This chapter addresses the various parameters that affect individual and collective selfperception as a profession(al). It is suggested that whereas the professional role, and identity, of the conference interpreter is reasonably straightforward, the identity of interpreters working in the medical, legal and other more generally ‘community’ related settings,1 is far more complex and has been an obstacle to the creation of a cohesive and well-defined professional (sub)community (see also Setton and Liangliang 2009). Furthermore, professions and professional identity, like all social practices and systems, are

situated in their wider social, political and cultural contexts and are constituted by many, sometimes conflicting, variables. Consequently, professional identity varies across cultures and countries, governed by changing state policies; this is less apparent for conference interpreting, which is affected more by internal market variables such as the use of lingua francas (currently English in the ‘typical’ conference settings) that reduce the need for interpretation and the promotion of multilingual policies in international organizations. The impact of local and federal policy (especially immigration policies) is much more immediate for the sub-disciplines of community and legal interpreting (see Chapters 12 and 14 on court and community interpreting). Differences in macro-structural features affect the community’s and the stakeholders’ view of the interpreting profession (collective professional identity) and subsequently interpreters’ self-perception and, ultimately, performance. This chapter questions whether the interpreting profession should be seen as a fragmented group of bodies, each acting according to its own national parameters (set by stakeholders and national policies and politics), or rather as a pan-national body that transcends such differences and acts as an autonomous, independent professional community with an autonomous set of standards, practices and objectives – if that is indeed possible. International conference interpreting associations such as the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) are indeed in a position to fulfil this pan-national function, but again this is less feasible with the arguably more fragmented and nationally variegated sub-disciplines of community and legal interpreting (see e.g. Pruncˇ 2010 for a discussion on the difference in professional status between various prestigious and non-prestige sub-sectors of interpreting, namely conference interpreting and community interpreting).