Mediating identities

Sign language interpreter perceptions on trust and representation


  • Jemina Napier Heriot-Watt University
  • Robert Skinner Heriot-Watt University
  • Alys Young University of Manchester
  • Rosemary Oram University of Manchester



deaf signers, mediation, professional identity, representation, sign language interpreters, trust


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 two 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 a framework for trustworthiness developed by Alan Jones and Samantha Sin. 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.     Open Access Attribution: CC BY

Author Biographies

Jemina Napier, Heriot-Watt University

Professor & Chair of Intercultural Communication Department of Languages & Intercultural Studies

Robert Skinner, Heriot-Watt University

Robert Skinner is a Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities (SGSAH) funded PhD student in the Centre for Translation & Interpreting Studies in Scotland (CTISS) at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. He is a qualified British Sign Language interpreter and is a Fellow of the Association of Sign Language Interpreters UK. He has worked as a research assistant with CTISS on several different projects.

Alys Young, University of Manchester

Alys Young is Professor of Social Work Education and Research within the School of Health Sciences at the University of Manchester (where she is also the director of the Social Research with Deaf People programme) and Visiting Professor at the Centre for Deaf Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS).

Rosemary Oram, University of Manchester

Rosemary Oram is an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded PhD student in the Social Research with Deaf People (SORD) programme in the Division of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work at the University of Manchester. She is a deaf qualified social worker and has worked as a research assistant with the SORD programme on several different projects.


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How to Cite

Napier, J., Skinner, R., Young, A., & Oram, R. (2020). Mediating identities: Sign language interpreter perceptions on trust and representation. Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice, 14(1), 75–95.