Does interpreting 'steal' conflict? A translational perspective on power and restorative justice


  • Sarah Maitland University of London


restorative justice, hermeneutics, interpreting, interpreter-mediated communication


'Restorative justice' enables the victims of crime to meet with those responsible and to talk about what happened. It is an opportunity for victims to find ways to move on and for offenders to understand the effects of their actions. In the restorative justice literature, it is often assumed that those involved in the restorative process share the same language and ability to understand and communicate. But what happens when communication between an offender and a victim must be mediated through an interpreter? This article considers from a theoretical perspective how the vehicles of restoration – interaction, participation and encounter – and their role in creating empathy between the parties to a crime may be affected when realized in a bi- or multilingual setting. By taking a translational view, that is, by conceptualizing the restorative encounter as a hermeneutic process in which all acts of communication result in understandings that are both provisional and contingent, this article brings the founding theories of restorative justice into critical conversation with theories of language and translation to examine the philosophical implications of interpreting for the restorative justice paradigm in general and the practical dimensions of interpreter-mediated restorative justice interventions in particular.