The field of legal translation: Organizational structures and forms of capital


The author conducts the analysis of the field of legal translation in contemporary Russia and focuses on translation agencies specializing in the languages of the peoples of the postSoviet states. The theoretical framework of the research is the sociological approach to the study of legal interpreters and Bourdieu’s theory including his analysis of the juridical field. Today some concepts of Bourdieu’s sociology can be found in the studies of the activities of legal interpreters, but his theory is still insufficiently applied. The main empirical method of the research is semistructured interviews with legal interpreters, heads of translation agencies, investigators and lawyers. The relational and dynamic perspective of Bourdieu’s theory allowed the author to analyze the formation and transformation of the boundaries of the professional group of legal interpreters as a result of competition between actors with different forms of capital. The article reveals the role of ethnic capital in the functioning of translation agencies. The author makes a conclusion that the recruitment of legal interpreters largely depends on the requirements of institutional actors of the juridical field; identifies factors affecting the working conditions of court interpreters - the rarity of their language, ability to establish reciprocal relationships with the head of a translation agency, and permanent working relationships with the law enforcement bodies personnel. The article proves the advantages of Bourdieu’s approach in the study of the translation agencies structure, and shows how the changes in interpreters’ habitus and formal position influence the development dynamics of translation agencies and the field of legal translation as a whole. The research results allow to make a conclusion that actors of the juridical field exert a decisive influence on positional struggle within the field of legal translation.

About the authors

E. V. Maslovskaya

Sociological Institute of FCTAS RAS

Author for correspondence.

доктор социологических наук, ведущий научный сотрудник сектора истории российской социологии, руководитель Центра социолого-правовых исследований

7th Krasnoarmeyskaya St., 25/14, Saint Petersburg, 190005, Russia


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