Shared culture?Reflections on recent trends in Translation Studies
University of Tampere / Academy of Finland
Ever since the “cultural turn” in Translation Studies it has been commonplace to state that translation is an act of cultural mediation. However, the concept of culture as such has remained elusive. A number of questions remain unanswered: How can we define a culture? What kind of empirical evidence is needed to prove the existence of a particular culture? Looking for answers, I start with a personal note, with my own previous attempt at conceptualizing translators’ work in the European Commission by defining the EU institutions as a (multilingual and institutional) culture of its own. Responses to this model convey varying views of the concept of culture. By analyzing and contextualizing these responses it is my aim to provide some answers to the question of what kind of a construction culture is. The results of the analysis are then used to reflect on recent developments in Translation Studies.
The concept of culture is one of the core concepts in today’s Translation Studies. Not only have we witnessed a “cultural turn” that has directed research towards approaches with affinities to cultural studies, but the concept of culture has, ever since the pioneering work of Eugene A. Nida and his contemporaries, also been embedded in a number of other schools of thought. Translation is regularly defined as intercultural communication; Descriptive Translation Studies puts a strong emphasis on the (target) culture system; and cultural conditioning is one of the central explanatory forces in functional translation theories. Linguistic approaches to translation, too, have recently integrated cultural [ p. 144 ]considerations. This trend has been particularly evident in studies related to discourse analysis (see, e.g., Hatim 2000).
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