Triangulating the Nation State through Translation. Some Reflections on "Nation", "Ethnicity", "Religion" and "Language" in Modern Japan, Germany and Nepal

  • Katsuo Nawa (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


This paper is an attempt at expanding and problematizing the Japan-German comparison of “nation state” in terms of religion, language, and ethnicity, by using Nepal as the third reference point. The main question raised concerns the translatability and effects of actual translation of four western concepts in the process of the spread of nationalism and the nation state: “nation state”, “religion”, “ethnicity” and “language”. First, it is demonstrated that they cannot be treated as neutral analytical concepts across languages, by investigating Japanese quasi-equivalents of these four categories, as well as looking at Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s Reden an die deutsche Nation with its various Japanese translations. In the second part, following a brief outline of the history of modern Nepal, it is shown how the Nepali state has treated, in legal terminology, what outside academics would call “ethnic”, “religious” and “linguistic” diversities, identifying various specificities which enrich the Japanese-German comparison.