The translated deaf self, ontological (in)security and deaf culture

Alys Young, Jemina Napier, Rosemary Oram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
106 Downloads (Pure)


In this article, we posit and explore the concept of ‘the translated deaf self’, tentatively defined as: ‘the socio-cultural impact for deaf sign language users of multiple, regular, lifelong experiences of being encountered by others and inter-subjectively known in a translated form, i.e. through sign language interpreters’. Regarding translation as both linguistic and non-linguistic, we explore the translated deaf self in terms of ontological (in)security in the context of phonocentrism, demonstrating how the recursive dynamics of structure-agency, within and through which the self is constituted, are impacted by the contingency of being interpreted. We show how such impacts on self, identity and agency are not equivalent to the hearing non-signing actors who also participate in relational encounters through sign language interpreters. The extent to which the shared experience of the translated deaf self may or may not be considered constitutive of (deaf) culture is examined with reference to strategies of linguistic resistances and personal empowerment evident in our data but not universally available or necessarily considered desirable from a collective perspective. Finally, we reflect on how to breakdown the exclusive and excluding nature of considerations such as these by breaking free of the written/signed signifier.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-368
Number of pages20
JournalThe Translator
Issue number4
Early online date6 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Sign language interpreting
  • deaf culture
  • non-linguistic translation
  • ontological security
  • phonocentrism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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