Gallaudet’s campus is already known as the place for deaf experts from different fields to connect. So it is the ideal home for the new Deaf Studies Incubator, which will focus on promoting interdisciplinary, intersectional work. The project just received a $1.5 million grant from the Mellon Foundation.

“The School of Arts & Humanities (SAH) is excited that the Mellon Foundation recognizes and supports the importance of diversifying the Deaf Studies Department through the Deaf Studies Incubator. We look forward to expanding intersectional perspectives in the pipeline of Deaf/deaf/DeafBlind scholarship and teaching here at Gallaudet University and beyond,” says Dr. Teresa Blankmeyer Burke, Director of SAH and Co-Principal Investigator on the grant along with Dr. Erin Moriarty, an Associate Professor of Deaf Studies. The PI is Gallaudet’s Provost, Dr. Khadijat Rashid, ’90.

For Deaf Studies scholarship to remain relevant, it needs to evolve, explains Moriarty, who is directing the Incubator. Building on recent Gallaudet initiatives — such as the Center for Black Deaf Studies, the Center for Democracy in Deaf America, and Nuestra Casa, which focuses on Latine community and culture — the Incubator will serve as a hub for collaboration, especially between early career scholars and more experienced researchers.

One of the first priorities is the creation of a new interdisciplinary research and training that will draw from Deaf Studies as well as a range of other disciplines. Moriarty envisions this leading to language policy scholars partnering with deaf computer scientists on the ethics of AI, teams of deaf artists and researchers creating multimedia exhibits based on data, and other innovative collaborations.

Three women are in conversation in front of a light blue wall.
(From left) Dr. Erin Moriarty, Associate Professor of Deaf Studies, Dr. Khadijat Rashid, Gallaudet Provost, and Dr. Teresa Blankmeyer Burke, Director of the School of Arts and Humanities, are excited for the launch of the Deaf Studies Incubator.

The Incubator is also filling two pre-tenure track faculty positions for emerging scholars rooted in intersectional humanities. They will be supported in conducting their dissertation scholarship, preparing publications, developing professional networks, and teaching.

And they will be invited to join in activities with participants in the incubator’s forthcoming fellowship program, which will bring in budding scholars. “The Incubator will offer early career scholars opportunities to be mentored, publish, write, and so on,” Moriarty says. Because of Gallaudet’s unique bilingual mission, all of the guidance they receive will be conducted in ASL and English, providing direct access and a vital language environment not found anywhere else.

Moriarty developed the idea for the Incubator while working as a research fellow with MobileDeaf, a project at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh led by the first deaf full Professor in the United Kingdom, Dr. Annelies Kusters. She focused on deaf tourism in Bali, studying the interactions between people of different language backgrounds and making an ethnographic film depicting how these groups communicate. Other members of the MobileDeaf team explored the experiences of refugees, migrants, and professionals.

“During my postdoctoral fellowship, I was fortunate to have received mentoring and opportunities to conduct research, as well as publish as a member of an all-deaf research team,” Moriarty says. “This is my chance to pay it forward. The work I did with Dr. Kusters and the team at Heriot-Watt was one of the inspirations for the Incubator and I am excited to have this opportunity to support other scholars the way I was supported.”

Dr. Carolyn Dinshaw, Mellon’s senior program officer for Higher Learning, looks forward to seeing what the Incubator is able to accomplish. “We are delighted to support this innovative work, which importantly recognizes the impact of intersecting identities on deaf/Deaf/DeafBlind communities in the U.S. and thus crucially expands available narratives of American experience,” she says.

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