"When your past is omitted in the history books, it’s invisible“: The Deaf Time Machine

By Michaela Caspar
Translated by Ylva Söderfeldt

If we look for the history of the Deaf in archives and libraries, we tend to find mostly hearing people. Hearing doctors, teachers, clergy, philosophers, linguists, or politicians and their perspective on deafness and signed languages. The hearing have documented the history of the Deaf. But what do the Deaf have to say?

Five people on stage wearing white T-shirts and black pants holding signs with slogans in the air: “I’M DEAF. I DON’T UNDERSTAND A SPEAKING TEACHER”; “I’M NOT ALLOWED TO SIGN AT HOME EITHER”; “LEARNING SPEECH DOESN’T MAKE ME HEARING”; “1880-1981”; “PATERNALISM”; “ADAPTION”). Behind them picture a photograph is projected showing two young boys – hands folded on their back and wearing headphones – from behind.
Five actors on stage.
Photo: Lisa Wischmann
The Deaf Time Machine is a play about the history of the Deaf, performed by Deaf and hearing actors for hearing and Deaf audiences, in German Sign Language (DGS), Signed German (LBG), and spoken and written German. It uses historical sources, interviews with survivors, and improvisation based on the personal experience of the performers, and presents these through live acting, film, live cam, discussion, and music.
In order to connect current controversies on the cochlear implant (CI) with their historical background, the audience is invited to join the eight Deaf and four hearing actors on a journey through the history of the Deaf. This is the story of a largely unknown, but vital community with its own language and culture, but it is also a history of persecution and oppression.


Disability History - why we need another blog

Since its first steps in the 1990’s, the field of disability history has been growing and is now established as a specialized, specific and accepted historical sub-discipline. By means of conferences, special issues published by international recognized journals, courses on academic curricula, a number of book series hosted by academic publishing houses as well as research centres, memory sites and museums, contemporary disability history emphasizes the value of ‘disability’ for scholarly research in general and historical research in particular.