Mike Gulliver: Academics should consult Deaf people before we plan to co-produce research with them. Surely? (BSL)

Posted on September 18, 2014

The last few weeks have me thinking about the idea of ‘co-production’.

Actually, that’s wrong, I’ve been thinking about co-production on and off for the last ten years (without calling it that) but the last few weeks have brought some questions to the fore. I’m sure more thoughts will come out in time, particularly since things in projects that I’m involved with are evolving, raising challenges and questions that I want to make public.

To watch this article signed by Mike, click play below!

But, for the moment, here’s a thought.

It’s really important for universities to be co-producing research with the Deaf community. REALLY important. Actually, if something that was said at a conference recently is true, it’s inevitable.

Since the work that we (hearing academics) do involves information from and knowledge about the Deaf community, it is co-produced, whether we, or the Deaf community like it or not. (This question of ‘liking it’ isn’t inevitable. There are things that we can do, but the difficulties will be explored in a future post).

So, the question shifts to being ‘aware’ that we are co-producing and do it as best we can.

So, how – and here’s my question – can we be thinking of projects that are designed to be co-produced with the Deaf community when we’ve not even asked them if they’d like to be involved first?

(I’ll set aside the question of ‘how much’ of a project needs to be ‘Deaf’ and how much ‘hearing’ for the moment.)

How can we think of a project, think that it’s an interesting idea, think that it’s a good idea for the community, think that we know how to set it up… and then write the proposal, get the funding… all without the community being involved, and then expect the community to gratefully leap into a ready exploration of co-production with us?

We can’t, surely. I mean, if the Deaf community did the same; dreamed up a project, wrote it, went off and got funding, all without telling us. And then suddenly turned up at the door of the university and expected us to understand that it was a project that was ‘empowering’ and that they expected us to be grateful and immediately get involved… I can imagine the response.

In fact, I’m not even sure there would be a response. More a puzzled ‘what?’

Before writing people into a co-production proposal, it’s only polite to ask… surely?

This blog was the first of a series on the subject (keep looking at Mike’s blog for more) and was first published here: http://mikegulliver.com/2014/09/08/its-only-polite-to-ask-deaf-people-before-we-co-produce-with-them-surely/

Mike Gulliver is a hearing academic whose main research field is the history of the Deaf community. He is particularly interested in the question of ‘Deaf space’, and the similarities between the Deaf community and other linguistic minority groups. He has researched Deaf identity in Spain, the question of BSL ‘ownership’ and recognition, and the history of both English and French Deaf communities. He is currently writing a book about the first London church built specifically for Deaf people – St Saviour’s, on Oxford Street. Mike lives in Bristol with his wife Jo, his two children: Amelie and Zebedee, two cats and two chickens. He is a keen cyclist. Read his blog here: http://mikegulliver.com/

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