Mistranslating Vulnerability: A Defense for Hearing

In: Tilburg Law Review
Nayeli Urquiza-Haas

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Immigration case-workers in the uk hear endless stories about flight and persecution by people claiming asylum. However, asylum claims are fragile due to the logocentric foreclosures to the acoustic registers in asylum testimonies. In view of the fragility of refugee narratives of flight, legal safeguards aim to create the right conditions for interviewees’ testimonies. Yet, this article suggests refugee status determination processes sideline the sound of vulnerability by falsely interpreting testimonies that appear to be incomprehensible as untrue or as exceptional accounts of vulnerability. But silenced or fragmented testimonies are not necessarily untrue or devoid of meaning; their meaning is tied to the marginalization of phone in the logocentric logic in law. Instead of accepting the voices of asylum-seekers as aphonic, this article heeds the call to hear the acoustic uniqueness of testimonies, drawing on Adriana Cavarero’s vocal philosophy.

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