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Translating the Deaf Self: Translanguaging, interpreting & identities of deaf signers at work

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  • UserJemina Napier (Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh)
  • ClockThursday 17 June 2021, 16:30-18:00
  • HouseOnline.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Tim Laméris.

Please register by noon on the day of the talk



Deaf people’s lives are often predicated on working with interpreters. When working with interpreters the self is mediated on an everyday basis and is a long-term state of being. Identity becomes known and performed through the interpreted self in many interactions, especially in the workplace. (Hearing) others’ experience of deaf signers, largely formed indirectly through the use of interpreters, is rarely understood as intercultural. Interactional, situational and performative understandings of Deaf culture(s) have been explored (e.g., Ladd, 2003). However, the influence of the translated state of being as a constant in deaf people’s lives has not been considered as a component of cultural identity nor cultural formation.

This project sought to explore the following questions:

(1) How is translation/interpreting constitutive of Deaf culture(s) in their formation, projection and transformation?

(2) What is the impact of consistently experiencing existence to others as a translated (interpreted) self on identity, achievement and well being?

There were several components and studies but this presentation will discuss findings from interviews with deaf signers who draw upon their linguistic repertoires and adopt bimodal translanguaging strategies in their work to assert or maintain their deaf-and-professional identities, including bypassing their representation through interpreters. This group we refer to as ‘Deaf Contextual Speakers’ (DCS). The DCS revealed the tensions experienced as deaf signers in reinforcing, contravening or perpetuating language ideologies, with respect to assumptions that hearing people make about deaf people, their language use and the status of sign language; as well as the perceptions of other deaf signers about their translanguaging choices.

This project was funded through the AHRC Translating Cultures theme and was conducted collaboratively with Alys Young & Rosemary Oram from the Social Research with Deaf People Group, University of Manchester, and Robert Skinner (CTISS)

This talk is part of the Cambridge Linguistics Forum series.

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