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Cultural Translation


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

The What is Culture? course is required for CHS students, recommended for students from other 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.

After this theoretical, methodological and historical introduction into cultural translation, 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, heritage sites, and music. During these weeks you will learn how such cases can be analysed and examined through different theoretical and methodological lenses.

You will put this knowledge to practice by means of your own case studies, which you will select and develop in consultation with the instructor. Thinking through and with these particular cases you will learn to apply theoretical approaches and methodologies, and develop different ways of presenting your results. The first case will be the basis for a presentation in class. The second will be the basis for a scholarly research essay.

Course Objectives

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

  • 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, cultural appropriation, hybridity, identity, and otherness.

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

  • participate in discussions and give feedback in a productive way;

  • present outcomes in a concise way;

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


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

Lectures, seminars, presentations and discussions

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, students will also bring a text, thing, or other materials to the classroom and develop an analysis of those materials.

Assessment Method

  • 15% participation in group discussions (ongoing)

  • 35% presentation (ongoing)

  • 50% essay (2000 words) (week 8)

Reading list

TBA: Literature will be made available through Brightspace.


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. Mathijs Peters,