Located in East Asia, Taiwan is an island off the southeast part of Mainland China. After martial law was lifted in 1987, one of the ways by which the long-suppressed Taiwanese Indigenous communities can make themselves be seen has been writing in Chinese, but in a style that intentionally mixes Chinese with their ethnic mother tongues. Accordingly, this mixed literary style brings about great challenges for the English translators of Taiwan Indigenous literature. This paper deals with the English translation problems of Syaman Rapongan’s works against the background of an ongoing dispute over “domestication” and “foreignization” in translation studies, focusing on the issue of how translators can keep the “cultural other” in the texts while succeeding in the task of cross-cultural communication. What can be of great help is the “ethnographic translation” method proposed by, among others, anthropologist Vincent Crapanzano: that is, “the coupling of a presentation that asserts the foreign and an interpretation that makes it all familiar” (52). Focusing on Taiwanese Indigenous literary ethnographer Syaman Rapongan, this paper explores the problems of the English translations of his works and contends that the problems can be attributed to Syaman Rapongan’s writing being a type of “born-translated” literature, as defined by Rebecca Walkowitz. I will then explain specifically how the ethnographic terms he uses can be properly translated without sacrificing their foreignness, so as to retrieve the erased cultural other in translation.


“born-translated” Indigenous literature, cross-cultural communication, cultural other, ethnographic translation, literary ethnography, Syaman Rapongan

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

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Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
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Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
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Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
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Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
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University of Cape Town (South Africa)
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University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
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University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
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University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
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Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
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Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)