Cultural Translation in the Context of Glocalization

By Yifeng, Sun | ARIEL, April-July 2009 | Go to article overview

Cultural Translation in the Context of Glocalization


Yifeng, Sun, ARIEL


In an increasingly globalized world, forces of localization have the potential to shape a powerful paradigmatic shift in viewing the vital role of translation in the global context of cross-cultural communication. The emergence of globalized commodity culture is certainly assisted by translation, and dictates the ways in which translation is conducted. Globalization also raises the troubling possibility of cultural colonization as a consequence of cross-cultural encounters, thereby creating a homogenized world that threatens to destroy local cultures. It is therefore a question of primary importance to (re)establish cultural location and identity in response to globalization. Through translation, a universalized and universalizing cultural language reawakens and reinforces cultural identification. Translation activities are part of local realities in relation to the global world of transnational cultures. In this respect, indigenous or local knowledge is indispensable to successful cultural translation by means of negotiating an acceptable cultural discourse for the target system. Global economic integration has enabled China to play an increasingly prominent role in today's world, economic and political, though not quintessentially cultural--a major source of dissatisfaction for many Chinese intellectuals. China has enthusiastically--if also somewhat circumspectly--embraced economic globalization while viewing cultural globalization with suspicion and scepticism. Thus, while localized appropriation of globalized cultural information is well explored, more shared or universal references are making it possible for Chinese translations of foreign, especially western texts, to be less encumbered by cultural difference, which facilitates cultural translation as a dynamic process of cross-cultural exchange. More than ever before, cultural translation is characterized by mixture and hybridity; yet it is still fraught with sharp cultural and political tensions. Rapid globalization in China has inculcated an ethnocentric fear of cultural difference and symptoms of cultural alterity are very much in evidence. Issues of cultural difference and the translation strategies formulated accordingly are best examined in the cross-cultural context of glocalization.

I. Globalizing Trend and Translation

Globalization and localization are concurrent phenomena as twin forces representing two opposing perspectives on the world, and as a result, different cultures meet and clash because globalization brings diverse populations together in every aspect of communication and life. Translation contributes significantly to universalism and hence, globalization. Falling trade barriers between nations have led to falling linguistic and cultural barriers, which in turn further promotes globalization. And translation has created, consciously or unconsciously, a circular globalizing trend: global restructuring and colonial precedents bring potential implications to local identity and the perceived assault of globalization upon collective national spirit or personality has become a constant source of cultural anxiety. The rapid pace of globalization causes and increases local disorientation, and the displacement and realignment of the sovereign states are responsible for many local crises. Since globalization is at times perceived as predetermined and unchanging, it threatens to reduce and even erase local difference. Thus, local cultures struggle to redefine themselves, to reassert local identities within globalization, which also empower a reconstruction of a local sense of self, mediated by the global. Meanwhile, foreign or global influences are reinterpreted or internalized as part of localization practices.

It is important to stress that global unification leads to homogenization and local resistance. Diversification and heterogenization become increasingly desirable in order to reduce continuous political conflicts and cultural tensions. …

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