Max Planck Institut for the History of Science

Deaf World/Hearing World

A Conference held at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin

December 10-11, 2012

Organized by Sabine Arnaud and Lennard J. Davis.

With the support of the Max Planck Institute as well as the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Department of English, and the Department of Disability and Human Development of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Held at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Boltzmannstr. 22, D-14195 Berlin


Link to the hotel:

Contact: Thu-Tra Dang


The history of deafness presents an exemplary model of a community's mobilization for the recognition of a cultural identity. It is also an unequaled history of divisions across a broad range of pedagogy, techniques, and scientific inventions.

Across the last four centuries at least, constructions of deafness as a cultural identity and/or as a disability have lead to opposite claims. Deafness became a focal point for arguments over citizenship, eugenics, language, theories of the mind, and the like. A different set of categories was produced to give voice to these claims and the dialogue between their supporters has been extremely difficult for lack of a common stake.

Depending on the approach, one can say such a heated debate has given the question of deafness a very specific place among human variations. Sign language, in particular, has led many to question the relationship between mind, body, and language.

We welcome papers on the social, cultural, scientific and philosophical attempts to mediate the space between the deaf and the hearing across history. Topics include the use of objects and techniques for creating a space of encounter, conceptions of the relationship between humans and language, language and thought, or language and society across time and space. We are seeking explorations of the dialectic between hearing and silence, deaf and hearing as well as the technologies and ideologies that intervene between the deaf world and the hearing world, the deaf person and the hearing person.

The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin in conjunction with Project Biocultures at the University of Illinois at Chicago will host the conference on December 10-11, 2012 in Berlin. Please send your abstract to Thu-Tra Dang by July 3, 2012. Scholars will be informed by July 23 if their abstract has been selected. A travel fund is available, please let us know when submitting your abstract if you need an allowance to cover part of your trip.

The conference will be in English and in sign language. The Max Planck Institute will welcome interpreters to make possible presentations in sign language. To facilitate the organization, please contact us as soon as possible if you need an interpreter of American/British/national sign language. Please mention the contact information of a couple of interpreters.

If you have questions please contact Sabine Arnaud at, or Lennard Davis at If you plan to attend the conference without giving a paper and require special assistance, please send an email to Thu-Tra Dang

DAY 1 / December 10, 2012
9:30 BEGIN
9:45 - 11.00
1. Macready, Susannah
Independent scholar
Occupying Liminal Spaces: Mediated Deaf-Hearing Encounters in the Seventeenth-century Anglophone World
2. Kohlrausch, Anne
Freie Universität Berlin
The République des Lettres as a Space of Encounter between the Deaf and the Hearing
3. Aicardi, Christine
University College London
The Paris Institution for the Deaf-Mutes, 1790-1830: Analytical Sensationist Philosophy at Work
11.15 - 12.30
1. Virdi, Jaipreet
University of Toronto, Canada
The Early Years of the Royal Dispensary for Diseases of the Ear (est. 1816)
2. Arnaud, Sabine
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin
Medical Roles: On the Changing Definition of a Field of Expertise 1840-1860
3. Mills, Mara
New York University
Electro-otiatrics: From Medical Electricity to the Brain-Machine Interface
12.30 - 13.30
13.30 - 14.45
1. Schmidt, Marion
The Johns Hopkins University
Beyond Mere Genetics: Counseling the Deaf-blind in the 1960s-1980s.
2. Mauldin, Laura
Rochester Institute of Technology
Neuroscience, Cochlear Implants & the Promised Retrieval of the Hearing Brain
3. Hirons, Sarah
University of Bristol
Deaf Perspectives on Access to Justice: Exploring and Negotiating the Cultural Disconnect Between Deaf Clients and the Hearing World of the Law
15.00 - 16.15
1. Werner, Anja
Max-Planck-Institute for the History of Science, Berlin
Articulation, Sign, or Morse... Controversies in Deaf Education as Reflected in Nineteenth-Century Newspapers and Journals
2. Hubbell, Elizabeth
University of Sussex
“Different Ways of ‘Hearing’ Another’s Words”: Reading Deafness in Dickens and Collins
3. Fischer, Renate
Universität Hamburg
Spatial Concepts in Deaf Autobiographies
Exhibition “Gesture Sign Art. Deaf Culture / Hearing Culture”
Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien
Mariannenplatz 2
10997 Berlin
U-Bahn Kottbusser Tor
DAY 2 / December 11, 2012
9:30 BEGIN
9:30 - 10.45
1. Dolza, Enrico
Istituto dei Sordi di Torino
Italian Language and Deafness: The Possible Binomial
2. Shaw, Claire
University of Bristol
‘’There is No need to Lock Ourselves Away’: Space, Visibility and the Construction of Deaf Identity in 1960’s Moscow
3. Healey, Katie
California State University
Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Deaf Employment in American Firestone and Goodyear Factories during the World Wars
11.00 - 12.15
1. Söderfeldt, Ylva
Universitätsklinikum, Aachen
Organizing the Deaf World: Concepts of Deafness in the Deaf Movement and their Confrontation with the Hearing World, 1848-1914
2. Gulliver, Mike
University of Bristol
Games We Play with Spaces: the 1900 Congress, and the Dis-abling of the Deaf Community
3. Eyring, Mary
University of California, San Diego
The Discipline of the Benevolent Embrace: Charitable Women Writers and the Rise of Deaf Education in America’s Maritime Centers
12.15 - 13.15
13.15 - 15.00
1. Humphries, Tom
University of California, San Diego
Words, Dictionary Definitions, and Context is Everything
2. Kittlitz, Anja
Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich
Bridging the Gap?! The Lifeworld Construction of Being Hard of Hearing: An Anthropological Perspective
3. Bulut, Zeynep
Institute for Cultural Inquiry, Berlin
Silence and Speech in Phonophonie and Lecture on Nothing
4. Murray, Joseph
Gallaudet University
Creating a "World": The Invention of Deaf and Hearing Worlds in the Late Nineteenth Century
15.15 - 16.30
1. Davis, Lennard J.
University of Illinois, Chicago
Anti-Cochlear Implant Activists in the Context of the Anti-Science Movements
2. Vogel, Helmut
Deaf History Now
“Verkannte Menschen” (Misjudged People) - A Movie about Deaf People (1932)
3. Zaurov, Mark
University of Hamburg
Hearing as Atavism: The Deaf Visionary and Inventor W. Zeitlin (1907-1942)
16.45 - 18.00
1. Jones, Jeannette
Boston University
Turn it Up Louder! Beethoven’s Nightmare and a Deaf Hearing of Music
2. Rush, Carly Ann
Vanderbilt University
Deaf People and the Creation of Art Forms
3. Ugarte, Rafael
Freie Universität Berlin
Perfomances on the Edge of Hearing and Deaf Culture