The politics of translation in Meiji Japan

Authored by: Akiko Uchiyama

The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Politics

Print publication date:  April  2018
Online publication date:  April  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138657564
eBook ISBN: 9781315621289
Adobe ISBN:


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Information and knowledge transfer has traditionally played a vital role in social, cultural and political institutions in Japan, with the country being largely a recipient of imported thought. China, for example, had a major influence on pre-modern Japan, and much of this influence came through reading Chinese works in the original or in annotated form. Modern Japan was shaped under the influence of Western knowledge and technology, and translation played no small part in this importation of foreign ideas. Japanese history is closely connected to its cultural history of knowledge transfer and translation. In the long history of cultural exchange, the magnitude of the role that translation played is particularly notable in the Meiji period (1868–1912) when the country rapidly transformed itself from a feudal society into a modern nation after a long period of isolation. This chapter provides some insights into socio-political aspects of the translation practised at that time of great social upheaval by examining how Meiji translators negotiated the foreign and the domestic – or the foreign and the national, in the sense of building a nation in the international context – when introducing unfamiliar concepts from the West.

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