Chapter in:Translating Asymmetry – Rewriting Power
Edited by Ovidi Carbonell i Cortés and Esther Monzó-Nebot
[Benjamins Translation Library 157] 2021
Child language brokering in Swedish welfare institutions
A matter of structural complicity?
This chapter investigates the asymmetries associated to child language brokering in Swedish welfare institutions. Group interviews with (a) people who have experiences of language brokering as children and (b) public service professionals who have used children as brokers in encounters with non-Swedish speaking service users are analyzed. Results show that both groups consider that resorting to child language brokering is wrong but at the same time they reproduce this social practice and see benefits in it. This ambiguity leads interviewees to lay responsibility on several levels: the parents who place unreasonable demands on their children; the public service professionals who allow children to take on responsibility in precarious situations, and society at large that may be accomplice to structural discrimination of non-Swedish speaking service users. The responsibilities identified by interviewees in their narratives are critically discussed in relation to the concept of “structural complicity” showing how power relations and social structures create situations where individuals act with complicity even when they do something that they consider to be a good solution for an imperative problem and for which they do not see any alternatives.
Keywords: child language brokering, health and medical care, interpreting, public service, public service professionals, social services, social work, structural complicity, structural discrimination, Swedish welfare institutions
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