Accepted Paper:

Conflicting linguistic demands in the asylum determination procedure  


Katrijn Maryns (Ghent University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will consider some of the implications of the very high and and even conflicting linguistic demands set by asylum authorities for the construction and evaluation of asylum identities in the asylum determination process.

Paper long abstract:

In response to the current refugee 'crisis', significant efforts are being made at EU level to manage its asylum and migration systems more efficiently. Still, when it comes to the determination of refugee status, it is worrying how little attention is paid to the role of language in what are essentially discourse-based procedures, where spoken and written discourse form the main input for the representation and the assessment of asylum cases (Barsky, 1994; Pöllabauer 2004, Inghilleri 2005; Maryns 2006, Tipton 2008; Blommaert 2010). This paper aims to explore two areas of tension in the discursive management of asylum cases: (a) the tension between the often very rigorous conditions for submission, representation and assessment of asylum applications on the one hand and the unreasonable linguistic demands set by the asylum authorities on the other; and (b) the unclear and to some extent even conflicting roles attributed to language, either as a meaning-making tool (for the representation of the asylum seeker's account) or as a verification tool (for the evaluation of the veracity of the asylum seeker's account). Drawing on linguistic-ethnographic data from the Belgian asylum context, this paper will consider some of the implications of these conflicting linguistic demands for the construction and evaluation of asylum identities.

Panel RM-LL06
Speakers on the move: displacement, surveillance and engagement [IUAES Commission of Linguistic Anthropology]