Edinburgh Academic Becomes UK’s First Deaf Professor in Deaf Studies

Edinburgh Academic Becomes Uk's First Deaf Professor In Deaf Studies

In a groundbreaking achievement, Annelies Kusters, a scholar at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, has made history by becoming the first deaf professor in the United Kingdom to specialise in Deaf Studies. With nearly two decades of research on deaf communities worldwide, Prof. Kusters’ promotion in the Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies establishes her as a leading authority in her field.

Expressing gratitude for the deaf lecturers and scholars who mentored her, Prof. Kusters emphasised her commitment to supporting and empowering future generations. Having received her education from deaf lecturers in Bristol, she now stands as the first academic in the UK to attain the rank of full professor in her area of expertise.

While Europe and the United States have already seen deaf professors in Deaf Studies and Sign Language Studies, the UK has now caught up with Prof. Kusters’ pioneering achievement. Deaf Studies, a discipline that has existed since the 1970s, focuses on understanding the lives of deaf and hearing-impaired individuals across the globe.

Prof. Kusters’ research has taken her to various countries, including Ghana, India, Surinam, Brazil, Kenya, Italy, Denmark, and France. Her interests lie in observing deaf people in their daily lives, exploring their modes of communication, and understanding their social interactions.

Aside from her academic pursuits, Prof. Kusters recently participated in a cabaret show at The Stand comedy club in Edinburgh. While using British Sign Language (BSL), she presented to the audience with the assistance of a translator conveying her message in verbal English.

Originally from Belgium, Prof. Kusters obtained her master’s degree from the University of Leuven before pursuing her Ph.D. in Deaf Studies at the University of Bristol. At Heriot-Watt, she is especially passionate about supporting other deaf scholars in their careers and leads a group called ‘Signs@HWU,’ which focuses on Deaf Studies, sign linguistics, and sign language interpreting studies within the university.

Prof. Kusters assumes various responsibilities at Heriot-Watt, including her role as co-director of engagement in the School of Social Sciences. She acknowledges the challenges of balancing her professional life with personal responsibilities, as she cares for her family with two children.

Prof. Jemina Napier, chair of intercultural communication at Heriot-Watt University, expressed immense pride in having the UK’s first deaf full professor. Recognising the significance of this milestone, Prof. Napier remarked that deaf scholars should have been leading in this field long ago. Prof. Kusters herself acknowledged the overdue nature of her achievement, emphasising that many of her deaf peers, including those who mentored her, could have occupied this pioneering position.

Prof. Kusters’ groundbreaking accomplishment not only marks a significant step forward for Deaf Studies in the UK but also serves as an inspiration for deaf academics around the world, highlighting the importance of inclusivity and representation in academic disciplines.