Narratives of power : critical reflections on signed language interpreting
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This thesis investigates how signed language interpreters in the UK conceptualise power dynamics within their professional practice. By exploring theories of power by Foucault and Bourdieu, drawing on white studies and investigating work in Deaf studies, this thesis explores the power of the societally dominant discourse of deafness as a deficit. Qualitative data were generated through the collection of reflective journals from ten participants about their perceptions of power dynamics. These were followed up by semistructured debrief interviews. Analysis involved a combination of narrative inquiry and critical discourse techniques. Analysis reveals that signed language interpreters do describe managing power dynamics, often in favour of the deaf signer. However, an entrenched metaphor of interpreting (the machine or conduit model) interferes with described attempts to address unequal power dynamics. Furthermore, when a deaf signer is perceived as having intersecting characteristics that could potentially increase their marginalisation in society, the signed language interpreters were even more likely to describe attempting to address power inequalities. This research contributes to theory and professional practice by introducing the concept of emancipatory interpreting, which is a framework for thinking about the management of power dynamics when working with a client who is in an oppressed minority group.