Translating National Identity in Diplomatic Discourse between China and the West from 1793 to 1867

    Par Xinnian Zheng


    The concept of distinguishing between the “civilized” and “barbarians” was a central element in the international relations of the 19th century China. Both China and the West defined the civilized or the barbarians according to their standards of civilization. By positioning themselves in contrast to “other”, identities are manifested. We hypothesize that the conflicting ideologies between the traditional tribute system of China and the Western international law impinged on the diplomatic discourse between China and the West. Based on the theory of norms, this product-oriented descriptive study aims to examine the translation strategies that represent Chinese and Western perceptions toward “self” and “other”, and the role translation has played in reproducing national identity at the textual level. Also, it intends to explore the norms present in the translation of diplomatic discourse between China and the West in order to gather an in-depth understanding of the translator’s behaviour and reasons that govern such behaviour. Data were collected from 17 diplomatic texts of 136 pages between China and the West from 1793-1867. Based on a corpus-based critical discourse analysis of these translated diplomatic texts, results show that translators on different sides (identified with the source text or the target text) had to fit the translation into the frame of their respective norms. Governed by the ideological norms of the target society, translation played the role of constructing and justifying China’s national identity by adopting the strategies of dissimilation, downplaying/euphemizing, exclusion/singularization, and negative other presentation.This study builds a corpus different from the previous work dealing with identity, as few translation studies on the diplomatic discourse have investigated the issue of national identity in intercultural clashes between the two distinct countries. Besides, it enriches the genre of political discourse in translation studies and contributes to the corpus-based critical discourse analysis approach to the diplomatic discourse.



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    Diplomatic discourse, national identity, ideology, translation


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