Negotiating legitimacy in American Sign Language interpreting education: Uneasy belonging in a community of practice

Michele Friedner


This article ethnographically explores how American Sign Language-English interpreting students negotiate and foreground different kinds of relationships to claim legitimacy in relation to deaf people and the deaf community. As the field of interpreting is undergoing shifts from community interpreting to professionalization, interpreting students endeavor to legitimize their involvement in the field. Students create distinction between themselves and other students through relational work that involves positive and negative interpretation of kinship terms. In analyzing interpreting students' gate-keeping practices, this article explores the categories and definitions used by interpreting students and argues that there is category trouble that occurs. Identity and kinship categories are not nuanced or critically interrogated, resulting in deaf people and interpreters being represented in static ways.


American Sign Language; interpreting; communities of practice; kinship; professionalization

Full Text:



Copyright (c) 2018 Michele Friedner

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Volume 1 through Volume 20, no. 3 of Disability Studies Quarterly is archived on the Knowledge Bank site; Volume 20, no. 4 through the present can be found on this site under Archives.

Beginning with Volume 36, Issue No. 4 (2016), Disability Studies Quarterly is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license unless otherwise indicated. 

Disability Studies Quarterly is published by The Ohio State University Libraries in partnership with the Society for Disability Studies.

If you encounter problems with the site or have comments to offer, including any access difficulty due to incompatibility with adaptive technology, please contact

ISSN: 2159-8371 (Online); 1041-5718 (Print)