DESIGNS Project : Wrapping up

By Audrey Cameron & Jemina Napier 

May 2019 

In this blogpost, Jemina Napier and Audrey Cameron provide an update on the work that has been done on the DESIGNS project (promoting access in employment for deaf sign language users in Europe) since our last blog/vlog in October 2018.

The project is coming to an end on 30 June and most of the work in the past 6 months has been focusing on developing training materials, running pilot workshops for employers, sign language interpreters and deaf people and disseminating the project data:

Training – workshops

2018.11.08    Employers’ workshop in partnership with Vercida in South Bank                                           University

2018.12.07    Sign language interpreters’ workshop in Antwerp, Belgium – DESIGNS team

2019.03.05    Masterclass workshop for deaf people, sign language interpreters and employers – in partnership with Deaf Action and Deaf2Work in Deaf Action, Edinburgh

2019.03.27    Employers’ workshop in Heriot-Watt University

2019.04.27    EDSU & CDY’s ‘Studying your way into employment’ seminar in Prague, Czech

Dissemination

2019.02.23    Deaf Spaces in the Workplace conference in York St. John’s University, York – organised by Dr Dai O’Brien and other speakers were Dr Nicola Nunn of UCLAN and Mette Sommer of Heriot-Watt University https://youtu.be/mKWhTV29CP8

2019.03.05    EdSign lecture in University of Edinburgh

2019.04.09    Employment of sign language users in Europe – Policy & Practice Implications at European Parliament – hosted by Helga Stevens – to present project research findings – Adam Kosa MEP  and the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (developing EU strategy for employment for disabled people). 

Up to the end of June, we are continuing to finalise the training materials and filming case studies for the DESIGNS project website.  The next update is due in June where we will introduce the finalised material.

Below is an English translation of the update that is presented in BSL.

Hello! (both)

Jemina: We’re here to give you an update on the DESIGNS Project, which is to do with deaf employment and interpreting. The last project update was November last year, so we thought it was high time we let you know what we’ve been doing over the last 6 months.

Audrey: … yes, we’ve got a lot to tell you.

Jemina: We’ve got a number of things to cover so we’ll alternate between us. So, the first thing to say is that we’ve been out there delivering a lot of training sessions – sorry I need to refer to my notes here to remind me of everything we’ve done…..  Audrey and I went down to London to run a training session for employers in partnership with an organisation called Vercida, who encourages employers of large organisations to recruit disabled people and embrace diversity; when larger organisations are looking for advice about how develop a more diverse workforce, Vercida are the people they go which also makes them a perfect fit for fits perfectly this project.  Vercida helped us find three employers but we were hoping to have more but really this session was more of a pilot.

As part of the DESIGNS Project, we interviewed employers, deaf sign language users and interpreters and we shared our research findings with those employers so that if they were looking to recruit deaf people they would have an idea of what it’s like and we could see that they found that really useful. From the evaluation at the end there were clearly things they hadn’t known about deaf people and interpreters, so they definitely found the session helpful.

We used that session to help us to develop another Master Class that we delivered here in Edinburgh in partnership with Deaf Action, which is a local deaf community organisation based in Edinburgh. We developed and ran this in conjunction with their employment service and interpreting service and some other people from here at Heriot Watt…

Audrey: … and from Deaf2Work…

Jemina: … yes Tony Barlow, who is a deaf employment consultant has a company called Deaf2Work so we all worked in conjunction with one another deliver this Master Class. What was really interesting was that we had a group of employers (some of whom had experience of working with deaf people and some who didn’t); a group of interpreters and a group of deaf people.  We started the day together and then spit into our respective groups and we tailored the content accordingly. Then we all came back together to watch a role play of an interview involving an interpreter, a deaf person and an employer and that was fascinating and generated a lot of valuable discussion.

Interpreters’ session
Employers’ session
Deaf participants’ session

… Audrey and I were also involved in delivering a training workshop with the rest of the consortium over in Antwerp for a group of about 40 sign language interpreters from all over Europe (both deaf and hearing) with some having travelled some considerable distance to get there. We presented a lot of the findings from the DESIGNS Project plus again using roleplays, we gave to them an idea what it’s like interpreting for job interviews. That was really interesting and a good experience…

Audrey: … a lot of them wanted to know how to work with deaf people at job interviews which was clearly a worry for them and I think the training was really useful in that respect.

Jemina: So altogether that’s 4 training events we’ve delivered and even more recently Audrey went to the EDSU The European Deaf Students conference in Prague…

Audrey: … yes…

Jemina … and ran a workshop on the DESIGNS Project at which she talked about deaf employment, creating a CV and the barriers deaf people face around employment. This was for students all of whom are currently studying at University level and starting to think about their career path… that was a two hour workshop…

Audrey: … two and a half hours

Jemina: … so another two and a half hours linked to the DESIGNS Project which is good. That’s those 4 different training workshops covered. Ok, now I’ll hand over to you Audrey…

Credit to EDSU

Audrey:   Jemina and I have not just been focusing on training; we’ve also been out there disseminating the data and the findings from the DESIGNS Project. Since November we’ve attended a number of events. The first was in York at St John’s University, which was organised by Dai O’Brien who’s been doing research on what employment for deaf people is like in Higher Education. I, along with Mette Sommer (who is a PhD student here at Heriot Watt) and Nicola Nunn for UCLAN also gave presentations and incorporated our experiences of working in that environment with interpreters. That was a good conference and there were a lot of people there…

Jemina:… and lots of questions and a great deal of interest in the project.

Audrey:   Jemina and I have not just been focusing on training; we’ve also been out there disseminating the data and the findings from the DESIGNS Project. Since November we’ve attended a number of events. The first was in York at St John’s University, which was organised by Dai O’Brien who’s been doing research on what employment for deaf people is like in Higher Education. I, along with Mette Sommer (who is a PhD student here at Heriot Watt) and Nicola Nunn for UCLAN also gave presentations and incorporated our experiences of working in that environment with interpreters. That was a good conference and there were a lot of people there…

Jemina:… and lots of questions and a great deal of interest in the project.

Audrey: … they were very keen to have the training pack that will help people get into work and that’s one of the aims for the project …

The second dissemination event was back in March where we’d been invited to present at one of the ‘EdSign’ series of lectures at the University of Edinburgh which are run by four universities – Queen Margaret University, Heriot Watt and Edinburgh… that’s only three isn’t it Jemina?! … sorry it’s three not four! So as I said they invite different speakers to come along and we presented for a couple of hours… or was it an hour?

Jemina: … about an hour…

Audrey: … for a hour and that went well. It was also live streamed; we’ll put the link up so you can watch our presentation if you’re interested. 

Link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtBj16gxjQw&feature=youtu.be

… and thirdly we were recently at the European Parliament – Helga Stevens who is deaf and an MEP hosted an event at which she invited us to share the our findings from the DESIGNS Project. We were able to present these to MEPs and the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion came along to listen and I think he soon realised the need to deliver better access to employment and that was good… that was in April.

Jemina: Really that was the last ‘official’ event of the DESIGNS Project because now we’re starting the process of bringing things to a close and finishing off.

We held the last project meeting the day before the event at the European Parliament. All the other project partners gathered together to work out what we still had left to do and to make sure we tidied up any loose ends and then the next day we were at the parliament.

Audrey: But we’re not finished just yet. The report still has to be written and we are filming case studies with employers, deaf people and interpreters for the website and what else…? And then working on the training pack which will also be put up on the website. Then, when absolutely everything is done we’re going to have another Facebook livestream where we’ll be showing you what resources we’ve got and that will be soon – when do you think that will be Jemina?

Jemina: … probably later in the year. Here at Heriot Watt, the project officially ends at the of June; after that we’ll have a few things to tidy up and unfortunately that’ll mean Audrey and I will no longer be working with one another on the project… but who knows maybe we’ll get to work again on something in the future… we’ll see… 

Audrey: But this project has been so worthwhile doing…

Jemina: There will also be more information coming out in BSL – for example, there will be a BSL version of the summary of the research report and summaries of some of the training materials Audrey mentioned so we’ll be back with more information about those another time.

Bye!

Reporting from SIEF 2019

by Alastair Mackie, LINCS/IRC PhD student

A group of colleagues from the IRC participated in the biannual conference of SIEF, the International Society of Ethnology and Folklore, in Santiago de Compostela, in April 2019. The theme of the conference was “Track Changes: Reflecting on a Transforming World”.

The conference had a very welcoming atmosphere, despite the sheer size of it. Although I have only been working on my research for just over a year, there were several familiar faces present and I quickly felt at home. Amongst those attending there was a large delegation from Scotland, not only from the IRC but also many from the Elphinstone Institute in Aberdeen. For it really being a small country, it always surprises me how many ethnologists there are in Scotland. Discussing our work with peers from nearby and far away is always rewarding. For me, these are the most valuable experiences of such a conference, more so than the presentations I attend.

The IRC had a very strong presence in SIEF 2019, as was the case in past conferences. We presented a large variety of research using different methods.Chiara Cocco presented a paper on “Pilgrimage as a means of memory of dark heritage: the case study of Misija Sibiras in Lithuania”. This paper focuses on the expeditions to Siberia organized by the Lithuanian organization Misija Sibiras (Mission Siberia). Chiara interprets these journeys as secular pilgrimages through which young Lithuanians commemorate their past and deal with the painful heritage of their country.

Cait McCullagh presented a paper on Tracking futures at 60 Degrees North – co-curation across Orkney and Shetland: collaboratively deliberating praxis, value formation and learning for sustainable development”. Based on ethnography and practice-based research in Scotland’s Northern Isles, this paper considers a performative praxis of co-curating maritime heritage-making as future assembling, deliberative value formation, elicitive of social learning for sustainable development in vulnerable environments.

Naomi Harvey presented a paper on “The Scotland’s sounds’ network: exploring the participatory role of sound archives in continuing traditions.” The paper discussed the ‘Scotland’s Sounds’ network of sound collections, exploring how this ‘distributed archive’ model functions through participatory work across the sound archive sector, and looking at how increasing access to archives has an impact on the practice of cultural traditions.

Kerstin Pfeiffer chaired and co-convened the panel “Through the lens of affect and emotion: exploring the potentials [SIEF Working Group on Body, Affects, Senses and Emotions (BASE)]” with Jonas Frykman from Lund University. This was the most popular panel of the conference, with 30+ abstracts submitted, and spin-off panels created as a result.

“Ethnologists and folklorists employ a range of perspectives when probing different aspects of socio-cultural phenomena related to the body, affects, senses and emotions. Rather than constituting a field in its own right, their research engages with and enriches established research areas. This panel continues to explore the creative potential the perspective has brought to research areas discussed at previous BASE working group meetings, like migration, sports, material culture, religious practices, theatrical performances, music, dwelling and so on. What are the most rewarding outcomes? In how far are they innovative in the context of a particular research field? How do they fill the gaps in the existent understandings of particular phenomena, notably those engaging body and senses? Which difficulties do resarchers encounter when trying to apply this lens to the existent ethnographic and folkloristic data? In what way does it change the ways we engage in ethnographic work and does it allow for establishment of novel fieldwork-based epistemologies? We welcome proposals for papers that deal with historical and contemporary materials, old and and new topics, original fieldwork or archived material, However, by clearly addressing the questions noted above, the papers should focus on exploring the creative potential – as well as the challenges – presented by the lens of affect and emotion. “

Session 1

Paradise lost: inheriting the summerhouse. Jonas Frykman (Lund University).

Emotion and its role in ethnicity creation within Konkani community, Kochi, India. Alina Kaczmarek-Subramanian (The Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology PAS).

Doing the festival. Making the city and region into sensual places. Connie Reksten (Western Norway University).

Understanding affective strategies and counterstrategies: examining political emotions as cultural practices. Monique Scheer (University of Tuebingen).

Navigating the ocean of suspicion: affective politics and materiality in Cairo. Cairo. Maria Frederika Malmström (Lund University / Columbia University).

Session 2

Affective integration: conceptual and empirical contributions of the lens of affect to migration research. Maja Povrzanovic Frykman (Malmö University).

Affective practices of unemployment. Tytti Steel (University of Helsinki).

Body in traditional costume – new approach to traditional costume research. Maria Gacic (Museum of Dakovo Region).

 Sensual engagement in sports: researcher’s and actants’ emotional involvement and the productive use of emotions in and of the field. Yonca Krahn (Universität Zürich).

Marc Romano presented a paper on “Digital Media, a tool to redefine a contemporary Scottish Identity”. Following the Brexit referendum, the question of national identity and belonging wa raised and challenged particularly in Scotland where their origins are strongly aligned with Europe. This paper explores the redefinition of contemporary Scottish identity through the use of digital media.

I presented a poster on “New meanings of European identity in Scotland”. The poster presents results of my ongoing PhD research project on the perception of European identity in post-Brexit Scotland with a particular focus on the relation between European identity and small state vulnerability.

This was my first poster, a medium I was unsure off at first but came to appreciate more when it started to function as a billboard for my research, present throughout the conference. For two of my fellow doctoral students, Chiara Cocco and Marc Romano, it was their first time presenting at an international conference. All presentations were very well received and followed by useful discussions with an interdisciplinary audience.

I also attended some excellent presentations. The closing event started with a fascinating keynote by professor Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett on the POLIN Museum of the history of Polish Jews, of which she is the Chief Curator. This was followed by a roundtable entitled ‘Listening to objects’, in which three established academics, Regina Bendix, Dorothy Noyes and Sharon Roseman, presented an object (for example a strand of hair or a pot) which seemed bland at first, but about which each of them had a fascinating and often hilarious story to tell. The keynote lecture by Professor Tim Ingold, entitled ‘Strike-through and wipe-out: tactics for overwriting past’ provided much food for thought.

During the opening of the conference we were encouraged to take part in at least one panel which did not relate to our research, just for fun and to expand our horizons. For me, this was a panel on cuteness: a concept I hadn’t really considered before (apart from the occasional cat video) but which was fascinating. In particular, the presentation by Professor Irene Stengs from the Meertens Institute on the King of Thailand’s cute cartoons was thought-provoking.

Beside the interesting panels and discussion, we also find time to explore Santiago de Compostela and to experience the local cuisine. I was a particular fan of pulpo (octopus), a local delicacy which somehow also became our team mascot.

You can check out #SIEF2019 on Twitter for more details, and in particular #team_hwu_irc

** Our colleague Katerina Strani found pulpo on the window of high-street shop Anthropologie on George Street in Edinburgh. Clearly it is not only us who think an octopus is the perfect mascot for our discipline!

DESIGNS project update May 2018: Access in employment for in deaf people

By Audrey Cameron & Jemina Napier

 

In this blogpost Audrey Cameron and Jemina Napier provide an update on the work that’s been done on the DESIGNS Project (promoting access in employment for deaf people) since our last blog/vlog post in  December 2017.

Interviews with interpreters working in employment settings and employers have now been completed and analysis of the data has begun. We will be presenting some of the early findings at the next DESIGNS community information event in Berlin in June. On the 14th June, from 6:30pm, we’ll be live streaming another information sharing event via Facebook with presentations from Audrey Cameron, Jemina Napier and PhD students Emmy Kauling and Mette Sommer.

We are grateful to Vercida and to members of the DESIGNS project advisory group for helping us identify employers willing to participate in the research and our thanks also go to those employers who agreed to be interviewed about their experiences of working with deaf sign language users.

We would also like to extend our gratitude to all those who have given up their time to contribute to the project.

The DESIGNS project runs until June 2019 – the next update is due after the summer.

Below is a transcript of the update in BSL.

 

Jemina: We’re here today to give you a bit of an update on the work the two of us have been doing on the DESIGNS Project since December – was it December?

Audrey: … before Christmas, yes…

Jemina: … so we want to tell you what we’ve been doing over the past 4…?

Audrey: … I think it’s been 5…

Jemina: … 5 months.

Audrey: Well, the time has really flown by since it all started over 6 months ago.

So let me update you on a few things. As mentioned in a previous blogpost, we’ve been interviewing people from three different groups – deaf people, interpreters and employers. Well that’s now been done and we’ve collected some amazing data – it’s good isn’t it, Jemina?

Jemina: Yes – there’s a lot of it!

Audrey: The next thing is to do the analysis and start identifying the key themes – whether they’re the same amongst all three groups, what the difficulties or positives have been; what the differences might be, so that’s what we’re working on at the moment.

Jemina: We will be giving you more information about what we’ve found as we go on and at the end of this Vlog we’ll be telling you about one way you can find out more about those findings!

Audrey: Yes!

We want to thank both our Advisory Group and Vercida for helping us to identify employers who were willing to be interviewed for the project – without them it would have been difficult for us to find them and ask about their experiences, so again thanks to them.

Jemina: Yes… we’ve also had an Advisory Group meeting, do you want to talk about that?

Audrey: Last January we had a meeting with, was it 6 Members of the advisory group? It felt a bit strange, we had the meeting online so they all appeared in boxes on the screen and we were signing to one another via Skype, but it worked well and we have another meeting like that in June. The Advisory Group members are from all over the UK, which why we have to use Skype, but like I say, it was good meeting.

Jemina: The Advisory Group members all have experience of working with deaf people in employment or working in an advisory capacity with disabled people in employment and we specifically invited them on to the group to help us get a UK wide perspective.

Audrey: Yes and that’s been really good.

Jemina: As part of this project we arrange regular Community Information Events to let people know what’s happening in the project and to explain what’s involved. That’s really important, especially for the Deaf Community but anyone who’s interested, is welcome to come along. So far last year we had two of these – the very first one was in Dublin; the second was here in Edinburgh at Heriot Watt University, that was June last year, and then last January we had one in Bruges in Belgium. The fourth will be in Berlin when the whole project team will come together and we’ll have another community information event which usually includes presentations about what’s going on in the project plus a number of other things. You can still see last year’s event in Edinburgh – it was live streamed and recorded, so if you want to go back you can take a look at it. We also did something in Edinburgh at Deaf Action and thank you to them for hosting that. We had staff there from HW and PhD students who gave presentations about their research topics. Our fourth year students got an opportunity to practise their interpreting skills – they’re in their final year and nearly at the end of the course, so they got in some practise – Audrey, you gave a presentation about the DESIGNS Project.

Audrey: It was good – members of the deaf community were asking questions and will be keen to know more once we’ve finished the project – so that’s exciting.

Jemina: So what’s the plan for the next few months?

Audrey: Next it’s Liverpool for the Deaf Business Academy awards event where I’ve been invited to deliver a presentation about this project and as part that there’s an award ceremony for the best businesses – I’m looking forward to that, so that’s Liverpool in June. Then in September there’s the EFSLI (European Forum of Sign Language Interpreters) conference and I’ll be presenting along with our other partners in the project from Germany and Ireland, so that’ll be good. We’re also doing an ASLI webinar where Jemina will be presenting online to interpreters – that’s in September and we’ll let you know more about that nearer the time.

Jemina: Oh, and one exciting thing to mention that we’ve got planned, is for this June on the 14th, we’ll be having a live streamed Community Information Event. It’ll be here but we’ve decided, rather than have people come to us, we’ll live stream it so that’ll give people from around the UK more of an opportunity to see it. It’s on the 14th June at 6:30pm in the evening. There’s already a Facebook Event/invitation page so you can click on that to let us know if you want to join in. We’ll be live streaming via Facebook with four presenters, the two of us will be revealing some of the findings from the DESIGNS Project from the interviews with interpreters, deaf people and employers and what they said the main themes were, so we’ll be going in to more depth about the findings. Plus we have two other people – one is a PhD student, Emmy Kauling – her PhD is linked to deaf professionals working with interpreters, which is a perfect fit for the DESIGNS Project. The other is a PhD student, Mette Sommer who is deaf and she’s doing research into deaf people who set up their own businesses, how they felt about it, what their experiences have been like and what motivated them to go it alone? And again that’s a perfect fit with the DESIGNS Project, which is why we asked her to give a presentation. So the four of us will be presenting for about 15 minutes each and then you’ll have an opportunity to ask questions via Twitter, or you can watch via FB and the send in comments/questions and we’ll both respond so I hope you’ll join us and be watching on June 14th.

Audrey: We do want your feedback on the 14th – what you think of the findings; also maybe you can add something extra from your own experience that we could explore further with you.

Jemina: This project runs up until June of next year 2019 which means as we go on there will be further updates like this one, letting you know what’s happening. Plus as part of the project there’s an expectation that we’ll produce more training resources for interpreters, deaf people and employers which means there will be more happening right through until the June when we finish.

We want to say a huge thanks to the Advisory Group and Vercida and others who helped us find people to participate in this research project and also a big thanks to everyone who agreed to be interviewed either as part of a group, or one to one – we’ve been so touched by the time they’ve taken to tell about their experiences – it’s been really valuable and much appreciated, so thank you to you all!

Audrey: I’m sure this will help us to make big changes to employment for deaf people – fingers crossed!

Signing up a storm?

Not for the first time, the Eurovision Song Contest has managed to draw attention to language issues in a revealing way.

We all know the controversies over the years about countries choosing to sing in English. If you thought that wasn’t happening so much nowadays, the 2017 final featured 42 songs, of which 35 were sung entirely in English – at 83%, that’s the highest proportion ever.

You may be less aware, though, that Eurovision has also offered its own unique window on the place of sign language in society.

Back in 2005, the Latvian entry ‘The War Is Not Over’ featured a final chorus in which the performers, Valters & Kaža, left their stools and laid down their acoustic guitars to sign alongside their signing. It’s not clear why. The song received the famous douze points from IrelandLithuania and Moldova, and finished 5th overall.

Things nearly got more interesting in 2009 when a Deaf artist, Signmark, competed in Finland’s national Eurovision qualifications. Signmark (real name: Marko Vuoriheimo), who was born into a signing family, performed ‘Speakerbox’ with a hearing singer. But the song ended up in second place in the Finnish competition and so narrowly missed out on being chosen for the grand Eurovision final. Nevertheless, Signmark went on to great things and goes down in history as the first deaf person to sign a recording contract with an international record company (Warner Music).

In 2015, the focus shifted from signing performers to a signing interpreter. In Sweden, the national competition was presented with Tommy Krångh delivering Swedish Sign Language renditions alongside each song. His work was so popular that there were demands for him to appear for the grand final, too

And what’s the story in 2018?

This year, the UK has decided to experiment with signing. SuRie, our representative in Lisbon, has recorded a British Sign Language version of her track ‘Storm’. The BBC proudly reported that she learnt it “in just a few hours”. SuRie has, we’re told, “been wanting to learn BSL for a long time” and jumped at the chance to pursue this when a fan sent her a video of himself signing ‘Storm’. The BBC’s Newsround said: “She got in touch and asked if he would teach her how to sign the lyrics too”.

The initiative soon started to attract interest. A clip was released on Twitter, but not everyone was enthusiastic, with one person even saying “this makes me want to poke my eyes out”. The singer anxiously replied “I realise there’s tons more to BSL than I was able to portray here and that I have a helluva lot more to learn”. More discussion followed, spinning out – that’s social media, folks! – into strongly-worded antagonism and much taking of sides.

A 24-hour Twitter poll summarised three stances that were emerging. Respondents voted as follows to the proposition that SuRie’s BSL version should be seen as either:

  • Inspiring: a model of inclusivity and artistic creativity – 16%
  • Harmlessly well-intentioned but misguided – 60%
  • Cynical, crass, ignorant and disrespectful – 24%

So what’s going on here? And why is this a LifeinLINCS issue?

Well, as a department, LINCS teaches both spoken and signed languages. And we specialise in both translation and interpreting studies, and intercultural research. The SuRie ‘Storm’-in-a-teacup touches on every part of this.

British Sign Language (BSL) wasn’t even understood to be a language until the mid-1970s. Ten years later, it started to be taught in earnest. And within 20 years of that point, it had become one of the most popular adult education subjects in the UK. Almost all of that teaching was being led by Deaf BSL users.

Now, thanks in part to a Heriot-Watt initiative, plans are afoot to offer BSL as a full language subject in schools across Scotland. LINCS’ own Dr Ella Leith is currently on secondment to the Scottish Qualifications Authority, coordinating a project to develop BSL qualifications for high schools. Exciting times!

But this starts to show why SuRie’s BSL work has frustrated some. BSL simply can’t be learned meaningfully in two hours: “It’s a complex language, you know” noted one tweeter, “way beyond swear words and song lyrics and Trump’s sign name”. The professionalisation of BSL teaching has been pursued for over 30 years. Reversing the historic oppression of the language has been wrapped up with highlighting, as teachers, Deaf people for whom BSL is a preferred language.

Then there’s the question of the quality of the BSL translation. LINCS students work their socks off not for hours but for years (eg on our main undergraduate programme to develop the ability to produce effective BSL output from English source material. And they wouldn’t start with artistic matter like song lyrics, either!

Above all, perhaps, an opportunity has been missed to do some valuable intercultural work. A Eurovision entry that had been seriously planned with both sung and signed content, developed by artists with profound knowledge of the underlying issues of language and heritage, would have been much less likely to have been viewed as ‘cultural appropriation’ at work.

Can there be a happy ending to this story?

Eurovision reached over 180 million television viewers in 2017. Sending any kind of message to such an audience about effective engagement with sign language and with considered, high-quality translation would have to be welcome. The big prize, though, would be to show clearly that Deaf people aren’t so much “in need” of some crumbs of “access” from the hearing world’s table, but are contributors to society with extraordinary artistic, linguistic and cultural riches to share.

LINCS’ own work on the intangible heritage of the Deaf community reinforces that there are many creative artists using BSL. The Scottish Government’s National Plan for BSL envisages “promotion” of BSL as part of the shared cultural life of the nation. We’re working to get that message out through initiatives like the current two-year Royal Society of Edinburgh project to construct a Deaf Heritage network which can feed BSL inspiration into national cultural institutions.

SuRie appears to have quickly realised that there was more to all of this than meets the eye, saying: “Probs best if I leave it to the professionals, I really never intended to disappoint anyone in the community… but I realise I’m out of my depth and I do apologise”. Perhaps the very best thing she could do would be to turn this outcome on its head by coming out as a true champion for BSL in society and the arts. Now that really would send a clear signal.

Professor Graham H. Turner

Call for abstracts: Multilingualism in Politics

by Katerina Strani

We are seeking abstracts of chapters to be included in an edited volume on Multilingualism in Politics. This edited volume aims to make a significant contribution to the area of multilingualism in politics. Starting from the premise that language influences the way we think and ultimately the way we argue (Whorf, 1956; Ervin, 1964; Koven, 1998 etc.), the book will address the nexus between multilingualism and politics in broad terms.

Multilingualism has always existed in society and politics at all levels; from the Ancient world, the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires, to 19th century France, to today’s Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, South Africa and other (officially) multilingual countries. In contemporary societies, multilingualism constitutes a key element of the social construction of public spheres. The link between multiple, and sometimes competing, languages in political argumentation and the ensuing questions of access, language status, language choice, translation and interpreting in political deliberation and decision-making are of paramount importance in contemporary politics. Linguists and political researchers have pointed out the tension between the multilingual reality and a monolingualist ideology in the way contemporary democracies function (Doerr, 2012; Granič, 2012; Pym 2013, Piller, 2016 and others). The proposed book seeks to address this in the context of contemporary socio-political developments, through multiple lenses: a sociolinguistics lens; a politics and cultural studies lens; a translation and interpreting studies lens; and finally, a language policy lens.

Against this backdrop, we seek chapter proposals that fulfil one or more of the following criteria:

  • the focus on multilingualism as a key element of the social construction of contemporary public spheres
  • the interdisciplinarity between languages and politics and, more specifically, the combination of sociolinguistics, cultural studies, language policy and translation & interpreting studies.
  • a wide scope, including not only empirical explorations on EU politics, but also local contexts of migrant and diasporic public spheres.
  • the combination of theoretical and empirical insights.

Specific topics may include (but not be limited to) the following:

* Discourse studies / CDA approaches to multilingual argumentation 

* Translating / interpreting ideology in political debate

* Minority languages in politics

* Deaf publics

* Relevant case studies from Europe 

* Relevant case studies from the rest of the world 

* Relevant case studies from migrant and diasporic public spheres 

* Relevant case studies of interpreted multilingual debates

The book proposal will be submitted to Palgrave, who have already expressed interest in it. The tentative publication date will be around the end of 2018 / early 2019.

Submission information:
Please send an abstract of 500-600 words (including 4-5 references, along with authors’ names, institutional affiliations, e-mails and a few words on each contributor) to the editor, Katerina Strani :  A.Strani@hw.ac.uk  

Deadline for submission: 16 October 2017. Authors will be notified within 4-6 weeks.

Complete chapters (8,000 – 9,000 words including references) of selected abstracts should be sent around July 2018.

Please feel free to disseminate the call to your networks of colleagues who may be interested in contributing to this volume.

We look to receiving your chapter proposals!