Looking, listening and seeing inside the law box

By Jane Andrews, University of the West of England

Overview of the day

Colleagues from the creative arts hub of the RM project collaborated with colleagues from Case Study 2 (project title: Translating Vulnerability and Silence into the Legal Process) and from the researching multilingually hub on a one day internal project symposium (Friday 2nd December 2016, University of Glasgow) to explore diverse perspectives on themes emerging from research in legal contexts. The day had a retrospective aspect (discussing responses to a shared experience of an Arizona court room in March 2016), a reporting back aspect (colleagues researching in legal contexts in Scotland and England shared emerging insights from ethnographic observation work), an experiential aspect (a performed role play, an individual experience of silence and a symbolic posting of messages to fill a ‘jar of silence’) and a discursive aspect across disciplinary, professional and practice boundaries (including virtual involvement of colleagues from Arizona and London).  In the sections below we provide some insights into the way in which we engaged together on issues of the law as practiced in relation to immigration cases in particular contexts, individuals’ experiences of hearing and being heard (or not), and diverse uses of languages and silences.

Operation Streamline , USA – reflections on first-hand experiences and discussion of the law and activism

A discussion of “Operation Streamline” took place from our multiple perspectives – as creative artists, applied linguists, intercultural communication experts, anthropologsts, education specialists, literature specialists as well as legal academics. The discussion was informed by first-hand experience of attending a court hearing in Tucson, Arizona in March 2016 for some participants and for others by a reading of Doug Keller’s article “Re-thinking Illegal Entry and Re-entry” (2012) Loyola University Chicago Law Journal Vol 44, 65-138. The article explains the “criminalisation” of immigration control procedures in the USA, culminating in “Operation Streamline” and provides a valuable chronology of the time leading up to the implementation of OS. This video also fed into our developing understanding of how activists are challenging OS.

Researching on Detention and Bail: the Immigration Bail Observation Project Scotland (IBOPS)

Sarah Craig, Anna Beesley and Susannah Paul have been involved in the Bail Observation Project. They reported and reflected on their IBOPS findings. Taking into account the distinctiveness of the physical and communicative context in which bail hearings take place and the high stakes nature of the experience for people in immigration detention, the researchers chose to collaborate with project creative artists to develop a fictionalised role play to be performed to colleagues to convey the communicative challenges inherent in this context. The audience witnessed communication and miscommunication taking place via a laptop, partial translations and interpretations, and the general display of powerfulness and powerlessness within this complex scenario.

Creative arts practice as a way of connecting researchers with contexts and experiences

In keeping with the experiential nature of this day involving our developing understandings of immigration processes in practice, time was given to creative arts practice stimulating our thinking about these three questions posed by Sarah Craig and Karin Zwaan

  1. If silence could be heard, what would it sound like?
  2. What needs to be silenced for you to be heard?
  3. Who needs to speak for you to be heard?

The questions were designed to be considered through these activities:

(1) the “jar of silence”; In this experience participants wrote thoughts on strips of paper relating to their hopes for how people in the immigration and asylum process can be heard better. The slips of paper were then posted into a jar, thus filling the jar of silence;

(2) listening to what “silence” sounds like in the calabash and other instruments, and reflecting on the questions that way.

How do lawyers and their clients bridge languages and cultures? –Judith Reynolds’ doctoral research

Judith Reynolds’ doctoral research provides in depth insights into the nature of communication between asylum applicants and refugees and the lawyers who advise them. Judith’s research is attentive to how trust is constructed between those interacting together and their uses of language to build bridges as well as negotiate the complexities of the legal context. Judith’s methodology is driven by linguistic ethnography which allows her to explore translanguaging in interactions and uses of tools such as smart phones to access information and translation tools.

Researching Multilingually – Some ways of conceptualising the area and practices

The role of the Researching Multilingually hub within the large project is to look across the case studies and the work of the creative arts hub seeking to understand ways in which language is used to support or hinder communication and understanding in complex contexts of pain and pressure at border sites. As such the final part of the day involved a brief update on recent work that the hub had been developing in terms of learning from diverse disciplines and theoretical work to shed light on the project’s work. Particular attention was given to the work of Linda Tuhiwai Smith (1999/2012) “Decolonising methodologies – Research and indigenous peoples” on how research needs to be reconceptualised as an act of “radical compassion” which serves the function of “getting the story right, telling the story well”. After a day of developing our understandings of how stories are told in high stakes legal contexts, this message was particularly powerful.

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New MOOC run starts today – 9 January 2017

The fourth run of our successful Massive Open Online Course will start today. You are all invited to join this free 3-week course, available through the Future Learn website:


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By David Gramling, University of Arizona

Dodowa is a town west of Accra with red-dirt roads, loads of free-roaming chickens, heavy-laden plantain trees, and a steady incline up from the Accra seacoast toward the mountains. When in Dodowa you ask directions to Noyam, people will not seem to know how to direct you. But if you say “National Theater,” they will point you up the road to Noyam. It is a big cement structure on a slope near a river, about the size of a small city church. There’s room enough in it for a large dance ensemble (of 20-25 members) to dilate comfortably onstage, and for about two hundred more to sit in the audience, before the stage or in the balcony. Noyam seems always somehow under construction and on the verge of discontinuation due to lack of resources, but in the off-hours (when official rehearsal and tech work is done), the young people of the Noyam company hold the stage deep into the evening—free-styling, playing the booming sound system, and greeting the neighborhood cats and birds that wander in.

Normally, we might translate the local word “Noyam” into English as “development”—but that word has a range of entanglements, histories, and usages that Noyam, in the local languages, does not.

Yes, the company (including cooks, taxi-drivers, dancers, support personnel, researchers, tech designers, choreographers, dramaturges, costume designers, and toddlers) is collaboratively “developing” a piece of musical dance theater. Yes, the company is also “developing” its company members’ technical capacities and its sense of multilingual and intercosmological community. Yes, Noyam is “developing” a new hub of creative livelihood in Dodowa, Accra, and Ghana. Yes, Noyam is “developing” a new method of working and creating (indeed, researching) multilingually—across Twi, Dangwe, Ewe, English, French, Danish, Arabic, and other enumerable languages.

But what else is Noyam doing? Speaking only for myself, I experienced at Noyam profound new forms of belief, hope, and dialogue—of seriousness-in-play and care-in-movement. From the dishwashers to the dramaturges, a sense of unabating respect, gentleness, ease, and accountability partnered the creative work from notion to idea, from devising to staging. For me as a relatively traditional (read: stodgy) university-based researcher / writer, what Noyam did was to recenter the world for me around new methodological and aesthetic principles that are at once accommodating and uncompromising. After working at Noyam, for instance, I will no longer be willing to uphold the fictional distinction between research and creative practice, between humanities, social sciences, and fine arts, nor between teacher and taught.

As the time passed at Noyam, the young people grew more and more comfortable making jokes about me, asking me questions, inviting me into their meals, bestowing upon me ever-new and often unflattering nicknames. I became less isolated and unsure of my position in the space, and came to believe that a complex but thoroughgoing good faith was the only idiom that mattered here. The conversion experience was social, aesthetic, spiritual, and political for me at once—and I am only now beginning to understand its contours a bit. What I can do, perhaps all I can do for now, upon going home to Arizona, is to hold this work that Noyam has welcomed me into—as a kind of “true north” for what it is that engaged scholarship is asked to do in a suffering but healable world.


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How researchers can draw on their multilingual resources when undertaking their research: “Researching Multilingually” doctoral researcher workshops

By Prue Holmes, Durham University

Doctoral researchers, when undertaking their research, must often work multilingually during various phases of their project, e.g., with supervisors, gatekeepers and participants in the research site, translators and interpreters, people in the community in the data collection and dissemination phases, and with multilingual discursive artefacts. Or researchers may find that their monolingual practices—whether in their first language or another—are challenged by their interlocutors in the research context. Yet, our research has found that, while there are pockets of multilingual practice in the literature, there are few established resources available to researchers (Holmes, Fay, Andrews, Attia, 2013). While some universities in some countries (e.g., Germany, Luxembourg) embrace the use of more than one language in doctoral theses, in many universities, e.g., in the Anglo-speaking world in particular, a monolingual approach prevails: English is prioritised, de rigueur, as the language of communication, along with monolingual expectations and practices. In this researcher context, doctoral researchers will find little guidance from methodology textbooks and doctoral training programmes (e.g., those offered by the ESRC) on how to draw on their multilingual resources in the doctoral research process; further, their supervisors are likely to be tied to the monolingual policies and practices present in these Anglo-speaking universities.

To address this need, an important strand of the “Researching multilingually at borders” project has involved developing and offering workshops to doctoral students. The workshops aim to develop doctoral researchers’ awareness of the affordances and opportunities of their linguistic resources in the research process, and how they might draw on these resources as they plan their study, undertake their literature review, make methodological choices, and present their data and/or multilingual artefacts in their thesis and publications. Through our research (in both the earlier “Researching multilingually” network project (AH/J005037/1), and the current “Researching multilingually at borders” project (AH/L006936/1), we have found that doctoral students are not always aware of the possibilities of including other languages in their research. For example, typical questions are: “am I allowed to include Chinese references in my literature review”, “which languages should I analyse my interviews in: Russian or English?”, “should I translate all of my data from Arabic to English?”, “can I present my data in my thesis in another language and translate it, or should it all be in English?”. Through our research, we have found that doctoral students express unawareness of the opportunities and complexities afforded by their multilingual researcher resources, uncertainty, and a lack of confidence and agency. (See Holmes, Fay, Andrews, & Attia, 2016, for a more detailed account of how researchers can draw on their multilingual researcher resources in the research process).

The “Researching Multilingually” Translating Cultures (RMTC) hub have given several workshops on this theme. In the workshops we explain our theoretical approach to researching multilingually, which includes researchers making intentional choices, recognising and accommodating the research/researcher spaces and contexts of the research, managing multilingual and intercultural relationships, and responding to ethical issues posed by the presence of multiple languages in the research site. We illustrate these opportunities and challenges through case studies, as well as the experiences of the workshop participants.

The most recent workshop was to doctoral researchers in the Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne, in July 2016. Of the 15 participants, only one had English as a first language; the remainder were international students from non-English backgrounds, and all had experience of engaging in and/or with multiple languages in their research contexts.

Realising the value of our doctoral workshops, the AHRC funded a workshop for Arts and Humanities doctoral researchers in London in February, 2016. Again, the researchers came from multiple language backgrounds, and from multiple disciplines in the arts and humanities and social sciences; their multilingual data drew from human interaction, digital and media communication, and artefacts.

We have also offered workshops at two doctoral summer schools at the University of Helsinki; at Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland; and at the University of Cambridge. Our very first workshop was supported by the North-East Doctoral Training Centre at Durham University and emerged out of our initial “Researching Multilingually” project (AH/J005037/1).

The next doctoral workshops are:

Researchers’ linguistic resources and their impact on the doctoral experience” Thursday, 20th October, 2016, 11.00-16.00, Durham University (which precedes the project conference “Education and Migration: Languages Foregrounded”);

“Researching multilingually: Possibilities and complexities” Saturday, 21st January, 2017, 11.00-17.00, Senate House, University of London.

If you would like to know more about these workshops, or you would like to attend, please contact Dr Prue Holmes p.m.holmes@durham.ac.uk or Dr Mariam Attia mariam.attia@durham.ac.uk.

The “Researching Multilingually Translating Cultures” (RMTC) hub members are: Prue Holmes, Richard Fay, Jane Andrews, Mariam Attia


Holmes, P., Fay, R., Andrews, J., Attia, M. (2013). Researching multilingually: New theoretical and methodological directions. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 23(3), 285-299.

Holmes, P., Fay, R., Andrews, J., & Attia, M. (2016). How to research multilingually: Possibilities and complexities. In H. Zhu (Ed.) Research methods in intercultural communication (pp. 88-102). London: Wiley.

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New MOOC run starts 7 November


The third run of our successful Massive Open Online Course will start on the 7th of November. You are all invited to join this free 3-week course, available through the Future Learn website:


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Reflections from London Feminist Film Festival 2016

Melissa Chaplin


Doing a PhD that focuses upon creative art, I’m often asked: ‘What’s the point?’ In a world of terrifying injustice, in the face of unbearable pain, what good is art? This question rumbled under the surface at this year’s London Feminist Film Festival, where organisers themed evenings around topics such as: the experiences of refugee women; the right to choose; and women’s bodies as sites.  Throughout the film screenings and following discussion, the value of art as activism was clear.  Where facts might tell you a truth, art takes you by the hand and draws you into it.  Facts can make you think: art can make you feel.

The London Feminist Film Festival has been running annually since 2012, with the goal of supporting women filmmakers, as well as sparking discussion and activism. This year, it took place from 18 to 21 August at the Rio Cinema in Dalston.  I was honoured to be invited to speak at their event centred on issues surrounding Refugee Women on 19 August, connected to the work of the Researching Multilingually at Borders project, of which my doctorate is one part.

There were three films screened that evening: Set Her Free; Women Speak Out! Ntombi; and The Ambassador’s Wife.  Although all three films explored the difficulties faces by refugee women, they took very different approaches. Set Her Free is a short animation, using highly stylised artwork to create a first person view of one woman’s journey, including her detention.  It was produced by the charity Women for Refugee Women. Women Speak Out! Ntombi is part of a series of films by the Women’s Resource Centre, bringing the voices and narratives of refugee women to the forefront, using short interviews.  Finally, The Ambassador’s Wife is a longer film, directed by Dina Zvi-Riklis of Israel, telling the story of an Eritrean woman who, following political events that threaten her life, flees her country to Tel-Aviv.

Set Her Free was remarkable for its use of animation to draw the viewer into the world of the protagonist, Margaret. We see through her eyes the horrors of abuse, rape and detention.  It is almost impossible to cover such intense themes in a film under five minutes long, but the animated piece manages to create a world and story within that time.

The Ambassador’s Wife was controversial amongst the audience, with some questioning the central character’s lack of agency in events that unfolded. The situation of the protagonist was, however, sympathetic, and the film successfully highlighted the way that even someone with every possible ‘advantage’ (education, social standing, wealth) could find themselves in an impossible situation.  The cinematography was beautiful, and it certainly sparked lively debate in the discussion that followed.

Although all of the films were very powerful, I was particularly struck by Women Speak Out! Ntombi. I had the honour of sitting beside Ntombi, who was one of my fellow panelists, during the screening.  Her words, both in the film and in the discussion afterwards, were incredibly moving.  Her testimony about her experiences affected clearly the audience deeply, and I’m sure anyone who watches the interview will feel similarly.  The evening was a potent reminder of the strength of individual narratives to call for social justice.

In addition to Ntombi, I was joined on stage by Sarah Graham, a freelance journalist and communications manager, and the discussion was chaired by Vivienne Hayes MBE, the CEO of the Women’s Resource Centre. The audience members asked some excellent questions, and some of the conversations that developed are available on the festival’s YouTube channel.

It was notable that two of the three films screened were clearly designed with a social media audience in mind. Where people feel some media outlets are failing them, they are increasingly turning to other means of dissemination.  The evening ended with a call for action: to raise awareness; to donate money; and to protest detention.  To take our feelings of horror and sadness and turn them into a force for change.  What good is art?  Watch the films, and you tell me.



Researching Multilingually at Borders http://researching-multilingually-at-borders.com/

Women Speak Out! http://womenspeakout.wrc.org.uk/video/

Set Her Free https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bA5irTWLixg

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Australia’s Shame is the UK’s Game – Nauru files

By Alison Phipps for The National

I wake up to the news from a tiny island in Micronesia, Nauru. Nauru – coral reef, white-sandy beaches, photographs which make it look like paradise. It is the site of the off-shore detention facility where the Australian government out-source the detention of people who arrive, seeking refuge.

Outside Gosford Parish Church, NSW, the wayside pulpit sign reads: “Hell exists and it’s on Nauru.”

There has been a leak – not of oil onto pristine beaches – but a cache of documents. Over 2,000 files. I am caught between a strange relief that, at last, what many of us have known for years is coming fully to public knowledge, and the same horror which accompanies any report of immigration detention, not least in the UK.

Those who have made the perilous journey from Indonesia and landed in Australia will be sent to Nauru for detention and settlement in PNG or deportation back to their unsafe homes. Australia has not simply sanctioned the detention, in appalling conditions, of children, women and men who have sought refuge, Australia has actively legislated for this practice, against the Refugee Convention, and has made illegal any reporting from within the detention facilities. This includes, horrifically, the reporting or whistle-blowing by medics, of child abuse. As a consequence, in 2015m the Australian Medical Association said it would oppose this legislation. Since then doctors have defied the law to expose stories of child abuse.

When Prof. Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission published the Commission’s report in 2015 The Forgotten Children, she was vilified and asked to resign by the Abbot-led government. The report’s findings included the following:

  • “Children on Nauru are suffering from extreme levels of physical, emotional, psychological and developmental distress
  • the inevitable and foreseeable consequence of Australia’s transfer of children to Nauru is that they would be detained in breach of article 37(b) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
  •  Australia transferred children to Nauru regardless of whether this was in their best interests, in breach of article 3(1) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

Today Prof Triggs is telling leading news outlets in Australia that the cache, published by the Guardian on Wednesday, has “revealed the extent of abuses and trauma on the island” and that it backs up its own review. Amnesty International is saying the need to pressure the government to close offshore detention centers has never been higher and UNHCR is “gravely concerned.”

Of course, we are no better. The ‘dirty-deal’ between the EU and Turkey sends people who arrived from the Mediterranean back to Turkey. In Calais Citizens UK have identified 170 children legally eligible to be reunited with their families in the UK. They are stuck in limbo. Help Refugees UK census in May this year counted 568 children, 74% of whom are unaccompanied.

The UK pays for the maintenance of the hard border in Calais which has effectively become our own Nauru. Questions have been asked repeated in the UK parliament, not least by Stuart Macdonald describing the Immigration Act 2016 as a ‘dark piece of legislation’ in this regard and after his visit with SNP members of the Home Affairs Select Committee. And then there is the roll call of shame of the detention centres in the UK – Yarl’s Wood – with serial reports of serial abuse – Harmondsworth, Colnbrook – with the suicides and deaths in detention. Not to forget Scotland’s only detention centre – Dungavel – where as a detainee visitor I witnessed the shame and misery of so many denied their freedom, including children.

Rod Bower, The Anglican Priest leading Gosford Parish Church, NSW – a site of much campaigning activity against the cruel and degrading conditions in immigration detention in Australia – has said of the Nauru files that “if the protecting of our borders requires the incarceration of bodies, the sexual abuse of children, the rape of women and the murder of men, then we are of all nations the most depraved.”

Hell exists. It is detention.

Read more about the Nauru files on the website of The National.

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The Languaging of Distress

The Senate Room, University of Glasgow

Tuesday 11th October 2016, 9.30am and 4.00pm

This knowledge exchange event aims to facilitate discussion between researchers, voluntary sector organizations and clinicians about the challenges and opportunities that exist in relation to supporting people who are experiencing distress in multilingual contexts.


  1. Discuss issues relevant for the languaging of distress in multilingual contexts e.g. disrupted trauma narratives, processes of translation, idioms of distress.
  2. Explore creative and innovative approaches for facilitating safety and trust in the languaging of distress in multilingual contexts.
  3. Provide networking opportunities.
  4. Elicit ideas about questions that could be addressed in future research.
  5. Help promote further the work of the ‘Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Language, the Body, Law and the State’ (P.I. Prof Alison Phipps)


  1. Ignite presentations – guest speakers will give brief presentations about the challenges and opportunities that exist around the languaging of distress.
  2. A ‘World Café’ platform – to share ideas and build collaboration between attendees.
  3. A panel discussion – aimed at synthesising key themes.

Speakers include: Prof Alison Phipps OBE (GRAMNet), Beverly Costa (Mothertongue), Norma McKinnon (Freedom from Torture), Dr Alison Strang (Queen Margaret University), Prof Claudia Angelelli (Heriot Watt University), Prof Rachel Tribe (University of East London)

Please register at Eventbrite.


This is a joint GRAMNet/ Researching Multilingually event

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Language which nourishes under pain and pressure

at Bristol Food Connections

By Jane Andrews


On 3rd May 2016 Jane Andrews, Alison Phipps and Tawona Sithole ran an event in the “Brain Food” strand of Bristol Food Connections Fringe Festival which involved a dialogue between Alison and Tawona under the heading “Language which nourishes under pain and pressure”.   The festival, in its 3rd year, took place over 9 days and hosted events across the city (see photos) ranging from foraging walks, the ’91 ways to build a global city festival’, a street food village, ‘cook and connect’ events bringing communities together and a performance-based public exhibition by artist Nessie Reid entitled ‘The Milking Parlour’ which brought two live cows into a central Bristol location. The full programme for the festival can be seen here.


Prior to our talk we took the opportunity to join the Bristol Drugs Project Indian Celebration lunch at Hamilton House which was also part of the festival. Over a delicious lunch we learned about the work of Bristol Drugs Project and enjoyed the food prepared by students from the project who had been part of collaborative venture between City of Bristol College and the Community Kitchen. It was a great way of experiencing the theory and practice of how food can bring us together and play a valuable role in our lives.

During our event we used a seminar room in a centrally located venue which is part of UWE to provide a dialogic presentation between Alison and Tawona which allowed poetry to mingle with food reminiscences and academic explorations of food, identities and languages in our changing world. The audience experienced Tawona’s poems and Alison’s stories which were supported by her hand-cooked shortbread biscuits, the recipe for which had been carefully passed on through Alison’s family. We finished the event with some collective activities led by Tawona which resulted in the generation of some shared food related words and phrases from our various languages on our “feedback tablecloth” – take a look at some extracts here:


The presentation drew on some of the ideas informing, and being generated by, the AHRC-funded research project entitled Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Language, the Law, the Body and the State. The project is led by Alison Phipps and the focus for the research is on how, in contexts of pain and pressure, language needs to be used with care but can also provide a source of nourishment. Tawona Sithole works on the project as a poet and playwright in the Creative Arts hub and Jane Andrews is a Co-Investigator working in the Researching Multilingually hub.

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