Digital Translations and the Production of Knowledge about China: Ethnography and Action Research

Conference | DT members at the 2nd International Conference on Translation and Cultural Sustainability

DigiTrans’ PI Maialen Marin-Lacarta and research team members Ester Torres-Simón and Manuel Pavón-Belizón delivered oral communications during the 2nd International Conference on Translation and Cultural Sustainability in Salamanca (Spain), organized by the Universidad de Salamanca’s School of Translation and Interpreting from the 17th to the 19th of April.

We offer hereby the abstracts of their respective presentations.

The Relational Co-action Paradigm: Rethinking Feminist Translation through Chinese Classics

Maialen MARIN-LACARTA (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)

Relationality has shaken some parts of the sciences, humanities and social sciences in the last fifty years as a reaction to an excessive focus on representation, discourse and meaning. Some of the most widespread theories and concepts in this regard include actor-network theory (Latour), agencement or assemblage theory (Deleuze and Guattari; DeLanda), entanglements (Barad), intra-action (Bennet) and the posthuman (Haraday; Bradotti), among many others. In translation studies, some scholars have explored actor-network theory (ANT) to examine the translation process and the agency of non-human actors. The application of ANT in translation studies can be seen as a way to emphasise materiality as well as an effort to dismantle conceptions of translation as linear (from source to target text) and individual (one agent: the individual translator). In Nous n’avons jamais été modernes, Latour (1991: 69) contends that we have never truly been ‘modern’ because scientific discourse and ‘modern’ critical discourse have failed to consider hybrids. But what if a relational way of looking at the world is not that new? Drawing on the work of Valmisa (2021), who develops a processual meta-model of action based on her readings of Chinese philosophical and military texts from the classical period (6th to 2nd century BCE), this paper will present some of the principles of the co-action paradigm. After an introduction on relationality and how new theoretical developments have affected other disciplines, the presentation will focus on various vignettes from Chinese classical texts to illustrate various principles of the co-action paradigm, followed by a discussion on how each of these principles can help translation studies scholars to think about contemporary issues such as feminist translation. The co-action paradigm offers a fresh perspective that can enrich our understanding of translation as a relational process.


Latour, Bruno. 1991. Nous n’avons jamais été modernes : Essai d’anthropologie symétrique. Paris : La Découverte.

Valmisa, Mercedes. 2021. Adapting: A Chinese Philosophy of Action. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Does pivot subtitling hinder or support sustainable development?

Ester TORRES-SIMÓN (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona), Susanna VALDEZ (Leiden University), Hanna PIĘTA (Universidade Nova de Lisboa, FCSH,CETAPS), Rita MENEZES (University of Lisbon (CEAUL)

Streaming media services, like Netflix or Disney+ , are releasing an increasing number of shows in languages other than English (according to Moore 2021, up to 45% of Netflix-US content was not originally in English). This is one of the factors that leads to the increased use of pivot subtitling, a practice deemed logistically efficient by some and ethically suspicious by others, which involves the creation of a template with time codes and annotations in an intermediate language (usually English).

It is against this backdrop that our study seeks to explore whether pivot subtitling aligns with the United Nations list of Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations 2015). Drawing on (i) a critical review of 29 European codes of ethics promoted by professional translation associations and (ii) the answers to our online questionnaire on pivot subtitling (completed by 376 subtitlers based in Europe), we analyse the main concerns raised about pivot subtitling from the standpoint of access to decent work and economic growth in the AVT industry.

Findings suggest that the practice can contribute to SDG10 (“Reduce inequality”) and SDG4 (“Equitable education”). However, it is unclear its positive or negative influence on languages of limited diffusion. Moreover, from the professional subtitlers’ point of view, current practices in pivot template-centred workflows contribute to slowing down the progress on SDG8 (“Decent work for all”), pointing to worsening working conditions and clashing with professional codes of ethics (particularly the recommendation to translate into one’s L1 or from a language translators have perfect knowledge of).
Building on these insights, we end by suggesting ways to improve the use of indirect translation, so it does not hinder the progress on SDG8 in the AVT industry.


Moore, Kasey (2021), “Does Netflix have too much foreign content”, What’s on Netflix, September 6th, 2021. (accessed October 27th, 2023)

United Nations. 2015. ‘Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Resolution Adopted by the General Assembly on 25 September 2015. Index: A/RES/70/1.’


Outbound translation from Chinese: A study of perceptions and practices among Chinese/Spanish translation students

Manuel Pavón-Belizón (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)

The practice of outbound translation, i.e. translation initiatives that arise from the source context, has a long history in China, given the number of officially-supported programs for international cultural promotion that seek to translate China’s cultural production (including fiction literature and academic works) into other languages (Geng, 2022). The underlying premise that translations of China’s cultural products into foreign languages are “representing” Chinese culture, these initiatives have generated a heated academic debate in mainland China’s field of Translation Studies about what should be the purposes of these initiatives, how they should be undertaken, their degree of effectiveness, and who has the skills and even the legitimacy to translate Chinese texts. In this latter respect, some Chinese scholars have pointed to the idea that Chinese texts should be translated into foreign languages by Chinese native speakers as a way to guarantee that the cultural content of the original makes it through into the target text (cf. Chang, 2017, for an account of these discussions).

This paper is intended as a contribution to those discussions in two aspects. First, while an important part of the academic literature published in China about this question tends to focus on English as the target language, I offer a perspective from a different language combination—Chinese into Spanish—that does not feature often in these discussions, even though outbound translations from Chinese into Spanish have been common in recent years. Moreover, a number of those published translations into Spanish are authored by Chinese native speakers, while others have been authored by Spanish native speakers. In this paper, I will introduce the perceptions and practices of translation students in that language combination with regard to outbound translation by conducting a survey and a translation practice with Chinese/Spanish translation students, including native and not native speakers to observe whether their perceptions and practices present differing features according to their native context.


Chang, N.F. (2017). Self-image and self-reflection: From China’s outbound translation strategies to her cultural export policy. Babel: Revue Internationale de la Traduction 63 (5), 643-666.

Geng, Q. (2022). Discourse Models on Practice and Studies of Outbound Translation of Chinese Literature. In: Zhao, J., Li, D., Moratto, R. (Eds), Chinese Literature in the World, 39-56. Singapore: Springer.

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