23 Disability, Deafhood, and Enabling Performance


Performance and disability have been in close conversation since their concurrent emergence in the second half of the twentieth century. This working group focuses on the interfaces between performance and disability, Deafhood and performance, highlighting the artistic and aesthetic innovations being produced by these communities of practice. It invites artists, academics, theorists, and activists to explore, through haptic and kinaesthetic means, how these paradigms might productively inform each other, challenge performance studies, and be deployed as a part of an activist agenda. We take up the theme of this Encuentro, focusing on humour and noise, as well as the silences to turn the world inside out, and upside down.

Enabling Performance

  • In what ways might critical perspectives on Deafhood, disability, disease, and health enhance current understandings of performance and performativity?
  • How do Deaf/disabled bodies challenge conventions of representation in art and in everyday life?
  • How might Deafhood/disability redefine the conditions of acting, seeing, hearing, communicating, and engaging in performance?
  • What new perspectives can critical Deaf/disability research, including “crip theory,” and the concept of “Deaf gain” or Deafhood bring to discussions on the tensions between lived experience, the physical “realities” of the body, social constructions of Deafhood and disability, and systemic forms of discrimination?
  • How are Deaf and disabled artists using performance and new media to advocate for social change?

Deafhood and Performing Disability

  • In an era of chronic illness and ageing populations where the acronym TAB (Temporarily Able-Bodied) is replacing the term able-bodied (see Davis 2002: 36), what is the legacy of the term disability and how might performance help situate that legacy?
  • What is the relationship between Deaf and disabled performance practices?
  • How might performance and performance studies energize and animate tired debates, such as the impairment and disability divide?
  • How could performance – as a mode of inquiry – be used to represent pain and convey extremely embodied experiences of disability?
  • What are the aesthetic contributions of Deaf and disabled artists to performance studies?
  • What are the ways in which Deafhood and disability connect with and diverge from oft-used paradigms in performance studies such as gender, sex, queer, ethnicity, and post-colonialism?


Davis, Lennard (2002) Bending over Backwards: Disability, Dismodernism, and Other Difficult Positions, New York: NYU Press.

Format and Structure:

The working group accepts papers, performances, experimental work, videos, etc. Session presentations and discussions will be in the form of a dialogue rather than standard conference format. The final session of the group will be a think-tank practice where participants will collaboratively:

  1. discuss the issues that have emerged out of previous sessions,
  2. bullet point the current interface of performance and Deaf and disability arts, and think of ways to diversify this interface,
  3. reflect on the gathering of the work group itself, the practical issues involved, and contemplate on alternative conference formats.

Languages spoken/understood by conveners:

French, English, Spanish, Quebec Sign Language/ Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ). *Participants can propose communications in LSM (Lengua de Señas Mexicana), ASL (American Sign Language) or IS (International Signs), as long as they contact the conveners to take the needed step to secure translation.


Véro Leduc is an artist, engaged scholar, and a professor in Communication Studies at the University of Quebec, Montreal. Leduc is the first Deaf university professor in Quebec. She teaches in cultural action program, which trains professionals to design cultural actions and promotes the democratization of culture and cultural democracy. Her projects and practices are anchored in research-creation as well as critical, feminist, queer, intersectional, “crip,” and Deaf perspectives. Her current research focuses on Deaf and disability arts practices in Canada, Deaf music, and cultural accessibility. Véro is a member of numerous research teams including Ageing + Communication + Technologies, Testimonial Cultures, Groupe de Recherche Sur la Médiation Culturelle, Participatory Media Cluster, and Critical Disability Studies Working Group.

Laurence Parent is a Montreal-based disability activist, researcher, and artist. She is passionate about disability activism, disability history, and issues pertaining to mobility. She co-founded Quebec Accessible and has been active in various disability organizations over the past decade. A Ph.D. candidate in Humanities at Concordia University, Laurence holds an MA in Critical Disability Studies from York University and a BA in Political Science from the University of Quebec in Montreal. Parent’s doctoral research examines the politics of wheeling (moving using a wheelchair) in the city of Montréal. Her academic writing, video, and photographic work has been featured in conferences and exhibitions in Canada, the United States, and the UK.  In 2016, she was selected by the Canadian Disability Studies Association (CDSA-ACEI) as the recipient of the 2016 Francophone Tanis Doe Award for Canadian Disability Study and Culture.

Kim Sawchuk is a feminist theorist, writer, and activist living and working in Montréal. Her work engages with the politics of embodiment, explores issues of mobility justice, and the uses of experimental methodologies for social change. A Professor in Communication Studies, Sawchuk is the co-founder of Studio XX, a Montréal feminist digital media studio and the Critical Disability Studies Working Group. She directs ACT- Ageing + Communication + Technologies: Experiencing a Digital World in Later Life, and co-directs the Participatory Media Cluster at the Milieux Institute for Art Technology and Culture at Concordia University, Montreal.


  • Ashley McAskill
  • Leon Hilton
  • Martina Raponi
  • Megan Johnson
  • Samuel Thulin
  • Stephanie Sherman
  • Steven Licardi