(Digital) Ethnography and/in Translation Research

  • Chuan Yu (Invited speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesContribution to workshop, seminar, course


Invited research seminar given at the Centre for Translation, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong SAR

Ethnography is one of the most commonly used research methodologies in the social sciences. It has also long been regarded as ‘the translation of cultures’ (Asad 1986). In this seminar, I shall discuss how ethnography can be used in TS research. I argue that an immersive ethnography, hitherto seldom applied in the TS field, can provide more holistic insights into translators’ interactions, translation manuscripts, and the entire translation process. Anthropology and Ethnography depend on each other in significant ways and are sometimes seen as the same thing. At the beginning of the seminar, I shall clarify what they refer to respectively and how they relate to each other. Then I move on to introduce ethnography as both a process (i.e. seeking to understand people and culture) and a product (i.e. writing, recording and describing). Drawing on my own ethnographic experience in studying an online translation community, four aspects concerning the application of ethnography are discussed in detail, including participant observation, interactive interview, fieldnote writing and ethnographic narratives. This is followed by the further elaboration of two variations of ethnography, i.e. netnography and digital ethnography, in the context of translation research. The ethnographic approach introduced in this seminar is rooted in social and cultural anthropology premised on an interpretive and hermeneutic perspective. Hence, it recognizes the intertwinement of objective and subjective meanings and provides the researchers with both ‘emic’ and ‘etic’ perspectives. In this kind of ethnography, a great emphasis is placed on the researcher-participant relationship since the researcher is involved in the ‘local community’ and interacts with the ‘locals’ to a great extent. Consequently, the ethnographer’s own position, including her interests, values, backgrounds, biases and responses to what happens in the field, plays a crucial role in generating the research data and shaping up ethnographic narratives. Being aware of and recognizing ethnographers’ involvement in the research context and the relevant ethical issues are central to ethnographic studies. Therefore, I conclude the seminar by addressing the ethical issues in conducting (digital) ethnography.
Period1 Mar 2018
Event typeSeminar
LocationHong Kong, Hong KongShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Collaborative translation
  • Online translation
  • Digital ethnography
  • Research methodology