Open Panel: Orientalism and Historicity: Traditional and Emerging Forms of Mediation

An international conference hosted by the
Centre for Translation and the Department of Translation, Interpreting and Intercultural Studies,
Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong

In collaboration with the
Genealogies of Knowledge Project, University of Manchester, UK

7-9 April 2020



Orientalism and Historicity: Traditional and Emerging Forms of Mediation

Convenor: Phrae Chittiphalangsri, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

Edward Said’s monumental Orientalism (1978), with its powerful interrogation of the West’s representation of the East as the inferior, unfeeling, static and feminine other, could be said to have inaugurated the whole discipline of modern cultural studies. Critics have long questioned the validity and relevance of Said’s central thesis to today’s politics, but Adam Shatz observes in a recent issue of the New York Review of Books that Said himself “was also acutely aware of writing a work of history that was destined, like all such works, to become itself a historical document, refracting the pressures and anxieties of its moment” (Shatz 2019). The rise of China as a new economic superpower, the advancing soft power of Korean pop culture and India’s emergence as the world’s fastest growing GDP offer an opportunity to revisit this historical document and explore its implications in the current context, especially with respect to the growing recognition of translation as an important site of (re)negotiating the orientalist imaginary.

Despite its growing ambiguity, the line between East and West has remained largely visible, underlining the impossibility of the two sides converging. The complexity of translation and other forms of mediation between the East and West does not only derive from overarching geo-cultural differences between the two, but also from the concrete realities of time. While Orientalism is often thought of as buried in its own present, forever frozen in the throe of imperialism and indifferent to the specificities of historical periods, the challenge for scholars today is to develop new perspectives on exploring how knowledge about the putative East is transmitted across time, whether Orientalism still persists in the modern era, and what forms it now takes. This panel thus seeks to revisit the question of historicity in relation to Orientalism and the role played by translation and other forms of mediation in the transmission of knowledge across diverse historical periods and locales. Given that today’s conflicts cut across many boundaries and extend beyond the binary distinction between what is traditionally thought of as East and West, to what extent does the label ‘Orientalism’ remain relevant? If the line that demarcates the East from the West becomes increasingly blurred, moreover, how does translation situate itself within this ambiguous relationship?

This panel welcomes proposals that address the following themes, among others, from any methodological, theoretical or disciplinary perspective:

  • How does the passage of time impact the epistemology of Said’s Orientalism?
  • How do translation, retranslation and other forms of mediation undertaken at different temporal moments and in different locales characterize the subjects of representation, and ultimately the epistemology of Orientalism?
  • How is the concept of Orientalism itself translated/mediated in different languages, cultures and historical periods?
  • How do (re)translation and other forms of mediation participate in reconfiguring the problematic historicity embedded in the discourse of Orientalism?
  • What modern forms of Orientalism are transmitted through translation and continue to persist today?
  • With the rise of Asian world powers, how does the possibility of role reversal between East and West impact translation and other processes of mediation?
  • How do the affordances of new technologies impact the forms that this mediation takes?
  • How does the notion of self-orientalism play out in translation today?



Said, Edward (1978) Orientalism, New York: Pantheon.

Shatz, Adam (2019) ‘‘Orientalism,’ Then and Now’, New York Review of Books, 20 May. Available at


Panel Convenor

Phrae Chittiphalangsri is Assistant Professor at the Chalermprakiat Center for Translation and Interpretation (CCTI), Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand, and acts as the chairperson for the Center’s MA Program in Translation Studies. She was co-editor of New Voices in Translation Studies (2008-2012), and now serves on the journal’s advisory board. Elected in 2015, she has since worked as member of the Executive Council of the International Association of Translation and Intercultural Studies (IATIS). Phrae Chittiphalangsri has published articles on the role of translation in Orientalism and Thai translation history in several international journals such as Translation Studies, Asia Pacific Translation and Intercultural Studies and The Translator. Her article on the translation of early Thai prose fictions appeared in Translation and Global Asia: Relocation Cultural Production Network (2014). She has contributed entries on Orientalism in the Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies (2019) and on the Thai translation tradition in A World Atlas of Translation (forthcoming).


Submission of Paper Proposals

Submissions should be sent to the panel convenor (Phrae Chittiphalangsri, by 30 September 2019.

Submissions should consist of:

(1) Abstract (300-400 words, including up to 5 bibliographic references).

(2) Contributor’s 150-word (maximum) biodata written in the third person. See examples from a previous event here:

(3) Full affiliation(s)

Notification of acceptance will be sent by 30 October 2019.