Sinkwan Cheng

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2015/2016
discipline Cultural Studies

Research project

Begriffsgeschichte and Comparative Politics: Translation, the Introduction of Western Time Consciousness into the Chinese Language, and Chinese Social and Political Modernity

 

Europe is the product of a geopolitical rather than a geographical mapping. As such, Europe cannot be fully understood without being examined in relation to its dialectical Others. Translation is one way of relating Europe to its dialectical Others--including how its Others draw out from Europe certain ideals and blemishes which Europe cannot quite realize on its own, and vice versa. Through translation, the hidden voices and potentials of one culture may find expression in another. The source text in this way undergoes a maturing process and acquires an afterlife through translation. As much as translation releases a greater language in which both languages are expanded, the European civilization acquires an afterlife, and its significance becomes more deeply and fully appreciated, when we read Europe in relation to Asia and Africa. Appropriating Koselleck’s Begriffsgeschichte for translation and intercultural studies, my project explores how and why China’s linguistic revolutions took place alongside the country’s quest for scientific, economic, and political modernity.

 

When discussing the contributions made by translation of Western texts to China’s modernization process, scholars have been focusing on content issues. They have overlooked how translation, through effecting changes in the Chinese language, has transformed the Chinese people’s Weltanschauung at a fundamental level—only with that transformation did China become truly ready for modernity. For example, tenses did not exist in classical Chinese. But given the prominence of the temporal dimension in Western languages, time markers were gradually invented for the Chinese language as intellectuals engaged in translations of Western texts. These time markers brought a linear concept of time to Chinese society, and only with that new way of experiencing time could “the modern” become conceivable for the Chinese people. I examine how the time consciousness gave the Chinese a new concept of the future and laid the path for China’s modernization, and elaborate the subject at hand via an analysis of two waves of temporalization of the Chinese language.

Biography

 

Sinkwan Cheng is the recipient of eleven (inter-)national fellowships in various countries in Europe and North America, including a European Institutes for Advanced Study Senior Fellowship, an IAS Fellowship at Durham University, a Rockefeller Fellowship, and a DAAD Fellowship. She has given faculty seminars and lectures in the U.K., the U.S., the Netherlands, Germany, China, South Korea, Pakistan, Macau, and Hong Kong. She is the editor of Law, Justice, and Power: Between Reason and Will (Stanford University Press). Contributors to this volume include Julia Kristeva, Slavoj Žižek, J. Hillis Miller, Alain Badiou, Nancy Fraser, and Ernesto Laclau. Her writings can also be found in the MLN, Cardozo Law Review, Law and Literature, Literature and Psychology, American Journal of Semiotics, and refereed venues in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, and Spain. She was the recipient of an Excellence in Teaching Award in a campus-wide competition at SUNY Buffalo.

Selected publications

 

'Translation, Power Hierarchy, and the Globalization of the Concept `Human Rights': Potential Contributions from Confucianism Missed by the UDHR', The Age of Human Rights Journal, no. 4, 2015, pp. 1-32 (in press).

 

'Translation, the Introduction of Western Time Consciousness into the Chinese Language, and Chinese Social and Political Modernity', in A. Hartmann (ed.), Representing the Future: Zur kulturellen Logik der Zukunft, Transcript Verlag, Bielefeld, 2015, pp. 217-231.

 

‘The Novel and the Bürger: Citizen, Bourgeois, and Burger's Daughter’, in M. Mbanaso & C. Korieh (eds), Human Rights: A Cross-Cultural Perspective, Goldline and Jacobs, New Jersey, 2014, pp. 33-59.

 

Translatio Temporis and Translatio Imperii: From `Wenming versus Civilization’ to ‘Wenming as Civilization’’, in C. Armand, V. Boullet & D. Ten Eyck (eds), Enjeux et Positionnements de l’Interdisciplinarité/ Positioning Interdisciplinarity, Presses Universitaires de Nancy, Nancy, 2014, pp. 181-211.

 

‘Terrorism, Hegel, Honneth’, Las Torres de Lucca: Revista Internacional de Filosofía Política, vol. 2, 2013, pp. 47-67.

 

‘Symbolic Capital, State Terror, and Terrorism: Reading Howard Barker with Pierre

Bourdieu’, Law and Literature, vol. 22, no. 2, 2010, pp. 269-87.

 

Law, Justice, and Power: Between Reason and Will, (ed.), Stanford University Press, Stanford, 2004.

 

‘’Civilization' and the Two Faces of Law: J. M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians’, Cardozo Law Review, vol. 24, no. 6, 2003, pp. 2349-2370.

 

‘Ressentiment, the Superego, and Totalitarianism: George Orwell’s 1984’, Cardozo Law Review, vol. 24, no. 3, 2003, pp. 1099-1130.

 

institut

junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS)
discipline History
2011
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS)
discipline Philosophy
2017
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS)
discipline History
2016
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS)
discipline Social Anthropology
2016