Traitors in High Places
Dr. Thorsten J. Pattberg (裴德思 Pei Desi) is a German writer, linguist, and cultural critic.\r\n
He attended Edinburgh University, Fudan University, Tokyo University, and Harvard University, and earned his doctorate degree from The Institute of World Literature at Peking University. He studied under the guiding stars of Ji Xianlin, Gu Zhengkun, and Tu Weiming, whom he considers his spiritual masters.
Dr. Pattberg is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, University of Tokyo; and a former Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies, Peking University. He is the author of four monographs 'The East-West dichotomy,' 'Shengren,' 'Holy Confucius,' and 'Inside Peking University,' and some of his representative articles are 'Language hegemony – It’s shengren, stupid!,' 'Long into the West’s dragon business,' 'China: Lost in Translation,' and 'The end of translation.'
IN contemporary Western ‘China studies’ 99% of its scholars are what I call language imperialists. They purposely replace important Chinese key terminologies with European words. It is plainly their only career option, and there is no blaming them for that: To be exact, most of the sinologists describe China in Western terms, using European categories and taxonomies. Good examples are “democracy,” “human rights,” “freedom,” religion,” “philosophy,” and thousands more. As a result of their hard work, the China that we used to know is now essentially Chinese-free.
“Language Imperialism is the translation of foreign key terminology into familiar vocabulary of one’s own language tradition in order to claim deutungshoheit, to diminish another culture’s originality, or to pretend to have full comprehension of a foreign topic by simply switching into one’s own lingua.”
Prestigious scholars avoid Chinese terms like poisonous food: “Not good for the English language,” they say, or “My colleagues would accuse me of going native!” Their attitudes are sending a strong message to the Western world that THEY (the scholars) MUST “own” China and that “everything” over there was under Western control: "We don't want to discuss things with the Chinese on Chinese terms," or “We can explain everything the Chinese have in English, they have nothing new to teach us.” The Germans call this “Deutungshoheit” meaning having the sovereignty over the definition of thought.
European language imperialists are typically rewarded with prestigious fellowships, academic chairs, publishing contracts, prizes, awards, and numerous other academic distinctions and accolades. In other words, those scholars are celebrated in their cultural circles like conquerors.
Most commentators have argued with me that there is no alternative to language imperialism: If those Western (and westernized Chinese) scholars did otherwise; if they used the correct Chinese terminologies, say, in their English reports, writings, and book titles, academia would quickly label them as ‘Cultural traitors’.
Worse than just being expelled from your culture’s inner circles of powers, nobody would wants to read a “hybrid text” anyway, they say, because audiences are mostly monolingual. Besides, many readers are quite racist toward foreign vocabularies –they want to keep their language turf clean and tidy. So, after their rebellious initiation stage is over, scholars typically fall in line and comply.
So they go on, our Western ‘China experts’ after decades of studying the language, abjuring the Chineseness, writing perfectly unpolluted English reports on Chinese culture –but not without feeling uneasy in their skin: For they may not have abandoned the imperial ship, but they surely did cheat a seat.
End of Part II. GO TO PART I Soldiers and Scholars
Image credit: Khosro/Shutterstock.coom
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?
- During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
- The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
- Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
The 116th Congress is set to break records in term of diversity among its lawmakers, though those changes are coming almost entirely from Democrats.
- Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
- In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
- Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.