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Translation work in multilingual organisations: The politics of knowledge transfer

Sheffield Business School

About the Project

There is a budding body of literature concerned with the agentic role of paraprofessional translators in influencing, shaping, obstructing and manipulating the processes and outcomes of cross-language knowledge transfer (e.g. Outila, Piekkari and Michaelova, 2020). Paraprofessional translators are ‘normal’ employees, managers or workers who have access to more than one language and who often translate (or interpret) beyond and above their formal employment role. They are not trained professional translators and their translation work has been shown to be highly agentic, embedded within historical-political contexts, subject to time-constraints and business expediencies (Piekkari, Tietze and Koskinen, 2019). In other words their work is not neutral, objective or mechanistic, but it is rather situated at the interstices of cross-language knowledge transfer, where the trajectories for reception of knowledge are generated or frustrated.
This agency, however, has mainly been hidden, and it is only recently that they have been shown to be key agents in cross-language knowledge transfer contexts: e.g. in the transfer of management practices (Tietze, Tansley & Helinek, 2017), as obstructers to incoming change management intents (Logeman & Piekkari, 2015), as reluctant enablers to incoming change practices (Ciuk et al, 2019) or as collective agents whose task it is to make sense of incoming international regulations, terminology and practices (Kettunen, 2016). However, beyond the availability of a small handful of studies, there is little nuanced empirical, let alone any conceptual understanding of how, in what ways and to which consequences cross-language knowledge transfer is shaped by translation work. Therefore, the proposed project makes a significant contribution to organization and management research by developing a theoretical model for the translatorial work done by these language agents. More specifically, the project will be located within neo-institutionalist literatures with a view to contribute understanding of how and why and to which consequence paraprofessional translators intervene, facilitate or obstruct the reception and adoption of incoming bodies of knowledge and practice (e.g. Czarniawska and Sevon, 2005).
Epistemologically, the project is grounded within constructionist research traditions, where the word and the world are seen to be in a mutually constitutive relationship. Translation comes to the fore as a creative-constitutive discursive practice in contexts where language plurality exists and communications, understanding and sense-making are mediated through acts of translation. In terms of methodological choices, the project will have an empirical base and generate rich qualitative data.
The setting of the project has to be multilingual in character and translation (and interpreting) a regular occurrence. Otherwise, the setting is less strictly defined. For example, knowledge transfer within MNCs (e.g. HQ - subsidiary or inter-unit knowledge transfer) may be suitable, as are SMEs as they often have global supply chains and customer basis; likewise local or regional businesses or service providers which employ (multilingual) migrant workforces; diaspora (business) communities or third sector organizations with multilingual workforces, outreach tasks, integrating objectives and so forth are all suitable settings.
To apply for a self-funded PhD, you will need to meet our entry requirements and provide:
1. fully completed Sheffield Hallam University application form
2. research proposal (4-6 sides of A4 in length).
3. transcript of marks from your highest qualification (we require a dissertation mark of 60+).
4. copy of your award certificates
5. two references, one ideally from an academic source. References must be supplied as recent letters on headed notepaper or on the reference section on the University’s application form.
6. Where English is not your first language, we require evidence of your English language ability to the following minimum level of proficiency. An IELTS score of 7.0 overall (with all component marks of 6.5 or higher), a TOEFL test with an overall score of 100 internet based (minimum component score of 23 in listening and reading, 26 in writing and 22 in speaking) or SHU TESOL English Language qualification (final overall grade of A with all components graded at B or higher) or a recognised equivalent testing system. Your test score must be within the last two years.
Information on entry requirements, tuition fees and other costs can be found here

How to apply
Please submit your application to
Please do not submit a CV

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project. The applicant will need to fund their own tuition fees, research costs and living expenses. Please do not submit an application unless you have funding in place.

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