LOST – AND GAINED – IN TRANSLATION: Kulturel oversættelse som transformativt rum


  • Denise Gimpel
  • Kirsten Thisted




In the article we approach the topic of cultural encounter through the concept of

cultural translation and argue – in line with postcolonial theorists like Homi

Bhabha – that this concept is far more open to minority positions than the Danish

concept of ‘kulturmøde’ (literally: the meeting of cultures), and that it brings into

focus creativity, negotiation and transformation, rather than the usual debate about

integration or assimilation. All societies undergo a constant process of cultural

translation and any translation involves an aspect of violence, but it also opens

up transgressing and transformative spaces, where ‘newness enters the world’.

The aim of the article is to introduce the panorama of possibilities in which cultural

translation may be understood and illustrate the breadth of application of the

available analytical concepts. The empirical examples are taken from China and

Greenland; structurally two very different situations, but sharing the fact that

Western culture was seen as superior and therefore introduced by local intellectuals

as a means to achieve equality and progress. However, as Orhan Pamuk

has tried to illustrate in the novel Snow, a narrative of loss can be constructed as

a result of resentment or fear at the sense of having been (culturally) translated

into something alien. Pamuk’s novel points to the serious conflicts involved in the

process of cultural translation. Transformation and manipulation, deduction from,

and addition to, cultural heritage and identity are something quite more than merely

an innocent ‘meeting’ of different cultures.





Gimpel, D., & Thisted, K. (2007). LOST – AND GAINED – IN TRANSLATION: Kulturel oversættelse som transformativt rum. Tidsskriftet Antropologi, (56). https://doi.org/10.7146/ta.v0i56.106784