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News and Events
CUHK Newsletter - Translation as Performance Art
May 2019

People perform in many ways, most obviously on stage but also in the ways they present themselves. ‘Passing’ as a different race, dressing as a drag queen, playing to stereotypes, or subverting them – they’re all part of the act.


We also perform in language. Our writing is intended for an audience, and consciously or not we may take on different guises to ensure our message gets across.


Translators, too, perform, although they’re expected to do so behind the scenes. Translation as a performance is the best metaphor for what they do, in the eyes of James St. André, a professor of translation at CUHK.


St. André hopes that viewing translators as performers will earn them the attention and respect they deserve for their work. It’s taken more than a decade of thinking and writing about metaphors in translation studies to arrive at this most-apt of descriptions.


‘Translation is seen as walking in someone else’s footsteps, a slave who doesn’t own the fruits of his labour, who is passively painting a portrait,’ St. André says. ‘They’re all kind of derivative, metaphors that think of translation as a secondary, non-essential, non-interesting task somebody has to do.’


St. André, an associate professor in CUHK’s Department of Translation, hopes his new way of describing translation will help change how people think about translation, and even how translators think about themselves.

Full interview in CUHK Newsletter No.538: