Accepted Paper:

Thoughts as space: visual representations of deaf-centric thought-maps  


Kelly Fagan Robinson (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

'VV' is a performance praxis in which deaf people externally map thoughts in space, constructing specific instants, people, landscapes, emotions & musings-made-flesh in order to consider or help others understand their thinking. This praxis reframes listening as seeing, in art & in welfare support.

Paper long abstract:

Visual Vernacular ('VV'), a sign language-principled deaf performance praxis, may also be understood as a form of bodily-mapped thought-processing. Born from the visual-tactile dominance of deaf condition, these performances enact specific instants, people, landscapes, emotions & musings via each individual deaf person's body. Such performance is explicitly informed by each person's own sensorium, perspectives, and embodied memories of living a deaf life-way. They therefore externally re-make unique 'DEAF' interior worlds via witnessable fleshy instantiation. (*DEAF capitalised here connotes authority generated entirely apart from non-deaf normatively-driven definitions/praxis)

This paper examines the visible external shapes of deaf people's individually-generated interior worlds. It considers the inimitable social and physical elements that inform each unique performer-teller, and what can be lost when these body-maps are subjected to entextualisation, transduction, or interpretation. Because visual-tactility is essential to DEAF authorship regardless of sign language fluency, the analysis includes not only sign language users, but any deaf person who shares in common such deaf-centred, externalised thought-mapping practices.

Drawing from ethnographic examples of forms of 'witnessable thinking', I explore how deaf people offer lenses onto the 'poesis' (Agamben 1999) of DEAF world-production through these representations, thereby reframing such performers not as interlocutors, but as auto-ethnographers. I also unpack the ways that practitioners frequently highlight communicative fault-lines through their thought-performances, problematising rigid hegemonic listening practices and frontline applications of equalities policies. Ultimately, this paper confronts the lack of DEAF-centred communication practices within British institutions, and the resulting potential for epistemic injustice.

Panel Lang01
Semiosis as orchestration