Darryl SterkNov 23, 2021
Indigenous Cultural Translation
A Thick Description of Seediq Bale
Indigenous Cultural Translation: A Thick Description of Seediq Bale (Routledge, 2020) is about the process that made it possible to film the 2011 Taiwanese blockbuster Seediq Bale in Seediq, an endangered indigenous language. Seediq Bale celebrates the headhunters who rebelled against or collaborated with the Japanese colonizers at or around a hill station called Musha starting on October 27, 1930, while this book celebrates the grandchildren of headhunters, rebels, and collaborators who translated the Mandarin-language screenplay into Seediq in central Taiwan nearly eighty years later.
As a “thick description” of Seediq Bale, this book describes the translation process in detail, showing how the screenwriter included Mandarin translations of Seediq texts recorded during the Japanese era in his screenplay, and then how the Seediq translators backtranslated these texts into Seediq, changing them significantly. It argues that the translators made significant changes to these texts according to the consensus about traditional Seediq culture they have been building in modern Taiwan, and that this same consensus informs the interpretation of the Musha Incident and of Seediq culture that they articulated in their Mandarin-Seediq translation of the screenplay as a whole. The argument more generally is that in building cultural consensus, indigenous peoples like the Seediq are “translating” their traditions into alternative modernities in settler states around the world.
Darryl Sterk is an Assistant Professor of Translation Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong. He is also a literary translator, especially of fiction from Taiwan.
Li-Ping Chen is Postdoctoral Scholar and Teaching Fellow in the East Asian Studies Center at the University of Southern California. Her research interests include literary translingualism, diaspora, and nativism in Sinophone, inter-Asian, and transpacific contexts.