English, Notes from the Field

Forum-Sponsored Panel at 2015 HSS: “Translation as Process”

To mark the fifth year of our forum since its inception in 2010, we will be hosting a panel at the 2015 History of Science Society Meeting, “Translation as Process.” We cordially invite you to join us in San Francisco. 

Translation as Process: border-crossing knowledge, materialities, and concepts in the history of science in Asia (and beyond)

This roundtable addresses the multiple dimensions and processes of ‘translation’ including those beyond linguistic and epistemic aspects. To this day, we cannot assume that people across cultures understand even basic conceptual frameworks like time and space in the same way. ‘Translation’ has had to bridge more than linguistic differences and often played out through material and practical negotiation processes – within and beyond Asia.

Established scholars from a variety of fields will critically reflect on and discuss with the audience various translation processes by which knowledge, concepts, technologies, and materialities interacted and reconfigured among cultures, languages, areas and eras. Tom Mullaney looks into the material, linguistic, and cultural ‘translation’ of the computer into Chinese; Maki Fukuoka explores the role of pictorializing knowledge in medical practices in 19th century Japan. Projit Mukharji discusses the heterogeneous, dynamic processes of scientific translation and their theorizing in colonial and post-colonial India; Joachim Kurtz follows with a critical reflection of the limitations and insights of translation studies using the example of coining new Chinese terms within so-called ‘Western learning’. Unveiling the English translation of Ludwik Fleck’s work as a telling case study for an – in Fleck’s understanding – appropriation by a different ‘thought collective’ and ‘thought style’, Martina Schlünder will problematize the discussion on translation/circulation as continuous negotiations and processes between “closer” and “more distant” language families and cultural contexts.

This roundtable is sponsored by the Forum for the History of Science in Asia.


  1. On Machine Translation and Translating Machines: A Cold War History of Chinese Computing

Thomas Shawn Mullaney, Associate Professor of Modern Chinese History, Stanford University

  1. Translation, pictorialisation, and the practice of medicine in 19th century Owari, Japan

Maki Fukuoka, Lecturer, University of Leeds

  1. The Uses and Limitations of Translation Studies for Histories of Knowledge in Motion

Joachim Kurtz, Professor of Intellectual History, Universtität Heidelberg – Karl Jaspers Centre

  1. Vernacularizing Translation: Power, Affect and the Aesthetics of Sound

Projit Bihari Mukharji, Martin Meyerson Assistant Professor, University of Pennsylvania – History & Sociology of Science

  1. Improving by Translating? The Multilingual and Multiple Afterlives of Ludwik Fleck’s “Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact”

Martina Schlünder, Marie Curie Fellow / Visiting scholar, University of Toronto / Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin


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