Call for submissions for new acadeafic series: “SIGN explorers”

by guest editor Marta Morgado

As a deaf researcher doing fieldwork in West Africa, I was lucky at the time to rely on other researchers’ previous experiences with fieldwork in Africa. Unfortunately, extra-research accounts of fieldwork are usually not included in academic publications. This made me think of how important it is to have access to personal experiences of other “sign explorers”. Sharing this kind of knowledge can empower us and value academic research about deaf communities.

To do this, I propose to collect researchers’ personal accounts of fieldwork in unfamiliar environments, discussing experiences of working in understudied sign language communities. Would you like to pitch in with your own experience with fieldwork?

This collection is being hosted by Acadeafic as a special series. If you are interested in sharing your testimony, please send us a vlog (maximum 9 minutes) and a blog (maximum 2000 words). The vlog can be in any sign language(s) you prefer (including International Sign) – (consider your target audience); the blog must be in English (you can add a translation into another written language). Pictures and other visual elements are recommended. See here for the guidelines for both vlogs and blogs.

If you would like to contribute, please get in touch with guest editor for this series Marta Morgado. After submission, your blog and vlog will go through review.

In order to address a common set of themes over the different blogs and vlogs we suggest some guiding questions that may help you organise your own testimony, or part of it. We thought of questions that reflect other people’s curiosity and, of course, you don’t have to answer them all.

  1. CONTEXT
    – how did the opportunity to do fieldwork come up?
    – where was it?
    – who did you go with?
    – how many times and for how long did you do fieldwork?
    – what are the most striking aspects of the local/regional/national deaf community and their sign language(s)?
    – where were you lodged?

  2. GETTING AROUND
    – how did you communicate with hearing people?
    – was it easy to learn the local/regional/national sign language(s)?
    – was it easy to relate to community members?
    – how did you feel as a deaf/hearing foreigner?
    – how did you go from your lodging place to the deaf community site?
    – how did you have your meals? (i.e. buying and cooking)

  3. CULTURAL CONTRASTS
    – were there any awkward situation, embarrassments, mistakes, …? (e.g. about food, peeing outdoors, women status, religious beliefs, …)

  4. HAZARDS
    – did you have support to move around?
    – how did you experience moving around by yourself?
    – which measures did you take (if any) to safeguard your technical equipment?
    – was your equipment ever in jeopardy?
    – were you ever sick or did you have any accidents?
    – any misadventures worth telling?
    – did you have any particular fear(s)?

  5. CONNECTION WITH THE COMMUNITY
    – were there any awkward situations regarding financial, material or compensation issues?
    – how did your personal life interfere with your fieldwork?
    – did you engage in social activities with the community, not work-related?
    – did you develop any personal bonds with community members beyond your research activities?
    – have you been in touch with community members after fieldwork?

  6. FINAL THOUGHTS
    – what impressed you most about fieldwork, positive and negative?
    – when doing fieldwork, have you ever considered giving up?
    – anything you would have done differently?

Marta Morgado is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Linguistics at Leiden University. She is from Portugal and currently lives in the Netherlands. Her PhD study is part of a larger research project ‘From Gesture to Language’, focusing on size and shape signs of two village sign languages in western Africa (Adamorobe in Ghana, and Bouakako in Côte d’Ivoire). She has been collaborating with deaf communities in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (West Africa) since 2005. She runs before starting the day, always travels with her drawing material, and loves the smell of books. She’s on Twitter as @marta_morgado

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