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Applied Linguistics Review

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Conscious artistic translanguaging onstage

Kelly Fagan Robinson
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  • Department of Anthropology, University College London (UCL), 14 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW, UK
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Published Online: 2017-11-10 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2017-0079


This article is drawn from field observations of deaf-led Deafinitely Theatre as they produced The DREAM for Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Focusing on a goal of the company to ‘put BSL [British Sign Language] centre stage’, I examine the ways that different languages and modes (including signs, speech, gestures, text, music) co-existed in the same space in spontaneous, unexpected, and hybridised ways. I suggest that the carefully chosen arrangements of the languages employed in the production exerted particular messages that went beyond BSL translations of Shakespeare, establishing clear articulations of the artists’ understandings of the positions that signed and spoken languages hold in day-to-day British life. The aim of this article is to disentangle the translingual, multimodal imperatives born within ‘deaf-led’ theatre, where deaf people and sign language are maintained as key grounding forces. Of interest is both language choices utilised in praxis, as well as how these decisions prompted debates between signers and non-signers, triggering reconsideration of preconceived notions of what ‘being deaf’ means. In re-presenting for an audience different people’s translingual and multimodal resources and experiences, I argue that these artists intentionally harnessed a form of conscious translanguaging to advance both practical and political outcomes.

Keywords: translanguaging; multimodality; language regimes; language repertoires; sign language; performance; deaf; deafness; DEAF space; social anthropology


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-11-10

Citation Information: Applied Linguistics Review, ISSN (Online) 1868-6311, ISSN (Print) 1868-6303, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2017-0079.

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