The Translating the Deaf Self project: Wrapping up and what’s next?

By Jemina Napier, Alys Young, Rosemary Oram, Robert Skinner & Noel O’Connell

Click here to see a BSL version of the blog, presented by Rosemary Oram.

In two previous LifeinLINCS blog posts in March 2016 and August 2016, we have provided an overview of our Translating the Deaf Self project. The AHRC Translating Cultures research innovation grant for this project has meant that we have been able to carry out a scoping study of an area that has not yet been explored in the literature of Deaf Studies, Interpreting Studies, Applied Sign Linguistics or Applied Social Research. Our research focused on what it is like for Deaf sign language users to be known largely through translation and what the consequences might be for wellbeing.

Our research questions were as follows:

  1. How is translation constitutive of Deaf cultures in their formation, projection and transformation?
  2. What is the impact of consistently experiencing existence to others as a translated-self on personal identity, achievement and well-being?

After interviews with Deaf sign language users, sign language interpreters, hearing colleagues of Deaf people, and parents with deaf children, our findings reveal that

  1. The shared experience among Deaf sign language users of being known through translation could be considered as part of Deaf cultural identity but more research is needed to really understand this; and
  2. The experience of consistently experiencing existence to others as a translated-self has an impact on personal identity, achievement and well-being for Deaf sign language users. That impact is not always positive but it is recognized by Deaf people some of whom make deliberate adjustments in everyday life to combat negative effects and maximize the positive. Interpreters too are professionally conscious of their role in the ‘translated Deaf self’ and the dilemmas it brings up in terms of representation to others.
  3. From hearing people’s point of view in workplace relationships with Deaf colleagues, representation and identity are obscured often by a fascination with the interpreter. Even when hearing colleagues attempt to ‘get past’ the interpreter and seek out what they perceive as the ‘real’ Deaf person they can miss the important point that the Deaf person and their language are not inseparable.  There is no hidden self ‘despite’ an interpreter.

As this project was a new exploration of this concept, it is clear that more research is needed on this topic.

Disseminating the findings

We are in the process of writing up our findings, and will submit them for publications.

So far we have also given several conference presentations as follows:

  • Oram, R., Napier, J., Young, A., & Skinner, R., (2016). Critical links between Deaf culture, well being and interpreting: Translating the Deaf Self. Poster presented to the Critical Link 8: Interpreting in the Community Conference, Edinburgh, 29 June – 1 July 2016.
  • Napier, J., Oram, R., Skinner, R., & Young, A. (2016). Translating the Deaf Self: Deaf culture in practice and being ‘known’ through interpreting. Association of Sign Language Interpreters UK Conference, Newcastle, 1-2 October 2016.
  • Napier, J., Oram, R., Young, A., Skinner, & O’Connell, N. (2016). Translating the Deaf Self: An example of innovation in university-community research engagement. Bridging the Gap conference, Brighton, 12th November 2016.

 

And will be giving another one in 2017:

Napier, J., Young, A., Oram, R., & Skinner, R. (2017). Translating the Deaf Self: The lived experience of being ‘known’ through interpreting. Symposium on Sign Language Interpreting & Translation Research, Gallaudet University, Washington, DC, March 2017.

 In collaboration with two Deaf-led production companies, AC2.Com and Mutt & Jeff Pictures, we produced three short films in BSL to encapsulate some of the key themes that had come up in our data. The films are not an attempt to summarise the findings, but to highlight some key issues that our participants discussed, which we can use to generate more conversations about the concept of the ‘Translated Deaf Self’.

We have not yet made the videos public via social media as we are concerned about how people might respond and the potential impact on wellbeing if any content of the videos triggers emotive responses and we cannot be present to talk through those responses. Instead, we have decided to only show the videos when a member of the research team is present to explain the background, contextualise the study and the videos, and is available to talk through responses. But each film has been submitted to the Deaf Fest 2017 Film Festival in the UK, so we hope that they will be shown there.

In September 2016 we hosted an event in collaboration with Action Deafness and the Derby Deaf Club, where we had approximately 75 participants who travelled from all over the country to learn about what we had found in the study, and to participate in a preview of the films. As part of the event, we also had follow up discussion in BSL about how the participants responded to the films and whether they identified with the themes in each film. Showing the films generated a lot of interesting discussion, and has confirmed for us the importance of taking the films around the country to show the British Deaf community.

What’s next?

We plan to apply for further AHRC funding to explore the notion of the Translated Deaf Self in more depth, and hope to continue the partnership with all the people and organisations who were involved in this scoping study. We also plan to apply for AHRC Follow-on Funding for Impact and Engagement in 2017 in order to disseminate the findings and show the videos via a ‘roadshow’.

Acknowledgements

In wrapping up this project, we would like to acknowledge the contributions of many people and organisations, without whom this project would not have been possible:

  • Professor Charles Forsdick, Theme Leader, AHRC Translating Cultures Theme
  • Stakeholder Advisory Group members: Avril Hepner (British Deaf Association Scotland); Carly Brownlie (Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters); Jane Worrall (Deaf Connections, Glasgow); Teri Devine (Action on Hearing Loss Scotland); Frankie McLean/ Shaurna Dickson (Deaf Action, Edinburgh);
  • Joel Kelhofer and Ella Leith at AC2.Com/SignLive, and Louis Neethling and Alison Lynch at Mutt & Jeff Pictures for the production of the short films
  • Zoë McWhinney, Research intern at Heriot-Watt University
  • Craig Crowley, CEO; Jaz Mann, Alison Blount at Action Deafness for support with organising Community Participatory Group in Leicester and with film launch event in Derby, and Action Deafness for providing interpreters for the film launch event at no cost to the project.
  • Members of the Derby Deaf Club for helping to organise the catering for the film launch event and for making their premises available for the event
  • Jane Worrall, former CEO of Deaf Connections for assistance with CPG in Glasgow
  • Mark Napier, Managing Director at the Centre for Public Innovation for providing the venue for the focus group in London with interpreters
  • ASLI UK for distributing call for interpreter participants to its members
  • Emmy Kauling for help compiling the final research report.

 

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