Voices from the periphery: further reflections on relativism in translation studies

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Perspectives, ISSN: 0907-676X, Vol: 26, Issue: 4, Page: 463-477

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CHANG, Nam Fung
Informa UK Limited; Routledge
Social Sciences; Arts and Humanities; Cultural relativism; Eurocentrism; Post-colonialism; Discipline-centrism; Polysystem theory; Translation Studies
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This paper critiques the relativist and post-colonialist view that blames the under-representation from peripheral cultures in international translation studies on Eurocentric biases. Western scholars who propound such a view underestimate the difficulties faced by scholars working in peripheral cultures, where freedom of information and of speech is often limited, non-conformity is discouraged, and the Western academic repertoire is not entirely available or acceptable. Their accusation that non-Western scholars who accept Western repertoires have drifted away from their cultural predecessors shows a lack of understanding of peripheral cultures. While Western relativists think that they are speaking on behalf of peripheral cultures, many scholars in peripheral cultures reject cultural relativism as a selfish, reactionary theory that justifies the refusal to help the weak, and see it as their duty to become cultural and academic dissidents striving to create new traditions. Radical relativists and post-colonialists in Western translation studies are Eurocentric in their criticisms of non-Western scholars. They are also guilty of ‘discipline-centrism’, by borrowing theories simplistically from central disciplines to edge out theories indigenous to translation studies itself, thus leading the discipline back to normativism and perpetuating its peripheral position in the humanities.