Conflict and dialogue: Bronisław Piłsudski's ethnography and translation of Ainu oral narratives

Nana Sato-Rossberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The task of making indigenous oral narratives accessible to a wider audience challenges both the translator and the ethnographer. This article examines how the Polish ethnographer Bronisław Piłsudski (1866–1918) collected Ainu oral narratives in Sakhalin, transcribed them into written Ainu texts, translated them into English and compiled them into an ethnography. The principal interest of the paper is in the dialogues between Piłsudski, the Ainu and others that underlie this ethnographic translation process. It takes account of Piłsudski's peculiar personal situation, his conflicting motivations and the historical developments framing his life and that of his Ainu informants. I will argue that, although not always distinguishable for the reader, a chorus of voices contributed to Piłsudski's ethnography. Together, they created this work, which is now among the most detailed representations we have of the Sakhalin Ainu's oral tradition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-63
Number of pages16
JournalTranslation Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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