Slide 5


16-18 August 2017

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

A conference on the material and technological conditioning of translation in China and the Western world.

TThe workshop conference 'Materialities of Translation' seeks to break new ground in the historical study of translation. Whereas traditionally the study of translation has concentrated on such things as the comparative analysis of texts, the ideas governing the practice of translation and , more recently, translators as social agents, this conference explores a new paradigm based on the insight that communication, including translation, is always technologically mediated and embedded in a material environment. Rather than treating abstract ideas and human agency as the sole drivers of cultural production, we want to give prominence to the concrete technological conditioning of translation (by means of mental maps, scripts, print, digital devices,...), to translated texts as material objects, and to the means and modes of information storage and retrieval that enable translation in particular circumstances (archives, bibliographies, indices, computerised memories,...).

The inspiration for this conference comes from work in fields like book history, media and technology studies, and New Historicism. The conference itself aims to shift intellectual horizons in two complementary ways: by applying the kind of insights described above to the world of translation and translating, and by doing so from a transcontinental perspective, setting material aspects of translation in the Western world alongside the very different historical conditions prevailing in China. Bringing together experts on the Western and the Chinese traditions will not only enable a varied exploration of a central innovative theme; it will also create a unique comparative dimension.

The Conference seeks to probe the following themes

  1. What do we know about the availability and price of translated books in particular localities? What about their owners? Do individual copies carry marks of reading or use?

  2. Translation frequently crosses political as well as language borders, and the powers that be may want to control this traffic. How do specific measures of control enable or inhibit translation between communities?

  3. When and where do we see signs of the professionalisation of translators? When do translators move from patronage to freelance or contract work? How does their training and remuneration change over time? How do translations fare under changing regimes of intellectual property?

  4. How does the existence of glossaries, dictionaries and term banks affect the practice of translation? How did translators go about their task before the advent of dictionaries?

  5. Who were the interpreters before the emergence of interpreting as a profession?

  6. How does the structure of an archive facilitate or prevent access to information across languages?

  7. How does digital technology affect the way we study translations?


  • August- Sept 2017- Internal call at NTU for abstracts

  • 15 May 2017: Submission of full paper

  • 16-18 August 2017: workshop conference at NTU

  • 10 December 2017 : submission of final version of paper

  • May 2018: submission of book manuscript to publishers (and, possibly, journal)


  • Michael Cronin (Dublin City University, Ireland)
  • Mark Elliott (Harvard University, USA)
  • Theo Hermans (University College London, UK)
  • Brenda Hosington (University of Montreal, Canada)
  • Martin Kern (Princeton University, USA)
  • Karin Littau (The University of Essex, UK)
  • Lydia Liu (Columbia University, USA)
  • Mihn Jung Ki (Inha University, South Korea)
  • Andrea Nanetti (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
  • Riobert Neather (Hong Kong Baptist University, HK)
  • Patricia Sieber (Ohio University, USA)
  • Song Mingwei (Wellesley College, USA)
  • Uganda Sze Pui Kwan (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
  • Wang Yuechen (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
  • Zach Simcha Fredman (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
  • Nguyen Thi Hanh Quyen (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)