Conference Keynote Presenters

Dr. Annelies Kusters

Deaf Studies as a Transformed and Transformational Field: inspirations across disciplines and nations

Dr. Annelies Kusters is Assistant Professor in Sign Language and Intercultural Research at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, since April 2017. She currently leads a large research project called “Deaf mobilities across international borders: Visualising intersectionality and translanguaging”, funded by the European Research Council (2017-2022) ( 

Dr. Kusters has an undergraduate degree in Philosophy and Master’s degrees in Social and Cultural Anthropology (KULeuven in Belgium) and in Deaf Studies (University of Bristol). She obtained her PhD in 2012 at the University of Bristol. Between 2013 and 2017 she worked as postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Department of Socio-Cultural Diversity, in Göttingen, Germany.

Dr. Kusters’ current work is situated at the intersection of social and cultural anthropology, social and cultural geography and applied linguistics. She is interested in particular in the study of deaf space, transnationalism, mobilities, multilingual multimodal language practices, language ideologies and ethnographic research methods. Since 2004, Annelies has engaged in ethnographic research in South-America, Asia and Africa, such as deaf spaces in a school, boarding house and club of deaf people in Paramaribo city (Surinam); deaf spaces in compartments for people with disabilities in the Mumbai trains; deaf-hearing gesture-based customer interactions in Mumbai, and deaf spaces and deaf-hearing interactions in Adamorobe, a Ghanaian village where hereditary deafness occurs. She currently studies language ideologies and language practices related to International Sign.

Dr. Kusters has authored a monograph (Deaf Space in Adamorobe), co-edited three edited volumes (Innovations in Deaf Studies: The Role of Deaf Scholars; It’s a Small World: International Deaf Spaces and Encounters, and the forthcoming book Sign Language Ideologies in Practice), is lead editor of two special issues in journals, and has publications in journals including Cultural Geography, Social and Cultural Geography, Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Sustainability, Social Semiotics, International Journal of Multilingualism, Language in Society, Language and Communication, Applied Linguistics Review, Sign Language Studies, and a range of book chapters in various books.

In 2016 Dr. Kusters received the Jean Rouch Award (2016) from the Society for Visual Anthropology for her ethnographic film Ishaare: Gestures and signs in Mumbai ( and in 2015 she received the Ton Vallen Award for her written work on sociolinguistic issues in Adamorobe.

Dr. Maartie De Meulder

Transformations in Deaf Studies: implications for sign language policy, revitalization, and rights

Dr. Maartje De Meulder is a postdoctoral research fellow at the research group on multilingualism of the University of Namur in Belgium.  Her current research focuses on the language practices, motivations and ideologies of deaf and hearing ‘new’ and ‘traditional’ signers in Flanders, Belgium, and how they see themselves as playing a role in vitality. The research draws on a sociolinguistic ethnographic methodology using interviews, language use diaries and language portraits.

Dr. De Meulder has a Master’s degrees in Pedagogical Sciences/Disability Studies (Ghent University, Belgium) and in Deaf Studies (University of Bristol). She obtained her PhD in 2016 at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland. Prior to her PhD studies she worked as an advocate for the Flemish deaf association for five years.

Dr. De Meulder’s current work and research interests are in different strands. The main one is sign language policy and planning, specifically sign language legislation and minority language vitality and maintenance. Another one focuses on discourses around the implementation of ‘educational inclusion’ as per Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. A third is in signed language interpreting as a social institution, and how this is linked to deaf people’s language rights and multilingual practices. 

Dr. De Meulder has co-edited two edited volumes, Innovations in Deaf Studies and the forthcoming book Recognizing Sign Languages, and has publications in journals including Language Policy, Language Problems and Language Planning, Current Issues in Language Planning, Human Rights Quarterly and Sign Language Studies, and a range of book chapters in various books.

Dr. De Meulder’s academic work is informed by her position as a politically engaged scholar. Her research roadmap is inspired by contemporary societal challenges, and she contributes to conversations about these challenges in different ways, beyond academic contexts.

Dr. Yutaka Osugi

Transforming Research into Sign Language and Identity Advocacy in the Community 

Dr. Yutaka Osugi is a Professor at the Tsukuba University of Technology (NTUT) in Japan.  He teaches various topics related to Deaf Studies to Deaf and Hard of Hearing students as well as conducts research in the field of Signed Language Linguistics.

Born deaf and having grown up in Tokyo, he started a career in puppetry (Deaf Puppet Theater HITOMI) before discovering what the Deaf World has to offer. He opted for an academic career for which he earned his Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Rochester, New York in the United States. Under the supervision of Professor Ted Supalla, he interviewed Deaf Japanese immigrants living in the US.  He also took a field trip to Amami-Oshima Island in Japan to perform research on a remote village signed language that had developed. He has designed a curriculum for teaching Japanese Sign Language and Deaf Culture in Japan at the University of Rochester.

Upon completion of some of his research and curriculum development, Dr. Osugi returned to Japan in 2000 to work as the Head Office Manager for the Japanese Federation of the Deaf (JFD).  By that time, JFD has started operating a regional office in collaboration with the World Federation of the Deaf.  Dr. Osugi assisted in these operations by building training programs to develop skills and resources for community-based advocacy on the rights of deaf people across the Asia and Pacific region.  In 2007 he assumed that which is his current teaching and research position.

Dr. Osugi publishes articles in professional journals, covering a range of topics such as The use of word elicitation to identify distinctive gestural systems on Amami Island (1999, Sign Language & Linguistics), and Lexical Sharing Phenomenon among Sign Language Users in Japan (2012, Japanese Journal of Sign Linguistics). He co-edited a variety of sign vocabulary books including A Learner’s Dictionary of Japanese Sign Language (2010, JFD).

Dr. Osugi is currently collaborating with Dr. Mayumi Bono, Associate Professor at National Institute of Informatics, Japan, on a compilation of a large-scale Japanese Sign Language corpus called the “Corpus Project in Colloquial Japanese Sign Language” supported by KAKENHI.


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800 Florida Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002