Deaf Studies experts from over twenty countries recently gathered at Heriot-Watt's Edinburgh Campus for an unprecedented event. The authors of a book ‘Innovations in Deaf Studies: The Role of Deaf Scholars', all of whose editors and authors are both expert in the field and themselves deaf, presented and discussed their work. This is the first such scholarly book to be written entirely by deaf academics, most of whom have a PhD degree.
This conference was a major leap forward for the discipline.
Annelies Kusters, conference organiser, said, “This conference was a major leap forward for the discipline. We communicated with each other through British Sign Language and International Sign, the latter enabling us to cross national borders with relative ease. It wasn't just the book authors in the spotlight: during six panels, experts from all over the world discussed topical themes including the BSL Scotland Act.”
The conference addressed a range of issues relating to Deaf Studies, which includes the study of sign language, deaf people's educational and employment pathways and the social life of deaf groups and individuals. Presentation themes ranged from ‘The relationship between academics and public policy', ‘Inclusion and exclusion', and ‘Negotiating language practices and language ideology', to 'Sign Language People's Right to be Born'.
The authors, conference organiser Annelies Kusters, Assistant Professor in Sign Language and Intercultural Studies at Heriot-Watt, Maartje de Meulder, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Namur in Belgium, and Dai O'Brien, Lecturer in BSL and Deaf Studies at York St John University, investigated what it means to engage in Deaf studies, who gets to define the field and what a truly leaf-led Deaf Studies research programme would look like, as well as how current research practices relate to deaf research participants and communities.