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Text & Talk

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Language, Discourse & Communication Studies

Ed. by Sarangi, Srikant

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Volume 34, Issue 1


“Winning a battle, but losing the war”: contested identities, narratives, and interaction in asylum interviews

Bjørghild Kjelsvik
Published Online: 2014-01-03 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/text-2013-0039


Drawing on how divergent discourse frames can lead to contests of how and what to tell in institutional autobiographical narration, this article presents data from a Norwegian asylum interview. Institutional interviewing is basically an information-sharing endeavor; the interviewer aims to get information on the situation of the interviewee in order to establish how to deal with his or her case, framing the discourse as truthful, in contrast to other discourses of innocence and morality. The outcome depends very much on the interviewee's ability and willingness to share relevant information on his or her case. The interactional dynamics of the interviews must be considered in order to achieve an understanding of what identities are constructed by the participants. Intertextuality plays an important role in the analysis. In the interplay between elicited accounts and interactional processes, meanings and identities are negotiated and resisted in narrative discourse as part of the encounter between the interviewing officer, the interpreter, and the asylum applicant, within the social practice of asylum procedures. Finally, the need for further in-depth analyses of such interviews is pointed out.

Keywords: Narrative analysis; identity negotiation; narrative accounts; intertextuality; asylum interviews

About the article

Bjørghild Kjelsvik

Bjørghild Kjelsvik holds a PhD in linguistics on communities of practice and learning interaction in Cameroon (2008, University of Oslo). She had a postdoctoral fellowship in a project investigating identity in migrant narratives in 2009–2012. Her research interests include: oral narrative analysis, genres, intertexuality, discourse analysis, and cognitive linguistics. Current occupation is revising a Norwegian dictionary. Address for correspondence: Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies, B.P. 1102 Blindern, 0317 Oslo, Norway 〈 〉.

Department of Linguistic and Scandinavian Studies, University of Oslo, Norway

Published Online: 2014-01-03

Published in Print: 2014-01-01

Citation Information: Text & Talk, Volume 34, Issue 1, Pages 89–115, ISSN (Online) 1860-7349, ISSN (Print) 1860-7330, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/text-2013-0039.

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