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Abstract

This article presents the findings of a study conducted with Deaf and hearing American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters from Canada and the United States who interpret legal discourse and legal interactions. This qualitative research study was designed to explore constructs of power and power dynamics that emerge in interpreted interactions. Sixteen interpreters, with at least fifteen years of experience in legal interpreting participated in an on-line survey; nine also participated in focus groups. This study found intersections among power and privilege, interpreters' sense of agency, their conceptualization of the task of interpreting, and their training. Participants reported situations where the power dynamics between Deaf and hearing interpreting teams did not support effective interpretation and ultimately had a negative impact on the interaction. How interpreters conceptualize the task of interpreting appears to be a key factor in producing successful interpreted interactions where power is mediated via interpretation. Participants offered examples of how conceptualization of the task of interpreting by various participants in an interpreted interaction (e.g. self, team partner, consumers) impacts their decision-making in several ways: qualification for an assignment; how they function as a Deaf-hearing team; and, what strategies they use to create meaning-based interpretation. This study highlights that the interpreter's own awareness of power and privilege is a crucial pre-requisite to support active decision-making that facilitates effective interpretation.This study has implications for interpreter educators and interpreters, and while the focus is on interpreting in legal settings, results are applicable across settings.

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