Our conference theme is ‘Colonialism in Deaf History’

Many people have asked how we define colonialism and how it applies to Deaf History. 

The most common meaning of colonialism is when one country (or powerful group) takes over another and controls it – for example, many European nations colonised African, Asian and American nations between the 16th and 20th centuries. The coloniser exploits the colonised area/people to increase their own power – e.g., by taking its resources, or increasing their own control in different regions of the world. 

[Note: in Europe the term ‘imperialism’ is often used rather than ‘colonialism’. The two terms are very similar.]

People in the colonised place usually lose their independence, their land, often their language, and their organising systems and relationships with each other are usually disrupted. 

Even after coloniser leaves, impacts remain in the former colony – the institutions established by coloniser (e.g., legal, economic and education systems) continue, they may have lost their language and knowledge of their history, there may be unequal relations within colonised community – people closer to the ‘coloniser’ may have more power and internalise the values of the coloniser (sometimes called ‘post-colonialism’). 

Colonialism has had major impacts on political alliances and conflicts, migration, economics, health, language spread and decline, and many other aspects of our world today.

How does colonialism apply to Deaf History? The theme can be interpreted in different ways, such as:

  • Deaf people’s experiences during colonial eras in different countries 
  • Influence of colonialism within Deaf communities and organisations, and on their languages
  • Colonialism as a theoretical framework for analysing systems such as deaf education philosophies and methodologies
  • ’Post-Colonialism’ – Deaf people internalising colonialist attitudes about themselves and others

Colonialism may have had mixed effects on deaf people in different places – many will say that colonialism impacted negatively on the indigenous Deaf communities, their languages and information sharing practices. Others may say that colonialism provided opportunities (e.g. for education and community development) that did not exist before. 

Not everyone agrees with using colonialism as a theoretical framework or metaphor for deaf people’s experiences – the conference will also welcome debate about this.

At this conference, we are focusing on colonialism in Deaf history. Proposals that focus primarily on colonialism in modern communities will not be considered.

Go to the Call for Papers Page to submit your abstract for the conference.