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Translating Subaltern Dialects

Monday, April 14, 2014
12:00 AM
2015D Tisch Hall (Comp Lit Library)

Chinese & Swahili Poetric Possibilities

Yang Lian and Kelly Askew will discuss their translations of Kenyan poet Abdilatif Abdalla, who writes in Kimvita, a non-standard but well-known dialect of Swahili affiliated with the city of Mombasa, first into English then into Mandarin Chinese and finally into two non-standard Chinese dialects from Sichuan and Shanghai. The aim of this project is to raise awareness of the poetic possibilities of dialect forms that do not receive official approbation and promotion. Askew and Yang plan also to reverse the direction of their translations by starting with a poem by a Sichuan poet, translating it through Mandarin into English into Standard Swahili and finally into Kimvita.

Sponsored by the Center for Chinese Studies, Confucius Institute, African Studies Center, and the International Institute.

Lunch will be served.

Yang Lian was born in Bern (Switzerland) in 1955, where his parents were in the diplomatic service, and grew up in Beijing. Like millions of other young people, he was sent to the countryside for re-education during the final years of the Cultural Revolution. After the death of his mother in 1976, Yang began to write poetry. Back in Beijing, as one of the leading experimental poets, he was associated with the underground literary periodical Jintian (Today).

Yang Lian is best known as a poet, but he also writes prose, literary criticism and art criticism. His work, which comprises half a score of poetry collections and two volumes of prose, has been translated into over twenty languages. It includes: Dead in Exile (1989), Masks & Crocodile (1990), Non-person Singular (1995), Yi(2002), Notes of a Blissful Ghost (2002) and Concentric Circles (2006). He is regarded as one of the most representative voices of present-day Chinese literature.

Kelly M. Askew is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Afroamerican/African Studies and founding Director of the African Studies Center at the University of Michigan. She received her B.A. in Music and Anthropology from Yale University (1988) and her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Harvard University (1997). Her publications include two edited volumes, African Postsocialisms (co-edited with M. Anne Pitcher, Edinburgh University Press, 2006) and The Anthropology of Media: A Reader (co-edited with Richard R. Wilk, Blackwell Publishers, 2002), articles on topics ranging from nationalism to gender relations to Hollywood film production, and a book on music and politics in Tanzania entitled Performing the Nation: Swahili Music and Cultural Production in Tanzania (University of Chicago Press, 2002), a finalist for the 2003 African Studies Association Herskovits Award for best scholarly work on Africa.

Yang Lian and Kelly Askew