[CFP] Interventions (2020) Special Issue on “Translating Knowledges: within and beyond Asia”

Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies (2020) Special Issue on “Translating Knowledges: within and beyond Asia”

The dialogue between Asia and the rest of the world continues to be decisively shaped by various processes of translation, where imported knowledge interacts with local knowledge in a dynamic way in which both are transformed to varying degrees. However, more attention has been paid to the way Anglophone and European thinking and knowledge are imported and how they transformed Asia and have reshaped and reconstructed Asian philosophy, science and politics (Needham 1954-2004; Reardon-Anderson 1991; Wright 2000; Lackner et al. 2005; Levy 2006; Jin & Liu 2009; Kang 2017). This is in line with what Said has described as the relationship between power and knowledge and how Asia is generally un-/mis-represented in the journey of concepts from Asia to the former centres of power (Said 1985), and confirms that “the West remains the ‘standard’ from which difference is measured” (Wakabayashi 2017) and that independent decolonial thinking is in urgent need now (Mignolo 2010).

Although the travel of knowledge from Asia to the West has a long history and became more vigorous since the turn of this century extending from philosophy to pop culture, the way knowledge is contested and its contestation and impact on the receiving cultures have not been seriously studied to date. For example, the Confucius Institute, a non-profit public educational organisation affiliated with the Ministry of Education of China, first established in South Korea in 2004, has now built hundreds of branches around the globe, promoting Chinese culture and language. And yet, the extent to which the activities of these institutes have challenged and negotiated local knowledges, through textual and non-textual media,       has largely been ignored. Similarly, Buddhist temples and Buddhism in the West have also mediated the expansion and infiltration of Asian philosophy and teaching in countries like US and UK. The Asian film, pop culture, and TV industry, though largely targeted at domestic audiences, has grown more international in recent years, and has become an increasingly visible site of transferring knowledge from Asia to the rest of the world. Although all of these would not have been possible without linguistic mediation, the role of translation in this process has seriously been underestimated. Without paying sufficient attention to the process of linguistic mediation through translation and interpreting that made this reverse pattern of influence possible, we can not explain the complexities of knowledge exchange between Asia and its many Others.

In terms of knowledge exchange within Asia, some studies have examined how some key Asian concepts such as Yin and Yang (Kim 2001), Five Elements (Hicks et al. 2011), Confucianism (Rowbotham 1945; Creel 1960; Yang 1987; David & Ames 1987; Ames 2011) and Taoism (Csikszentmihalvi & Ivanhoe 1999; Gao 2014) have been received in other cultural traditions. Knowledge exchange between China and Japan (Shen, 1994; Wataru, 2000) and the interpretation and appropriation of Buddhist texts across India, China, Japan, and Korea (de Bary,1972; Liu and Shao,1992) has also been documented. However, most studies have focused on synchronic analyses, thus neglecting the potential for diachronic analysis, even as such mediation and exchange continue within the boundary of a single country across time. For example, some imported knowledge or philosophy once considered canonical was at times delegitimized or suppressed later in history, as evidenced in Buddhism in China in the early 1960s after the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The same phenomena can be seen in Japan in the Meiji era, and in Korea in the Chosun Dynasty when neo-Confucianism became dominant (e.g. Shim 1999).

Overall, most scholars have tended to provide purely historical and cultural analyses of patterns of exchange, ignoring the role of language as the prime mediator of culture, in spite of the fact that mediation and knowledge transfer occur across specific linguistic arena, perhaps more aggressively in this globalized era. In a similar vein, scant attention has been paid to the significant role of translation and that of translators as active agents in digital space. With the rise of digital technologies, the complex process of linguistic mediation in the movement of knowledge across cultural boundaries has not received much attention, although it has become fast-paced, more dynamic and complex, with multifaceted contributions from various agents and individuals online. In this ‘post-truth’ era, where emotion and personal belief have become more appealing than facts, this poses all types of ethical issues in relation to any activities involving knowledge transfer, including translation and interpreting.

This proposed special issue therefore attempts to explore the dissemination, contestation and transformation of knowledge and concepts as they travel within and beyond Asia, with particular emphasis on one aspect of this exchange: the flow of knowledge from Asia to the rest of the world through translation, and the way western primacy is sometimes asserted and challenged as Asian concepts enter other spaces through translation.

Potential themes of interest include but are not restricted to the following list. Articles that provide general discussions or discuss specific cases on one of the themes are both welcome.

1. The negotiation and transformation of key concepts in Asian classic texts such as The Analects, Book of Rites and Book of Changes as they travelled to the other parts of the world through translation

2. The negotiation and contestation of key concepts in Traditional Chinese Medicine, such as Yin and Yang, Five Elements and Primordial Qi, in translations into other languages

3. The impact of Asian traditional medicine on the Western medicine and the health care systems

4. The reconfiguration and redefinition of Asian key concepts by collective intelligence formed through various online/digital platforms, forums and social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Weibo, and Weixin within and beyond Asia

5. The extent to which Asian modernity has transformed and hybridised Western modernity

6. The role of Wikipedia in the mediation of knowledge between Asia and the rest of the world

7. The role of volunteer translation and collective intelligence in effecting a change in the direction of knowledge transfer between Asia and rest of the world

8. The extent to which the translation of Asian literature, e.g. Japanese Haiku, has challenged literary traditions in other parts of the world


Important Dates

2019/01/15                  Deadline for submission of abstracts (300 words)

2019/03/15                  Selected contributors notified of acceptance of abstracts

2019/07/30                  Deadline for submission of papers

2019/10/31                  Confirmation of acceptance of papers

2020/01/31                  Deadline for submission of final versions of papers

2020                             Publication date


Guest Editors

Dr Yifan Zhu (Jiao Tong Baker Centre for Translation and Intercultural studies, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, aliciazhu@sjtu.edu.cn)

Dr Kyung Hye Kim (Jiao Tong Baker Centre for Translation and Intercultural studies, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, kyunghye.kim@sjtu.edu.cn)

Abstracts of 300 words should be sent by email to the guest editors at

aliciazhu@sjtu.edu.cn and kyunghye.kim@sjtu.edu.cn by 15 January 2019.



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