From Romanian "Soul" to English "Heart": Dilemmas of Cultural and Gender Representation in Translating Qualitative Data


  • Alexandra Macht Oxford Brookes University



translation, emotions, culture, gender, qualitative interviews, emotional reflexivity


In this article I argue that translation in cross-cultural research leads to the construction of a certain linguistic hierarchy, wherein the English language subordinates the Romanian language. I illustrate my arguments with examples from 47 qualitative interviews with Scottish and Romanian fathers on the topic of love. To situate this argument, I describe how in my role as an Anglo-Romanian bilingual interpreter I inadvertently contributed to the creation of this hierarchy. This happened through translation as I was fitting Romanian into English to disseminate the meanings, values and emotions of Romanian fathers to a primarily English-speaking audience. At the same time by employing emotional reflexivity and focusing on gender matters in the context of shared responsibility of constructing knowledge, I resolved some linguistic tensions. Paradoxically, by carrying emotional meanings across into another language, there is the main positive consequence of moving the focus in research from the center to the margins, as it increases the visibility of a usually overlooked sample of people from a specific cultural background.


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Author Biography

Alexandra Macht, Oxford Brookes University

Alexandra MACHT is a lecturer in sociology at Oxford Brookes University. Her research concerns the interplay between emotions, gender and intimate relationships, especially the role of love in the context of Romanian and British family lives. She recently completed her doctoral thesis titled "Between Stoicism and Intimacy: The Social Construction of Paternal Love" at the University of Edinburgh, funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council. The manuscript is currently being transformed into a book with Palgrave Macmillan. Her other published works include a briefing for the Centre for Research for Families and Relationships in Scotland (2017) titled "Love, Fatherhood and Possibilities for Social Change" and an article on "Grounding Reflexivity in a Qualitative Study on Love with Fathers" (2018) for Sage Research Methods Cases. She is the co-editor of the annual International Review of Leave Policies and Research with Sonja BLUM, Alison KOSLOWSKI and Peter MOSS.




How to Cite

Macht, A. (2018). From Romanian "Soul" to English "Heart": Dilemmas of Cultural and Gender Representation in Translating Qualitative Data. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 19(2).



FQS Debate: Quality of Qualitative Research