China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Translation Studies has over the past decades redefined our notions of authorship, creativity, and crosscultural interactions. This has led to an increased recognition of the active intellectual, political, and artistic role of translators and other brokers of meaning—compilers, adaptors, interpreters. New interest in crosscultural communication, mediation, productive misunderstandings and untranslatability has made the theorizing of translation into a central touchstone of cultural historical research. Yet, the painstaking practice of translation is still considered auxiliary to genuine research.
This panel turns the hierarchy of “research” and “translation” (and the continuing prejudice against the latter in book review practices or promotion processes) on its head. We showcase how translation can serve as a powerful heuristic and conceptual tool of comparative cultural research. Lucas Klein makes a case for the comparatively underappreciated importance of translation in Chinese premodern literary and intellectual culture. Song Gang explores the varied “trans-writing” of Christian texts by 17th-century Jesuits and the way this cultural mediation produced a distinctive Chinese biblical literature. Carla Nappi examines Manchu-language translation of texts and ideas related to sleep in the early modern period, showing how the history of Manchu as a medium of exchange can help motivate translation practices today. And Wiebke Denecke shows how translating the Chosŏn poet Kim Sisŭp requires comparative explorations of East Asian and Western cultural and literary repertoires.
Ultimately, the panel aims to break down the boundary between “humanistic research” and “translation” and show how translation is a central catalyst of cultural historical research on East Asia.