Postcolonial polysystems: perceptions of norms in the translation of children's literature in South Africa

Haidee Kruger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Polysystem theory provides a useful, though necessarily limited, entry point for an investigation of the complex relationships that underlie the production of children's books in various languages in South Africa, and the role that translation plays in this process. In particular, it provides a theoretical means of hypothesizing reasons for the tensions between original production and translation in relation to different language groups, and an explanation of the ways in which tensions between domesticating and foreignizing approaches to translation are perceived by various role players. This paper frst argues that there is a systemic relationship between different types of literary texts for children in the various languages in South Africa, and that this provides a possible key for explaining the tensions outlined above. Against this background, the paper presents some fndings of a survey conducted among South African translators of children's literature, focusing specifcally on translators' perceptions of preliminary norms and the basic initial norm. Based on these fndings, it is then argued that the dynamics and power differentials among the different languages in South Africa may challenge conventional interpretations of systemic relationships and their effects on norms and (possible) laws or universals of translation, particularly relating to binary conceptions of and conventionally held assumptions about the relationship between source-text and target-culture orientation (or domestication and foreignization) as linked to polysystemic position.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-136
Number of pages32
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


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