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Academic navel gazing? Playing the game up front?

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Abstract

What are the excitement, burden and responsibilities of a postcolonial translator and/or translation scholar in an age of globalization? The excitement, I believe, lies in a heightened awareness of what we can do and achieve. We can play many more roles than the traditional one of an efficient cross-lingual cross-cultural communicator, or a dispassionate manufacturer of cultural products. We can choose to be a cultural mediator, an innovative image-maker, or an architect of a project of political and/or ideological import, to name but just a few of the new possibilities open to us. At the same time, we have to bear in mind that possibilities carry with them the burden of choice, even of divided loyalties. The agency of a translator entails responsibilities, the heaviest being the responsibility to know why one is doing certain things in the first place, and to be articulate about it. This essay analyzes how positionality and agency function in a translation project – the compilation of an anthology, in English translation, of texts registering the thoughts and ideas about translation in China, from ancient times to the early twentieth century. Volume one, entitled An Anthology of Chinese Discourse on Translation, Volume 1: From Earliest Times to the Buddhist Project, was published in 2006, and the sequel, which covers the period from the 13th century to the early 20th century, is under preparation. Attention is focused on a single project because it telescopes many of the ethical, ideological and political issues which a postcolonial scholar has to handle, especially those of identity and representation. The essay also discusses a topic which lies at the heart of all attempts at anthology-making – the construction of knowledge (of the Self or of the Other) and the importance of the personal, the experiential and the introspective in such a venture.

References

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