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Accepted Paper:

Semiotic translations II: translating sūtras, pilgrimages and ethnographic experience in Katsuragi  
Tatsuma Padoan (University College Cork)

Paper short abstract:

My paper will explore dynamics of legitimation, conflict and equivocation embedded in translation, by looking at strategies of intersemiotic translation enacted by both ritual practitioners and the ethnographer, through the case of a revivalist group of ascetics in Katsuragi, central Japan.

Paper long abstract:

In his seminal essay on translation, Jakobson (1959) defined three different ways of translating verbal language, as: (1) intralingual translation, or rewording within the same language; (2) interlingual, or translation from one language to another; (3) intersemiotic, from verbal to nonverbal languages. This last category has been further expanded both in anthropology (Hanks 2014; Rubel and Rosman 2003) and semiotics (Fabbri 2003; Dusi and Nergaard 2000) to also include correlations between nonverbal semiotic systems. This paper intends to address such issues in ethnographic analysis and writing, through an investigation of the equivocal and conflicting value of translation in a contemporary case of mountain asceticism in Japan. Drawing from ethnographic data collected on fieldwork in 2008-2009, and more recently in 2014 and 2015, I will analyse a revivalist group of ascetics from the temple Tenpōrinji on the top of Mt. Kongō (1125 m), belonging to the Shugendō movement or "The Way to Ascetic Powers". This group, in competition with other Shugendō organisations, is trying to restore an ancient pilgrimage across the Katsuragi mountain range, where the twenty-eight chapters of the Buddhist scripture Lotus Sūtra were buried in ancient times, and where the Word of Buddha is, according to the practitioners, transposed into the materiality of the landscape. In this paper I shall explore dynamics of authority, transformation and contestation produced by this intersemiotic translation, looking in particular at the equivocation of values and subjectivities embedded in the transposition of fieldwork experience into ethnographic writing.

Panel P093
Anthropology as translation: working misunderstandings?
  Session 1