Hephzibah Israel

Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies


study intersections between translation, religion, history, and postcolonial studies. I have a keen interest in the way ideas, texts or objects considered sacred are translated across language cultures; and an equally keen interest in translation in archives. I teach translation theory and methods with a particular focus on literary translation and the sacred in translation. I retain a strong research 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 Translation Research Summer School and NIDA School of Translation Studies over several summers and taught on Erasmus Exchange programmes in Europe and India. I have also developed and organised early career researcher training for scholars based in India across the humanities disciplines.  This was funded by the British Academy (please see under projects for further details). I have mentored several Charles Wallace Fellows (postdoctoral research fellows based in Indian HEIs) at Edinburgh.

Before joining Edinburgh, I taught Literary Studies at the Open University's London Region and at the University of Delhi at St. Stephen College (1996-1997) and Lady Shri Ram College (1997-2009) in India. I hold postgraduate degrees in English Literature from the University of Delhi and specialised in translation studies as a Felix doctoral scholar at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. My doctoral research focused on the Tamil Bible as a cultural object that was born out of debates on translation, language use, literature and religions in colonial south India.

Responsibilities & affiliations

  • January 2021-present: Director of Impact and Knowledge Exchange, School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (UoE)
  • 2020 onwards: Chair of editorial board, Approaches to Translation Studies, Brill
  • 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 -2021: 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 am Programme Director of the MSc in Translation Studies in 2023-24. I teach in various areas of translation studies research in the masters programme in team-taught courses but offer two specialist 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: translation and religion, translation and history, postcolonial translations, literary translation, 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:

  • David Hayes (https://www.ed.ac.uk/profile/david-hayes): Part-time-English and French Liturgical Translations in the Latin Rite Catholic Church - Analysing Theoretical Approaches and their Reception 
  • Ahmed Alghamdi: Arabic Translations of the Bible
  • Téa Nicolae: Depictions of Draupadi in the Contemporary Indian English Novel
  • Joseph Wade: (part-time) The role of translation in the  history and construction of  Nynorsk in the Norwegian linguistic context

Past PhD students supervised

  • Isha Mangurkar (https://www.ed.ac.uk/profile/isha-mangurkar): A Discursive Construction of North/South Indian Identities in Everyday Conversations on Social Media
  • Karin Bosshard (part-time): Translating heteroglossia in contemporary Scottish fiction into German
  • 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 life 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 44 activities on Research Explorer

Project activity

British Academy Writing Workshops 2020 (postponed to 2021-22)

AHRC Translating Cultures Innovative Grant 2014-17

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


Past project grants

British Academy Writing Workshops 2020 (extended up to December 2022)

Effective Academic Writing: BA Skills Development in India 2020
As PI I organised a set of two week-long workshops aimed at early career researchers, postdoctoral and doctoral research scholars in India 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 December 2021 workshops ran online at research-active institutions at two locations to ensure geographical spread: The Highlands Institute, Kohima and Kerala Council for Historical Research, Trivandrum. Organised jointly with collaborators based at the two institutions, the workshops offered 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).

Conversion, Translation and the Language of Autobiography (2014-2017)

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 21 publications on Research Explorer

I think taking cutting-edge academic research beyond academia and HEIs is immensely important. I currently lead and manage the impact and engagement strands of research within LLC. I actively seek to develop impact and engagement activities based on my own research, for instance, see newly developed RE teaching resources for secondary school teachers (https://www.ctla.llc.ed.ac.uk/education-resources/).

In 2023, I developed an art exhibition, 'மொழிபெயர்ப்பு / the nature of difference,' that presents key themes and issues from my research on translation, the sacred and migration to the public. The free exhibition (June 23-September 30, 2023) was open to the public at the Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh. See https://www.trg.ed.ac.uk/exhibition/hephzibah-israel-maolaipaeyarapapau-nature-difference