Publication details [#18411]

Asad, Talal. 2009. The concept of cultural translation in British social anthropology. In Baker, Mona, ed. Critical readings in Translation Studies. London: Routledge. pp. 7–27.
Publication type
Article in jnl/bk
Publication language


The author explores the concept of cultural translation as a metaphor that anthropologists have long used to describe their work and critiques the tendency to understand translation as reading implicit meanings in the utterances of natives, where the translator is assumed to be able to reveal meanings that are hidden from the native informants themselves. The discussion is based on an extended critique of Ernest Gellner’s essay “Concept and Society” (Gellner 1970). The author argues that Gellner fails to consider the impact of cultural translation as an institutionalized practice within the wider relationship of unequal societies, to acknowledge that it is not the abstract logical status of concepts that is relevant but the way in which specific political discourses mobilize or direct the behavior of people within given cultural situations.
Source : Based on abstract in book