International Conference in Deaf Geographies, June 29-30, 2015

The International Conference in Deaf Geographies

29-30 June 2014

Field School in Deaf Geographies

Rochester Institute of Technology

Rochester, New York


The Field School in Deaf Geographies (FSDG) announces a two-day conference, the International Conference in Deaf Geographies (29-30 June 2015). The conference brings together researchers from around the world whose interests engage with the themes of Deaf Geographies. It serves as an invaluable forum where all those interested in this research arena can connect with the network of Deaf Geographers and appreciate the diversity of expertise that is emanating from a broad array of disciplinary perspectives in the humanities and social sciences. Critically, the conference will afford participants the opportunity to participate in important discussions regarding future research conducted by the school.

We are hereby calling on those academics whose work intersects with Deaf Geographies to submit abstracts for papers to be featured in the conference panel discussions. Abstracts are to be between 200 and 250 words, and are to be submitted to Mary Beth Kitzel, Director, (contact details as below) by Friday, 27 March 2015.

The Field School in Deaf Geographies is settling into its new home at the Rochester Institite of Technology, Rochester, New York. Rochester, home of the National Technical Institute of the Deaf and the Rochester School for the Deaf, is world-famous for its large and thriving Deaf community. What an incredible location for Deaf Geographic research! The FSDG will run five weeks from 1 June to 2 July 2015. The school’s curriculum will have a dual focus on both human geographical perspectives on the history of Deaf space, as well as on the theory and methods of human geography. The fundamental learning goals of the field school are to thoughtfully and critically engage with Human Geographic research from a Deaf cultural perspective, and to encourage the enthusiasm and efforts of new researchers at all levels of study in this exciting new area of research. The conference will offers participating students the opportunity to present their project’s research findings and to collect feedback from the visiting academics.

The registration fees for the conference are $40.00 (USD).[*] The conference website is still under construction. Details are forthcoming.

DEADLINE for Abstracts: Friday, 27 March 2015

For additional information and abstract submission, please contact:

Dr Mary Beth Kitzel


Field School in Deaf Geographies

Department of History

College of Liberal Arts

Rochester Institute of Technology

92 Lomb Memorial Drive

Rochester, New York 14623-5603



FSDG’s homepage:


[*] Fees are waived for RIT faculty and staff, but registration is still required.

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Chasing Ancestors

I am finally getting around to posting the link to my thesis. Apologies for the delays.

Kitzel, ME 2014
Chasing ancestors: searching for the roots of American Sign Language in the Kentish Weald, 1620-1851.

This work would never have been completed without my entire ‘village’ giving me support, so here are my acknowledgments:

‘Gratitude is the memory of the heart.’ (Massieu)

The post-graduate life presented a fascinating paradox: never in my life have I lived in such lonely isolation while simultaneously feeling such loving support from my friends and family, near and far. I cannot properly express the depth of my gratitude for your encouragement when I stumbled on this path and your faith that I would find my way.

The role supervisors play in setting the tone of the post-graduate experience cannot be overstated. I had the gentlest guidance from the incomparable team of Simon Rycroft and Brian Short. You took a green American and taught me to be a British geographer with such generosity and gentleness that I know I made the right decision to study at Sussex. It is not easy to take on a completely new subject in order to supervise a student and you did. Cheers, gentlemen.

I have been fortunate to call three institutions home. This project would never have been conceived without the incubator of the National Technical Institute of the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology where I trained and practiced as a sign language interpreter. It was there I met and was welcomed into Rochester’s Deaf community. I am indebted to my former colleagues at the Department of Access Services, the hardest working interpreters on the planet, especially my mentor, David Krohn, and the former students and faculty of the College of Liberal Arts.

The Queen’s University Bader International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle has been my English hometown. I want to thank Bruce Stanley for his support and faith in my abilities, especially for his support in the creation of the Field School in Deaf Geographies. Direct support for my thesis project came in a six-month scholar-in-residence appointment and a regular teaching opportunity. The entire BISC community has cheered and supported this thesis from the outset. Thank you all.

I will always be grateful to my third institutional home, the University of Sussex, as it gave me the place to become a geographer. This thesis was partially funded through a three-year Graduate Teaching Assistantship from the Department of Geography at the University of Sussex. I wish to thank my colleagues there for the opportunity and to engage with some of them in the craft of teaching, especially Richard Black, Mike Collyer, Jeremy Lind, and Dave Ockwell. I thank Alan Lester for sharing his knowledge and for allowing me to sit in on his course. I also want to thank The Women in Geography Group. You helped to bolster low spirits and offered cheerful encouragement. My gratitude goes as well to my MSc cohort for the silliness and seriousness that happened in turns.

I thank Nora Groce for her kind generosity and the faith she showed in a ‘young’ researcher. I have done my best to honour the calibre and quality of your Vineyard work.

I also wish to acknowledge other scholars who offered generous assistance – Harlan Lane, Anthony Poole, and Michael Zell.

Thanks is due to the hardworking folks at the institutions where I did my research, including the staff at Centre for Kentish Studies in Maidstone, especially Michael Carter, Libby Richardson, and Elizabeth Finn; the Royal School for Deaf Children, Margate, especially Ayesha Powell; and the staff at the Cranbrook Museum.

Thank you, Janine Wentz, for sharing your amazing design skills.

My thanks to Rebecca Edwards for the inspiration and the conversations; you helped me envisage this project and a future for Deaf historical geography.

Deaf Geography is still in its infancy. I would like to acknowledge my colleagues and friends, those dedicated researchers striving to ensure its survives past the cradle, especially Mike Gulliver and Gill Harold. Thank you for being my partners in this adventure and for helping me to dream big.

I am forever indebted to and grateful for the unbelievably generous spirits of Jill and Nick Fenton. The ‘Fenton Scholarship’ allowed me to finish this work. You welcomed a stranger into your home and your family and you kept her. You are simply the best.

I want to acknowledge my support networks. Locally, this includes Claire Anderson, Charles Bowles, Daniela Debono, Evelyn Dodds, David Hill, Niamh Kelly, Richard Lane, Síobhan McPhee, Thea Mueller, Jean Ritchie, Emma Sanderson-Nash, Claire Smith, Karen and Peter Trimmings, Sally Underwood, and Hannah Warren. Thank you all for propping me up when things got tough and for helping me rejoice in the victories, big and small.

In North America, I thank my extended ‘family’ – Maggie Berg, Brian Bliss, Nicole and Andrew Dickerson, Wendi Farkas, Christine Kray, Donna Landwehr, Miriam Lerner, Lisa Ménard, Meredith Rutherford, Dani and Peter Schantz, Dave Tillotson, Daria Veltri, and especially Theresa Small, my thesis nanny, for your unwavering love and faith in me and the decision to undertake this project.

Finally, I thank my Kitzel clan for your love and encouragement in all its forms over the past few years. It has never been easy to be so far from you all. I lovingly dedicate this thesis to you.

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FSDG finds a new home

The Field School in Deaf Geographies has found a new home. We are very fortunate to have landed at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, NY, and home of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID). Rochester has a ‘deep’ Deaf history and the community here is counted as the largest per capita in the US. It is most definitely a ‘sign language-friendly’ city.
FSDG has landed in a wonderful laboratory in which to study how signing peoples negotiate spaces and places. I hope you will help the school celebrate it’s new location! Please stay tuned for additional information. If you would like to get in touch about anything regarding the school, please contact me at

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Writing through my Hastings homesick

Eight years ago, I made the decision to leave the city where I was born and move to England. I had finally chosen my academic field, human geography, and was ready to make the commitment to a masters degree. I decided to finance this adventure with the profits from the sale of my home, its contents and my truck. My local friends and family were puzzled by this decision, but, bless them, they supported my choice.

You see, I had fallen in love with a place.

I didn’t know a soul in Hastings. I arrived with two suitcases and two boxes, a shiny new macbook, and the desire to shake up my life. I was to stay as a guest in a lovely flat with a view of the sea and begin my studies at the University of Sussex in Brighton.

I commuted to uni by train and, oh my, if you know me, you know I loved the train. Its liminality and suspended space, its cacophony of languages and accents was a siren song to me, so accustomed to swearing her way at pokey drivers to the nearest Starbucks each morning. On the train, armed with a earl grey in a flask and an article or two for company, I was exploring my new surroundings and adventuring in grand fashion.

I made eye contact and smiled. At everyone. A habit that set me apart from the other commuters. And I talked. To everyone. On platforms. Those across from me, next to me. I was chattering away, so happy in the novelty of it all.

(to be continued…)

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Announcing the 2014 Field School in Deaf Geographies!

We are happy to announce the second year of the field school.

Program Schedule 2014 Dates: June 23 – July 27

Enrolment / Deadline: 20 students. Apply by March 15th, 2014

Participant Profile: Undergraduate students with Level 2 standing

Feel free to look at our website for more details:

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A Transcription of Kate Tempest’s ‘What we came after’

“What we came after” by Kate Tempest

Performed as part of the RSC’s Sound and Fury project – Shakespeare meets modern wordplay. Originally commissioned for the egg, Theatre Royal Bath

I tell of him
who summoned them storms in vengeance
poisoned by the wrath of his rememberance
Him that gave language just to impose the senseless.
His name was Prospero
And he prospers by what he knows.
Knowledge he keeps for himself
And it is used for the bad, to enslave and to mystify.
Know the language that fills up your mouth is imposition.
And subject your ambition to a bootless inquisition.

Look, Propsero, wronged, survived.
He grew wise.
He got fattened on dem books.
He despised when he should have dismissed.
Well, that to this is all relative.

Madness for those who can’t measure it,
Sadness for those who seek it said of it,
Gladness for those who know that pleasure is all self-constructed,
Who know how to clutch it.

Look, if by your art you are fevered of the skies,
You need to let the heat within rise and evaporate.
If you’re the type that sees the sea’s tide is against you, you will never navigate.
I know that language is for those obsessed with real meaning.
Don’t love the oppressor or trust the oppressor,
but don’t begrudge the oppressor the oppressor’s oppression
because each has to learn their own lessons.

Look, if all these people were prophets,
We’d profit.
We were born with the truth but then we
Lost it in logic so go and find it.
Remind yourself of the timeless
because you are the planet that bred you.
And you are the language that led you.
And you are the knowledge that fed you.
So just own it.

Make it make sense and make it
And never believe that the words of the wise are not your words to read.

See, when I hear the quiet voice of vengeance in my ear,
That’s when I know hell is empty, ‘cause all the devils are here.
When my tongue tastes shadows, and all my friends are shedding tears,
That’s when I know hell is empty, ‘cause all the devils are here.
When my heart is consumed with regret and fear,
That’s when I know hell is empty, ‘cause all the devils are here.
And when the boat sails away and I get left on the pier,
That’s when I know hell is empty, ‘cause all the devils are here.
When you’re trying to understand but the text isn’t clear,
When the demon jumps up straight, rejecting the spear,
When the view is so bleak, it starts infecting the seer,
That’s when you know that hell is empty, ‘cause all the devils are here.

So, call me Caliban.
They gave me language, so I could rain down these curses in verses.
And I will take them on word for word.
Because believe me, the worst is
That I have to watch my good friends getting’ caught up in circuits.
You see the serpent rehearses his hisses.
He makes the valiant vicious.
And I know now never to waste wishes.
So, go on then, conjure a storm on the head of your enemy.
You’re going to find yourself victim of negative energy.
What you need to do is extend your empathy.
Make yourself sensitive.

This island was mine for a home.
I was free to make rhyme as I roamed
Now my mind is alone as I writhe and I moan.
I’m the captive of consonants
And I beseech you to be much more confident.
‘Cause we run around nonchalant,
rejected, and restless, like,
‘Oh, we cain’ change nuffin’ though, so why should we try?’

But look, we can change.
We can rampage ‘til we stand strange.
Right now we got our hands chained,
Clutching a freedom.
You know, the freedom of mean-what-you-say and say-it with meaning.
We need to change our own minds before we try and change the sequence.
We need to live with our energy and not by our reason.
But this the last day of my discontent, its season.
No more will I tolerate this greed.
It’s demeaning.
We need a breeze through this stifling heat
Of elitist descriptions of what we can reach.
But they want you to fear it,
To not get too near it.
So they can continue pretending they are smarter.
Sit still though,
Receive it from self like Siddahartha.
The past is just what we came after.

So when you hear the quiet voice of vengeance in your ear,
That’s when you know hell is empty, ‘cause all the devils are here.
When your heart is consumed with regret and fear,
That’s when you know hell is empty, ‘cause all the devils are here.
When your tongue tastes shadows, and all your friends are shedding tears,
That’s when you know hell is empty, ‘cause all the devils are here.
And when your boat sails away and you get left on the pier,
That’s when I know hell is empty, ‘cause all the devils are here.
When you’re trying to understand but the text isn’t clear,
When the demon jumps up straight, rejecting your spear,
When the view is so bleak, it starts infecting the seer,
Then you know that hell is empty, ‘cause all the devils are here.

(This transcription is my own and done without permission of the artist. All errors are my own and unintentional. Kate Tempest is an amazing artist. All credit to her.)

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Workshop in Deaf Geographies

The field school's lovely location

Herstmonceux Castle, Hailsham, East Sussex

Workshop in Deaf Geographies
Field School of Deaf Geographies
Queen’s University (Canada)
Bader International Study Centre
Herstmonceux Castle
12-14 July 2013

The staff and students of the Field School of Deaf Geographies would like to warmly invite you to attend the first international Workshop in Deaf Geographies, 12-14 July, 2013, hosted by Queen’s University (Canada) Bader International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle in Hailsham, East Sussex. The Workshop will bring together student and professional researchers who are experts in the field, and is open to all those interested in the intersections of Human Geography and Deaf culture, community, and history.

Research into the Geographies and Historical Geographies of the Deaf community has recently emerged as one of the most exciting, developing areas of Human Geography. Drawing together questions of embodiment, communication, culture and belonging, Deaf Geographies ask what these fundamental building blocks of humanness look like through the eyes of a community who perform their cultural and social geographies in the visual.

The event will be interpreted between spoken English, BSL, and ASL, and is specifically designed to provide a balance between academic discussion and social interaction.
Workshop attendees are welcome to stay in on-site accommodation or register for day attendance. Overnight accommodation, including meals, is available at the very reasonable rate of £10.50 per person/£15.30 with spouse (VAT incl), per night. Places are limited. Please register before Friday, 28 June.
Day attendance includes lunch and dinner at the day rate of £4.80 (incl. VAT). Participants will need additional funds for personal spending, insurance, and transport to/from Herstmonceux Castle. You are welcome to attend without reserving a place, but pre-registration is preferred. Day rate fees may be paid on arrival.

For those of you too far to attend in person but would still be interested in participating, please consider joining us virtually that weekend. We are taking the conference to the web via the Blackboard Collaborate System. Pre-registration is required for that as well. Virtual attendance registration will be available until 8 July.

If you are interested in joining us in person or virtually, please contact us at
Please feel free to share this invitation with colleagues you think might be interested in participating.
We look forward to welcoming you to the Castle.
Mary Beth

FSDG Workshop Schedule

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