Deaf life stories: What they reveal about the potential within all of us

GoedeleDr. Goedele A. M. De Clerck is a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow at the Social Research with Deaf People (SORD) group at the University of Manchester (UK). She has been working with deaf people and sign communities in Europe, the United States and Africa. Her talk at our Oxford event potentially exposes a very wide audience to insight into the strengths in their own lives through exploring the incredible achievements of deaf people. You can find more about Goedele’s work here and here



 SS: Goedele, how did you get to your current position? What or who inspired you to get a career in science?

GDC: I have never really pursued an academic career as such. My motivation has always been to do research, understand deaf people’s lives better and to provide resources in support of deaf people’s wellbeing. I have been fortunate to be able to have inspiring mentors during my PhD, both in the area of anthropology and deaf education. These academics encouraged innovative research and academic debate, and combined high level academic work with inspiring teaching and community support. This support was vital to be able to continue doing research after my doctoral degree.


SS: What is the most fascinating aspect for your research?

GDC: Identifying strengths in our lives and living up to our potential are vital to all of us. In the 13 years that I have been working with deaf people and deaf communities around the world, and that I have been doing life story work, I have continued to be fascinated by people and by my work. These stories are being told in different signed languages and in creative ways, for example through drama or signed videos. Each story is unique and surprizing, and through studying these stories we gain a better understanding of deaf people’s lives, how they have met challenges, etc. There is so much to be learned from it in support of better education, equality, and wellbeing.


SS: What attracted you to soapbox science in the first place?

GDC: Being a soapbox science speaker enables me to share a positive perspective on deaf people’s lives. For too long, their fascinating processes of empowerment and emancipation have remained in the shadows and in the margins. I am thrilled to expose a very wide audience to insight into the strengths in their own lives through exploring the incredible achievements of deaf people.


SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day.

GDC: Curious!


SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now what would it be?

GDC: Sustainable development of research has become under pressure; academia is increasingly adopting market values and I think that this deserves more attention and reflection.


SS: What would be your top recommendation to a female PhD student considering pursuing a career in academia?

GDC: Belief in yourself and in what you are doing and keep room for ‘play’, laughter and creativity, within and outside academia.

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