Lawyering between counselling and adjudication: a sociolinguistic ethnography of legal assistance in the Belgian asylum procedure

01 October 2022 → 30 September 2025
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Discourse analysis
    • Pragmatics
    • Sociolinguistics
    • Translation and interpretation sciences
  • Social sciences
    • Linguistic anthropology
sociolinguistic ethnography co-construction of narratives asylum procedure
Project description

The asylum procedure is a complex, politicized and sensitive process. It has also been described as essentially ‘discourse-based’, as the decision of whether someone is granted asylum is determined by the performance of oral narratives during asylum interviews and their textual (re)production in reports and decisions. This is the front stage or ‘adjudication’ side of the procedure. On the backstage or ‘legal counselling’ side of the procedure, involving the assistance of immigration lawyers to asylum seekers, a similar pivotal role is attributed to narratives. This study aims to investigate how the refugee identity is discursively co-constructed at the intersection of counselling and adjudication in the Belgian asylum procedure. Given the crucial, yet understudied position of lawyers throughout the procedure, the study departs from their perspective to analyse the circulation of discourse across frontstage and backstage asylum encounters. Adopting a sociolinguistic-ethnographic approach, it will examine a) the position of the lawyer on the crossroads between structure (the legal framework) and agency (opportunities to advocate), b) the interactional management of linguistic diversity and c) the impact of meta-communicative work in relation to the frame conditions of front- and backstage interaction. In addition to advancing our insights into the (meta)discursive positioning of the lawyer, the study aims to reduce stakeholders’ linguistic vulnerabilities across the procedure.