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Nature in Translation is an ethnographic exploration in the cultural politics of the translation of knowledge about nature. Shiho Satsuka follows the Japanese tour guides who lead hikes, nature walks, and sightseeing bus tours for Japanese tourists in Canada's Banff National Park and illustrates how they aspired to become local "nature interpreters" by learning the ecological knowledge authorized by the National Park.
Nature in Translations assumed the universal appeal of Canada's magnificent nature, but their struggle in translating nature reveals that our understanding of nature – including scientific knowledge – is always shaped by the specific socio-cultural concerns of the particular historical context. These include the changing meanings of work in a neoliberal economy, as well as culturally-specific dreams of finding freedom and self-actualization in Canada's vast nature.
Drawing on nearly two years of fieldwork in Banff and a decade of conversations with Nature in Translations, Satsuka argues that knowing nature is an unending process of cultural translation, full of tensions, contradictions, and frictions. Ultimately, the translation of nature concerns what counts as human, what kind of society is envisioned, and who is included and excluded in the society as a legitimate subject.
Shiho Satsuka is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto.
"This brilliant exposition of postcolonial translation shows how nature emerges through lively reworkings of the West. Shiho Satsuka frees science studies, still trapped inside the imagined closure and coherence of the West, to address environmental knowledge in a diverse world. Nature in Translation is a pioneering intervention."
– Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, coeditor of Words in Motion: Toward a Global Lexicon
"Shiho Satsuka's intimate and rich ethnography vividly and meticulously traces these tour guides' dreams of self-making, aspiration, joys, and – perhaps inevitably – disappointments, through their work as nature's translators. Satsuka reveals the extent to which the conditions of possibility of the way of life they have chosen are critically linked up with post-war Japan-U.S. relations, the accelerated globalization of the Japanese political economy, and the genealogy of the linguistic and social reception of the western concepts such as freedom and subjectivity. Nature in Translation is a sheer joy to read."
– Miyako Inoue, author of Vicarious Language: Gender and Linguistic Modernity in Japan