Program (Abstracts below)


Monday, 27 June 2016

Time Title
9.00 Registration
10.00 Welcome

Session 1:  Deaf Space/Deaf Gain: Atkins, Kocher

12.00 Lunch

Session 2: Historical Deaf Geographies 1: Ennis, Robinson

14.30  Coffee Break

Session 3: Historical Deaf Geographies 2: Edwards, Gulliver

17.30 ICDG Reception

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Time Title
8:30 Registration

Session 4: Deaf Space Tour: NTID

10.00 Coffee Break

Session 5: Deaf Bodies & Deafscapes: Diflo, Walker

12.00 Lunch

Session 6: ICDG – Futures, Challenges and Opportunities Discussion: Kitzel

2:30 Coffee Break
15.00 Conference Wrap-up
15.30 The ICDG 2016 Toast



The Social Networks of Deaf Entrepreneurs and Business Owners: A Preliminary Analysis

W. Scot Atkins, Ed.D

Business Studies, National Technical Institute for the Deaf

Rochester Institute of Technology

Little is known about the social ties between Deaf Entrepreneurs and Business Owners and how it helps these entrepreneurs in the creation and sustaining of their business ventures.  Over time, the entrepreneurs accumulate social capital, which is important for the establishment of a business. Employing Granovetter’s framework based on embeddedness in ethnic entrepreneurial networks, the author interviewed Deaf and Hard of Hearing Entrepreneurs. Via video interviews, sociograms were created for each entrepreneur to depict a visual representation of their networks. The author will share his preliminary results of the data that he has collected so far through these interviews with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Entrepreneurs. The preliminary data collected through the interviews have been coded and analyzed. Preliminary analysis reveals that the nature of the networks of Deaf Entrepreneurs is based primarily on the general industry of which the business is a part.   These networks vary among the Deaf Entrepreneurs and there are different types of networks for differing business and social needs. Both of these networks are critical for Deaf Entrepreneurs due to the close-knit nature of the Deaf community. These themes will be discussed along with other preliminary findings of the study.


Dasein and Survival: Making Space for Deafness

Elizabeth Diflo

Graduate Student, M.A. Deaf Studies

Dept. of American Sign Language and Deaf Studies, Gallaudet University

If, as Goffman (1963) says, the obtrusiveness of social stigma is what ruptures schema, where does deafness reside? Exterior technological markers imply that deafness resides nowhere, and that assistive hardware must be applied to fill the “missing” space. Visible stigma can appear to obtrude outward, taking up residence in the literal world as well as in people’s psyches. Deaf people occupy proximal space with their movement and signing, but also require space for their schools, space for their interpreters, space in their lawmakers’ minds to accommodate for them. Asserting ownership of access and accommodation can feel freeing, but allotted space is typically contingent on emulating hearingness. Technology and accommodations can then act as stigma markers, thus becoming deafness itself. Deaf bodies expand palpably into the world, absorbing machinery and filling the space around them (Cherney 1999), however, in the hearing framework of existence, the deaf person as a cyborg entity evokes emptiness. Despite the narrative that deaf people take up too much space, what they lack is emphasized. Passing for hearing can occur incidentally, but compulsory passing, in school, at work, or at home, redacts deaf lives to make hearing people more comfortable. Effectively, deaf people make themselves smaller in order to survive. Nevertheless, when they forgo external markers like hearing aids, it can illustrate valuing deafness, an active claiming of space in the Deaf World, and indeed being more Deaf.


Racializing Deaf Spaces: Tracing Black Deaf Lives in Nineteenth-Century America

R.A.R. Edwards, PhD

Department of History, College of Liberal Arts

Rochester Institute of Technololy

Founded in 1817 and 1818, respectively, both the American School for the Deaf and the New York School for the Deaf were committed to providing an education to deaf people, whether white or black. The schools were racially integrated from their earliest days. While only about a dozen black deaf people attended each school in the years before the Civil War, the number of hearing black children attending school with their hearing white peers in the antebellum public schools at the time was zero. Hearing schools were racially segregated, so having any level of integration was a remarkable turn of events. Historians know very little about life inside schools for the deaf in these years. Even less is known about how the Deaf community was structured in places, both physical and social, outside of deaf schools. That is, having gone to school together, was the Deaf community similarly racially integrated beyond the classroom? After graduation, as adults, did the community include its black members as Deaf? Or did white Deaf people now think of their former classmates as simply black and exclude them, insisting upon segregation, as their white hearing peers did? Did the Deaf community think about race like the hearing community? Or did it pursue a different path? It is impossible to answer these questions conclusively at this point, and this paper will not try to do so. Rather, it will take a microhistorical approach and trace the lives of a cohort of black deaf graduates to see what answers begin to appear. In this way, we can begin to see the racial contours of nineteenth-century Deaf spaces. We can also start to gain insight into the construction of Deaf identity in the nineteenth-century and to assess the role of educational institutions in this process of building both identity and community.


Contesting Deaf Spaces at Gallaudet University

William T. Ennis, III, PhD

Department of History

Gallaudet University

In his annual “Report to Congress” in 1890, Dr. Edward Miner Gallaudet, included a request for $5,000 to establish a normal department at the National Deaf-Mute College. Gallaudet’s request for the funding of a teacher training department at the college was bitterly contested by Alexander Graham Bell. In spite of this contestation, Congress agreed to the request and in 1891 the normal department at the college began accepting hearing students only who were taught the oral methods to teach deaf children.

Using the establishment of the normal department at the National Deaf-Mute College as a historical backdrop, I want to further explore deaf spaces in education, specifically where deaf spaces intersect with hearing spaces in higher education. The deaf spaces created at the college were done so within the distinctly hearing-centric endeavor of higher education, which is further muddied by the presidency of E.M. Gallaudet. As the son of a deaf woman and one of the pre-eminent educators of deaf people, E.M. Gallaudet brought a unique and credible background to fostering the creation of deaf spaces at the college. His experience, network, and knowledge afforded him the ability to move fluidly between the deaf spaces and hearing spaces and, perhaps, provides historical insight as to his decision to establish a normal school that was only open to hearing students.


 “As nothing of the church now remains…”: Addressing the very peculiar challenge of deaf heritage spaces.

Mike Gulliver, PhD

Department of Historical Studies

Univ. of Bristol

There is no doubt that deaf geographies represent a huge potential gain for wider humanity. An enduring question, however, is how to explain those geographies in terms that are significant for the hearing world. One way to do this is to demonstrate to hearing society that the spaces of their world are not uniquely their own, but have been shared over time, with the deaf community. By identifying buildings, locations and environments that have hosted deaf realities, and exploring them and how they have entangled with the surrounding hearing world, we can draw both deaf and hearing people into deaf spaces and bring them into an encounter with deaf people’s contribution to the heritage of a shared-world past.

Heritage practice frameworks would be an ideal way to begin to do this. Formal heritage approaches, however, often struggle to provide anything more than cursory support for deaf heritage environments. One reason for this is that they typically rely on some kind of unique architectural or design feature upon which they can hang recognition. In some cases these exist. In many, however, they don’t. Deaf people have often had little influence over their historical environments, they have also typically not been their owners. Many ‘deaf heritage’ sites are therefore either gone, or represent little material evidence of any explicit deaf design that can be ‘listed’ or ‘preserved’ or ‘protected’. Although hugely important to the deaf community for the spaces that they have hosted, they appear on the landscape as little more than unremarkable sites – spaces that are places in memory, but that have little intrinsic material ‘value’.

This paper presents some initial thinking from a UK project focusing on England’s first purpose-built deaf church, and the UK’s first PhD to focus specifically on the question of deaf heritage itself.


Critical Deaf Geographies: A critique of culture, and a culture of critique

Austin Kocher,

Department of Geography

The Ohio State University

Deaf studies has an uneasy, even skeptical relationship with critical theory. On the one hand, Deaf studies has emphasized the historical, political, cultural and linguistic oppression of Deaf peoples by dominant hearing culture. Important books such as A Journey into the DEAF-WORLD, Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood, and Reading Between the Signs provide insight into the lives of people within the Deaf community, and advocate for benefits of a richly-informed Deaf-centric view of the world. These texts have provided many rich conceptual frameworks for rethinking Deaf culture, Deaf gain, and Deaf oppression. Oddly, these texts have largely ignored post-war critical theory that has made enormous strides in understanding systemic oppression in the modern neoliberal, postmodern, postcolonial world. As a result, Deaf studies has not fully engaged with broader critiques of heteropatriarchy, capitalism, state power, and social control. In this paper I argue that critical human geography is a key space within which to foster further crossover between Deaf studies and critical theory that I call “Critical Deaf Geographies.” I expand this argument through a critique of the term culture as it has been used in Deaf studies and suggest a more radical understanding of Deaf culture that draws attention to the complex material and ideological assumptions surrounding cultural politics. In the end, the purpose of the paper is not merely to improve intellectual understandings of the Deaf community, but to create knowledge which prompts Deaf and hearing allies to organize for greater justice for the Deaf community.


Opening Eyes to Deaf Writers in Deaf Periodicals

Joan Naturale, EdD

The Wallace Center, Rochester Institute of Technology

The presentation will focus on Deaf writers’ contributions to national Deaf periodicals such as the online and/or print versions of the Silent Worker, the Silent Cavalier, the Deaf American, and Deaf Life. The periodicals offer a glimpse into the documentation of the lives and culture of Deaf people during different time periods. Discoveries of intriguing personalities and events will be shared as viewed from the Deaf writers’ perspectives.


Ousting Deaf Tramps: Regulating Deaf Bodies in the Public Sphere, 1880-1950s

Octavian Robinson, PhD

Modern Languages and Literatures

College of the Holy Cross

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, mainstream able-bodied Americans undertook a campaign to eradicate the presence of disability in the public sphere through legislative measures. This legislation, later dubbed ugly laws, criminalized disability, particularly the disabled poor in gendered and racialized contexts by prohibiting the presence of disabled people in public places. Reproducing those anxieties surrounding marked citizenship, deaf cultural elites engaged in their own efforts to regulate and police the presence of deaf bodies and sign language in the public sphere through anti-vagrancy statutes and anti-peddling campaigns.

Those campaigns by deaf cultural elites, capitalizing on their whiteness, masculinity, and middle-class status, employed a particular brand of respectability politics. They sought to enact legislation prohibiting deaf tramps, vagrants, beggars, peddlers and impostors pretending to be deaf from appearing in public spaces or being publicly visible. Deaf elites also attempted to regulate the use or sale of sign language, such as the sale of sign alphabet cards, in the public sphere by impoverished deaf people in an effort to disconnect sign language from disability and poverty.

Campaigns for ugly laws governing the presence of deaf bodies and sign language in public spaces targeted deaf people of lower socioeconomic statuses, marking the “unworthy” deaf from the “worthy” deaf in efforts to make deafness an invisible disability. Those efforts reinforced ableist ideas along with a hierarchy of ability and non-ability. The rhetoric in those campaigns reveal potent ideological underpinnings of American Deaf culture that persists into the twenty-first century. 


Material and non-material representations of the Deaf community in Brighton and Hove city: a photo elicitation exercise.

John Walker, PhD student

School of Global Studies (Human Geography)

University of Sussex

Wylie’s postulation of sensory narrative (2005), framed by ‘the self, body and the urban’, offers an opportunity to observe the Deaf community under a different lens. As a post-positivist research, my Ph.D. will use a range of methods led from the community itself, such as: photo elicitation, a survey, mental maps and a Wylie walk; all of which address how the Deaf community represents itself through social and cultural mobilisations in urban spaces. The Deaf community is a minority community within a host society, who use British Sign Language and follow Deaf cultural norms and mores (Ladd 2003). Initial evidence already indicates that the Deaf community, in Brighton and Hove city, is not concentrated in one location but dispersed throughout the city. This indication leaves a question on how the Deaf community manifests itself, or what is the magnet that attracts individuals and keeps the community connected?

This presentation will share the results from the photo elicitation exercise, led by a community partner (Deaf Culture Outreach Group), whereby photographs are captured by professional and semi-professional photographers who are Deaf and reside in the city. The photographers were set with a task to create a representation of ‘what is the Deaf community?’ The participants were equipped with their smart-phones, which auto-captured GPS data, to reveal the material and non-material in the city; the selected images were supported with short descriptions on why the chosen photographs were central to the Deaf and/or Sign Language self. A non-intrusive camera was used to record their elicited deliberations.


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