Ghostwriting: Deaf translators within the Deaf community

Robert Adam, Breda Carty, Christopher Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


While there have been many explorations of minority cultures from within, without and in contact zones, the (sign language using) Deaf community is still little explored or understood. Some contest its community status, the linguistic status of signed languages and the problematic notion of an identity brought about by experiencing the world through the eye (Bahan 2008). Recent work has proposed and explored the concept of ‘Deafhood’ (Ladd, 2003), a way of describing how deaf people develop a sense of what it means to be Deaf; how ‘deaf’ experiences converge through socialisation with other deaf and Deaf people. This continual process of identification, mutual acceptance, re-identification and redefining oneself amongst one’s peers, allies and enemies forges the ‘Deaf’ self. Part of this continual process of producing and exchanging meaning within the community occurs through reciprocal skills exchange and mutual support (Smith, 1996). One of the skills which can feature in this reciprocity is the understanding and use of English (or other national spoken language), often acquired as a weaker or second language for many Deaf people. Although it is common to see professional (non-Deaf) interpreters operate between signed and spoken languages, it is less well known that Deaf people also function as language brokers for each other in a wide range of situations. Stone (2009) has described how translation norms are developed by experienced Deaf translators/interpreters; these people have sometimes been called ‘Ghost writers’ in the Australian Deaf community. These ‘Ghost writers’ describe the development of their translation skills through other role-models within Deaf social networks, or social clubs called ‘Deaf clubs’. The development of these skills is seen as part of their growth in cultural and linguistic awareness ­ of realising the possibilities of their language, and the range of interconnections among and between Deaf people and the wider community. Ghost writers also articulate the possibilities of language brokers (cf Hall and Sham, 1998; Hall and Robinson, 1999) - empowering others within the Deaf community, while revealing the level of mainstream cultural competence open to Deaf people.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-393
Number of pages19
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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