Submitted by John Bosco Conama on August 11, 2008.
The 4th International Deaf Academics and Researchers Conference was held at the University of Dublin, Trinity College on June 25-27, 2008. The theme chosen for the conference was:
The Role of Deaf Academics in the Pursuit of Social Justice
The organising committee gave a rationale for the theme. Many Deaf academics and researchers have found themselves working in the academia which itself is a cultural institution hence by default, was the mainstay of reproducing inequalities in societies. The conference acknowledged the World Federation of the Deafs assertion that the position of Deaf communities across the world is far from ideal one, which Deaf academics and researchers strived for. The conference aimed to explore the roles of Deaf academics within the academia and how they can support or promote the Deaf communities pursuing their social justice.
Seventy Deaf academics and researchers from 17 countries registered for the conference. Most of them came from Europe and North America. The dominance reflected the imbalance between the Western world and the other parts of the world. This influenced in some parts that the next conference was voted for Brazil in the year of 2010. It had to be acknowledged that Due to restricted visa regulations, a number of Deaf academics from a number of countries were refused entry.
Dr. Joe Murray of the World Federation of the Deaf gave the first keynote presentation and in his presentation, he stressed the need for Deaf Academics to work with local and national Deaf associations by providing information and advice. He referred to the recently created convention by the United Nations for people with disabilities and urged the audience to read and avail of this convention to enhance the social justice for Deaf communities worldwide. The concept of public sphere was discussed and Dr. Murray pointed out that in historical terms, the concept of public sphere was widely used by Deaf people in the 19th century.
Dr. Laurene Simms of Gallaudet University gave the second keynote presentation. Her presentation focused on the strategy of developing hearing allies to enhance the social justice for Deaf communities. She drew parallels from other communities such as the Afro-American community and the feminist movement. Her presentation had sparked debate and discussion on the potential strategies of building up allies. Both keynote presentations were well complemented by other presentations. Fifteen individual presentations were given and the subjects ranged from the development of social network by Deaf people through railways in the city of Mumbai to the implications arising from potential legislative actions in the UK on Deaf communities.
Such financial sponsorships made it possible to support those Deaf academics from the developing countries. Two presenters, Flaviane Reis from Brazil and Sujit Sahasrabudhe from India were partly sponsored and they gave simulating presentations. The Brazilian presentation focused on the development of Deaf education in Brazil and the Indian one referred to the politics of ISL (Indian Sign Language), which its advocates struggled, and progressed to some extent, to influence the powers to be in India.
Other presentations included the validity of research on Deaf-related issues; the contributions of Deaf academics in Britain to the Deaf communities as giving back value; the miscarriage of justice suffered by a Deaf man in Norway, the state of Deaf education in the Czech Republic and the value of sign writing for Deaf academics.Other presentations focused on personal issues that affect Deaf academics in general. Gendered signing in Ireland and the experiences of Deaf professionals facing the glass ceiling barriers in Britain were the examples. Other presentations argued the application of different contexts to enhance social justice. One paper argued that science could be used as a vehicle of enhancing social justice while law was mooted by one as the possible avenue. Such a variety of themes and their conclusions simulated discussions and debates during breaks and evening chats.
Towards the end of each day, the conference hosted an open forum and we debated on the findings of presentations within the context of how they can enhance the social justice for Deaf communities. Discussions were given on the possibility of enhancing the network and information exchange among Deaf academics. Jordan Eickman gave a paper on the potentiality of DeafWiki project aiming to have it as the global reference point for Deaf-related subjects. There was a suggestion to have such conferences in close vicinity to other conferences on issues that affect Deaf communities hence Deaf Academics would be enabled to attend these conferences.
The feedback from the participants was overly positive and impressed with the organisation of the conference. The central location of conference and accommodation were the chief positive references. There were guided tours to an art exhibition in the prestigious gallery by a Deaf man, a museum attached to the school for the Deaf and the local Deaf club.
A DVD that includes all presentations and PowerPoint illustrations is being prepared. The copies will be available sometime in Autumn 2008 and can be requested at a cost by those who did not attend the conference.
The 4th conference was organized by John Bosco Conama, coordinator; Carmel Grehan, Deirdre Byrne-Dunne, Graham O'Shea, Sean Herlihy, Teresa Lynch, Noel O'Connell and Patrick Matthews. It was sponsored by the Irish Deaf Society, St. Stephen's Green Trust, the Centre for Deaf Studies at Trinity College, the Dublin City Council, and Failte Ireland.
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