Translating Refugees: Conducting Empirical Research on the Intersection of Language and Social Justice

Date: 09/12/2021

Time: 04:00-06:00PM

Location: Online via Zoom

Speaker: Professor Katrijn Maryns (Ghent University, Belgium)

Translation Seminar Series


The intersection between language and social justice is particularly evident when examining language use in the context of migration and refugees. Various forms of discursive input (spoken and written language, interpreted interaction and translated text) function as core material in answering the legal dilemma of whether someone is eligible for international protection. This pleads in favour of strengthening the language component in migration studies by offering empirical support for concerns about credibility and deservingness addressed in legal disciplines.  In this seminar, I will adopt an ethnographic-sociolinguistic approach to discuss the impact of various forms of discursive mediation and narrative co-construction on the basis of authentic data examples from asylum interviews and legal judgments. I will argue how applicant performance in the procedure is complicated by the different participants that mediate (interpret, translate, recontextualize) situated interaction as well as by the legal-administrative categories and ideologies that govern procedures for international protection. The data will reveal how the co-construction of meaning, evidence and identities may amplify the asylum applicant’s vulnerability of voice.

About the Speaker:

Katrijn Maryns is assistant professor in the Department of Translation, Interpreting and Communication and a member of CESSMIR, the Centre for the Social Study of Migration and Refugees at Ghent University, Belgium. Her linguistic-ethnographic research examines multilingual practices and linguistic inequality in institutional contexts of asylum and migration. She is the author of The Asylum Speaker: Language in the Belgian Asylum Procedure (Routledge 2006), editor (with Philipp Angermeyer) of the book series ‘Translation, Interpreting and Social Justice in a Globalised World’ (Multilingual Matters), and she has published in various international peer-reviewed journals (Applied Linguistics, Language in Society, Journal of Sociolinguistics, Journal of Pragmatics). She is supervising several projects on language and migration, including research on multilingual communication between immigration lawyers and their refugee clients, on migrants and refugees with a linguistically vulnerable profile (speakers of lesser diffused languages, low literacies) and on remote language assistance (via webcam) for migrants and refugees.

Translating Refugees: Conducting Empirical Research on the Intersection of Language and Social Justice
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