Any discussion of definitions requires a number of provisos. They are, by their very nature, essentialist and positivist in that they distil what is the ‘essentialis … the nature of a thing … and what sets it apart’ (Rener 1989, 266; see also Hebenstreit 2007, 11-12). They are also often a descriptione in that they enumerate ‘the various features proper to the thing …’ (Rener 1989, 266). Who or what is included (and excluded) from a definition easily becomes the object of heated contention, as this affects the size of the discipline, the growth or otherwise of academic departments, the professional status of those who are included in ‘the thing’ (e.g. Marco 2007, 65; Melby et al 2014; Pym, 2014, 49) and much more. Consequently, the task of defining culture and translation can move from difficult to extremely political. That said, the human race has long been categorising and defining things. Defining dictionaries with commentary and glosses have been around since the third century BCE (Considine 2015, 605). Today the world’s ‘best-selling regularly updated book’ with 400 million sales is Xinhua Zidian [The New Chinese Character Dictionary] (Press Centre 2016). In 2014, Merriam Webster (whose Collegiate Dictionary ranks as the next best-selling dictionary with sales of 55 million) announced ‘culture’ as their ‘Word of the Year’ because it had ‘the biggest spike in look-ups’ (Steinmetz 2014) on their website. ‘People were desperate to know what “culture” meant’ (Rothman 2014.), a strong indication of what Tymoczko (2007) calls the ‘definitional impulse’: the human need for closure, and the need to put things in boxes, or at least, as Wittgenstein (1958) would have it, to organise according to ‘family resemblance’ (Familienähnlichkeit) (32-33). In short, there is an innate human need to classify and organise ‘what is what’ (and to distinguish it from what is not what). Categorisation has traditionally been conceived in terms of horizontal co-hyponymic and vertical hypernymic levels. Here we will loosely follow Bateson (1972) and Goffman (1986) and their understanding of categorisation of experience, in terms of ‘framing’ (see also Katan 2004, 49-56). At the horizontal level, we frame ‘types of’ translation (such as literal, free or audio-visual) or ‘types of’ culture (ethnic, religious and national). Clearly there are problems in deciding where the horizontal frame boundaries are and, indeed, even if ‘the type’ itself is valid within the wider frame. A perfect case in point is Hatim and Munday’s (2004, 6) question: ‘Where do we draw the line between “translation” and “adaptation?”’ However, it is with the vertical, or wider, frames that the major issues come into view, as the widening of context or perspective brings to the fore previously unquestioned boundaries, which focus not only on ‘what’ is to be included, but also ‘in which historical period/geographical/linguistic domain’, ‘according to which discipline’, and finally even ‘according to which underlying motivations.’ In short, there is a hierarchy of ever-widening frames, each of which contextualises the frame it encloses. This in itself is problematic when it comes to definitions, which themselves presume—in enclosing the essentialisness—to be the ultimate frame. Post-positivism brings to the fore these hidden assumptions. Clearly, this includes questioning the validity of the definition frame itself. Post-positivists suggest that although phenomena may (possibly) be observed, it is the observer’s subjectivity that will bias what is perceived towards a particular construction of ‘reality’ and towards a particular way of defining ‘the thing’. As we can see, terms at the post-positivist chunk-level come with inverted commas, suggesting that the ‘objective’ terms themselves are to be reflected on and ‘problematised’. To be fair, positivists also accept that definitions and norms are socially constructed, and are not impervious to change over time (e.g. Chesterman 1997). We can organise these paradigms in terms of broadness of view, context or abstraction. A useful starting point is Hall’s (1990) framing of culture into a ‘major triad’ (see Katan 2004, 44-48). Hall adapts Freud’s metaphor of an iceberg, originally used to explain that the most important workings of the mind operate unconsciously, out-of-awareness. This unconscious level guides judgement, which then guides visible behaviour. Hall organised culture into three systems acting at different levels of visibility: the visible (technical), the partially submerged (formal) and finally the invisible (informal) out-of-awareness level. The metaphor highlights the fact that the most important aspects of culture are hidden. At the same time, it is these aspects that evaluate what is normal or right, and consequently guide the visible behaviour. The same iceberg metaphor can also be used to discuss ‘translation’. The visible responds to ‘what’ is tangible: the product (the source and the target texts). The partially submerged refers to the ‘how’: the processes of translation; while the most hidden aspects explore the motivations (the ‘why’), the beliefs, values and ideologies that govern both processes and product.
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