Exploring the motivations of student volunteer translators in Chinese queer activism: A Q-methodological study

Yizhu Li and Youlan Tao

Amateur translators have, on a collaborative and voluntary basis, played a notable role in queer activism, but queer translation studies has paid insufficient attention to them, especially in regions other than the Global North. Through the lens of volunteer motivation studies, this study adopts systemic quality of life theory of volunteer motivation and Q methodology to investigate the motivations of Chinese university students to voluntarily engage in a queer translation project. By probing into the translators’ lived experience and subjectivity, it uncovers various contextually mediated motivations, such as the adaptive pursuit for mental compatibility with the environment, exclusive social integration into a valued community, weakened activism for social change, and conservation of cultural belief stability. It also reveals some obstacles and dilemmas faced by the translators in Chinese queer activism.

Publication history
Table of contents

“They simply ‘do not know’.” This is what is said in Being LGBTI in China, one of the biggest national survey reports on social attitudes towards sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in China. Although it has a long way to go, China is a country in transition as negative and stereotypical views about sexual and gender minorities are gradually being transformed, as a result of education and evidence-based information distributed through various mass media channels. However, the path to change is not always smooth. In July 2021, a series of Chinese LGBT accounts (mostly run by university students) on the WeChat platform were deleted overnight (“China Divided” 2021), rendered as ‘unnamed accounts’ under the allegation of violating internet regulations. Translated material constituted an important part of the content generated by the accounts, and subsequently destroyed. This gives rise to the question: Why did the owners translate?

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