The 2nd International Deaf Academics and Researchers Conference: A Summary

Submitted by Gallaudet University Press Institute on February 21, 2004.

The Second International Deaf Academics and Researchers Conference took place on February 19-21, 2004, at the Kellogg Conference Hotel at Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C. Inspired by the Deaf in Academia Workshop held March 2002, in Austin, Texas, a planning committee co-chaired by Derek Braun and Caroline Solomon organized a compelling series of presentations and panels to discuss both current research and the roles of Deaf scholars in the academic world and in their respective Deaf communities. More than 130 people registered for the conference, including attendees and presenters from nations as far away as Australia, Belgium, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

The conference featured two keynote speakers — Harry G. Lang, Professor, Center for Research, Teaching, and Learning at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, NY; and Helga Stevens, Director of the European Union of the Deaf in Brussels, Belgium. Lang opened the conference with a fascinating account of deaf scientists who made significant contributions in various fields. He also noted how their work often was doubted because they were deaf. He concluded his address on an inspiring note, remarking that scientists can see far into the future by standing on the shoulders of the Deaf giants in science who have gone before them.

Helga Stevens offered a profile of deaf education in Europe, noting that the number of deaf students in higher education was far lower than in the United States. She also discussed the challenges of ensuring complete access for deaf students, especially for those who are not fluent in English, which has become the predominant language of scholarship in Europe. Stevens also commented on the effort to form a university for deaf students in Europe as an answer to these complex issues, but reported that the proposal has not been accepted at present.

Other presentations at the conference traversed a broad spectrum of research and issues critical to Deaf researchers and Deaf communities. Teresa Blankmeyer Burke of the University of New Mexico analyzed the impact of technology, including cochlear implants and deaf people. Tom Humphries, from the University of California in San Diego, discussed the emergence of the concept of Deaf people as a cultural minority in the late 20th century, and the effect that this self-awareness has had in Deaf communities. Larry Pearce from the National Cancer Institute shared his research with derivatives of capsaicin, a chemical from hot peppers, to treat cancer patients. Tonya Stremlau, Professor of English at Gallaudet, described the intricacies of applying feminist literary theory to Deaf texts.

Several panels offered stimulating discourse on diverse subjects, ranging from how to obtain research grants to assessing job search issues, creating effective partnerships with interpreters, and conducting research on the auditory system. The final presentations explored Deaf communities on a global scale and the political participation of Deaf people. The success and enthusiasm for the second Deaf Academics and Researchers Conference reached such a high level that an announcement was made that planning had begun for a third conference, which is scheduled to take place in Stockholm, Sweden in 2006.

The Second International Deaf Academics and Researchers Conference was made possible by the generous sponsorship of the Gallaudet University Press Institute and the Gallaudet Research Institute. The conference committee consisted of Derek Braun and Caroline Solomon (co-chairs), Brian Greenwald, Christian Vogler, and Carol Padden, with special thanks to Gaurav Mather, Christian Rathmann, and John Van Cleve.

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