Hephzibah Israel

Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies


I teach in all areas of translation theory and methods with a particular focus on literary translation and the sacred in translation. I retain a strong interest in South Asian literary and translation cultures and contribute to teaching team taught courses offered by the Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Edinburgh. I have trained PhD students at the TRSS and NIDA School of Translation Studies over several summers and have taught on Erasmus exchange programmes in Europe and in India. 

Before I joined the University of Edinburgh in 2011, I was associate lecturer in English Literature with the Open University in the London Region. I bring to my teaching at Edinburgh invaluable experience gained as lecturer in English Literature at the University of Delhi, at St. Stephen’s College (1996-97) and Lady Shri Ram College (1997-2009). I hold postgraduate degrees in English Literature from the University of Delhi and was awarded a PhD in South Asian Languages and Cultures from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. My PhD project examined the construction of Protestant identities in colonial and modern South India in the context of competing translation debates and practices that informed the translation project of the Bible in Tamil. 

Responsibilities & affiliations

  • January 2021: Director of Impact and Knowledge Exchange, School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (UoE)
  • 2017 onwards: Member of International Advisory Board, Baker Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies, SISU, Shanghai, China
  • 2017 onwards: Member of Advisory Board of the journal The Translator
  • 2017 onwards: International Assessment Board member for Government of Ireland’s (GOI) Postdoctoral Fellowship Scheme
  • Peer Reviewer for ERC Advanced Grant (in 2013) and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (in 2016) 
  • 2012 onwards: Chair, Regional  Workshops Committee, International Association of Translation and Intercultural Studies (IATIS)
  • 2014 onwards: Member of Steering Committee, Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Edinburgh

Membership of professional bodies

  • International Association for Translation and Intercultural Studies
  • European Association of South Asian Studies
  • British Association of South Asian Studies

Postgraduate teaching

I teach in various areas of translation studies research in team-taught courses. I also offer two options, 'Translation and Creativity' in Semester 1 and 'Translating the Sacred' in Semester 2.

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I welcome enquiries from potential research students interested in any of the following areas: literary translation, translation and religion, postcolonial translations, translation, power and intervention, South Asian language literatures (in particular, Tamil and Hindi) and their translation. My research includes work on South Asian religions, especially Christianity, their use of language and translation and their links to colonial history, and national and regional identities.

Current PhD students supervised

I am currently supervising the following projects:

  • Ahmed Alghamdi: Willcocks’ Colloquial Bible in Colonial Egypt
  • Isha Mangurkar: A Discursive Construction of North/South Indian Identities in Everyday Conversations on Social Media
  • Joseph Wade: The role of translation in the  history and construction of  Nynorsk in the Norwegian linguistic context
  • Karin Bosshard: Translating Linguistic Variation in Contemporary Scottish Fiction

Past PhD students supervised

  • Yumiao Bao: Unraveling the Discursive Spaces Around Fanyi: An Investigation into Conceptualizations of Translation in Modern China, 1890s-1920s
  • Mara Goetz: Translation Networks, Network Theory and the Emergence of Sociological Approaches in Translation Studies

Research summary

My main area of research interest is in literary and sacred translations in the South Asian context. I have examined evolving attitudes to translation and translation practices in the modern Tamil literary and sacred landscapes. My study of the translations of the Tamil Bible has focused attention on it as an object of cultural transfer within intersecting religious, literary and social contexts. I am author of Religious Transactions in Colonial South India: Language, Translation and the Making of Protestant Identity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) where I have drawn attention to three key areas of translation conflict—identifying a sacred lexicon, caste and language registers, and competing literary genres—in the translation history of the Tamil Bible and in the articulation of Protestant identities.

Current research interests

My current research examines the role of translation in the movement of religious concepts across languages and the ways in which this impacts religious conversion and autobiographical writing about conversion experiences. I find archival research particularly exciting and have identified previously unpublished conversion narratives from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the British and German archives.

Knowledge exchange

I have organised several events in Edinburgh and in London for members of the public to engage with the research project on religious conversion and translation. I have worked collaboratively with theatre artist, Annie George, the Scottish Poetry Library and Active Inquiry to devise creative workshops inviting participants to reflect on their transformation in faith. View a video on the drama workshop at the Being Human Festival 2016 at http://www.ctla.llc.ed.ac.uk/languages-religion-translating-hopes-fears/. I have worked with project team members to develop RMPS teaching resources for the Scottish National 5, Highers and Advanced Highers levels. For free download of materials, see http://www.ctla.llc.ed.ac.uk/school-college-resources/.




Research activities

View all 42 activities on Research Explorer

Project activity

British Academy Writing Workshops 2020 (postponed to December 2021)

AHRC Translating Cultures Innovative Grant 2014-17

British Academy and BASAS research fellowship — European Consortium for the Asian Field (ECAF) Fellow July-September 2014


Current project grants

British Academy Writing Workshops 2020 (postponed to December 2021)

Effective Academic Writing: BA Skills Development in India 2020
A set of three workshops aimed at early career researchers, postdoctoral and doctoral research scholars in India will be delivered by scholars of South Asian Studies based in India, the UK and Norway with a publishing track record and experience of successfully bidding for academic grants. The workshops will run at research-active institutions in three locations to ensure geographical spread: Banaras Hindu University, Banaras; The Kohima Institute, Kohima; and Kerala Council for Historical Research, Trivandrum. Organised jointly with collaborators based at the three institutions, the workshops will offer training, practical workshopping sessions – with time built in for Q&A – networking, one-to-one consultations, and post-workshop mentoring. The aim of the workshops is to build the research capacity of researchers based in India to develop world-class research profiles by providing training in the Domains C (Research Governance and Organisation) and D (Engagement, Influence and Impact) of the Researcher Development Framework (RDF).

Past project grants

Conversion, Translation and the Language of Autobiography

I was Principal Investigator of an AHRC-funded research project, which was awarded an Innovation Grant under the ‘Translating Cultures’ theme. Entitled: “Conversion, Translation and the Language of Autobiography,” the project explores how ideas of religious conversion and writing about the self developed through translation in Indian language literatures from the mid-eighteenth century onwards. I worked collaboratively with three colleagues to examine autobiographical narratives of conversion written in and translated into at least one of four languages: Tamil, Marathi, English and German. The project ran from November 2014 to May 2017. See project website for details of the project, its findings, events and resources.


View all 19 publications on Research Explorer