There are very few interpreters of colour currently engaged in interpreting academia, as well as a lack of research into the experiences of interpreters of colour. More widely, signed language interpreting and translation studies has traditionally focused on the deaf/hearing dichotomy, illustrated by traditional models of interpreting that present a binary ‘bilingual, bicultural’ cline. There is huge potential for signed language interpreting studies to consider the impact of ‘third cultures’ in interpreter mediated interactions, and to explore how power dynamics are affected by the presence of an interpreter from an ethnic minority background.
Democratising the research agenda
Perhaps due to the lack of ethnic minority representation in academia, the research agenda often overlooks these issues, which we believe to be fundamental to our understanding of interpreting practice. We are campaigning for the democratisation of the research agenda so that research into signed language interpreting studies is responsive to the reality of the multicultural society we live in.
Decolonising interpreter education
We are also campaigning for the decolonisation of interpreter education – another area where there is a lack of interpreters of colour. Interpreter education and training courses rarely consider the growing diversity of people training as interpreters, and rarely teaches trainee interpreters about issues concerning race and ethnicity. This has proven to be detrimental to the deaf community, which is considerably more ethnically diverse compared to the sign language interpreter population. Deaf people from ethnic minority backgrounds are left facing double discrimination based on their disability and ethnic origin, with an interpreting population generally lacking in cultural capital.
Engaging in and contributing to research
We are keen to work with interpreting academics and interpreter trainers to push forward positive change in the signed language interpreting and translation profession that better recognises the diverse communities we work with.
We are particularly keen to hear from researchers and interpreting scholars interested in exploring issues around race, ethnicity, ‘third culture brokering’, decolonisation of the interpreting curriculum, and ethnographic and deconstructionist approaches to research.
We also encourage our own members to engage with and conduct their own research in this area.