The Institutionalization of Translation and Interpreters in Colonial Vietnam, 1862-1945

ID: 3636
School: TBD
Program: TBD
Status: Ongoing
Start date: November 2018
End Date: November 2018


The position that local interpreters occupied within the colonial administration and society is often negatively portrayed. Generally, they were either deemed as corrupt by the colonizers, or as lackeys by nationalists due to their association with the former. This is true in the case of colonial Vietnam, 1862-1945. My research aims to nuance the roles and functions that local interpreters performed in order to better understand their social position, and the reasons for why they abused their power when they did. Many interpreters intentionally mis-interpreted by holding back or omitting information while others committed embezzlements. I explore the diverse reasons for these mis-translations in order to highlight the power they possessed in their ambivalent role as linguistic and cultural mediator. I examine the institutionalization of interpreters and the translation regulation that the French administrators imposed as a way to monitor and ensure translation fidelity on the interpreter's part. This research essentially explores the ways in which local interpreters re-interpreted these policies as a way to both negotiate and reclaim their autonomy within the administration.

Principal investigators

  • Vo, Eileen • History, Philosophy, Religion, and Sociology

Priorities addressed

Funding sources