Nature in Translation

Japanese Tourism Encounters the Canadian Rockies

Nature in Translation

Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: 1 map Published: May 2015

Author: Shiho Satsuka

Anthropology, Asian Studies > East Asia, Environmental Studies

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. The guides 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 the guides, 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.


"Nature in Translation is an excellent ethnographic monograph that is both theoretically innovative and eminently readable.... Her work is pioneering in bringing both the Japanese studies and STS into one volume.... Nature in Translation is an excellent read for scholars and students who are interested in contemporary Japan as well as science studies of nature. Satsuka’s discussion of translation should provide fertile theoretical ground for upcoming studies on STS, and it has also opened up exciting new ways to study contemporary Japan." — Satsuki Takahashi, Journal of Anthropological Research

"I... recommend this book to serious scholars of the cross-cultural dimensions of tourism. It is not a light read but it is an insightful read for tourism scholars with an interest in nature, translation and cross-cultural interactions." — Tom Hinch, Tourism Geographies

" extraordinary achievement; a work at once ethnographically sensitive and theoretically innovative—not to mention operating as a marvelous travel guide to the travels of other guides. I hope this beautiful ethnography will be read widely by those who are interested in postcolonial science studies, in ecology, Japan studies, in the ontological turn(s) in STS and anthropology, and, of course, in multispecies anthropology." — Moe Nakazora, Science as Culture

"Nature in Translation asks the reader to question the givenness of ideas of nature, demonstrating their variation across cultures. The book has much to offer scholars and students of translation as it shows how translation is always more than a linguistic action and has significant effects in the wider world." — Jonathan Evans and Ting Guo, Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory

"Nature in Translation will interest many who wish to know more about how perceptions of nature and environment, as well as the explanatory framework, vary in different cultures and intellectual traditions, between Japan and Canada in particular. It will also benefit those in tourism studies in that it directs our attention to more complicated touristic encounters than a simple and straightforward encounter between hosts and guests." — Okpyo Moon, Journal of Japanese Studies

" Japanese tourists are more English language-savvy, and more willing to strike out by themselves to various destinations; and so they are less comfortable in joining the limiting mass-tourist coach tours. The present book [Nature in Translation] would provide an excellent start to expanding the theme of how nature is translated as Japanese society evolves." — David W. Edgington, Pacific Affairs

"This account is a must-read for scholars of nature tourism.... [that] brings to life in sympathetic and thought-provoking ways the situation of a distinctive guide subgroup that has operated relatively successfully within a highly specialized niche market in Canada." — Sally Ann Ness, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"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


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Shiho Satsuka is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Notes on Transliteration  vii

Acknowledgments  ix

Prologue. A Journey to Magnificent Nature . . . or Why Nature Needs to Be Understood in Translation  1

Introduction  9

1. Narratives of Freedom  39

2. Populist Cosmopolitanism  67

3. The Co-Modification of Self  95

4. Gender in Nature Neverland  122

5. The Interpretation of Nature  147

6. The Allure of Ecology  183

Epilogue. Found in Translation  213

Notes  223

Reference List  241

Index  255
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5880-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5867-1
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