Translation: Deaf Realities, by Janis Cole

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This paper explores the development, through personal and professional experiences, of the beliefs underpinning identity in Deaf translators from their localized perspectives. The constructs of critical event narratives (Mertova & Webster, 2009) and narrative inquiry (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Moen, 2006) illustrate the evolution of their identities as translators. I apply the frameworks of social constructionism, feminism, and Deaf Studies to data drawn from interviews with six Deaf translators, categorizing seminal events in their lives into four key societal elements – social, educational, political and cultural – that reveal the power structure within which their identities as Deaf translators developed. I argue that the identity of Deaf translators – like all other identities – is constructed through deep, personal experiences of truth. My analysis of interview data explores the experience of Deaf translators, providing new insight into why Deaf translation matters, through inquiry into the critical events that made them translators.

Through the process of this research, it became clear to me that Deaf translators can create new narratives that we want to see manifested in our future. If we want to see Deaf communities more fully engage in and contribute to society as a whole, previous narratives on ‘who knows best’ must change. The accelerating pace of modern society, fueled in part by rapid technological changes, opens new possibilities for Deaf people and, in particular, for Deaf translators. The possibility of new discourses, knowledge, and perspectives into liberation can obliterate old oppressive frames. It is my hope that this contribution to the body of knowledge of Deaf translators will continue to grow and inform decisions of curricula and promote social change in our grand narrative that currently narrowly defines the function of Deaf translators. I am hopeful, too, in my belief that society’s acceptance of the antiquated grand narrative is shifting so that the social construction of identity in Deaf people will occur earlier in their lives than it has in the past. This study has given me a sense that there is a new paradigm for understanding translation. The shared insights in this study indicate future possibilities, viable new educational and career paths, and the potential for research in translation by Deaf bilinguals.

Janis Cole. Gallaudet University, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
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