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This article explores the link between asylum seekers’ verbal performances and their transidiomatic entextualization by documenting the procedure through which asylum seekers’ claims are examined by judicial authorities and translated into a public record. Every year thousands of displaced people seek the protection of various European states by filing political asylum claims which are examined by national commissions. In their depositions, asylum seekers are interviewed by immigration o‰cials for approximately an hour. After this interview they are presented with a judgment: a short text that summarizes their story and spells out the commission’s decision on the case. The claim of this article is that these commissions are structurally unaware of the need to address the transidiomatic nature of the hearing. In this light, the entextualization of the asylum seeker’s verbal performance becomes much more than the process of rendering a single instance of talk into text, detachable from its local context; rather, it reveals how public o‰cials, faced with the intrinsic alterity of the asylum seekers, rely on commonsensical, but at times inappropriate, knowledge of social, cultural, and linguistic values to construct, process, and eventually determine the validity of each claim. As a result, this procedure is fraught with unexamined assumptions about language, national identity, and communicative competence, leading to egregious violations of the asylum seekers’ human rights.


This article was published by De Gruyter, and is available at: