Translation and modernisation: The case of Iran during the 19th century

  • Seyed Mohammad Alavi


The present study investigates the social function of translation. It studies how translation contributed to the modernisation of Iran during the 19th century. In doing so, it relies on Niklas Luhmann’s theory of society. The theory conceives of modernity as a stage of societal evolution in which the world society is differentiated into functional systems. It informs moreover that the degree of communicative participation in different functional systems puts different regions of the world in a hierarchical status. While European countries were actively participating in scientific, military, economic and political systems from the 16th century onward, Iran was communicatively cut off from its modern environment and it was only in the earlier years of the 19th century that it was integrated into European-centred globalising systems. At this stage translation served as a communication medium that allowed the Iranian system to understand communicatively its European environment, to interact with it and use the derived information in reforming its pre-modern structures. Translations demonstrate well which aspects of modernity have been of interest for Iran at different periods of the 19th century.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2013, 31(4): 451–468

Author Biography

Seyed Mohammad Alavi
School of Translation and Interpretation, University of Ottawa, Arts Hall, 70 Laurier Avenue East, Ottawa Ontario Canada, K1N 6N5

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614