Program in Comparative Literature

Bedbugs and Grasshoppers: Translation, Myth and the Becoming of the Nation-State

Mon, April 18, 2011 | Meyerson Conference Room, WCH 4.118

3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Bedbugs and Grasshoppers: Translation, Myth and the Becoming of the Nation-State

How is literally, a nation translated? This talk offers a historiography which looks at translation practices as historical process and practice rather than submitting them to causal explanations with respect to the constitution of the nation-state. It takes as its starting point, from the vantage point of the Malay archipelago, two contemporary Malay words negeri (province, state) and negara (country, nation-state) and how they once had opposing definitions.  Working with over three hundred years of dictionaries and lexicons, mainly English-Malay dictionaries, the words negeri and negara were translated and defined very differently from current dictionaries. What then happened to these words and how were they understood and translated over time, and in what possible context within the language of post-colonial nation-state formation? What do the processes of translation offer or convey that disrupt the singularity of nations and nationalism, communities and concatenation of identities? While the transitions are not precisely clear, writings on translation do not necessarily shed any further clarity but they offer a space in which we can think about translating practices and what they enact in the narrative of the nation.  

Yoke Sum Wong, PhD (Sociology, Alberta) is with the History Department in Lancaster University.  She is Managing Editor of The Journal of Historical Sociology (Wiley/Blackwell).  She has published on architecture, material culture and aesthetics in several journals, among them Common Knowledge and Environment and Planning A.  She is revising her manuscript on post-coloniality, architecture and Singapore, and is also writing a book on the aesthetics of cute in Japanese contemporary art.

Sponsored by: Center for East Asian Studies and the Program in Comparative Literature

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