06/05/2014, by CLAS

Building Images: AHRC funds a new project to study relations between China and Africa from the perspective of cultural exchange and translation

The intensification of China’s involvement in Africa over the last fifteen years has prompted much debate in media reports worldwide, as well as in academic circles, and interpretations of what China is ‘doing’ in Africa vary widely. The Independent’s choice of words in a 2009 article, in which China’s involvement in Africa is referred to as an “invasion”, and their work there as paramount to “constructing a 21st century empire”, is fairly typical of Western media discourse, and stands in stark contrast to the official discourse put forward by Chinese and African leaders, according to which the China-Africa ties are mutually beneficial, based on mutual respect and win-win co-operation (see, for example, a recent post on CCTV news). This new AHRC-funded project, led by Dr Kathryn Batchelor (Centre for Translation and Comparative Cultural Studies & Department of French and Francophone Studies), with co-investigator Dr Xiaoling Zhang (School for Contemporary Chinese Studies), will look to study the dynamics of China-Africa relations from the perspective of translation and cultural exchange. Over and over again, research carried out within Translation Studies has revealed inextricable links between translation and power: knowing what gets translated and how (and what doesn’t), as well as who initiates translations, has much to tell us about the power dynamics that hold between peoples and languages, beyond and behind the rhetoric put forward by both sides. The study of translations and of cultural exchange activities more generally also provides invaluable insights into the kind of images that each side holds of the other. If the West’s image of Africa is hopelessly obsolete, as Ian Birrell wrote in an article in the Guardian a couple of years ago, what is there to say about China’s image of Africa, and does it tally with the leaders’ discourse of an equal partnership? And what of Africa’s image of China? Even more crucially perhaps, who is responsible for creating the products (media reports, cultural events, translated literature) through which these images are formed? For more information on this project, please visit the project webpage: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/ctccs/research/building-images.aspx

Dr Kathryn Batchelor, Centre for Translation and Comparative Cultural Studies & Department of French and Francophone Studies

Posted in French and Francophone Studies