Using Actor Network Theory: Case Study ‘The Deaf Trade Selling the Cochlear Implant’

Dr Fiona Kumari Campbell, School of Education & Social Work, University of Dundee will present: Using Actor Network Theory: Case Study ‘The Deaf Trade Selling the Cochlear Implant’.

Actor Network Theory is a ‘material-semiotic’ method adopted to explore how networks are built or assembled and maintained to achieve a specific objective (this might be a social policy, product or organisation). The beauty of ANT as a research method is that it allows for a full exploration of broad dimensions of stakeholders and conditions that effect and respond to the research question without reducing analysis to contested oppositional elements or silos. I introduce ANT through a case study about promoting cochlear implants as a ‘hearing’ technology. In using ANT this presentation explores the power of rhetoric and representation, of marked bodies known to the hearing world as “the Deaf,” and also an artefact branded as a cochlear implant (CI). The case study examines the conditions of the implant’s production, the kinds of commitments invoked in product development and the processes of bandwagoning that led to the creation of a cochlear implant black box. Argument concludes that the normalization of the cochlear implant is due not just to the obtainment of inter-organizational networks of “relevant” social groups but was made possible through a deferment to negative ontologies of Deafness and the deployment of the inherent preferability of “hearing” as social capital. The study concludes that technologies of cochlear implantation, by being promoted as a technology of “treatability” in effect produce agreements and foreclose discussion on the contestability of the concepts of deafness, hearingness, aberrancy and normalcy. The case study is taken from chapter 5 of my book Contours of Ableism: the Production of Disability & Abledness, (Palgrave, 2009).

Tickets: Free