Translating from Dissidence: Excerpts by “The Punk Sow”
by: HD Mellin and Cynthia Rodríguez
Constanzx Alvarez Castillo, more commonly known by her nicknames/social media pseudonyms Kono and Missogina, is a Chilean activist who engages with a variety of justice-related topics. She writes on and from numerous radical perspectives, including but not limited to pro-fatness, queerness, decolonialism and anti-colonialism, anti-capitalism, anti-racism, anti-speciesism, and punk. She produces written work, performance and audio pieces, and cross-genre pieces such as the fanzine “Against Sexuaity and Dildomechanisms.” In all of her creations, she speaks from a compelling combination of personal experience and theoretical/conceptual mastery.
We have chosen to read and translate excerpts from her piece “The Punk Sow: Essays from a Fat feminist, Lesbian, Anti-capitalist and Antispeciest Perspective.” In reflecting on the essays in her Preface to the third edition, Kono notes the importance of visibility for bodies, work, and ideas. Her understanding of visibility as a transformative and disruptive process (both for the individual doing the work and for the society it is introduced to) expands our understanding of what dissident work can accomplish. We were drawn to this work because of the way it makes critical perspectives not only visible, but increasingly difficult to ignore and empowering to incorporate into our daily lives. By situating fatness in space, place, and time, Kono reveals how it shifts from a state of being to an identity to an object of public spectacle and discussion to a theoretical framework. She discusses the constant importance of bodies, including how they can be both weapons against structural powers like corporatism and colonialism and be co-opted and degraded by those forces. She expertly synthesizes her own experience and positionality with the relevance of larger topics to each individual’s life and their diversity of experience. All of the inquiries and points Kono brings up are intended to influence not just political and social projects and activism, but also to recreate, reframe (and in many cases reclaim) our own understanding and narratives of not only fatness, but also of a variety of structures and identities. These interventions are unique in the way that they present text as a form of inscribing autobiographical memory, which can be theoretical and general while still remaining grounded in individual lives. Her work also provides a valuable example of the conscious gendering and un-gendering of words, a practice which has been preserved in the translation to English. Here, we seek to highlight and translate key selections in order to synthesize her main arguments and represent the broad spectrum and significant value of her work. We have provided a brief contextualization and justification for each excerpt in order to situate it within the larger work.
Informed by our class principles and approach, our translation is primarily concerned with transmitting the meaning and message of Kono’s work as clearly as possible to an English-speaking audience; as a result, we are less focused on linguistic or grammatical structures. This is a conscious choice we made as translators, but it also mirrors Kono’s writing; many sentences in the original work do not follow traditional Spanish grammatical structures, and are often written in a form that may be described as more poetic or lyrical and less like prose. Despite our attempts to honor her intentions, we understand that our translation will not (and does not need to be) an identical or exact copy of the original. The translation is also inextricable from the translators themselves; it is a product of our own experiences, knowledge (and biases), and conceptual frameworks. For this reason, we do not claim it to be comprehensive or definitive, but rather one particular interpretation and presentation of Kono’s work that has been designed for a broader audience.
MESSAGE TO USERS: Do not replicate, photograph, or otherwise record or disseminate this project until Kono has approved the final version and plan.
~ Fig 1- Photo of “La Cerda Punk,” taken from “Pikara Online Magazine,” https://www.pikaramagazine.com/2016/02/la-cerda-punk/
~ Fig 2- Photo of Kono’s Performance Art, taken from: “Arte Trans* Latinoamericano,” https://jerrychinos.wixsite.com/transartivismosudaka/formulario