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On the front line: the role of interpreters in protracted conflicts

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Published in Politics of translation: representations and power. Seventh Annual International Translation Conference. Doha (Qatar) - 28-29 mars - . 2016
Abstract Language brokering in conflict zones is an activity that has been performed since antiquity due to the pervasiveness of conflict in human history. Although interpreting was recognised as a profession in the 20th century, interpreting in conflict scenarios has continued to be to a large extent a non-regulated occupation mainly carried out by ad-hoc interpreters who have not undergone any formal training. In some conflicts, however, interpreters working for international organisations have been present. This group of interpreters has presumably possessed adequate professional skills and experience that are much-needed for the parties hiring them. The literature on interpreting in conflict is limited in comparison to other spheres of interpreting, in spite of the increasing awareness and interest on this topic, and recorded evidence about the role of interpreters is scarce and seldom chronicled. Few studies have dealt to date with the specific role of interpreters in recent conflicts, and practically none of them have aimed to describe the role of the interpreter working on the ground for international organisations in protracted conflicts. The war in Bosnia is one example of a protracted conflict involving interpreters working for international organisations. The author drew on primary sources —direct testimonies— in order to explore the role of interpreters in this conflict. To this end, a survey targeted at interpreters who worked in the Bosnian war in the framework of an international organisation was conducted in order to shed light on the characteristics that define their profile and status, occupation, role that they have played in the different stages of the conflict (preparatory process, warfare or war operations as such, post-war scenarios), training, working practices and procedures, attempts at neutrality and ideology. Responses to the survey shed light on a number of important issues, including training backgrounds, potential challenges, modalities practiced and requirements —which are different from other settings—, and the relationship between the role of the interpreter and the stage of the conflict. The findings also highlight certain shortcomings related to the definition of the activities performed, the existence of specific training programmes, the role of the interpreter, the protection received, or the protocol of behaviour or action. The presenter would discuss these findings in detail and argue their relevance for understanding interpreting in areas of protracted conflict.
Keywords InterpretingWarBosniaWorking conditionsTraining
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RUIZ ROSENDO, Lucia. On the front line: the role of interpreters in protracted conflicts. In: Politics of translation: representations and power. Seventh Annual International Translation Conference. Doha (Qatar). 2016. https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:92261

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Deposited on : 2017-03-01

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