The Routledge Handbook of Gender and Violence, edited by Nancy Lombard (2018)

Chapter 18: Lost in Translation? Comparative and International Work on Gender-Related Violence

by gigi guizzo, Pam Alldred and Mireia Foradada-Villar


It is generally agreed that research across countries, with different cultural and/or language contexts, brings difficulties of translation, meaning here both the literal linguistic translation of words and terminologies, and the more complex matching of interpretations, connotations or cultural meanings. In projects concerned with gender and violence there are many difficulties of translation in the wider sense, that need to be acknowledged in order to allow fruitful cross-cultural exchange and/or the comparison of research findings or the sharing of materials. A fundamental issue is the varying understandings of the main terms used, after and beyond translation, including of ‘gender violence’, ‘domestic violence’, ‘gender-based violence’ and ‘gender-related violence’.

This chapter examines linguistic and cultural translation as key challenges of cross-national or comparative projects to combat gender violence. It considers issues of translation in cross-European projects, citing mainly the experience of two projects co-funded by the EU DAPHNE Programme: the GAP Work Project ( and CARVE ( Both used English as the main project language but involved partners from ten different European countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Serbia, Spain and England). The main challenges explored are: (1) the difficulties of agreeing relevant translations; (2) the problem of precision across cultural frameworks; (3) the assumption of relevance; and (4) the intractable problem of the imperialist privilege of writing in English as mother-tongue. The GAP Work Project and CARVE Project were challenging in these respects, but succeeded overall. We write this as two multilingual citizens of Catalonia, Spain, and an English mother-tongued, academically monolingual project coordinator.

We will consider what the research methodology literature alerts us to in conducting comparative studies and how international gender/violence research bear out these issues. Then we share some of the challenges we wrestled with in these particular international feminist collaborations. Finally, we examine what the literature on translation can offer for elaborating and working through these challenges. We hope to develop our reflections on the definitional issues raised and our awareness of culturally sensitive modes of international collaboration, and to share the lessons we’ve learned in support of other (and our own future) international collaborations. First, though, we contextualise international collaborations on gender violence.