Interpreting Distress Narratives in Italian Reception Centres: The need for caution when negotiating empathy

Risultato della ricerca: Articlepeer review


This paper examines the interpreting of migrant narratives in reception centres in Italy, based on first-hand data collected by the authors, and discusses the potential risks of empathic bonding. The data consists in recorded mediated interactions between migrants, public service interpreters and service providers, as well as recorded interviews. The data show how asylum seekers and migrants construct their narratives both to reflect their own life experiences and to be as persuasive as possible to improve the chances of a successful asylum application. Public service interpreters – or ‘language mediators’ as they are termed in the Italian setting – may struggle to position themselves professionally and personally vis-a-vis the migrant, especially when they themselves have similar migratory and/or refugee backgrounds. The paper focusses specifically on how empathy is negotiated in these cases, illustrating how the interpreter/mediator is drawn into an often tense and conflictual struggle between a professional code of ethics and an empathic alignment with the migrant. Insofar as the professional interpreting mandate may not coincide with a natural inclination towards empathic bonding, conflicting behaviours are activated, creating an added stress-factor.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)123-144
Numero di pagine22
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2020

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