Translation and the relativity of cultural identities

Zaixi TAN*, Lu Shao

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Translation as a bridging means of communication across language-cultures has a double role to play: it both constructs and deconstructs, or deconstructs and constructs, the national cultural identity of the source and target texts. The present paper attempts to explore the nature of this double role of translation. By looking at what is constructed and deconstructed in the translation process, and how, it argues a 'reciprocal' relationship between the two, emphasizing that neither the 'deconstruction' of the source nor the 'construction' of the target is to be taken in the absolute. While the core area of what is regarded as a particular cultural identity is distinct, the peripheral areas are by no means as clear-cut. The more access there is to other cultural identities, the more cultural 'common ground' there may be between one's own identity and the identity of the Other, hence the less distinctive the identity of One is from that of the Other. The paper argues that the reciprocal relations between the various processes in translation are in fact the reflection of an underlying postulation, namely the relativity of cultural identity in translation. To support the argument, the paper makes a case study of Lu Xun and his bother's translation of Short Stories from Abroad by examining both the reasons behind its initial reception failure in Chinese society, and the reasons that can be used to account for an opposite view that the seemingly failed translation has in fact been a positive contribution to the evolution of modern Chinese literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-216
Number of pages20
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Law


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