Intercultural and interlinguistical mediation in the healthcare system. The challenge of conflict management

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Nowadays, young women and their children are the most important migrant users of health-care services. In particular, these people may encounter different cultural constructions of health, disease, therapy, and motherhood. The observed difficulties in intercultural communication encourage healthcare systems to promote mediation. Mediation consists of the intervention of a third person, who promotes reciprocal understanding and acceptance between participants. The research presented in this article focuses on the intercultural communication that is produced in these services between health-care personnel and migrant patients. To achieve this goal, the research aims at integrating different theoretical and methodological approaches: conversation analysis, in order to observe the interaction between healthcare personnel and patients, pointing out the cues of the participants’ turn-taking sequences; analysis of the cultural presuppositions of the healthcare system as a communication system with a specific function in society, by highlighting contextualization cues, that is, cultural presuppositions that steer the interaction system, which result from the wider social context and are cues of the cultural identities that characterize it. It was observed that the patients in most cases have very few opportunities to answer the physicians’ questions or to pose questions or doubts. Substituting the patients as the main participants in interactions, the mediator never refuses the physicians’ indications, never expresses doubts, and never asks the patients if they have some reason to doubt or refuse. In these cases, interlinguistic and intercultural mediation de-emphasizes the importance of the larger social context, of the durability of relationships between the parties, and of their social and political recognition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-271
Number of pages20
JournalMigracijske i etničke teme
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • doctor-patient communication


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