‘Talking to the police about rhubarb’: Interpersonal, metalinguistic and multimodal meaning making in legal advice to asylum seekers
In the 12-month period ending August 2016, 36,465 people applied for asylum in the UK (Refugee Council 2016). For those seeking asylum from a location within the UK the application process is accompanied by a period of waiting which can often extend for many years when such activities as paid work are prohibited. If those seeking asylum, and in this liminal state, can demonstrate that they are destitute, they can receive a small amount of financial support from the UK Government. This paper examines exchanges in and around a legal advice drop-in where those seeking this financial support are offered advice and information on their claims for financial support.
Drawing on linguistic ethnographic and discourse analytic approaches to data collection and analysis, the paper examines ways that meaning is made in the face of differences in background, social role and even language between advisers and clients.
The paper illustrates how meaning making is accomplished through interpersonal work on the theme of life in the city (Wise and Noble 2016; Blackledge, Creese and Hu 2015), metalinguistic talk about language and language practices (Levine 2009; Merrills 2009) and multimodal meaning making such as the use of drawing (Ormerond and Ivanič 2002) and mobile phone technologies (Jacquemet forthcoming). This examination provides insights into how legal advice is accomplished in the contemporary, superdiverse city and how language practices scaffold social relationships in times of extreme personal hardship.