Deaftopia: utopian representation and community dreams by the deaf

Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Deaftopia conceptualizes dreams and projections for the future, as well as fears flourishing from Deaf imaginary and experience in the search of Deafhood. The concept brings forth a new perspective on Sign Language People’s cultural productions in a synergy of Culture Studies, Deaf Studies, and Utopian Studies. The valuable methodological contribution from Culture Studies allows an innovative theoretical perspective in the critical analysis of Sign Language People’s cultural productions and their critique towards centuries of oppression. The paradigm shift from the medical - understanding Deaf people as incomplete and pathological beings - to the cultural - perceiving Deaf people as an ethnic linguistic and cultural minority, allows a cultural turn in Deaf Studies and its further incorporation in the Humanities, thus substantiating the pertinence of researching the history, the oppression and the utopias of Sign Language Peoples, suggesting for a better understanding the concept of Deaftopia. The analysis of utopian and dystopian manifestations of Sign Language Peoples result from a careful selection of narratives and discourses found in literature and visuature (sign language literature), such as novels and stories, poems and speeches, and non-literary texts as letters, and political manifestos by Deaf people. The discourses stem from diverse sources, from the existence of Deaf clusters, to Deaf artwork as films, to Deaf-led activist demonstrations, and even the associative and political efforts for sign language recognition. A complex stance of Deaftopia encompasses both a utopian future (which the Deaf dream is about) as well as the dystopian forewarnings from the threats that incite to the creation of counter narratives and discourses of resistance. Therefore, the aim of this study is to analyze rigorously the narratives and discourses of Sign Language Peoples and theorize Deaftopia, as a scientific concept and an expression of Deaf Culture. Additionally, this research intends to contribute to the preservation of Deaf Culture, signed languages, and Deaf epistemologies, thus being a tangible example of Deaf Gain.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Faculty of Human Sciences
  • Hanenberg, Peter, Supervisor
  • den Bogaerde, Beppie van , Co-supervisor, External person
Award date30 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


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