Jan 18, 2012

Applying Anthropological Methodologies to Protect the Rights of Immigrants


A lecturer at the Comenius University in Bratislava and a researcher at the Human Rights League, Bratislava, Helena Tužinská has recently published English translations of reports based on anthropological observations of communication between immigrants and lawyers.

Tužinská received a Sylff fellowship in 1998 (as an MA student) and 2000 (as a PhD candidate) while attending Comenius University in Bratislava. “Both of the scholarships in an international academic environment gave me a solid opportunity to address the relevant issues,” Tužinská notes, “which became a base for further investigation.”

The first publication, Questions of Description and Translation: Using Data from Anthropology and Ethnology in the Conduct and Interpretation of Interviews with Immigrants, is written for all who come into contact with immigrants and seek to understand them.

The information is particularly useful for state administrators, members of the police, interpreters, judges, legal representatives, and workers from the nongovernmental sector. The book contains guidelines for conducting interviews, the mechanisms of human memory, and the specifics of interpreting and intercultural communication.

“The motivation to write the book,” Tužinská notes, “came from the experience of observing how various cultural, social, and institutional backgrounds of the participants intersect.”

The second report, Communication with Foreigners: Legal Implications of Interpreting. A Comparison of Practices in the V4 Countries (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia) and the Ukraine, is based on national reports.

Both the national and comparative reports are available in English; the latter also being translated into Polish, Ukrainian, Czech, Hungarian, and Slovak:

The study addresses fundamental problems and illegitimate practices that repeatedly occur during interpretation. It proposes systemic measures that could substantially help prevent undesirable situations, setting out conditions that will make communication easier for the benefit of all participants.

“The aim was to raise awareness of the crucial influence of interpreting on legal proceedings involving foreigners,” comments Tužinská. The study asks whether existing legal norms in Central European countries and their application “sufficiently guarantee respect for the fundamental rights of foreigners, focusing on the issue of proper and lawful interpreting during the proceedings and addressing other risks to which foreigners are exposed due to persistent inadequacies in the observers.”