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Deaf academics in the university in the UK

O'Brien, Dai ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4529-7568 (2023) Deaf academics in the university in the UK. In: Language and Identities in the University: Navigating Marginal Identities in Institutional Settings (provisional). University of Exeter Press (Submitted)

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This chapter explores the ways in which signing deaf academics who work in HEIs in the UK navigate their workplaces in which the dominant language is English, and the dominant modality is speech. The translanguaging practices of deaf academics are explored, along with the way in which they preserve their deaf identities in the face of pressure from the institution in which they work.
There are very few deaf academics in the UK who use BSL (British Sign Language) as their first or preferred language. Some work in HEIs with established research centres or departments which focus exclusively on signed languages or Deaf Studies. Others work in isolation, with no deaf colleagues, in departments with no specific focus on Deaf Studies or signed languages, for example, teaching BSL within a linguistics or language department. Others are somewhere in between, they may have a small number of deaf colleagues or hearing colleagues who can sign, but who work in different fields or roles. These deaf academics have varied experiences of working with colleagues and navigating the institutional landscape, but all have shared similar concerns about how to be academics while using a language and modality which is not the legitimate (Bourdieu 1991) one in their institution. All expressed concern about the barriers they faced in terms of relying on BSL/English interpreters to participate in institutional discourse, and even when those interpreters were available, interpreter mediated communication often created as many issues as it resolved.
This chapter is based on empirical work funded by the SRHE which was conducted in 5 different universities across the UK. Walk-through interviews, in which the participants guided the researcher through their workplace while explaining the significance of each location, and eco-map interviews, in which the participants drew maps of their social networks, while explaining them to the researcher, were both utilised. These methods combined gave a rich, in-depth exploration of participants’ everyday language practices, particularly with people with whom they did not share a language or modality, and their struggles to promote and maintain a deaf identity which prioritised signed languages in their workplace.
Previous work published from this project has focused on deaf people’s experience of space, using ideas from Lefebvre (O’Brien 2020a, 2020b). This chapter focuses on language use in the workplace and concepts of translanguaging and Bourdieu’s concept of the legitimate language will offer a new insight into the ways in which deaf people’s languaging and identity interact in the university.

Item Type: Book Section
Status: Submitted
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
P Language and Literature > PB Modern European Languages
School/Department: School of Education, Language and Psychology
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/7961

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