Censorship and Translation: The Case of the People s Republic of China

  • TAN, Zaixi (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project studies censorship and translation in the PRC, focusing on how censorship, as a form of institutional (e.g. government, editorial, publishers’) as well as the translator’s own control of the circulation of information and ideas, regulates translation in the country. It covers 60-odd years sub- divided into three periods: Founding of PRC-to-Cultural Revolution (1949-1966), during which censorship in the translation and importation of foreign literature largely revealed a former Soviet Union influence; Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), during which ultra-leftist political and ideological censorship was so severe that the translation of anything ‘alien’ was strictly forbidden; and Post-Cultural Revolution (1976-2013), when the country first experienced a gradual loosening of severe restrictions and then a more relaxed position on incoming foreign literature which, however, was accompanied more recently with re- enforced regulations of information and ideas circulated on the internet.

On this basis, the project aims to:
1) Investigate what major foreign literature has or has not been translated and published in the PRC since its founding in 1949 under the country’s censoring system, and what kind of discourses were especially affected by censorship, including censorship on the internet;
2) Analyse translations of 4-6 selected books with regard to censorship-related omissions, changes, ‘non-’/‘zero’ translations and paratexts (i.e. translators’ prefaces, editorial notes, etc.), to find out how and why translations have been affected by censorship, and study what has and what has not changed in the country’s censoring system; and
3) Draw insights, through the case of the PRC, on what locations there are (political, cultural, linguistic, etc.) at which censorship may meet translation in a given society, and how studying different patterns of censorship and translation may contribute to our understanding of the cultural politics of translation at large.

Understanding that censorship in translation in the PRC (including censorship on the internet in more recent years) is very much politically, ideologically, morally and/or economically motivated and conditioned, the project mainly seeks to address the following questions:
i) Which of those factors (i.e. political, ideological, moral and economic) seem more significant in the censoring of translations in the PRC during each of its development periods, how and why?
ii) What variations are there with those factors affecting the country’s censorial policies and operations in translation across the various periods, how and why?
iii) What are the promotive as well as subversive factors that help enable translation to operate even under adverse contexts in the PRC?

The outcomes of the project will include:
a) A full-length report comprising a database of major literary translations and non-translations under the censoring system of the PRC with contrastive data from Taiwan and Hong Kong; and
b) 3-4 papers on a theoretical framework about how the political, ideological, moral and economic factors operate on censorship and translation in the PRC.
Effective start/end date1/07/1430/06/17


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