How should a refugee sound? Credibility and the politics of listenership

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Speaker: Jeremy Rud, PhD Candidate in Linguistics (UC Davis)


Jeremy Rud is a PhD student in the Department of Linguistics at UC Davis. A sociocultural linguist, his research focuses on the role of language in the asylum process and addresses issues of asylum seeker credibility at intersections of public policy, narrative performance, and implicit bias.


In this study, I examine the role that intelligibility and perceived origin of accented Englishes, as well as perceived emotional affect, play in listeners’ judgements of the credibility of asylum seekers’ narratives. By eliciting 25 listeners’ aural credibility evaluations of five asylum seeker narratives performed in various accented Englishes, and by both actors and “authentic” refugees, I disentangle the relationship of racial bias and performance. Ultimately, I analyze the constellation of social and perceptual cues by which listeners attribute credibility and authenticity to asylum narratives, of vital importance for asylum seekers, whose lives often depend on their linguistic performance in asylum adjudications.

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