PhD student and member of the Researching Multilingually at Borders team Judith Reynolds, Durham University, presented a paper at the British Association for Applied Linguistics 2017 Annual Conference at Leeds University in September 2017. This paper won the Richard Pemberton Prize for the best postgraduate paper! Read the confirmatory announcement here.
The paper is entitled “Relational work and managing difficult messages in giving refugee legal advice”. The abstract of the paper is as follows:
This paper presents data from a linguistic ethnographic study of legal advice giving to refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. In it I discuss relational work, and how linguistic and cultural resources are variously drawn upon in the building of a relationship of trust between lawyer and client. Establishing this relationship is of central importance for effective advice-giving and -receiving in the communicative context of refugee and asylum law, within which the client is likely to have been treated with mistrust and disbelief in his or her previous interactions with the law and institutional representatives.
The data were collected in a not-for-profit legal advice service in one of England’s major cities during 2016. They comprise a corpus of audio recordings and observational notes of advice meetings between one immigration lawyer and a range of clients, and fieldwork notes created as part of ethnographic observation work. In the interactional data, relational work featured as one of a number of tools used by the lawyer to communicate effectively with her clients, who come from a range of linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
These data can be seen as an example of face work (Brown and Levinson, 1987) operating in an intercultural, and sometimes multilingual, environment. In the paper I draw on Spencer-Oatey’s (2008) rapport management framework to discuss aspects of relational work and face work in this context, including how shared contexts are brought into the interaction to express understanding or foreground shared identities, how empathic work and the expression of emotion function in these interactions, and the affordances and constraints of doing such work with and through interpreters.