1st Edition

Translation in Asia Theories, Practices, Histories

Edited By Ronit Ricci, Jan van der Putten Copyright 2011
    198 Pages
    by Routledge

    198 Pages
    by Routledge

    The field of translation studies was largely formed on the basis of modern Western notions of monolingual nations with print-literate societies and monochrome cultures. A significant number of societies in Asia – and their translation traditions – have diverged markedly from this model. With their often multilingual populations, and maintaining a highly oral orientation in the transmission of cultural knowledge, many Asian societies have sustained alternative notions of what ‘text’, ‘original’ and ‘translation’ may mean and have often emphasized ‘performance’ and ‘change’ rather than simple ‘copying’  or ‘transference’.

    The contributions in Translation in Asia present exciting new windows into South and Southeast Asian translation traditions and their vast array of shared, inter-connected and overlapping ideas about, and practices of translation, transmitted between these two regions over centuries of contact and exchange. Drawing on translation traditions  rarely acknowledged within translation studies debates, including Tagalog, Tamil, Kannada, Malay, Hindi, Javanese, Telugu and Malayalam, the essays in this volume engage with myriad interactions of translation and religion, colonialism, and performance, and  provide insight into alternative conceptualizations of translation across periods and locales. The understanding gained from these diverse perspectives will contribute to, complicate and expand the conversations unfolding in an emerging ‘international translation studies’.

    Translation in a World of Diglossia
    Thomas M. Hunter

    This chapter is an attempt to understand ‘translation’ in the context of a cultural formation that was diglossic for the greater part of two millenia. The cultural formation in question is the ‘Sanskrit ecumene’ or ‘Sanskrit cosmopolis’ (Pollock 1996), a world of transcultural contacts that stretched from northwest India to mainland and insular Southeast Asia from c. 200-1500 CE. During this period the spread of Indian religious, political and linguistic ideas and techniques often led to a state of multiple language use in which a high status language (most often Sanskrit or Pali), largely in pedagogical and liturgical contexts, was maintained in contrast to everyday, vernacular languages. Two modes of translation that developed in Java and Bali under such conditions of diglossia are discussed. The first, termed a ‘commentarial mode’ of translation, was originally based on Indian modes of commentary, but adapted for use in translation of canonical works of the Mah?y?na and ‘Hindu’ traditions of India into the Old Javanese language. The second mode of translation, termed the ‘poetic mode’, was consciously developed as literary stylists in ancient Java and Bali strove to develop the Old Javanese language into a sophisticated literary dialect comparable to the Sanskrit used for the ‘court epics’ (k?vya) of India. These two modes of translation have had lasting effects, still visible in contemporary modes of discourse.

    Commenting Translation: Concepts and Practices of Translation in Islamic Tamil Literature
    Torsten Tschacher

    This paper discusses the way in which the notion of ‘translation’ was conceptualized and put into practice in Islamic Tamil literature since the late sixteenth century. Until the beginning of the modern era, it can be shown that ‘translation’ was understood and performed as a kind of commentary. Poets generally referred to the translations made for them by religious scholars as ‘commentaries’, and this usage is also born out by the single ‘commentary-translation’ surviving from the eighteenth century as well as nineteenth-century theological texts. On the basis of such commentaries, poets then proceeded to compose ornate Tamil poetry. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the notion of ‘literal translation’ displaced these earlier models of rendering Arabic texts in Tamil medium, thereby obscuring the ‘translatedness’ of pre-modern Islamic Tamil prose and poetry.

    Before Translation?
    Peter Gerard Friedlander

    This chapter addresses the question of the existence of a tradition of translation into Hindi prior to the adoption of the term anuv?d to mean translation (circa 1870). To this end it examines definitions of the concept ‘language’ and their relation to the Indic terms bh???, sa?sk?ta and prak?ta and explores how the term ‘Hindi language’ may be understood. The chapter then discusses the history of Hindi medical literature since the late sixteenth century, providing an example of early forms of translation. Finally, developments from the late eighteenth century onwards which led to the adoption of the term anuv?d to mean translation in Hindi are analyzed. The chapter concludes that the question of the existence of a tradition of translation into Hindi before 1800 needs to be re-examined, especially in light of medical works, previously available only in Sanskrit or Persian, that were rendered comprehensible to new Hindi Bh??? speaking publics from the sixteenth century onwards.

    On the Untranslatability of ‘Translation’: Considerations from Java, Indonesia
    Ronit Ricci

    As is now widely accepted, no single, universal meaning of the idea and practice we usually term ‘translation’ exists: ideas about, and practices of, rewriting texts have varied greatly across time and place. Aiming to bring this multiplicity of ‘translation’ practices and theories to light and to contextualize them culturally and historically, this paper explores what ‘translation’ meant in the literary culture of Java, Indonesia, during the eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries. Although Javanese literature contains many works originating from elsewhere, these texts typically do not elaborate on the translation act and often leave out information such as the translator’s identity and motives, the source language, and the date and place of translation. The chapter asks why this may have been the case and highlights how, despite this dearth of information, it is possible to begin reconstructing the meanings of translation in Javanese society through a close reading of local translation terminology.

    Early Discourse on Translation in Malay: The Views of Abdulah bin Abdul Kadir Munsyi
    Haslina Haroon

    This chapter aims to examine early discourse on Malay translations as expressed by Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir Munsyi in mid-nineteenth century Malay Peninsula. By discourse on translation is meant any text propagating a writer’s views and thoughts on translation, including those on methods, principles and practices of translation. Exploring such early discourse is interesting and relevant as it can allow us not only to trace how translation was first conceptualized but also to evaluate its relevance to, and implications for, current understandings of translation and contemporary translation practices. 

    Rethinking Orientalism: Administrators, Missionaries and the Li?g?yaths
    Vijayakumar M. Boratti

    Recent studies on the cultural politics of translation in colonial India have been pre-occupied with the trope of a colonialist-nationalist divide. Such studies examine oriental discourses of translation in terms of dichotomous categories, including colonial-pre-colonial, modern-traditional and civilizing-civilized. The result is a negligence of myriad and complex translation processes in close connection with orientalism which emerged between several types of opposite cultural grids. This chapter examines translations of medieval Li?g?yath pur?nas by two Western scholars: Brown and Würth. Conditioned by their respective pre-occupations and working environments, they registered two different ethnographic accounts of the Li?g?yaths in their translations. A comparison between these accounts shows that translations of Indian vernacular literatures into European languages by orientalists were not always aimed at cultural domination or containment of representation. Such a comparison also makes clear that these translations evolved through intermediary relations of both local scholars and orientalists. Such intermediary relations were neither integrated nor harmonious and their analysis points towards the competitive, resistant and appropriative energies of local voices involved in defining and representing their literatures and traditions.

    Translating Vice into Filipino: Religious, Colonial and Nationalist Discourses
    Jose Mario C. Fransisco, S. J.

    Given that translation is the dynamic mediation between social worlds expressed in language, translations of what is constructed as virtue or vice reveal dynamics involved in social change. This essay looks at the translation of the capital sin sloth from late medieval Spanish Catholicism and its reception in Philippine society from the sixteenth century onwards. It focuses on how sloth was translated into Tagalog and what discourses it evoked from Spanish and American colonialists as well as Filipino nationalists. It traces how its characterization as sin of individual believers developed into a stereotypical representation of a people, clearly linking religious meaning with colonial interests. The study sets out to show how translation shapes and is shaped by the dynamics of social change. Different interests – religious, colonial and nationalist – construct what vice consists in, and translation studies provides a powerful tool in unmasking such interests.

    Translations in Romanized Malay and the Peranakan in Java (1870s-1911)
    Didi Kwartanada

    At the end of nineteenth century the Chinese in colonial Java – most of whom were descendants of Sino-Javanese marriages and known as peranakan – prospered economically, but were held in contempt by the Dutch and the Javanese, encountered legal discrimination and faced challenges to educating their children at European schools. This marginal position drove them to reinvent their Chinese identity, at a time when most had lost the ability to speak and write Chinese. Concurrently, their position as second-class citizens also made them strive to become ‘civilized subjects’, on a par with the Europeans. This chapter highlights the role played by several figures among the ‘enlightened Chinese’ in completing the double task of inventing ‘Chineseness’ and attaining a ‘civilized’ status. Paradoxically, the reinvention of Chinese tradition among the peranakan was shaped not by Chinese language and script, but rather through a lingua franca they all mastered: Malay. Translations of Western and Chinese sources into Romanized Malay played a critical role in the peranakans’ acquiring of a new Chinese identity and in their struggle for acceptance as a ‘civilized,’ ‘modern’ community.

    ‘Riddling-Riddling of the Ghost Crab’: Translating Literature in Cebuano
    Erlinda K. Alburo

    Literary translation in Cebuano, the language of the central islands of the Visayas and parts of Mindanao in the Philippines, like other expressive practices, deserves further study in the context of national politics and cultural aesthetics. Among the Cebuano-speaking people, translation into the national language is almost non-existent in comparison with translation into English. This is a result of psychological resistance to the hegemony of Manila, the seat of Tagalog, the basis of the national language called Filpino. The practice of translation should also be considered against native concepts for the valuationi of art and translation itself. Some examples will illustrate such concepts that inform the writing and translating of Cebuano literature.

    In Tongues: Translation, Embodiment, Performance
    Paul Rae

    If we understand ‘translation’ in its expansive, rather than narrowly linguistic, sense, then all performance making entails a process of translation, and all translation has a performative dimension. However, the interest of many Euro-American ‘intercultural’ theatre makers in the performance forms of the Asian region, while offering great potential for a vital ‘theatre of translation’, has arguably led to a downplaying of linguistic complexity on stage, in favour of a mode of gestural transfer that is, ironically, informed by a ‘source-target’ translation model. This chapter recounts an instance of theatre-making in the cosmopolitan Southeast Asian city-state of Singapore, where translation was not only a theme, but the means by which the performance unfolded. In so doing, the writer argues that the theatre can provide a privileged site for the reinvigoration of translation as a situated, relational practice, which emerges out of an embodied encounter with the world and with other people.

    On Castes, Malayalams and Translations
    S. Sanjeev

    Various layers of colonialism, nationalism, and communism are important factors in the formation of Kerala’s intriguing past. Kerala also has one of the most vibrant print cultures in the Indian sub-continent. Translation, in all its manifestations, has always been ubiquitous in Kerala/Malayalam and it could be said to have played a crucial role in imagining, shaping and sustaining a homogenous category of ‘Malayali’. This chapter reflects on a few significant moments of translation in Kerala/Malayalam, especially with regard to caste, and then moves on to the predicaments of the author as a translator of the celebrated and controversial book Why I Am Not a Hindu, written by the renowned Dalit Bahujan thinker from Andhra Pradesh, Kancha Illaiah. With the emergence of radical movements based on identity politics in the last two decades major shifts have ensued in writing, translation and publication. Since translation theories also come as translations to ‘regions’ and ‘vernaculars’ such as Kerala/Malayalam, analyzing these shifts becomes more complex.



    Ronit Ricci, Jan van der Putten