Sofya Gollan (TPR), “Silencing Deaf Stories: Hearing Portrayals of Deafness and the use of Sign Language on Contemporary Screens”

Sofya Gollan (TPR), “Silencing Deaf Stories: Hearing Portrayals of Deafness and the use of Sign Language on Contemporary Screens”
Please join us for a CuSPP Seminar in person (ADH Conference room) and online on Thursday, 18 July from 1-2pm. Please refer to the CuSPP email or email for the link.

The aim of my creative practice-based research is to explore how aesthetics of silence as used by hearing filmmakers in their narratives of deaf characters serve as a form of erasure and how this influences the presentation of sign language on screen. While silence is one of many defining elements of ‘not hearing’, I argue that in many screen treatments of Deaf characters and narratives the use of silence functions as a system of subjugation, with the perceived absence of sound conflated to the absence of personhood and voice.  A literal ‘silencing’.

“Most people who have hearing are unwilling to believe that a deaf life can be as good as a hearing life. Because they would not want to experience the trauma of hearing loss, they cannot easily reconcile themselves to Deaf Gain.” (Baumann, H-Dirksen: Deaf Gain: Raising the Stakes of Human Diversity: 11)

Using the tools of Deaf Critical theory I will show that hearing writers and directors embrace assumptions that being Deaf equates to living in a world of silence and isolation. I will use the precept of Deaf Gain to interrogate that presumption of silence as a deficit, in order to reframe Deaf people as fully humanised characters onscreen and in culture.

“..deafness has nothing to do with ‘loss’ but is, rather, a distinct way of being in the world, one that opens up perceptions, perspectives and insights that are less common to the majority of hearing persons.” (Baumann, H-Dirksen)

Sofya Gollan is a filmmaker, actor and writer with over 20 years of experience in the Australian film industry. Her films include Gimpsey (2016) and Imagined Touch (with Jodee Mundy, 2022) with a new film Threshold (2023) screening at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia and in festivals worldwide. She is a PhD candidate at the ANU working on a creative practice doctorate about Deaf-led filmmaking, which asks “in whose hands” sign language cinema belongs.

Date & time

Thu 18 Jul 2024, 1–2pm


Room 128, Conference Room, A D Hope Building


Sofya Gollan


Wesley Lim


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