The Sixth Seminar of the Department of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies in 2004
Lecturer:Dr. Abhi N.Subedi
(Professor of English, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal)
Subject: Translation as intervention in cultural dialogues
Date: From 15:00 till 17:30, Saturday, November 27
Room: #314, Building Eight, Komaba campus
Language: English (Dr. Subehi's paper will be distributed before the seminar.)
Further information will be provided by the Comparative Literature & Culture Program (Phone: 46330).
Translation as intervention in cultural dialogues
I would like to present a paper on "translation as intervention in cultural dialogues".
My hypothesis is that translation is an intervention in the situation where people are using several modes of interaction with each other by using various semiotic devices. Textual translation of certain major texts offers an intervention in this state of non-communication or in a putative state where various devices and signs are used to communicate across cultures but the people who use the devices are in need of some references to draw on. Such references will be the texts. Translation is thus a linguistic and cultural act performed to produce new hybrid texts that will serve pragmatic purposes. The intervention has two modes. First is the dissemination of cultural and spiritual modes as achieved by the early translations of religious texts. The early translations of Buddhist texts into Tibetan from Sanskrit and Pali and into Japanese from Chinese are cited to be some spectacular examples.
The second dimension of intervention is that it creates the texts that make it easier to structure a hegemonistic situation in the cultural context. Translation was used by the Western cultural custodians in the colonised spaces for that purpose. Translation was used to justify the othering process by subverting the texts. People later became conscious of the fact that such translations had been interventions in the native intra-dialogic situations that people have created for a long time. Such colonially oriented translations offer an intervention that helps the rulers to create hybrid cultural texts and use all kinds of cultural methods to hegemonies them. Education is one.
Translation as intervention brings the two modes of culture face to face with each other. Translation of the Japanese monk Ekai Kawaguchi's translation of the travelogue from Japanese into English had a two-way process. He was aware of the colonial power of the British in the region but he decided to get his travelogues translated into English for which he himself took a part. He considered his travels as texts, interventions in the "Imperial Eyes' but powerful text of an insider. He used the help of Japanese translators and the final text was brushed up or heavily edited by Anne Besant of the Theosophical society in Bombay that published the text in a huge book form Three Years in Tibet in 1909. Ironically, this translated text was available to the British before the book was published from which the British had taken necessary knowledge about Tibet. So the Asian insider, who was considered a trespasser by both the Tibetans and the colonial power, ironically became a source of information for the Younghusband mission to Tibet in 1904. In other words, the British, who were rulers in this part of the world used translation as the power of cultural intervention. Translation will be theorised and historicised in the paper.
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