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Translation and the Relocation of Cultures

Monday, April 29, 2013
4:00 AM
Michigan Room, Michigan League

A lecture by Wang Ning, Tsinghua University

Starting from Homi Bhabha’s theory of cultural translation, this paper argues for the central importance of translation in relocating cultures. In the age of globalization, culture is characterized increasingly by diversity rather than homogeneity. Translation has played a dominant role in this process, and not just in a linguistic sense. If the large-scale project of literary and cultural translation in China in the first half of the 20th century brought Chinese literature and culture closer to the world mainstream, the same has happened with respect to scholarship in more recent decades. But whereas the former project was realized at the cost of the “overall Westernization” of Chinese language and culture, the ambition of the latter is to enable Chinese literature and culture to contribute more substantially to global culture and world literature. This paper calls, accordingly, for putting more emphasis on translating from Chinese into the major world languages with the aim of “relocating” global cultures and contributing to the ongoing remapping of world literature.

Wang Ning is Changjiang Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Director of the Center for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies at Tsinghua University, and Zhiyuan Chair Professor of Humanities at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Among his numerous books and articles in Chinese, he has authored two books in English: Globalization and Cultural Translation (2004), and Translated Modernities: Literary and Cultural Perspectives on Globalization and China (2010). He has also published extensively in English in many international journals.

This lecture is co-sponsored by the Department of Comparative literature and the Confucius Institute at the University of Michigan.