discourses in tension?

I had a great day working today. My teammate was (is!) awesome. ­čÖé We had the best conversation at lunch, about her workshop on discretion (which gets as much of a plug as I can give it), and a quasi-update on where I am with the research on role.
Our conversation was fascinating because it was going along just fine, full of investigatory questions and comments, and then it got tense! Why? It was right before we had to get back to work…..and then didn’t come up again….but was really on my mind. Why? Was I presenting my hypotheses and tentative findings in an ethnocentric or oppressive way? It worked out that we walked to our cars together, and the moment arose for me to ask if she’d felt the conversation get tense. (Maybe it was just me?) Yes, she had noticed! And she thought it was about something she was doing! Being too questioning or too …. something (I can’t recall her word – persistent, maybe).


Fascinating! We both sensed the tension, and both of us thought we were the cause of it! I thought I must be doing something “wrong,” and she thought she must have been doing something “wrong”!
Hmmm. That really got me thinking. I have a partial/quasi/VERY tentative hypothesis – that it wasn’t about “us” as individual persons at all (although we don’t know each other well even though we’ve known OF each other ever since I moved to VT….twelve years ago) – but rather, about the discourses each of us was invoking/enacting. Really, I am just plumb guessing, but as we “de-briefed” the tension, what seemed to be the point of most affect was (what I can only describe as) a “contest” between the current/contemporary most “fashionable” discourse about the interpreter’s “role(s)” (term used advisedly) and responsibilities, and a …. oy, how to characterize this ….
A “new” discourse that seeks to question some of the hitherto unquestioned assumptions about the interpreter’s role. Such as whether or not the reproduction of a “monocultural” environment for Deaf interlocutors is really “the best” or most ideal Vision for what we ought to produce.
AND – this is the key (I think!), it didn’t seem to be the whole discourse or even the specific question itself (might a bicultural model of/for interpreting be a more appropriate and/or effective model than the monocultural one?) but the fact that there’s no answer for what this “alternative” might look and feel like!
I think what this means (based on my huge sample of one, grin) is that it is the unknown itself that is scary (and not the notion that maybe the current “ally/cultural mediator” model isn’t the full or ultimate answer).
Gosh. I’d LOVE it if my team would like to respond (!) and of course if anyone else wants to chime in…..

3 thoughts on “discourses in tension?”

  1. Standard disclaimer: I don’t believe in perpetuating myths simply because he have been told they are the best way to work.
    That said, I don’t interpret in a way–usually– that tries to replicate monolingual conversation. It simply doesn’t allow for the great range and flexibility that the interpreting relationship brings.
    Danielle-Claude Belanger’s opus in the current JoI is a fantastic start to explaining this interpretive dance. It will be interesting to follow herr career; she’s onto something, by crackey!
    Ben Karlin
    St Louis MO where we are getting freezing rain

  2. i might need more time to digest this..but will do my part as team player..
    this,as you said it, is 2-3 part question..
    but im not sure that it is tentative….ah fluid, yes..
    empathy is like art???
    yes the bicultural model is more effective cuz consumers continue to seek out interpreters or allies who are “enlightened”
    but the problem is the referral agencies (or ^&*%$#) because they dont allow the market to dictate…we will return to this in a minute..
    as my mother used to say, “its how you relate to people”..but you and i know better..life comes with variables..everybody brings “pretexts” whether conscious or not..
    not a good example here but sufficient to say victims of domestic abuse or other abuse come with “pretexts”..including those where abuse (or out of life experiences,what have you,) had been minimal..
    personally i do not favor the monocultural model cuz it contradicts with maslow’s law and other laws of nature..
    actually this brings us back to the “infrastructure
    issue” which we had discussed for few times now..
    as we know now by looking at united nations meetings, its not possible to develop or adhere to “ground rules”
    but we can commend them for their earnest attempts to revamp the infrastructure
    (and i dont want to give bush too much credit in iraq)
    i know for a fact that several interpreters in new england chose to reside near the Massachusetts state line so that they can accept assignments in that state when called upon..
    god helps those who help themselves…smile
    this is an example of economic infrastructure that is not aligned with the education infrastructure of the deaf community.
    personally i think more “win-win situations ” can be created which will boost the education infrastructure and group dynamics.
    i do think that the education infrastructure within the deaf community need to be re-examined..
    do we have an interpreter/ally at high levels within us dept of special educ?? no???? you r kidding?
    its true that as humans, we are afraid of what we dont know…
    in your search for models, i wonder if its worth a look at some arbitration models…

  3. Your conversation with your teammate reminds me of the time you were interpreting and I, as the hearing consumer, had to stop the therapeutic process to talk about the interpreting process. Again there was tension involved in the process. The Deaf consumer was highly agitated in my opinion, and I as a hearing person with little understanding of Deaf Culture at the time could not discern the nuanced level of communication I needed.
    My inexperience with Deaf culture put me at great risk of drawing conclusions which might or might not have been accurate. We were therefore forced to have a conversation about the role of the interpreter in the midst of the counseling session. In certain interpreting situations, I do not know how a monoculture is feasible (unless I am misunderstanding the question?) when interpretors have a responsiblity to have the Deaf culture understood by the hearing.
    My index finger is pinging against my thumb snd my head shaking side to side.
    Hope this is helpful to someone.

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