Translation as a Social Activity: Towards a Bourdieusian Understanding of Pickthall’s Translation of the Quran


This paper argued for a fresh understanding of Pickthall’s The Meaning of the Glorious Koran: An Explanatory Translation (1930) in light of Bourdieu’s sociological work. The main objective of this study was to examine Pickthall’s translation of the meaning of the Holy Quran utilizing Pierre Bourdieu’s sociological model that employs the key concepts of field, capital and doxa. By hypothesizing a field which could be called ‘the field of English translations of the meaning of the Holy Quran’, the researchers aspired to understand the dynamics of this field and its structure through delineating the socio-cultural and socio-political forces. After conducting an analysis at the macro level, the researchers analyzed the paratextual elements of the translation, the data of which represent the starting point for Bourdieusian insights into the production of Pickthall’s translation. The findings of the study revealed that Pickthall efficiently utilized paratextual material to accrue cultural, social, economic, and symbolic capital and defend his doxa thus enhancing his position in the field of English translations of the Holy Quran. The study concluded that Pickthall’s is a social activity, situated in a social space, and carried out by translating agents, both individuals and organizations, who are in a ceaseless struggle over accumulating capital at stake in the field.


Dana Muwafi and Shehdeh Fareh


Bourdieu, capital, paratexts, Pickthall, Quran, sociology