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Translation and the Circulation of Memory in World Society: Remembering the Nanking Massacre

Translation and the Circulation of Memory in World Society: Remembering the Nanking Massacre

(Yingjie Zhang)

According to most historians of the field, memory studies originated in 1925 from the French sociologist Maurice Halbwachs’ conceptualisation of collective memory. After a relative silence after the Second World War, in the 1980s and 90s, memory studies re-emerged and witnessed a turning point of its research. That is, its focus switched to the representation and mediation of memories and their circulation in society, and research in this period was nation state-based. However, in an increasingly globalised environment today memory almost naturally becomes transcultural. Therefore, the current memory studies is expanding its scope of research from local and national sites to the transnational and global arena. But where the potentials of this new turn, i.e. the transcultural turn, for memory studies are, remains uncertain.

Since a globally circulated memory cannot avoid translation and this subject has already been frequently mentioned by memory scholars, this PhD project aims to apply translation studies to memory studies. It will use the Nanking Massacre as the case study. English/German works by Iris Chang, John Rabe and Minnie Vautrin about the massacre and their Chinese translations have been selected, and will be analysed with translation theories to understand how memory travels across the national boundaries of China and the U.S. Moreover, this project will take a step further, tracking the circulation of the memory of the Nanking Massacre that is relevant to the three authors and their original writings and translations in the aforementioned two countries. In the end, the project will try to, on the basis of translation theories and the case study results, develop a possible theoretical framework and methodological tools for future transcultural memory studies, and propose a more precise definition of transcultural memory.