The Sign Language Myth

Thu 25 Apr 2024, 17:30 - 19:00

British Sign Language
Hearing loop
Live subtitling
Wheelchair accessible venue

Contact the events team for further information about accessibility at this event.

Photograph of Annelies Kusters doing sign language
Curtis Auditorium, Herschel Building, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RY
Free, booking required

Event ended

Delivered by the most outstanding academics in the UK and beyond, the British Academy’s flagship Lecture Programme showcases the very best scholarship in the humanities and social sciences.

Sign language is not universal, there are hundreds used throughout the world. But could there be one common sign language that everyone could understand? International Sign promises to be that language! So, is this the answer to global signed communication? How universal is International Sign? Who really uses it? Professor Annelies Kusters will answer these questions with the help of clips from ethnographic films she directed.

Headshot of Professor Annelies Kusters outdoors
Professor Annelies Kusters

Speaker: Professor Annelies Kusters, Heriot-Watt University

Professor Annelies Kusters is Professor in Sign Language and Intercultural Research at Heriot-Watt University, where she works since 2017. She led a research team of deaf scholars undertaking the pioneering project ‘Deaf mobilities across international borders: visualising intersectionality and translanguaging' ( (2017-2023), funded by the European Research Council. Professor Kusters possesses a broad academic background, including a BA in Philosophy, an MA in Social and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Leuven, and both an MSc and a PhD in Deaf Studies from the University of Bristol. With a passion for ethnographic research, she has conducted extensive fieldwork across diverse locations including Suriname, Ghana, India, and the United Kingdom. Recognised for her expertise in the study of language practices, language ideologies, transnationalism, mobilities, and sign language media, Professor Kusters has created six films on International Sign. She is currently writing a monograph on the same topic.

Professor Kusters will deliver this lecture in British Sign Language with spoken translation provided by BSL interpreters. Live subtitling will also be provided.

Chair: Dr Rory Turnbull (University of Newcastle)

Free, booking required

This event includes a reception for all attendees after the lecture.

This event will take place in person in partnership with Newcastle University. If you have any questions about this event, please email [email protected].

Image: Professor Annelies Kusters. By the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas.

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