Thinking Through Translation:
Research in Progress by the Japan Foundation Fellows 2015-16

Please join us on Thursday, February 25, 2016 at the Japan Foundation Headquarters for presentations from two of our 2015-2016 Japan Foundation Graduate Research Fellows on the subject of “Thinking Through Translation.” Paula R. Curtis (Department of History, University of Michigan) and David Boyd (Department of East Asian Studies, Princeton University) will discuss their current research and how their projects have been informed by translation. Please see below for details.
Date & Time Thursday, February 25, 2016 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Venue The Japan Foundation, JFIC Space “Keyaki”
2nd floor, 4-4-1 Yotsuya, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo Access
Tel. +81-(0)3-5369-6071
Language in English (No interpretation).
Capacity 30 seats
Registration To sign up, please e-mail us your name, email address, and occupation with the subject line "Thinking Through Translation" to by Wednesday, February 24.
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Presentation 1
Paula R. Curtis, PhD Candidate, Department of History, University of Michigan
Affiliation: The Historiographical Institute The University of Tokyo
Presentation: “Metal Casters, the Matsugi Family, and Late Medieval Networks: Shihai 支配and Issues of Translation and Interpretation in Historical Scholarship”

Scholars of medieval Japanese history have a long and complex relationship with Western analytical constructs such as feudalism and Marxism. In foundational works by both Japanese and Western scholars, these frameworks bolstered assumptions of a warrior- and violence-dominated medieval society and often deemphasized the critical roles of non-agrarian commoners. Scholarship recognizing that medieval society was far more complex than such models accommodated gradually emerged to challenge these notions, and the recognition of non-agrarian commoners in particular has gained momentum over the last few decades. Nevertheless, for non-native speakers, the accessibility and interpretation of key terminology used in past and present scholarship still suffers from fundamental linguistic barriers influenced by the legacy of older conceptual models. This talk will focus on one example of this problem by examining the ways in which the ambiguity of the term “shihai” in medieval scholarship affects our understanding of the functions of power and authority between non-agrarian commoners and the so-called elite in late medieval society. The research sheds new light on social and economic networks among metal caster associations, courtiers, and warriors in sixteenth-century Japan.

Presentation 2
David Boyd, PhD Candidate, Department of East Asian Studies, Princeton University Affiliation: School of International Liberal Studies (SILS), Waseda University Presentation: “What Was The Bundan?”

In The Dictionary of Untranslatables (2004; English edition. 2014), Barbara Cassin notes that untranslatability does not necessarily mean the impossibility of translation. In fact, an untranslatable term is one that cannot be completely translated. The Japanese term bundan can be viewed as untranslatable in exactly this sense. While the term always calls to mind a relatively tight-knit literary community, it has been rendered into English in numerous ways: “literary institution,” “society of writers,” “world of letters,” etc. In other words, no English equivalent for the term bundan has achieved any degree of predominance; every potential gloss emphasizes particular facets of the concept, but necessarily de-emphasizes other important dimensions.

In this paper, I will discuss the historical significance of the bundan concept through the consonances and dissonances that emerge in various English-language renditions of the term.

Contact The Japan Foundation
Japanese Studies and Global Partnerships Programss Department
Planning and Coordination/ Americas section
Person in charge: Miyazaki (Ms.)
TEL: +81-(0)3-5369-6069 FAX: +81-(0)3-5369-6041
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