Conference Schedule and Presenter Information

Deaf Studies Conference 2018: List of Presentations

Day One: Theories

Title: Transforming Human Rights Discourse through Deafnicity and Literatures of the Hearing Line

Presenter: Rachel Mazique

Abstract: Taking up the call of this conference, this presentation will display practices of “trans-thinking” through a transdisciplinary approach to reading literature with deaf characters. My approach to reading literature is grounded in Deaf Studies work and literary criticism that also draws from disability studies, cognitive literary studies, ethnic studies, and human rights. This interdisciplinary work is necessary because the synthesis of research from various fields that share a humanistic (and transatlantic) interest in bioethics, public policy, politics, and education are central to Sign Language People’s (SLPs) human and group rights claims (Batterbury et al. 2007). As a field that is already largely interdisciplinary, Deaf Studies is uniquely positioned to create transformations in thought—especially through literature that depicts the human and group rights claims of SLPs. My analyses of literatures of the hearing line (Krentz 2007)—or literatures that reside on the “invisible” border between hearing and deaf people—is transatlantic as I draw from literatures of the hearing line from both the United States and the United Kingdom. These analyses synthesize research from cognitive literary studies, disability studies, Deaf Studies, and human rights in a transatlantic framework to answer a question inspired by Literature and Social Justice: Protest Novels, Cognitive Politics and Schema Criticism: how might reading Deaf literature promote social justice? I argue that reading Deafnicity (Eckert 2010) in literature has the potential to not only transform the beliefs and perceptions of readers, but also to foster social justice. 

In an exploration of the visibility of the Deaf ethnic presence, or Deafnicity, in the British writer Viola Meynell’s “We Were Just Saying,” the American Deaf feminist Angeline Fuller-Fischer’s “Scenes in the History of the Deaf and Dumb” and English expat Annie C. Dalton, who writes “To Viola Meynell” from North American shores—in Canada, I emphasize how their literary transatlantic connections highlight the commonality of the violation of the human right to live (with dignity) in a transatlantic Deaf history. As I synthesize research from cognitive literary studies with analyses of the literary texts of Meynell, Fuller-Fischer, and Dalton, I show how the visibility of Deafnicity foregrounds the hearing line and how the hearing line along with these works’ depiction of Deafnicity illuminate some of the complexities of human rights discourses.

Presenter  Bio: Rachel Mazique specializes in Deaf literature, Deaf studies, and disability studies. Her research interests are interdisciplinary and include cognitive approaches to literary studies, human rights issues, and theories of ethnicity. Rachel successfully defended her dissertation, "Transatlantic Deaf Literature and the Human and Group Rights Claims of Sign Language Peoples," at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) in November of 2017. By examining the portrayal of Deaf ethnicity, or “Deafnicity,” in transatlantic Deaf literature, her work asks how this literature engages “rights” discourses, including disability rights, human rights, group rights, as well as bioethical issues. Rachel teaches Writing Seminar and Critical Reading and Writing to students of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Courses taught at UT include courses Rachel designed for the Departments of English and Rhetoric and Writing: “Literature, Visual Culture, and Deaf Studies,” and “Disability in Pop Culture,” respectively.

Title: DeafCrit via The Amazing Spiderman to The Incredible Hulk: From a Politics of Identity Towards a Politics of Vitalism

Presenter: Joseph Michael Valente

Abstract: I’m an “in-betweener” because I am culturally “big D” Deaf but, because I more often read lips and speak rather than sign, I am also linguistically “little d” deaf. In a perfect world, everyone would sign to me and I would speak. This way, I could rely on my eyes for understanding, while retaining my eloquence speaking. This paper revisits my past use of DeafCrit (Critical Deaf Theory) in Title (2011a) and its post-scripts “Title1” (2014) to argue for a shift from a politics of identity (Author, 2011b) toward a politics of vitalism via a vitalist materialist take on deaf communicative difference (e.g. Deleuze and Guattari, 1987; Stern, 2010; Roets and Braidotti, 2012). Such a politics urges us to reject a singular focus on individual bodies and differences and instead to focus on the transversal flows of vitality (Author/s, 2016) that inevitably and productively emerge through difference and movement across multiple bodies and subjectivities. In this paper, I explore the subject as a catalyst of vital forces that express themselves through affective encounters, becomings, and mutations (Author, 2014b; Puar, 2005; Zingsheim, 2010, 2011). To do this, I merge a vitalist materialist reconceptualization of DeafCrit with Cosenza’s crisis of collage (2014) by drawing from my earlier autoethnographic accounts to explore how using the “self as instrument” (Eisner, 1991; Barone, 2001; Author, 2011a) could erroneously be conceptualized as inappropriately narcissistic but, in fact, can function as a creative force that seeks to connect with multiple bodies, and not simply as the manifestation of the subject’s struggle for a unified ego and identity.

Presenter Bio: Dr. Joseph Michael Valente is an Associate Professor of Education at The Pennsylvania State University.  He is also the co-Director of the Center for Disability Studies and core faculty in the Comparative and International Education program.  Dr. Valente was the co-Principal Investigator of the video ethnographic study "Kindergartens for the Deaf in Three Countries: Japan, France, and the United States" funded by The Spencer Foundation and author of d/Deaf and d/Dumb: A Portrait of a Deaf Kid as a Young Superhero (Peter Lang).

Title of Presentation: Pilot Study: Understanding how DeafBlind people make meaning of their avowed and ascribed identities

Presenter: Sarah Morrison

Abstract: The purpose of this pilot study is to understand how DeafBlind people make meaning of their avowed and ascribed identities and how they navigate the medical-pathological descriptions used to define them. Phenomenology was used with Glickman’s Deaf Identity Scale as a framework for this study. By conducting this study, the findings will provide insights on our identity, our culture, our perceptions on both how people perceive us, and how we perceive ourselves. Baumeister, Ashmore, and Jussim (1997) mentioned, “…the broader society assigns roles to the individual and shapes the values the person holds, so that identity is also an important means by which society can influence and control his or her behavior” (p. 191). How people perceive us can profoundly influence our discernment as a Deaf, DeafBlind, or DeafDisabled person.

There are two goals in this study: to share the findings with the DeafBlind community, and challenge the pathological view prevalent in studies regarding Deaf, DeafBlind and DeafDisabled individuals. These goals are achieved by providing culturally-based research from an emic standpoint revolving around the topics of DeafBlindhood. “In the study of cognition in organizations, and in social science more broadly, there are two long-standing approaches to understanding the role of culture: (1) the inside perspective of ethnographers, who strive to describe a particular culture in its own terms, and (2) the outside perspective of comparativist researchers, who attempt to describe differences across cultures in terms of a general, external standard” (Morris, Leung, Ames, & Lickel, 1999, p. 781). Since this study comes from researchers who are DeafBlind and Deaf-sighted respectively, this project is unique in the sense that it will come from both emic and etic views. Some ideas are borrowed from related findings on Deaf culture to justify the importance for this shift. “…Deaf epistemology relies heavily on personal testimonies, personal experiences, and personal accounts to document knowledge” (Holcomb, 2010, p. 471).  This is supported by Napier (2002) who mentioned, “Of the various literature that has been written about the Deaf community, its language and culture, most of the works have discussed the notion of culturally Deaf people who identify as a member of the Deaf community as a linguistic and cultural minority group" (p. 141). Therefore, this project collected data from DeafBlind members justifying the need for documentations of testimonies, experiences, and knowledge of DeafBlindhood as a marginalized group.

Specific themes emerged from this study: medical, culture, socialization, language, community, and accessibility. Each theme was significant for how individuals identified themselves and where they stood regarding Glickman’s scale. What stood out in this study were Glickman’s marginal and immersion scales, and how the participants responded to external factors pertaining to their identity. These findings emphasize the need for more emic studies regarding deaf people with diverse identities that have been overlooked in numerous studies. In closure, with this type of research, both Deaf Studies and DeafBlind Studies can participate in transformative work to improve connections among non-marginalized and marginalized communities.

Presenter  Bio: Sarah Morrison, an alumnus of Rochester Institute of Technology/National Technical Institute of the Deaf (RIT/NTID), is involved with Protactile training. Currently, she’s a freelance consultant where she provides trainings on Protactile, DeafBlind Culture, and does community outreach. Morrison received a Masters in Deaf Education from National Technical Institute of the Deaf at RIT. She possesses a rich and vast experience within the educational and training field. She taught various subjects to both high school and college students.

Title of Presentation: Defining Academia Influences on Mobility, Identity, and Culture of Deaf Scholars in Higher Education

Presenter name: Trisha Houston

Abstract:  The purpose of the study was to explore Deaf faculty experiences in higher education to identify the common themes related to barriers and successes.  Social Phenomenology Theory and Deaf Critical Theory were used to discover common themes regarding accessibility problems and academic mobility in higher education environments.  Factors of academic mobility was broken down into several groups including faculty struggles, faculty barriers and successes, their desire to continue teaching, and ability to collaborate with Deaf and Hearing colleagues.  The explanatory sequential mixed methods study included Deaf faculty as participants who were teaching in colleges and universities across U.S. and some other regions not in the United States. Coding and triangulation were then used to discover recurring themes from the survey and interviews.  The data revealed frequent associations regarding access to interpreters and if it was or was not provided equitably, the need for mentoring, and the issue of onboarding – organizational socialization.

Presenter Bio: Trisha Houston was born to a Deaf family and attended CSD Fremont. However, she completed her last two H.S. years being mainstreamed in Clovis public schools. After devoting time to motherhood of three boys, she returned to college. She graduated with an English major and Art History minor at UCLA, then continued on to UC San Diego for her masters in Teaching and Learning: Bilingual Education (ASL-English). She taught K-12 for two years before becoming an adjunct ASL academic lecturers at Fresno City College and CSU Fresno. Currently, she is in process of defending her dissertation for a Doctorate in Educational Leadership at CSU Fresno.

Title of Presentation: Communicating Deaf Theory: A Data Driven Approach

Presenter names:  Benjamin Bahan & Matthew Malzkuhn

Abstract: This presentation builds on our April 2010 talk on framing Deaf Theory (Deaf Studies Today, Utah Valley University, Orem Utah) as we continue to draw from patterns found in literary works, life histories and epistemologies. We propose that the human yearn and drive for communication are central to the development of Deaf Theory. Evidences and insights range from the role gestures play towards the foundation of human language to literary works, organization priorities/agendas, legislative actions, and technological extensions as data enables how we think and talk about communication as being central to Deaf epistemology and theory building. The root and recurrent theme/cultural value of: ‘Com’ will be scrutinized throughout our discussions.

Lastly we aim to extend our theoretical framework into a critical analysis of The Great Gatsby (as done by Lois Tyson (2006) in Critical Theory Today: A User Friendly Guide by Routledge) magnifying on communication issues that have long been undervalued or less emphasized by our society.

Key concepts that will be addressed in our presentation:

-Deaf Theory -Deaf Epistemology -Role of Data in Critical Theory and Theory Building -Value of Literature -Tracking Human Behaviors and Communication Tendencies -Etymology of Communication and its Deeper Social Meaning

Presenter Bios: Ben Bahan, PhD, is a professor in and department chair of the Department of ASL and Deaf Studies at Gallaudet University. He received his bachelor's degree in biology from Gallaudet University and both his master's degree in deaf education and his doctorate in applied linguistics from Boston University. Bahan is a renowned storyteller, author, researcher, professor, and presenter on issues related to deaf studies.

Matt Malzkuhn is an instructor in the Department of ASL and Deaf Studies at Gallaudet University. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degree in ASL and Deaf Studies at Gallaudet University. He is nearing full completion of his Ph.D. in Cultural Studies from George Mason University. Malzkuhn is also a co-principal with Ink & Salt, a 100% Deaf owned creative productions and publishing company.

Featured Panel Title: 2006 Protest: From the Black Deaf Side

Panel co-moderators: Glenn Anderson and Lindsay Dunn

Abstract: Dr. Anderson and Mr. Dunn will co moderate a panel discussion of Black Deaf individuals who experienced the 2006 protest from different sides/positions/perspectives.   This panel will discuss responses within the black deaf community to the screening out of Dr. Anderson’s candidacy. This panel will explore the implications of the Selection Committee and the Board of Trustees decision and the aftermath including the role of digital media in engaging a cross section of the black deaf community in discourses related to issues such as racism, nepotism/favoritism and privilege within the deaf community within and beyond Gallaudet University.

Co-moderators’ bios:

Mr. Dunn is a South African native who came to the United States as a student (BA (English)  and BS (Business Administration)- Gallaudet Class of 84). He went on to graduate school at New York University earning a double masters in Deaf Education and Deafness Rehabilitation.  Mr. Dunn returned to Gallaudet University in 1994 to serve under Dr. I. King Jordan’s administration as Special Assistant to the President for Diversity and Community Relations. The Equal Employment Opportunity Office was also under his purview.  He is currently the Manager for Academic Support Programs in the ASL and Deaf Studies Department.

Dr. Glenn Anderson (Gallaudet Class of 1968) is the first deaf African American to earn a doctorate degree (New York University).  He is a Chicago native and chaired the Gallaudet University Board of Trustees for the majority of Dr. I. King Jordan’s tenure as President of Gallaudet.  Dr. Anderson is a tenured professor at the University of Arkansas - Little Rock. Dr. Anderson has authored and co authored numerous documents on the black deaf experience.  He was recently honored as one of the 50 legends of the university during the university’s 150th anniversary where he also was awarded an Honorary doctorate from Gallaudet.

Day Two: Applications

Presenter names:  Yoko Kobayashi & Yutaka Osagi

Title of Presentation: Deaf Women’s Participation, Movements, and Rights: Learning from the Experiences of Deaf Women in Japan

Abstract:  The transformation of the deaf community in Japan during the late 20th century is one of the most rapid and profound social changes in the community’s history. Over time, government institutions have adopted resolutions and policies on several issues such as education, labor, and access to information. These events enabled the establishment of the first university for deaf and hard of hearing people, National University Corporation Tsukuba University of Technology (NTUT) in 1987. NTUT recently conducted a unique project, the “Deaf Studies Project,” which included producing a video; disseminating educational materials; raising awareness of deaf community issues at local, regional, and national levels; collecting deaf people’s life histories; and documenting and analyzing successful and failed deaf movements for promoting deaf people’s empowerment. However, little has been done to document the situation of deaf women in Japan. Generally, deaf women around the world struggle with barriers related to social class, culture, legal rights, labor force participation, family structure, and power. Recently, deaf women may access a variety of services, such as education, employment, childcare, health care, and mental health services. However, little is known about their experiences as deaf women.
This presentation will explore the realities of, and critical issues related to, deaf women in Japan. We will begin by summarizing the “Deaf Studies Project” and explain the project’s current approach. We will follow this with a broad empirical description of the “Deaf Women Studies” project, and a review of educational, research, documentation, and networking strategies for empowering deaf women. We also describe the life history of a deaf woman who lived through the late 20th century and present a study of deaf women’s views on opportunities, career prospects, and work–family conflicts. Following this, we summarize selected approaches to deaf women centered development to promote their self-esteem and self-confidence development, effective community and social participation, and awareness of their social and political rights. We will conclude this presentation with a discussion about using these findings to progressively expand the public policy dialog about funding for and development of services to adequately meet deaf women’s needs, not only in Japan but worldwide.

Presenter Bio: Yoko Kobayashi is currently an assistant professor at the Tsukuba University of Technology (NTUT) in Japan and she teaches various topics related to Deaf Studies as well as conducting research in the field of Social Sciences related with Deaf people.

Yutaka Osagi is currently a professor at the Tsukuba University of Technology (NTUT) in Japan and he teaches various topics related to Deaf Studies as well as conducting research in the field of Signed Language Linguistics.

Title of Presentation: Revisiting Discourse in Deaf Studies in Germany

Presenter names:  Dr. Christian Rathmann and Thomas Geissler

Abstract: Within the framework of Critical Discourse Analysis (see e.g. Wodak & Meyer 2015), the paper examines the positionality of the academic discipline of Deaf Studies in Germany from the point of transformational view. Specifically, the paper critically examines five core aspects:
(i)        Understanding the concept of Deaf Studies in Germany from diachronic perspective (what has been changed since 1990’s?)
(ii)        Understanding the concept of Deaf Studies in Germany from synchronic perspective (what are the contemporary issues and priorities in Deaf Studies?)
(iii)        Interaction between actors in Deaf Studies, practitioners in Deaf Education and activists in German Deaf communities
(iv)        Use of medium in the discourse of Deaf Studies in Germany (which languages and modalities are used? What kind of information has been distributed through which channels?)
(v)        Interaction between Disability Studies and Deaf Studies in Germany with special focus on positionality

In line with Grounded Theory (Glaser and Strauss 1967, 2017), the first analyses look for indicators for particular concepts which in turn will be expanded into categories. On the basis of these results, further data (in form of expert interviews) will be collected and examined (theoretical sampling). The results then enables us to critically examine the discourse of Deaf Studies in Germany from the transformational perspective.

Presenter Bios:

Dr. Christian Rathmann is Professor and Chair in the Section of Deaf Studies and Sign Language Interpreting at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany. He obtained his doctoral degree in linguistics at The University of Texas at Austin, USA in 2005. At Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, he is in charge of running two BA- and MA-programs. His current research activities cover three areas: (a) L2 learning, teaching and assessment, (b) linguistic structure of signed languages (mostly on the emphasis of event structure) as well as intralanguage & interlanguage communication in the international context, (c) interpreting studies (currently with the emphasis on Deaf employment).

Thomas Geissler is a Senior Lecturer in the Section of Deaf Studies and Sign Language Interpreting at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany.  At Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, he has been involved in two BA- and MA-programs. His current activities in the department cover three areas: (a) L2 learning, teaching and assessment, (b) Sociology in Deaf Communities and (c) technology in L2 teaching.

Title of Presentation: Deaf people’s coping strategies in an everyday employment context

Presenter name:  Mette Sommer Lindsay

Abstract: My PhD is inspired by both disability studies and feminist perspectives on labour market structures for several reasons. The existing research on deaf people and their experience of work is often focused on problems, issues, and experiences of lack/deficiency: lack of accessibility, poor communication with colleges and surrounding society, high levels of unemployment or underemployment. The data are often statistics and remain un-theorized; there is little qualitative data.  Although it is important data, especially on a political level, they do not provide much information on how deaf people navigate and strategize career progress and advancement. Furthermore, they do not shed light on creative and useful coping strategies for facing structural discrimination and (audist) micro-aggressions. My research aims to change this.

In the PhD, I will contribute to the transformation of deaf studies research by suggesting how to benefit from other studies on minority workers and employment and combine deaf studies with theoretical concepts from these fields. One example is that both gender and disability research have analysed how minority employees (women or disabled people) use different strategies for coping with work life (Church et al 2007, Taub et al 2004,  Benschop et al 2011, Bird et al 2011) and how this effects culture and dynamics in the work place. Hiding and disclosing strategies are frequently mentioned among disability studies (Kafer 2016 ) Price et al 2017). When the disabled employee has either a visible or invisible disability, he/she might often choose to hide the disability by not meeting customers face to face and instead interacting through phone calls or emails (Church et al. 2007) This points in a different direction than recent studies on deaf people’s employment experience such as Friedner (2013) showing how the neo-liberal labour market also produces disability as value. 

Based on my qualitative study of deaf-led businesses in Denmark I propose, in line with Friedner’s argument around value, that the traditional theorisation of disability/deafness as stigma should be expanded to bring attention to questions of value, agency and coping strategies and explore how deaf people navigate and experience their opportunities and positions in labour market with ambivalences. 

The Major Review Report is based on a scoping study which is conducted by a  focus group with British deaf people who are self-employed or own business (with several employees). Among the 7 participants 4 are female and 3 are male. The 4 female are all self-employed and do not employ other people. 3 of them do not specifically target at deaf markets. 2 of the 3 male participants have experience or still are business owners. The last one is self-employed. All the male participants provide service targeting at deaf people/sign language. 
The interview was conducted in order to explore the broad experience of business ownership and self-employment among deaf people in UK. There are almost no studies of it. Use of focus group helps to collect data from several people once. Moreover it also can provide a setting where the deaf participants can share and tell each others their experience. In this manner, the interactionist perspective on how they talk about deaf self-employment and business ownership, and how they talk about their experience as deaf, men, women and other positions in relation to the employment context.

Presenter Bio: Mette Sommer Lindsay is a PhD student that is exploring deaf people’s everyday experience of employment. Her background is in sociology and her interest is focused on how the structures affect the individual's opportunities, strategies, and decisions in their everyday life. Her PhD study has been narrowed down to focus on deaf-led businesses as one of deaf people’s strategies in the labor market. 


Title of Presentation: Sign language ideologies and Deaf Studies: The importance of focusing on practice

Presenter names:  Mara Green, Erin Moriarty Harrelson, Annelies Kusters, & Kristin Snoddon

AbstractThis presentation focuses on sign language ideologies as a field of study, and more specifically on the importance of examining language ideologies as they unfold on the ground, undergirded by the premise that what we think that language can do (ideology) is related to what we do with language (practice). Contextual analysis shows that language ideologies are often situation-dependent and indeed often seemingly contradictory, varying across space and moments in time. Therefore, rather than only identifying language ideologies as they appear in metalinguistic discourses, we will give examples of how everyday language practices implicitly or explicitly involve ideas about those practices and the other way around. We locate ideologies about sign languages and communicative practices, which may not be one and the same, in their contexts, situating them within social settings, institutions, and historical processes, and investigating how they are related to political-economic interests as well as affective and intersubjective dynamics. Sign languages are minority languages using the visual-kinesthetic and tactile-kinesthetic modalities. It is important to recognize both that the affordances of these modalities are different from those of the auditory-oral (spoken) modality, and that signers, like speakers, often make use of multilingual and multimodal language repertoires. We explore how signers and people with whom they interact (be they signers or non-signers) understand sign languages and their relationships to other languages (signed or spoken) and modalities (including speech and writing). We look at ideologies regarding sign languages and connect them to ideologies regarding spoken and written languages in order to interrogate how ideologies are part and parcel of how people think about and experience multimodal communication and understanding in everyday life. In doing so, we show how on-the-ground language practices draw on multimodal, and often multilingual, repertoires, conceptualised in neologisms such as translanguaging. Our focus is transdisciplinary, more specifically the presentation is influenced by research in applied linguistics, education, and anthropology. We believe that connecting sign language ideologies to everyday language use is central to innovation and transformation of the field of Deaf Studies, since it enables us to pinpoint the real everyday effects of practices on ideologies and the other way around.

Presenter BiosMara Green is a hearing anthropologist from the US. Her long-term fieldwork focuses on deaf persons in Nepal.

Erin Moriarty-Harrelson is a deaf anthropologist from the US, whose primary research has been with deaf Cambodians.

Annelies Kusters is a deaf anthropologist from Belgium, who has conducted extensive ethnographic work with signers in Paramaribo, Suriname; Mumbai, India, and Adamorobe, Ghana.

Kristin Snoddon is a deaf applied linguist from Canada. Her work on sign language learning by deaf children and their hearing parents is based in Canada.


Day Three: Disseminations

Title of Presentation: Transforming the expression of collective memory in sign language

Presenter: Ted Supalla, PhD., Georgetown University

Abstract: The impact on institutional and informational resources that form the infrastructure of Deaf Studies programs is tremendous.  We believe that much has been accomplished with the transformation of knowledge regarding Deaf ways of living and learning.  Even though the field of Deaf Studies is relatively new, one could consider it a vital instrument for transformation.  We find it bothersome that we have not yet fully understood our own sign language, what it really is and where it comes from.  I will share my experience of designing a massive online course (MOOC) with the goal of providing a resource not only for the field of Deaf Studies but for society as a whole to gain better understanding of sign language structure, learning and change.  There is abundance of academic research addressing this important set of themes from different angles.   I believe it is timely to reconsider the nature and dynamics of the conventional expression of our collective memory, the transmission and use of sign language. Because it is important to Deaf Studies to consider the design of its infrastructure, I will also share my thoughts on whether to sustain or transform our ways of transmitting, teaching and using sign language.

Presenter BioTed R. Supalla, Ph.D., is a Professor of Neurology, Linguistics, and Psychology at Georgetown University Medical Center, and he runs the Sign Language Research Lab, a part of the Center on Brain Plasticity and Recovery. He has published extensively on the structure of American Sign Language and other sign languages of the world. He has served as a consultant to the World Federation of the Deaf, where he participated in publishing a white paper on the status of sign languages around the world. He is also the author (with Patricia Clark) of Sign Language Archaeology: Understanding Historical Roots of American Sign Language. His lab hosts the Historical Sign Language Database ( as a resource tool for public use. 

Title of Presentation: Shifting Paradigms by Exploring Deaf Jewish Spaces

Presenter: Mark Zaurov

Abstract: Historians and Holocaust Scholars are finding interest in the diversity of the Jewish world. Deaf Jews, are now being discovered as a double cultural minority and a transnational, hybrid imagined community. Initially a topic in Deaf History, picked up by Deaf Studies, Deaf Jews are framed in the light of strongly interdisciplinary and postcolonial approaches. The complexity and intersectionality found in Deaf Jews is transforming the way, Holocaust scholars apprehend Deaf Jews as a cultural minority rather than another group of handicapped individuals. In the U. S., the Deaf Black community and Deaf Native Americans are considered cultural minorities and have already been the subject of considerable research. Deaf Jews are categorized as a religious group and, as a consequence, are not being studied. Sarah Abrevaya Stein (2009) traces the causes for this lack of research, gives an overview of Deaf Jews and argues for an interdisciplinary and deconstructivist approach when analyzing this particular group. Paddy Ladd (2003) foregrounded Deaf Jews as the only ethnic minority within the Deaf World to organize internationally. Statistics on European immigration to the U. S. from 1890 reveal a very high number of Deaf Jews in Poland and Galicia compared to other European countries. Therefore, this particular group of Deaf Jews deserves special attention. Research in the fields of Deaf History and Deaf studies has shown that there was a vivid infrastructure of Polish Deaf Jews consisting of schools, associations, sport clubs and conferences of several nation- and worldwide associations of Deaf Jews before their destruction by Nazi-Germany. Deaf Jews had established a space where they could use their very own ways of life and communication. Some Deaf Jewish associations chose the emblematic unification of hands and the David Star as their own symbol. Historical sources abound, demonstrating the existence of Deaf Jewish space and „Deaf same“ amongst Deaf Jews (Zaurov 2009; 2015). The paper will explore what exactly made Deaf Jews relate to each other as “same” and what determined their relation to the Deaf Non-Jews on the one hand, and the hearing Jewish majority on the other.

Presenter Bio: Mark Zaurov was born deaf in the Moscow of the former Soviet Union. Together with his parents and his deaf sister, he immigrated to Israel, and later moved to Germany. Growing up in Russia, Israel, and Germany, he acquired several languages, cultures and mentalities and developed his language and mediation skills. After he majored in Sign Languages, with minors in Education and History, he coordinated the 6th Deaf History International (DHI) Conference at the Humboldt University and edited the proceedings of this conference (Overcoming the Past, Determining its Consequences and Finding Solutions for the Present, Seedorf: Signum Press 2009). Currently, he is an independent scholar and a doctoral candidate at the University of Hamburg. His fields are Deaf Jews in Art, Politics and the Sciences, and the Deaf Holocaust (Deaf History and Deaf studies). He published a couple of books ("Gehörlose Juden - eine doppelte kulturelle Minderheit" [Deaf Jews - a double cultural minority], Frankfurt: Peter Lang 2003) and won several fellowships with, for example, the Charles H. Revson Foundation, the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in 2010/11 and the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI) in 2016. He is a nationally certified interpreter of the first generation of Deaf interpreters trained at the University of Hamburg and has been working in settings such as international conferences and translation projects. He is the president of the German professional association for Deaf Sign language interpreters ( He also founded the only association for German Deaf Jews and their descendants (IGJAD), following in the footsteps of the Jewish Deaf Association founded in 1896 and destroyed in Nazi Germany in 1937. Under his presidency and in collaboration with the Berlin Senate for Cultural Affairs, he initiated a free-standing digital memorial board commemorating the predecessor association in German Sign Language and International Signs in the heart of Berlin.

Title of Presentation: Cultural Implications in the K-12 Education Setting

Presenter name:  Dominic Harrison

Abstract: The purpose of the workshop is to provide the insight of cultural difficulties in the K-12 educational settings where the educators would experience. When the participants learned about cultural difficulties, then they would have an opportunity to discuss and unpack their thoughts about the cultural difficulties and how will they improve themselves to reduce the cultural difficulties. This will benefit the educators to gain their understanding of cultural difficulties because they needed to put themselves first before becoming an advocate for the deaf individual or themselves.

After the participants attended this presentation, they will have the benefits to learn and recognize themselves. It helps them to learn about potential factors that would be part of cultural difficulties. It will unpack the thoughts and attitudes toward the cultural difficulties in the K-12 educational settings. In addition, this applies to the concepts of cultural accessibility, accountability, and appropriateness that would influence their job performance. In overall, the educators will be able to have many positive insight outcomes on the cultural difficulties and remind themselves about their own positionality in the K-12 educational settings.

Presenter BioDominic A. Harrison, M.Ed. is a Black Deaf Male who grew up in New Jersey and Texas. He attended three different residential schools for the deaf in his life, which were in New Jersey, Washington, and Texas. He is an alumnus of Texas School for the Deaf. He took his undergraduate studies at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History with two minors in Psychology and Family & Child in May 2012. Then, attended Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas for his graduate studies.  He received a Master of Education degree in Secondary Education with a minor in Composite Education.

Dominic worked as an ASL tutor at Austin Community College under the ASL and Interpreting Department from November 2013 to June 2015. He also worked as a middle school teacher at Texas School for the Deaf in 2015-2016 school year. Then, he moved to Santa Fe, Mexico as a middle school and high school teacher at New Mexico School for the Deaf in August 2015 and has been work there since. In addition, He is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies with a concentration in Educational Thought and Sociocultural Studies at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His research interests are cultural difficulties in educational and home settings that affect the Deaf students of color. The factors could be included: educators and parents’ attitudes, literacy skills, educational opportunities, educational benefits, and cultural impacts.

Title of Presentation: Deaf Education in the Global South: Insights from Jordan

Presenter name: Timothy Y. Loh

Abstract: This anthropological research project explores the cultural construction of deaf education in Jordan in the context of the Global South, based on ethnographic research in the summer of 2014 at the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf (HLID) in Salt, Jordan, widely considered the leading institution in the Middle East and North Africa for deaf education and sign language research (Hendriks 2008). Using data collected through participant observation, interviews, and analysis of cultural artifacts such as school newsletters and information pamphlets, I identify a self-regulatory ethos in the school system that conceives of deaf people as capable of being educated, employed, and responsible for each other, functioning similarly to Friedner’s concept of “deaf similitude” that imagines deaf people in India as having a moral obligation to each other that emerges from a common sensorial experience (2015). I then situate the HLID in the broader literature on deaf education in the Global South, comparing it to other deaf schools in Thailand, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and Zimbabwe. Based on this comparative analysis, I argue that the self-regulatory ethos at the HLID is underpinned by three institutionalized pedagogical practices—the use of sign language, peer teaching, and deaf instructors—which are also practiced to varying extents in the other deaf schools in the four countries named above. This project first aims to shore up the ethnographic record of disability in the Middle East, which is lacking (Deeb & Winegar 2012), and more broadly, to explore the implications of Deaf-positive ideologies on education for deaf children.

Presenter BioTimothy Y. Loh is a first-year PhD student in HASTS (History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society) at MIT. His research focuses on the politics of d/Deafness in Jordan and the broader Middle East.


Featured Roundtable:

Roundtable Title: To film or not to film: doing ethnographic film in the field of Deaf studies

Presenters:  Steven Emery, Annelies Kusters, Erin Moriarty-Harrelson

AbstractDeaf filmmaking, in general, as a profession has grown exponentially in the previous two decades, with regular film festivals devoted to showcasing films made by deaf film directors and/or crew. Ethnographic film is a type of documentary film that is rooted in ethnographic field work. Producing ethnographic film within the field of anthropology is well established but is a new and novel approach within deaf studies. Positioning ethnographic filmmaking of deaf people’s lives arguably straddles several lines, of anthropology, deaf-centric filmmaking, and deaf ethnographic documentary film; and yet at the same time has the potential to emerge into a new genre of filmmaking across all disciplines involving film studies, including deaf studies.

Ethnographic film can be both a powerful research method and a dissemination technique in the social sciences since it enables to capture “real life”, and allows ‘outsiders’ to ‘see’ the lives of people and communities in a way that describing in scholarly texts or using photo-elicitation cannot. We would like to discuss this process in more detail. For example, capturing “real life” means people’s “natural” behavior is captured by camera, and the filmmaker does not work with a clear storyboard, which means the filmmaker needs to have deep insight in the setting, and to film a large number of hours of footage. Those being filmed are easy to identify in a small community, and the film may be restricted to those who are camera-confident (and thus the film may be not that representative). The film may focus on people who agree to be filmed without being fully aware of the implications of being in the public eye, raising particular ethical issues to filmmaking involving deaf participants.

In this round table discussion, we want to open up these and other issues with a panel of four deaf studies scholars who have made, are currently producing, or plan to produce ethnographic film(s) in the field of deaf studies and/or anthropology. To encourage discussion, we will show ethnographic documentary film clips, along with sharing our experiences of the process of recruiting crew to produce and edit the film, as well as the making of the film itself. We especially welcome people who have been involved in the process of making ethnographic documentaries, either as participants or as filmmakers. Crucially, we want the round table participants, and the audience, to also reflect on the position of the filmmaker. We want to question who benefits from producing these films, in what ways, and the contributions ethnographic filmmaking can make to deaf studies as a whole.

Presenter Bios:

After working in the printing industry and undertaking many trips around the world in his teens and 20’s, Steven Emery entered university as a mature student and obtained his BA (Hons) in Cultural Studies from Sheffield Hallam University, UK (1992). Following a period of 10 years working in various positions in the UK deaf community, he returned to the University of Central Lancashire, UK, and undertook and completed his PhD in ‘Citizenship and the Deaf Community’ (2007), an evidence-based study and philosophical investigation into the nature of deaf people’s citizenship in society. Following small scale research projects on the experience of deaf people in genetics, the mental health of the deaf black and ethnic minority community in Glasgow at Heriot-Watt University, Scotland, UK, Stephen Emery obtained a Leverhulme Trust early careers fellowship at the University of Bristol investigating the minority group rights of deaf people. This was followed by another project at the same university, on ‘Deafhood and Genetics’, which investigated the social, scientific and media beliefs of the growing international genetics movement. Since the end of that project in 2012 he has taught as an Assistant Professor at Gallaudet University and Heriot-Watt University. Between 2017 and 2020 he will be working with the MobileDeaf team, utilising ethnographic and visual anthropological research methods, to include the production of a film highlighting the lives of deaf migrants in London.

Annelies Kusters is the Principal Investigator for the project entitled ‘Deaf mobilities across international borders: visualising intersectionality and translanguaging (MobileDeaf)’ (2017-2022), funded by a European Research Council Starting Grant (€1.5 million). She first got a BA in Philosophy and a MA in Social and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Leuven. My first research project was undertaken in Suriname, South-America, where she investigated Paramaribo’s urban deaf community’s meeting spaces and networks. For her MSc dissertation research at the University of Bristol, UK, she went to Mumbai in India, where she focused on deaf spaces in compartments for people with disabilities in the city’s suburban trains. Annelies Kuster then started a PhD in Deaf Studies, doing research in Adamorobe, a village in Ghana, where she investigated social relationships between deaf and hearing inhabitants, deaf space-making, deaf sociality, discourses about the cause of deafness, language practices and language ideologies. After her PhD, she moved to the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen, Germany, for a position as a postdoctoral researcher. She investigated multimodal languaging between deaf and hearing strangers and acquaintances in public and parochial spaces in Mumbai; i.e. the discourse range of gesture-based communication, their limitations and potential in relation to the places where the interactions happen and to language ideologies regarding gesture-based communication. In 2016, she received the Jean Rouch Award from the Society for Visual Anthropology for her ethnographic film, “Ishaare: Gestures and signs in Mumbai”, and in 2015, the Ton Vallen Award for my written work on sociolinguistic issues in Adamorobe.

Erin Moriarty-Harrelson received her doctorate from American University in Washington, D.C. in 2017. Her field is Anthropology and she has conducted research with deaf people in Cambodia. Her research interests are: language use, translanguaging, sign language documentation projects, international development, and NGO interventions. She is also interested in how different ideas about deaf people and deaf identities travel throughout the world, especially from locations in the global North. Erin Moriarty-Harrelson’s new research, which she is very excited about, focuses on deaf tourism in Indonesia, specifically Bali. The MobileDeaf team’s focus on visual anthropology and developing new methodologies for deaf-related research, including the production of an ethnographic film for the study, is one of the things that drew her to this project.


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