Norms, Polysystems and Ideology: A Case Study

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6 Citations (Scopus)


This article assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the influential work of Itamar Even-Zohar and Gideon Toury in the light of the increasing attention given to the relation between translation and ideology since the ‘cultural turn’ in translation studies in the early 1990s. It is argued that we should reject universalist assumptions and focus instead on the social embedding of texts if the concepts of norms and polysystems developed by Even-Zohar and Toury are to be usefully applied to understanding translation in relation to ideology. The work of Even-Zohar and Toury is reread with reference to the writings of Mikhail Bakhtin, in order to identify the elements most useful and relevant to research on the relation between translation and ideology. Specifically, the article attempts to demonstrate how the concepts of norms and polysystems can be used to situate translations in their specific cultural and historical contexts, to set in relief the ideological issues involved, and to link up the macroscopic and microscopic levels of investigation. Rather than searching for laws of translation, the idea is to show how ‘adequacy’ and ‘acceptability’ can combine in a translation to offer a critique of the dominant ideology. To illustrate these points in more detail, a translation project launched in Hong Kong in the 1950s is used as a case study.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-339
Number of pages19
JournalThe Translator
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2007

User-Defined Keywords

  • Translation
  • ideology
  • norms
  • polysystems
  • Bakhtin
  • Hong Kong


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