Transcultural Dictionary of Misunderstandings

Transcultural Dictionary of Misunderstandings

Collectif - Edited by Alain le Pichon, Huang Ping, Tinka Reichmann, Zhao Tingyang


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The Transcultural Dictionary of Misunderstandings. European and Chinese Horizons is the result of an initiative which forges a radically new path for promoting transcultural understanding by studying culture-bound keywords. The stimulating idea is to create and address with intention that which is generally held to be by all means avoided: namely, misunderstandings.
The experiment starts with a level of communication that is not political per se but cultural. Cultures have no rigid borders like nation-states. They are more dynamic and meandering, open to influence, and translatable. Like cultures themselves, keywords are saturated with history, long-term experience, values, and collective emotions. They carry a load of tacit knowledge and implicit axioms that have the advantage of not having to be unpacked, explained, or spelled out.
Working through various semantic layers of keywords on both sides helps to create a more transparent language for transcultural dialogue. The creation of such a language is the effect of producing, exchanging, and working through misunderstandings on both sides. Within the framework of transcultural dialogue, misunderstandings turn out to be an innovative tool for mutual learning by seeing oneself through the eyes of the other.
It is high time for researchers in various parts of the world to join forces and translate basic concepts from one language and culture into another. Every translation is a transformation, marking similarities and differences which can lead to an uncovering of new ideas, values, and cultural practices. This unconventional dialogue is a great source of inspiration because it works through hardened assumptions and misrepresentations, unsettles schematic thinking, and leads to unexpected insights and new points of contact.

Aleida Assmann
Professor of English Literature and Literary Theory,
University of Konstanz, Germany