A journey home? Cultural back-translation of ethnographic artefacts in museums

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This paper explores the phenomenon of cultural back-translation, i.e. the experiences that were original to a Language-A-speaking culture have been mediated first for Language-B-speaking audiences and then re-mediated back for a Language-A-speaking audience. Three important concepts are defined and instrumentalised in this paper: invisible source texts, cultural translations, and cultural back-translations. The data consist of two sets of English texts and their Chinese translations collected from the Chinese galleries in the Victoria and Albert Museum and in the British Museum. The analysis examines culture specific items, and tests whether the strategies applied to translate these items in the cultural translation were reversed in the process of cultural back translation. The findings suggest that depending on the translation strategies adopted in the cultural translation, the cultural back-translations may travel back to, or travel further away from the invisible source texts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTranslation – Art Communication – Museum
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherFrank & Timme
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9783732907168
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2021


  • Museum translation
  • cultural translation
  • cultural back-translation
  • overt translation
  • covert translation


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