What Does It Take to Be a Professional Translator? Identity as a Resource

Rakefet Sela-Sheffy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This study’s author proposes integrating the lens of identity research into critical discussions of professions, questioning the role of professionalization as a status mechanism. Addressing under-professionalized occupational domains, drawing largely from Bourdieu, she conceives “professionalism” as symbolic capital negotiated by workers, to account for the ambiguity of professional knowledge and skills. She views professional competencies as socially learned and controlled, embodied in workers’ dispositions and self-perception (and not in institutional regulation). Translators provide a quintessential (though under-researched) case of extremely under-professionalized occupation, despite being in great demand. Using in-depth-interviews and miscellaneous popular documents, the author analyzes Israeli translators’ discursive construction of professional identities as where their professional capital is produced. She shows that translation sectors engage in counter-professionalization—the deliberate rejection of formalization and standardization—as a prevailing status strategy. Locating professionalism in personal natural abilities, she reveals how this strategy helps rebutting the image of unqualified workers, providing the axis for this occupation’s status structure.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationKnowledge and Space
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages23
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NameKnowledge and Space
ISSN (Print)1877-9220
ISSN (Electronic)2543-0580


  • Elite and non-elite translators
  • Identity discourse
  • Identity work
  • Professional capital
  • Professional identity
  • Professionalization & counter-professionalization
  • Translators’ occupational field
  • Translators’ professional discourse


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