More Than a Two-Way Traffic

Analyzing, Translating, and Comparing Political Concepts from other Cultures

in Contributions to the History of Concepts
Author: Melvin Richter1
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  • 1 City University of New York
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In this article, the author examines the case of the Chinese reception of Western political and social concepts as an example to discuss the substantive issues involved in the circulation of concepts between Europe and other parts of the world. Translation and adaptation are key steps in this process of circulation. The question however is not to investigate whether the transposed concept is an accurate transcription of the original, but to understand how this concept acquires new meanings and rhetorical functions within the political and ideological disputes of the society to which is has been transposed. Thus, translation should be understood as a complex, multilayered process of intercultural communication whose result is affected by inequalities of power, but still open to multiple outcomes of agency, even when exercised in colonial or semi-colonial settings.


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