Ouyang Xun

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Call for Papers

Jointly organized by the East Asian Department of the University of Göttingen and the Study Group for the History and Philosophy of Chinese Science and Technology at the Technical University Berlin this conference continues a series of workshops, round-table discussions and seminars initiated by the research project Wissenschaftssprache Chinesisch (WSC )or Studies in the Formation of Modern Chinese Scientific Terminologies. The conference is intended to integrate preliminary results of the MCST-Project and related efforts into the broader context of historical research on late imperial China and stimulate further discussion among scholars working in the field.

The process of naturalizing concepts of Western science in China occured as a complex reciprocal exchange of meanings, ideas and interpretations. Due to the fact that every translation, as a process of cultural interpretation, involves the tradition of inherited knowledge and experience, systematic research into the translation process opens up a wide field of theoretical and practical questions. Choices in the translation of selected notions from alien systems of knowledge were influenced and restricted by factors as divergent as institutional frameworks, social positions, biographical horizons, fashions or market conditions, in addition to genres, linguistic rules of word-formation, language registers and the traditional or customary vocabulary. They were also preconditioned by preconceived ideas and ideologies or more general (national) interests and indigenous exigencies. As Chinese and Western scientists and translators jointly participated in the then rather new efforts to establish international scientific discourse, the contemporary state of the art in the various sciences, the current ways of classifying knowledge as well as ideological, religious and linguistic strategies and interests must all be taken into account as decisive factors shaping the creation and accumulation of a consistent lexicon.

While our first larger workshop "Researching Modern Chinese Technical Terminologies: Methodological Considerations and Practical Problems" in October 1997 focused on the specific problems of the formation of scientific terminologies, the announced conference aims to highlight the many complementary aspects of the translation of Western knowledge into late imperial China. The meeting is planned to cover amongst others the following areas which may be divided into four sub-sections:

Conceptual frameworks: research on the history and theory of translation in China and the West, covering questions like the conceptual formation of "terminologies", ideologies of knowledge, divergent strategies of specific social/professional groups like missionaries, diplomats, merchants etc.

Genres: research on the inner logic and status of specific text genres, on specific sources of translation and their specific vocabularies, high and low register texts, oral and written dissemination practices etc.

Terms: research on the formation of terminologies in the sciences and humanities, e.g. case studies on histories of contested notions, international travel-routes of terms, prominent conceptual misinterpretations etc.

Markets: research on the socio-economic history of translation in the 19th century covering topics such as the print market, institutions, bestseller studies, research on the profession of translation and editing etc.

Scholars and students in the fields of linguistics, cultural history, history of science as well as the political and social history of late imperial China are warmly welcomed to join this endeavour and participate in the meeting. Abstracts (300 words) are invited by March 15, 1999. Complete paper versions are expected by November 30, 1999. Conference languages will be English and Chinese.

For further information please contact:

Dr Natascha Vittinghoff
Ostasiatisches Seminar der Universität
Waldweg 26
D-37073 Göttingen
Telephone: ++49 551 39 2298 or ++49 551 39 9206
Fax: ++49 551 39 7048
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Last modified: October 22, 1999 by Joachim Kurtz