Interstitial position or ‘bastard’ status? Interpreters at the French National Court of Asylum

Anaïk Pian, 2022, in "Ethnography"

This article, based on fieldwork conducted in 2016 at the French national Court of Asylum (CNDA), explores reflections on the role and position of interpreters in the examination of asylum applications. Interpreters occupy a position that is at once an interstitial position – that is, at the crossroads of the social worlds of judges and claimants – and a ‘bastard’position, in the sense that, although they are indispensable, their legitimacy is never fully established. To grasp the full ambiguity and complexity of their position, on the one hand, the article aims to shed light on the trajectories and working conditions of interpreters as actors in this system whose legitimacy is fragile, yet who play an essential bridging role between the institutions and the foreigners seeking their protection. On the other hand, it seeks to identify and explore other factors, beyond the codification of the role within highly standardized hearings, which may influence the ways interpreters carry out their missions in practice, in both speech and behavior. See more