Mediating identities: Sign language interpreter perceptions on representation and trust

Jemina Napier, Robert Skinner, Alys Young, Rosemary Oram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Deaf people’s lives are frequently predicated on working with interpreters. Identity becomes known and performed through the translated self in many interactions with hearing, non-signing people. Taking an interdisciplinary approach in combining Interpreting Studies, Deaf Studies, Applied Linguistics and Social Research, the ‘Translating the Deaf Self’ project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK), sought to explore the experience of deaf people and other stakeholders of the lived experience of being translated. Drawing on discourses of identity, representation and trust, this paper gives an overview of the findings from 2 focus groups with sign language interpreters (n=7) on their perspectives of the experiences of deaf signers being ‘known’ through interpreting. Social constructionism underpinned our approach to data analysis and the dominant theme of ‘trust’ was examined with reference to Sin and Jones’ (2013) trustworthiness framework. In particular, we focus on the issue of trust in relation to representation, relationships, ability and boundaries. The main findings demonstrate that sign language interpreters are acutely aware of the responsibility they have to represent deaf signers, especially at work, and thus represent their professional-and-deaf identities, and the important role of trust for deaf professionals to feel represented through interpreters.
Original languageEnglish
Article number14:1
Pages (from-to)75-95
JournalJournal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2020


  • sign language interpreters
  • deaf signers
  • trust
  • representation
  • mediation


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