On the co-production of accountability. Rohingya asylum cases in the UK
Judith Beyer (University of Konstanz)
Paper short abstract:
Building on ethnomethodology's theory of accountability (Garfinkel 1967), this paper focuses on asylum cases of stateless Rohingya in the UK. In screening interviews, Rohingya are asked to 'give an account' of themselves. In complying, they help to reproduce the validity of the state's own account
Paper long abstract:
In ethnomethodology (e.g. Garfinkel 1967), 'accounting practices' are understood as ongoing accomplishments of sense-making in everyday situations that usually do not receive our focused attention, like 'waiting in line'. The orderliness of such practices is often only revealed once a breach occurs, here 'cutting the line'. Ex post facto, a rule on how 'waiting' is 'usually' being done will be applied. Thus understood, accountability is a reflexive technique by means of which actors realize and lay claim to their actions. In order to be recognizable, accountability "depends on the mastery of ethno-methods" (Giddens 1979: 57; 83). If, as Garfinkel put it, "[a]ny setting organizes its activities to make its properties as an organized environment of practical activities detectable, countable, recordable, repeatable, tell-a-story-aboutable, analysable - in short, accountable" (1967, 33; italics in original), then so-called 'screening interviews' in asylum cases of stateless Rohingya are a challenge to this principle as they are defined by non-knowledge about the other. When UK border agents and Rohingya meet, their 'membership', which forms the basis of all co-production of action and sense-making in ethnomethodology, needs to be established ad hoc in the interview situation. Those 'first contact' encounters and the subsequent journey of a Rohingya asylum seeker's file through the court system reveal how accountability is constantly being produced through interaction and how, as an important by-product of this production process, not only 'cases' are decided but the validity of the state's own account is rendered plausible as well.
Investigating accountability: practices and performances [LAW NET]