So farewell then, Centre for Deaf Studies, Bristol

I guess the end is in sight 😦 No-one can say it went down without a fight.

It was nice knowing you (from 2008 until 2012). Arriving full of hope and dreams of expansion and staying on long term, the crisis hit and the opposite direction unravelled.

I gained great life-long friends and fond memories of fun times, great parties and special graduation ceremonies. Two of my research projects, group rights, and deafhood and genetics, passed through you too, and I was privileged to have taught Deaf People in Politics and the Media.

My contract ran out last December, and I took up a visiting professorship post at Gallaudet for the Spring 2013 semester (in no small part due to the work I had done under your roof). You held some amazing workshops and seminars, the ones by David Harvey and Shami Chakrabarti in particular come to mind. At times you were weird, I think you will know what I mean: perfect you were not, but trail-blazing, challenging you were. There really was never a dull moment.

And your ‘team terp’…it was loyal, consistent, energetic, reliable, honest, and always up for a heavy academic challenge. It was the best ever. I miss you massively 😥


Eugenics in the news and our research dissemination conference

Some genetics/eugenics news : just to remind us all that eugenic developments remain real.

[Thanks to Alison, Bob and Tony for these]

Article 1, entitled : ‘Three-parent IVF’ could combat genetic disease.

It’s about a DNA test; you can find any ‘genetic condition’ and replace the DNA in the egg with somebody else’s. Opens the door to all kinds of possibilities – e.g. finding a deaf gene like connexin 26 and replacing it.

Article 2, more recent, entitled: Oxford Professor Says Mankind (sic) Is Ethically Obligated To Create Genetically Engineered Babies

Here’s what the Professor, Julian Savulescu, says:

“Surely trying to ensure that your children have the best, or a good
enough, opportunity for a great life is responsible parenting?” wrote
Prof Savulescu, the Uehiro Professor in practical ethics. “So where
genetic selection aims to bring out a trait that clearly benefits an
individual and society, we should allow parents the choice

As the author states, there’s a word for that Julian, in case you had forgotten. It’s called Eugenics.

Thirdly, the UK’s BBC2 ‘Newsnight’ programme did a report on modern day eugenics thinking in the context of the Paralympics. Unfortunately the programme, on BBC’s iPlayer, is only available in UK, but it’s accessible until Wednesday September 4th: I will try and get a transcript.  It featured another Professor, John Harris, who veers towards eugenic thinking…but he was robustly challenged by a UK Paralympian and a writer for the Daily Mail who has a disabled daughter.

Finally, a research dissemination conference, “Sleepwalking Into Eugenics? Genetic modification and disabled people”, will take place at the M-Shed in Bristol on Saturday 10th November, 9am to 4pm. We will be sending out details very shortly (look out for further information in British Deaf News); it’s free but people need to register. The conference will present the results of a Centre for Deaf Studies research project – if these issues interest you, it’s an umissable event.






The meaning of ‘harm’, and indigenous movements elsewhere

Time for a recap : I’ve been buried in writing up a bid (now finished), and during the process I was sent what I think is a really important article, written in the ‘Harm Reduction Journal’. (With absolutely massive thanks to Dr Hilary Sutherland for passing on to me.)

Now, I tried to write on similar lines in 2007 : ‘what is wrong with sign bilingualism…it is a positive and fantastic thing!’, arguing that sign language is not harmful to introduce and teach – do it alongside other methods if you have to, just do it.  Other methods can bring unnecessary harm, and were what I call ‘statist’ (which in the context of my article means simply forced).  If governments claim they were impartial in such a debate, I call that benign neglect, i.e. turning a blind eye while harm happens.  Acquiescence. Bringing sign into the classroom is not statist, because it is not harmful and, above all, it is most definitely not forced. If it was I would not support it.

Sign language in the deaf child’s life allows for their natural development, and meets the demands of social justice, natural justice, identity construction, human rights, and group rights. I’m careful to avoid the concept ‘choice’.  The focus on ‘choice’ has, I would argue, meant lost opportunities to reflect upon other potential avenues for radical change…which is what is needed in the case of the education of deaf children. Choice is cool for a supermarket, clothes, films, choosing political parties….but education? Does that concern aesthetics? We are arguing about the quality of life, the ability to engage in society as equal citizens.

In comes the article I was referring to earlier: which is one of the most important I’ve seen in the 21st century – it is that good and I would urge every student of deaf studies, and laypeople everywhere, to take time to read. It isn’t a long article, it might take a few reads for a person who isn’t familiar with the discourse, but what it states is supremely important: that fitting a deaf child with cochlear implants and expecting their language development via a sole focus on speech is harmful. It generates linguistic deprivation. There are 103 references – for such a short article that shows the work that the authors have put into it – and it was so good it was immediately accepted for publication following peer-review.

I am proud to name all the authors: Tom Humphries, Poorna Kushalnagar, Gaurav Mathur, Donna Jo Napoli, Carol Padden, Christian Rathmann, and Scott R Smith.

A couple of other articles have also caught my eye lately, the first provided by Dr Colin Gavaghan from Aotearoa ; there is a campaign for schools to teach te reo (Maori language) as a mandatory subject on the national curriculum. (I’ve lost the original link, but the story it relates to is there.) I hope they are successful, in spite of the opposing comments under that article.

Being able to master two or more languages has long been considered beneficial to the brain. It is not harmful. (Thanks to Naomi for the link.)

I’m attracted to the idea of mandatory sign bilingualism, which doesn’t oppress spoken or written english, french, spanish, or whatever…it places them in the context of what the child is realistically able to acquire. It doesn’t force  speech (which is what statist policies do), it encourages it where it’s possible, but it includes sign language in that process. That is critical not just for language acquisition, but for identity development.

Finally, I was intrigued by this article too: calling for a National Unity Government in Australia. I know friends with strong connections to Australia, and I am eager to find out more about this development. Statement of principle number 4 interests me: “It is recognised and accepted that we as First Nations Peoples have been deprived of our basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, which resulted from British colonisation and dispossession.”

The least I can do as a British subject (not a proud one by the way)  is support these moves to address problems for which my past governments were responsible.

Ok, off my soapbox now and back to my running!

Donna West book launch, 25th April – a correction

A quick correction to my earlier entry.

Donna West’s book, entitled: “Signs of Hope: Deafhearing Family Life”, isn’t a joint-publication it is Donna’s work.

Just also to clarify the book launch is at the Graduate School for Education (which is separate from the Centre for Deaf Studies).  The launch is in room 410 at 35 Berkeley Square, Bristol BS8 1JA and it’s from 5pm to 7pm. BSL/English Interpreters are provided.

The link to the publisher page is http://www.c-s-p.org/Flyers/Signs-of-Hope–Deafhearing-Family-Life1-4438-3654-0.htm if you can’t make it and want more info.

Hope that clarifies things: see you there!


After birth abortions, my first half marathon and more!

Amidst the hectic life am trying to make some regular inputs into the blog on happenings in the ivory towers and outside of it – particularly Bristol life and all else. If you want to avoid the work and politics just go to the end headed ‘fun stuff’!

Genetics Work

On the work front life continues to be hectic, with all our interview data collected for our genetics and Deafhood project, we are now at the stage where we’re able to analyse data and the website, in BSL by Clive Mason, is up and running – hope people will contribute to the discussion forums to help with data collection on genetics issues 🙂

There’s only just over 6 months of the project left! Sociological research on genetics and Deafhood were put into perspective by the news that two geneticists who specialise in genetics and deafness won a prestigious ‘brainprize’ award of one million euros. [Thanks to Alison for this information.] Eh?? They will receive their award from none other than our Liz, the monarch. Their work includes the use of mice to carry out research experiments. It would be interesting to see what the one million will be spend on and a video has been released of the details of the award – a sign language version of this should be available soon.

I attended an interesting conference on the development of attempts to protect the use of genetic information via the use of anti-discrimination legislation at the European Level, which was held in Brussels. The key lead has been taken from the USA where they have already a law in place called the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA). There was a lot of overlapping with Disability Human Rights legislation and I found it striking that the lawyers and academics were looking to laws that have been developed thanks to the disabled people’s civil rights movement, and this includes Deaf activists.The law is chiefly to prevent discrimination against people in employment and insurance.

However, I am still trying to get over the concept of ‘after-birth abortion’: a euphemism for killing a newborn baby that was published in a peer-reviewed academic journal and received a strong reaction in defence of the original article. As the journal editors explain, this is not a new concept, but has been addressed by philosophers such as Peter Singer. This issue is a hard one to stomach coming as it does from self-confessed liberals.

Bristol Deaf Centre Issues

It’s good to be able to write positively (for now) following a meeting at Bristol Deaf Centre by Bristol City Council’s Health and Social Care department, last Wednesday 7th March. It was a cordial and frank exchange of views on the future of the departments services to the local Deaf people.

My summary of the meeting is that the Council recognise their actions could lead to the closure of the Deaf Centre that would leave Bristol Deaf people in a crisis situation (by the sudden withdrawal of funding that should have happened last November, plus the departure of staff who are under Avon Pension fund). So there will be the appointment of a Development Worker (over a period of 9 months) that represents, to me, a ‘stay of execution’.

Hopefully the local Bristol Deaf community will combine and communicate to spend that time with the new Development worker, developing a vision and future for the Bristol Deaf community – whether it means retaining the Deaf Centre or a different vision.

A lot of people have been working really hard to bring about this situation, including those who work at the Deaf centre as well as the Interim Working Group, legal advisors, and many unnamed individuals. There remains a lot to do, but there is a bit of time to sort things out. The Board of Directors, in particular, needs urgent support, which may become apparent in the next few weeks and months.

This news follows on from the news that hard campaigning has helped to save Elmfield Deaf School – so campaigning does work and massive waves of hands for those who worked hard to save the school!

Lighter stuff! running, football and rodolfo

I completed my first half marathon in Bath in the time of 1.59.21!! I’m well pleased. It was, unexpectedly, hot! Making for a tougher challenge, but fun and enjoyable, especially taking part with friends Pascale, Alison and John (cheered on by Naomi!), and taking in the Bath scenery.

£145 was raised for Bristol Deaf Football club, who are doing extremely well and have decided to enter a hearing league from September 2012! Then BDFC can show the world what they are really made of!

Rodolfo, from Mexico, had been on a visit to the Centre for Deaf Studies for two months and we had a leaving do for him last Friday – first a meal at Browns and then a drink-up at Woods. It’s been super having him with us and hope to make a visit to Mexico one day!

I’m back in the swimming pool, continuing my efforts to learn to swim – trying to get to grips with the breaststroke at the mo.

Future events upcoming

BSL debates at Bristol Deaf Centre are all set for this Thursday 15th March, and the BSL Symposium on Monday 19th March that I’m attending – there’s a banquet too on 18th March but cannot make that one.


The brand new blog the limping chicken is looking good so far! Would be good to see more entries in BSL…which reminds me…!


Updatings and my upcoming 13.1 mile slog sponsor appeal

Le old blog feels rusty and in need of a grand update so I’m onto it!

It’s been erratic, sporadic and manic : maybe good, sometimes maybe not.

Also…I discovered some great blogs to follow and link up with ; there’s some hip and coolness out there in the midst of our continuous struggles – with life, with authority, with people, and even within ourselves.

Great to see : I’m gonna link up to stuff and people and issues I like and value.

Got loads to write, but, for now, I’m excited to be running my first half marathon in just two weeks time 🙂

I’m hoping for some sponsors to inspire me when the going gets tough, plus to raise some money for Bristol Deaf Football Club – who are doing fantastically well but, as always, require money to keep going and attracting newer players: so, I’ve set up this sponsor page (it shows supporting Bristol Deaf Club, but I’ve asked for all funds to go to BDFC):

Full url is http://www.everyclick.com/tigerbeebathhalf

Tiger off to sleep, til next time 🙂