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Cultural Translation


Admission requirements

The What is Culture? course is required for HD students and recommended for students in different Majors.


In a nutshell, cultural translation refers to processes in which the meanings and materiality of texts, things, or practices are transforming when transferred to different cultural contexts. As a field, it is highly inter- or multidisciplinary, not in the least because the term itself can denote either a ‘culturally informed’ type of translation, or the ‘translation/transfer’ of culture or cultural forms themselves. In addition, it can refer to the transformation of all types of cultural expressions; that can be transferred in time, in space or from one medium to another; by a wide variety of ‘translators’.

In this course we will first map the field itself, and see how it relates to other fields, such as (comparative) literary studies, cultural studies, (cultural) history, anthropology, reception and heritage studies. Notwithstanding the focus on contemporary culture, we will also add a historical perspective to be able to see how processes of cultural translation have been conceptualized in the past. This will enable us to better understand the issues and debates that are specific to our modern, globalized, multimedia world.

In the first half of the block we will delve into a wide range of cultural phenomena that clearly involve modes of cultural translations. These cases include, among others, literary translations, movies, travelling objects, and heritage sites. During these weeks you will learn how they can be analysed and examined through different theoretical and methodological lenses.

In the second half of the block you will put this knowledge to practice by means of your own case study, which you will select and develop in consultation with the instructor. Thinking through and with this particular case you will learn to apply theoretical approaches and methodologies, and develop ways of presenting your results in digital format to a larger public, in addition to writing a scholarly research essay.

Course Objectives

After successful completion of this course, students are able to:

(in terms of content):

  • demonstrate profound knowledge of major themes of cultural translation from a historical and multi-disciplinary perspective;

  • identify, explain, and employ theoretical notions such as (un)translatability, reception, appropriation, hybridity, identity, and otherness.

(in terms of skills):

  • translate theories into bespoke methodologies for analysing case-studies;

  • work in teams;

  • work with innovative digital research tools;

  • participate in discussions in a productive way;

  • present outcomes in a concise way;

  • translate research outcomes for a larger public;

  • devise and execute a well-argued and structured research essay.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2020-2021 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

Lectures, seminars, (group) presentations and discussions
Excursions (if possible)

We will not only read and discuss texts that are important for framing the field and for understanding specific cases, but as a presentation mode, (groups of) students will also bring a text, thing, or other materials to the (virtual) classroom and write a (short) post on those materials in a digital research environment and online publication platform that is developed specifically for this purpose. You will use the same environment to present your own case to a larger public. In translating your own research using this publication platform you will be assisted by the project leader and a student assistant specifically trained for this task.

Assessment Method

  • 15 % participation in group discussions (ongoing)

  • 15 % posts (ongoing)

  • 30 % digital presentation (weeks 6 & 7)

  • 40 % essay (2000 words) (week 8)

Reading list



Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Susanna de Beer,