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Lecture | Sociolinguistics Series

The Discursive Construction of Credibility: Storytelling in the Asylum Procedure

Friday 16 October 2020
LUCL Sociolinguistics Series 2021/2022
online | The link for accessing this event will be posted on the LUCL Sociolinguistics Series website (see below).


This talk examines interactional management practices in legal consultations between asylum seekers and their lawyers in Flanders, Belgium. Drawing upon linguistic-ethnographic fieldwork (authentic data in the form of participant observation, audio-recordings and interviews), I will investigate how both parties work together to re-orient the asylum seeker’s story from the authentic-experiential version, that he or she is prone to tell, towards a more objectified formal-institutional account, that has a better chance of being recognised as “credible” or “valid” by the asylum authorities (Jacobs & Maryns 2020). This re-orientation process is characterised by competing legal and experiential voices (Habermas 1996) as well as diverging views on roles and responsibilities (Smith-Khan 2020, Reynolds 2020). The data also reveals (micro) demonstrations of agency on the part of the asylum seekers, an observation that counters the prevalent discourse that conceptualises applicants for international protection as vulnerable, passive victims (Mainwaring 2016).

LUCL Sociolinguistics Series website

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