Workshop in Deaf Geographies
Field School in Deaf Geographies
Queen’s University (Canada)
Bader International Study Centre
Herstmonceux Castle
12-14 July 2013


The staff and students of the Field School in Deaf Geographies would like to warmly invite you to attend the first international Workshop in Deaf Geographies, 12-14 July, 2013, hosted by Queen’s University (Canada) Bader International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle in Hailsham, East Sussex. The Workshop will bring together student and professional researchers who are experts in the field, and is open to all those interested in the intersections of Human Geography and Deaf culture, community, and history.

Research into the Geographies and Historical Geographies of the Deaf community has recently emerged as one of the most exciting, developing areas of Human Geography. Drawing together questions of embodiment, communication, culture and belonging, Deaf Geographies ask what these fundamental building blocks of humanness look like through the eyes of a community who perform their cultural and social geographies in the visual.

The event will be interpreted between spoken English, BSL, and ASL, and is specifically designed to provide a balance between academic discussion and social interaction.

Workshop attendees are welcome to stay in on-site accommodation or register for day attendance. Overnight accommodation, including meals, is available at the very reasonable rate of £10.50 per person/£15.30 with spouse (VAT incl), per night. Places are limited. Please register before Friday, 28 June.

Day attendance includes lunch and dinner at the day rate of £4.80 (incl. VAT). Participants will need additional funds for personal spending, insurance, and transport to/from Herstmonceux Castle. You are welcome to attend without reserving a place, but pre-registration is preferred.  Day rate fees may be paid on arrival.

For those of you too far to attend in person but would still be interested in participating, please consider joining us virtually that weekend. We are taking the conference to the web via the Blackboard Collaborate System. Pre-registration is required for that as well. If you are interested in joining us virtually, please contact us at deaf_geogs@bisc.queensu.ac.uk with the email address you would like to log-in with and we will send you an invitation. Virtual attendance registration will be available until Monday, 8 July.

The workshop schedule is below and the pre-registration form is attached. Please feel free to share this invitation with colleagues you think might be interested in participating.

We look forward to welcoming you to the Castle.

Mary Beth Kitzel


by Austin Kocher

I was reminded last night of an important reason why I believe this Deaf geography group is important.

I went to a Deaf mingle last night here in Columbus, Ohio for the first time in a few months. It was satisfying to catch up with old friends and to be social again. I am always amazed by the ability of such a simple event to create a Deaf space on a Friday night in the middle of an otherwise hearing pub. Beginning signers huddled together at tables hoping someone would come by ask them their name. (YOUR NAME, WHAT?) Eager interpreting students flock to fluent signers for a much-needed immersion experience. Deaf teachers and professionals enjoy a beer and full-on conversation after a week of working in hearing offices. Many people will live their whole lives in Columbus and overlook the rich spaces of Deaf cultural that coalesce and dissolve rhythmically each week across the city.

At the mingle, I met an interpreting student who was both excited and concerned about becoming an interpreter. She was excited about learning a specialized, socially relevant, cognitively demanding skill that provided communication access to Deaf and hearing relationships. But she was understandably concerned about being in a position where, as a communication facilitator, she would always be re-presenting other people's ideas and not her own. Being an interpreter entails both empowering others through communication and losing one's own ability to be recognized as a full and valued participant. It is a contradiction that interpreters regularly acknowledge and do their best to mitigate in their careers. Some interpreters move on to coordinator positions or find opportunities to teach or present workshops, while others mix interpreting with another hobby or professional skill. It can even be the source of vicarious trauma when interpreting in crisis-oriented environments or when witnessing repeated discrimination. Some leave the field completely and never look back.

Brenda Brueggemann at The Ohio State University writes about "inbetweenity" as a way of navigating the boundaries of identity which are practically fraught with everyday feelings of un-belonging. This can also happen to geography graduate students - like several of us on this site - who regularly have to give an account to our peers that, yes, sign language is a real language and, no, we are not spending our time 'volunteering for the disabled'. On the other hand, we must also give an account to fellow interpreters, Deaf friends and family members, and former workmates about what geography is, the relevance of geography to Deaf studies, and to somehow argue for ourselves that what we do is valuable for interpreting and the Deaf community.

When I was at the AAG in Seattle with the presenters (listed here), I was enormously pleased - as indeed we all were - to not have to start from scratch with each other. We mostly all knew sign language and had years of experience with the Deaf community, albeit in different capacities. We were, therefore, able to make real progress in thinking through the concept of Deaf/DEAF/deaf space and Deaf geographies. One reason (among many) that makes this project important to me, is that it provides us with a community of colleagues who can engage in real discussion about important questions. For me, it gives me an opportunity that I don't have as an interpreter: to make a contribution to the fields of interpreting and Deaf studies through my own signs/voice.

As this grows, there will always be a need to carefully and respectfully articulate the diverse experience of people who are deaf, Deaf, DEAF, or any other identity we wish to claim for ourselves. We must be willing to address the basic misconceptions that people have about geography and about what it means to be Deaf - just as many of us once held those misconceptions, too. It is nonetheless important to have a place where we can do the work we seek to do in a community of colleagues. I hope that we can create such a place through this project, and that more will join us and challenge us through meaningful discussion in coming years.


    Austin Kocher
    Deaf Geography
    Deaf Space


    March 2012
    October 2011
    September 2011
    May 2011