Understanding the Social Dynamics of Amateur Subtitling: A Bourdieusian Perspective on Fansubbing in China

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

By Sijing Lu

New Voices in Translation Studies 20 (2019)

Abstract | This article uncovers the external and internal power relations of fansubbing in China and discusses the role of fansubbers as social agents that constitute hierarchies in the online environment. Adopting the concepts of field and capital from Pierre Bourdieu’s sociology, the study investigates to what extent fansubbers are reproducing the accepted governmental ideologies through their supposedly autonomous activities, followed by an account of how fansubbers are maintaining or challenging the status quo through the pursuit of, and competition within, various forms of capital. The findings show that even though fansubbers have freedom through conducting self-selection and self-distribution, their compliance to dominant governmental policies, and their market-oriented material selection indicate fansubbing’s heteronomous principle of hierarchisation that exists within the field of power. Additionally, fansubbing communities are centred on distinct capital accumulation and conversion among agents, and it is such diverse position-takings that enable a dynamic mechanism of fansubbing communities.