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CUSAS Seminar: Dr Kelly Fagan Robinson (University of Cambridge)

When Oct 24, 2019
from 05:00 PM to 06:00 PM
Where Edmund Leach Seminar Room, Dept of Social Anthropology, Free School Lane
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Dr Kelly Fagan Robinson (University of Cambridge)

Thoughts as space: Deaf story-telling as cosmogenesis

Visual Vernacular ﴾'VV'﴿ is a formal narrative praxis through which deaf performers externally map thoughts‐in‐space, constructing weather, creatures, people, landscapes, emotions, and musings made manifest using their dynamic bodies. Born from the visual‐tactile dominance of conditional deafness, these performances enact specific instants via the storyteller's body, exhibiting elements of the way that teller experiences her own uniquely deaf-centred world.

A similar practice emerges in more quotidian deaf-centred performances, whether as a means of externalising and re-examining the teller's own inner imaginative terrain, or in order to help others to witness and understand her experiences and perspectives. Such performances are also explicitly informed by each person's sensorium, perspectives, and embodied memories of living a specific deaf life‐way. Each teller therefore maps a unique 'DEAF space’ made visible via external fleshy instantiation.

This paper examines the performed shapes of deaf storytellers' individually‐generated worlds and the entities that populate them. 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 eisegesic entextualisation, transduction, or interpretation, particularly during confrontations with British text-centred institutions. Drawing from ethnographic examples of VV and other variations of visual-tactile telling, I explore the ways that deaf people sometimes generate lenses onto an otherwise unseen internal DEAF spaces, thereby reframing each teller not as interlocutor but as mind-mapping world-maker.

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