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Author Topic: the mysterious east
Wilf Day
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Babbler # 3276

posted 10 April 2003 11:02 AM      Profile for Wilf Day     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
The western press often falls into the trap of talking about "the mysterious east." The implication is that these people are unfathomable and alien.

As is well-known, some American publications use the Arab word "Allah" rather than translating it into English as, simply, "God."

Not so well known is the habit of leaving many other words untranslated for no good reason.

For example, if France had a province called "Province du Nord" the English-language press would translate it as Northern Province. But the huge Indian province of Uttar Pradesh, which also simply means Northern Province, is always left untranslated. More Oriental flavour.

And getting to current events, the word Ba'ath in Arabic means 'Rebirth' but the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party (which still governs Syria) is seldom translated as Arab Rebirth Socialist Party. As the name implies, the Party's goal is to reawaken Arab culture, national unity and independence. The Ba'ath Party began as a political movement in Syria in the 1930s under Michel Aflaq, a Christian from Damascus. Aflaq, who had studied in Paris, developed progressive Arab nationalism articulated in the Ba'ath Party slogan Unity, Freedom and Socialism, which was more radical than that of the liberal nationalists. Aflaq promoted the concept: "One Arab Nation with an eternal mission." The Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party was organised throughout the Arab world. Not that I'm promoting their version of socialism which seems little better than the Stalinist one. It's just interesting how one can put a foreign spin on simple words.


From: Port Hope, Ontario | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
Moredreads
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Babbler # 3393

posted 10 April 2003 12:14 PM      Profile for Moredreads     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
The exotification of the incomprehensibe and mysterious other. In Aghanistan the term Loya Jirga, much used by journalists to add an air of cultural awarness and informed authority, simply means "Big Meeting" -- a conference, in other words.

I trust you know about Edward Said: Orientalism: a Brief Definition.


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lagatta
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posted 10 April 2003 12:32 PM      Profile for lagatta     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Saïd's book Orientalism is definitely worth a read, too.

Important to explain the meaning of the term Ba'athist, but that has become a proper name. To use a far less exotic example, the English-Canadian press does not refer to the Quebec Bloc or the Quebec Party. Nor do we translate the many Aboriginal names on our maps.

The Allah stuff infuriates me - I've read worse, things like "whether you pray to God or Allah". Arab Christians pray to Allah as well. It would be worthwhile however to explain the position the Arabic language holds in Islam, that the Q'oran was revealed in Arabic, so Persians, Turks etc read it in that language, just as Jews study Hebrew. Throwing around "Allah" out of context is a deliberate attempt to create distance and deny the inextricable connections among the monotheistic religions.


From: Se non ora, quando? | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 10 April 2003 12:37 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Yeah, the "Allah" thing gets to me too.
From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Mohamad Khan
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posted 10 April 2003 05:28 PM      Profile for Mohamad Khan   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
me three. the annoying thing for me is that many muslims have appropriated this usage as an identity marker. i'm not sure this is an altogether positive thing.

and, come to think of it, when i speak in Urdu, i hardly ever even use the word "Allah" except in borrowed Arabic phrases like "in shâ' allâh" (if God wills) "mâ shâ' allâh" (whatever God intends), "istaghfiru allâh" (God forbid); or in certain equivalent Urdu clichés like "allâh na kare" (God forbid), "yâ allâh!" (oh God!), "allâh mârâ" (God-damned), etc. and even in the latter we often use the more common "khudâ," e.g., "khudâ na kare." strange that it's just occurred to me. i suppose this superfluous usage that happens purely in English is a sign of how we've been orientalised to such an extent that we've begun to use orientalist discourse ourselves.

disturbing.

[ 10 April 2003: Message edited by: Mohamad Khan ]


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Moredreads
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posted 11 April 2003 10:59 AM      Profile for Moredreads     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Decoding Iraq's symbols of celebration

quote:
There was rich symbolism in the way Iraqis celebrated the fall of Baghdad - some hurled shoes while others brandished small clay discs. What do these actions and symbols represent?

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swallow
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posted 11 April 2003 02:03 PM      Profile for swallow     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
That's interesting MK, i wonder how it is in other languages? I hear Indonesians (of whatever religion) refer to "Tuhan" (God) more often than to Allah, except in phrases like "insyallah."

Seems to me that there is not just a refusal from this side to translate terms (Uttar Pradesh etc) but also a nationalist effort to "de-englishize" names: Mumbai for Bombay, many Timorese using Timor Lorosae in place of the English East Timor or the Portuguese Timor Leste, etcetera (i mean, and so on). This strikes me less as orientalism, than as (to borrow another term from Said) reinscription: trying to reclaim what the colonizer stole. Though i imagine the orientalism is still more powerful.


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lagatta
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posted 11 April 2003 02:11 PM      Profile for lagatta     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Or, in the mysterious west, restoring Aboriginal names (in Nunavik for example, when the Inuit and Cree were fed up with the French and English squabbling about which coloniser's names to use in topography) and trying to restore a more accurate transcription of Aboriginal names, Kahnawake rather than Caughnawaga, to take a local example.
From: Se non ora, quando? | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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posted 11 April 2003 02:31 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
swallow complicates things interestingly: are some, at least, of these usages orientalism, or might some be (on the part of liberal Westerners) well-meant if clumsy attempts at reinscription?

I think that North Americans especially fumble with these issues, given the enormous sea of unilinguality that is this continent. It is genuinely difficult for most North Americans to pick up other languages (and thus to understand other cultures from the inside) -- I think we should be sensitive to the class/economic barriers most face as well.


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lagatta
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posted 11 April 2003 03:24 PM      Profile for lagatta     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
North America includes Québec, and more significantly, Mexico.

Not to mention many Aboriginal tongues that remain spoken, but unfortunately marginalised.


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DrConway
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posted 11 April 2003 09:20 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Ok, so is it a Good Thing or a Bad Thing to use a country's own words for its cities and suchlike?

I'm confused. It sounds like some people are condemning the tendency to render the names of cities and provinces in a country's own language and some are praising it.


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swallow
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posted 12 April 2003 01:15 PM      Profile for swallow     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I don't think we're talking about one being good and the other bad, necessarily. Take the new, more accurate transliterations of first nations languages -- lagatta mentioned Kahnawake, which is based on the more accurate Mohawk alphabet, but is a lot more jarring to the English-speaking eye and has led to some people pronouning it with hard K sounds (kah-na-wa-kee), when Caughnawaugha leads an English-speaker closer to the accurate prononciation (Gah-na-wa-ge, leaving out glottal stop). This is especially noticeable in BC. Does the shift from Kootenay to Ktunaxa help in an assertion of indigenous culture, or hinder cross-cultural understanding? There's not an easy answer.
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