Civilizational Difference and Criticism: On the Complicity
of Globalization and Cultural Nationalism

By Naoki Sakai

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 188-205

One of the most tangible consequences of globalization has been observed in the syndrome often referred to as the English language imperialism. The English language has been adopted in a drastically increased number of regions, professional fields, international organizations, commercial transactions, academic disciplines, and mass media all over the world. It has been perceived that, with the increase in the use of English, more and more public spheres have fallen under the spell of the communications capital which originates in the United States. Seemingly this development coincides with the unilateral military and political domination of the world by the United States. The inquiry of this article starts with the problem as to how to critically engage in the English language imperialism, and how to cultivate the most effective strategies to interrupt the cultural colonization by the United States.

The article argues that the insistence on national language ands culture as the grounds for resistance against the English language imperialism is utterly misleading. On the contrary, cultural nationalism and the United States unilateralism are in complicity in the regime of developmental teleology. Today ethnic cultural nationalism raises no contradiction to, and is harmoniously accommodated within, the global domination of American unilateralism. The Cultural nationalism of the non-West only serves to isolate the local people and insulate them from other peoples. It invariably reinforces the English language imperialism because the hegemony of English prevails only as long as other languages are silenced in the transnational public sphere. Rather than placing the national tradition and the cultural uniqueness of an ethnic language in opposition to the global use of English, the article proposes to use English as a strategic medium which allows for the multilingual translation of many languages among themselves. As soon as the English language stops preventing local people from forming communities with peoples in other loci, locales and languages, it will begin to serve as an effective means to show the provinciality of those who believe that what the English language media promote is actually universal and globally valid.

Thus translation is brought into focus in the discussion of criticism and identified as the topos of political struggles and cultural negotiations. In order to criticize the hegemony of the English language and intervene in its domination, the article offers an explanation of the political implications implied in the theory of translation which the author of this article has developed elsewhere.