banner
Basque musician Joxan Goikoetxea, professor Nere Lete, Igor Leturia, Larraitz Ariznabarreta, musician Olatz Prat and Ziortza Gandarias Beldarrain at the 2nd International Conference on Cultural Studies at Boise State in September 2023

Faculty from the Basque Studies program, Nere Lete and Ziortza Gandarias Beldarrain, in collaboration with the Center for Basque Studies, University of Nevada, Reno, organized and hosted the 2nd International Conference on Cultural Studies at Boise State University from Sept. 14 – 16, 2023. The aim of the conference was to create a dialogue between translation studies and other areas of cultural studies. National and international scholars from different fields of translational research met to discuss the challenges, opportunities and new paradigms of the field.

The conference began with a special tribute to professor and translator Nere Lete for her contributions to Basque literary translation and over thirty years of dedication to teaching the Basque language. Professor Lete presented “A Home with Two Balconies” where she shared her personal journey. She stated that translation for her is “an act of love.” Lete intertwined the historical events of the Basque Country with personal stories that molded her family, starting from her grandparents that suffered the war, her youth under the dictatorship and her life in the U.S. as a translator and professor.

Following Lete’s presentation, Basque musicians, Joxan Goigoetxea and Olatz Prat, performed a recital, “Biziak bizi nau/Gracias a la vida/Thanks to Life” — an ode to Basque music and art.

On the conference’s second day, scholars from different institutions and countries shared their research and explained the challenges that small languages have to face in the global scene of translation in a presentation titled “Crisscrossing Cultures.”

Basque writers representing the new Basque canon, also participated in the conference. The renowned Uxue Alberdi, Kirmen Uribe, Eider Rodriguez, Harkaitz Cano and Maialen Berasategi read selections from some of their most influential works.

The evening’s keynote speaker was Igor Leturia, engineer and expert in language technology who works for the Elhuyar Foundation, and who is the visiting scholar for the Eloise Garmendia Bieter Basque Studies Chair at Boise State for 2023, shared his research with the audience.

Following Leturia’s presentation, Basque musicians performed a concert of Shakespeare sonnets in Basque. The concert celebrated the Basque language in that during the time that the Basque language was censored and condemned to disappear, Basque intellectuals in exile translated Shakespeare into Basque as a response to the linguistic mistreatment that the Basque suffered. The translation of canonical authors and works into Basque was a cultural resistance and a tool to revitalize the Basque language. The concert symbolized the importance of translation for minority languages and the power of every language—no matter its size.

The last day of the conference focused on teaching translation. A diverse panel presented on the practical use of translation in language teaching, learning and class belonging. Faculty from German Studies, ASL, Engineering and Creative Writing brough new perspectives and contexts for using translation as a teaching tool in class.

The conference ended with a dinner at the Euzkaldunak Basque Center where presenters and organizers shared an evening enjoying Basque gastronomy and culture.