24 Feb 2021 2:30pm - 4:30pm ONLINE SESSION (UK Time)


This is an online event hosted via Zoom. To attend please register.

Note: We will have BSL interpreters for this session to maximise its accessibility for all participants. If you have further concerns or needs, please contact Peter (pm638@cam.ac.uk)


Irfan Yusuf (Islamic College, London)
Stephen Papillon (Jewish Deaf Association)
Hannah Lewis (Deaf Chaplaincy, Liverpool Diocese; Independent Scholar)
Ros Hunt (Cambridgeshire Deaf Church; Anglia Ruskin University)


Kelly Fagan Robinson (Cambridge)



As Deaf sound artist Christine Sun Kim has suggested: ‘The Deaf community knows so much about sound.’ Throughout the various sessions of the Auralities seminar, we focused on a broad range of sonic practices, ranging from Foley sound design for films to writing poetry, from experimental sound art to repatriating recordings. Yet for the most part, the seminar has presumed a relatively stable and universal notion of hearing. Yet such a presumption immediately precludes or partially excludes many people. Indeed, as Mara Mills (among many others) has highlighted, all people lie on a deaf spectrum, including those who identify as ‘hearing’ or as culturally Deaf. In this session, co-organised with the Woolf Institute, we explore the particularities of d/Deafness within contexts of religion—specifically Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Beyond their shared theological origins in historical narratives of Abraham/Ibrahim and a particular relationship with a monotheistic god, all three also have rich traditions of sacred sound, from the recitation of sacred texts to notions of a divinity with supreme sensory capacities as all-seeing and all-hearing. Beyond theology, we also consider here the challenges and possibilities facing Deaf members of these religious communities in fully participating in sound-centric forms of worship. To what degree might Deaf members of religious congregations be understood as what Jessica Holmes has called ‘expert listeners’, who engage with and respond to sound in a variety of modalities? Or should d/Deaf religious experience be understood in a way that generates new understandings of divinity, sacred texts, liturgy, and other practices of worship?


About the Presenters

Irfan Yusuf is a prominent member of the Deaf Muslim community and regularly represents its interests both nationally and internationally. Having trained in law at Leeds and Birmingham, qualifying with a LL.M, he is currently studying MA Islamic Law at the Islamic College in London. His research interests comprise the ethnolinguistic minority status of Deaf Muslims in Islam, their treatment in Islamic family law, and translating the Qur'an into BSL.

Stephen Papillon grew up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and converted to Judaism. Formerly a physicist, he is a polyglot linguist with interest in religious contexts, having been involved in translating the Quran into BSL. He will shortly matriculate to read for a BA in Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion at Cambridge and ultimately intends to research the syncretisation of LGBT rights and Abrahamic morals.

Rev Dr Hannah Lewis is an ordained priest within the Church of England, with an MA from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and a PhD from University of Birmingham. Her research as an independent scholar and practitioner focuses on Deaf Liberation Theology (publishing with Ashgate in 2007) using the lived experience of Deaf people (especially the Deaf BSL using community) to critique and create theology within the Christian tradition.

Rev Dr Ros Hunt currently works in a voluntary capacity with the Deaf church in Cambridgeshire. The Deaf church consists of people from different Christian denominations. She has been working with Deaf churches since 1988. As an ordained Church of England priest she leads and interprets services in BSL. She was previously a member of SORD (Social Research with Deaf People) at the University of Manchester where she worked on a variety of research projects including the early development of Deaf children, the care preferences of older Deaf people and Deaf mental health.

Kelly Fagan Robinson’s research focuses on the senses, disability, communication and social access. Her doctoral research (University College London), entitled Looking to Listen, investigated institutional reception of – or resistance to – deaf-centred communication practices. Her (2021-2024) Leverhulme ECR fellowship research will foreground the ways that individual histories, bodies, sensorial hierarchies, education, and experiences of formalised support can generate epistemic dissonances and injustices in UK benefits adjudication.



A joint event from Auralities Research Network and the Woolf Institute
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