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2021 Special Issue Call for Papers

admin │ 2020-06-04



Situations: Cultural Studies in the Asian Context 

Special Issue for Fall 2021: 

Performing Translation

Call for Papers

The “Performing Translation” special issue of Situations: Cultural Studies in the Asian Context brings together two keywords that have helped shape discourse on transnational cultural studies in the twenty-first century: performance and translation. Both concepts understand culture as fluid, shifting, and constantly on the move. Both are predicated on cultural encounter and exchange. Both performance and translation are iterative acts that challenge the notion of an original.

This issue recognizes the prominence of translation in Asian histories—for example, the founding of the Bansho Shirabesho in Edo Japan to translate foreign texts or the legacy of English-language colonial education in India. In the past, translation has sparked discourse on problematic Western paradigms of modernity, knowledge, and Empire in Asia, as well as, paradoxically, reflection on an essentialized “East,” filtered through layers of Orientalist knowledge and various ethno-nationalisms. At the same time, translation also creates spaces of resistance from both domestic and foreign power, transforming hierarchical binaries of colonizer and colonized, center and margin, original and copy.

In response to Lawrence Venuti’s critique of the translator’s historical invisibility, this issue frames translations as performative acts. Sandra Bermann notes a performative turn in translation studies that emphasizes “the cultural and political acts and effects of translation” and “the doing of translation: the doing of languages and texts; but also the doing of translators, readers, and audiences” (288). Because of its adaptive nature, translation has the potential to create transnational positionalities—for example, in Beng Huat Chua’s work on the formation of East Asian Pop Culture through the subtitling and dubbing of imported television dramas. The rich field of diasporic art and literature, often multilingual, also highlights translation’s ability to produce the transnational identity of its speaker. Furthermore, there is the notion of performability, or “stage-worthiness,” in theatre translation—in other words, whether a given translation fits the linguistic and cultural conventions of the target language. Thus, highlighting performance helps counter still-prevalent expectations that a translation should be faithful to its source.

Translation theorists note that the Latin etymology of the word translation (to “carry across”) implies dimensions of space and time—another point of contact with performance. This issue also considers translation as embodied practice, situated in the material conditions of the translator with regards to class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and ability. In the preface to her translation of Mahasweta Devi’s stories, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak highlights the embodied spatiality and motility of translation, noting that her work “faces in two directions, encounters two readerships with a strong exchange in various enclaves” (268). Spivak is speaking of India and the United States; translation by nature crosses borders and thus sheds light on issues of nationalism and transnationality. Emily Apter has proposed the term “translation zone” to “imagine a broad intellectual topography that is neither the property of a single nation, nor an amorphous condition associated with postnationalism, but rather a zone of critical engagement that connects the ‘l’ and the ‘n’ of transLation and transNation” (5). Spanning hundreds of languages, Asia is rife with such translation zones, structured around multiple lingual nexuses such as Chinese, Hindi, and English.

How may we understand translation as cultural practice in Asia? How has (mis)translation shaped international relations in and beyond Asia, as well as among different ethnic and language groups within nations? How may we account for the prominence of translation in new fields of cultural production in Asia, from networked industries in mass media, musical theatre, and tourism to subcultures formed by migrant workers and advancements in machine translation technology? In what sense is this international journal published in English by a South Korean University always already a translation?


Works Cited

Apter, Emily, The Translation Zone, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006.

Bermann, Sandra, “Performing Translation,” in A Companion to Translation Studies, Sandra Bermann & Catherine Porter eds. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.

Chua, Beng Huat, Structure, Audience, and Soft Power in East Asian Pop Culture, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2012.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, The Spivak Reader: Selected Works of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Donna Landry & Gerald M. MacLean eds. New York: Routledge, 1996.

Venuti, Lawrence, The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation, 2nd edition, London: Routledge, 2008.


Situations is a SCOPUS-indexed International Journal published by the Department of English Language and Literature, Yonsei University. This special issue will be edited by Kee-Yoon Nahm (Illinois State University).

Articles should be about 6,000 words and conform to the following guidelines:

Manuscripts, along with 150 word abstracts and 100 word bios, should be submitted by March 1, 2021Please allow 6–8 weeks for the peer review process.

Any correspondence, queries or additional requests for information on the manuscript submission process should be sent to the editors in the form of an e-mail:

Dr. Kee-Yoon Nahm, Special Issue Editor

Dr. Rhee Suk Koo, Managing Editor

Dr. Terence Patrick Murphy, Editor

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