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Power and Privilege – Heather Mole

9th March 2019


Power & Privilege – Saturday 9th March 2019 – 9.30 – 4.30pm – Farnborough Deaf Club

£90 discount for ASLI members – contact colette@phippard.co.uk for code.

As hearing people in a hearing world, speaking the language of the dominant culture, we can appear as oppressors to the deaf people we meet in our work. How does this make us feel, when one of the reasons we became interpreters was to provide equality of access to everyone?

Conversely, sometimes in an assignment we see subtle forms of discrimination taking place, we recognise ignorance in the hearing people we work with and we are motivated to enlighten them, or rebalance the power imbalance that we are witnessing.

But when is that appropriate? How do we evaluate when it’s a priority to make cultural adjustments, either way? Are we hindered by longstanding metaphors of interpreters as conduits?

In this interactive workshop you will be invited to engage in thinking deeply about your identity, your power and your privilege. We will look together at how who we are impacts the decisions we make. We will look at the work of Paulo Freire, an activist and teacher who worked with people from oppressed minorities, in order that we can see more clearly how our society and upbringing have shaped our thinking.

We will learn some tools for thinking critically about our work, for thinking about when and why we might value social justice in one setting above a faithful interpretation in another setting. We will discuss SLI case studies to broaden our understanding of this topic.

An interpreting scholar, Sebnem Bahadir, writes about the need for all interpreters to be clear in themselves about their positioning, by which she means: who they are, what they bring to an assignment and their own capacity to influence what is occurring. She writes this,

Open and courageous positioning is vital because interpreters mostly suffer from burnout or ‘helper syndrome’ when they do not reflect critically and honestly on their involvement as ‘participant observers’ with human(e) qualities in these contexts. (Bahadir 2010, p.128)

This potential for burnout is a real factor for interpreters who regularly face assignments where they feel effaced, or deny their own influence and agency. In this workshop, you’ll have an opportunity to wrestle with your agency and power and you’ll be given new ways of thinking about these ideas to take back to your work.

Bahadır, Ş. (2010), “The task of the interpreter in the struggle of the other for empowerment: Mythical utopia or sine qua non of professionalism?”, Translation and Interpreting Studies, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 124–139


Heather Mole

Heather trained as a SLI at Bristol University and graduated in 2002, after which she worked in Edinburgh and Bristol interpreting. She then emigrated to Canada and changed her career path to advising disabled students. During this time she studied for an MA in Disability Studies with Leeds University and became interested in issues of power and privilege which she pursued during her time in Montreal. On her return to the UK 8 years later, she began a PhD at Heriot-Watt University where she completed a thesis entitled ‘Narratives of Power: Critical Reflections on Signed Language Interpreting’ in which she analysed reflections on power dynamics of ten SLIs. She is now consulting on issues linked to disability, deafness and BSL.



9th March 2019


Mid-South Coast


Farnborough Deaf Club
Meudon Avenue
Farnborough, GU14 7LE United Kingdom
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