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John Lee Clark sits on the beach with a big group of people, all touching

Introduction to Protactile Theory with John Lee Clark

Introduction to Protactile Theory with John Lee Clark

“Introduction to Protactile Theory” is a legendary seminar that facilitator John Lee Clark has designed to bring diverse communities into conversation with the Protactile movement. The movement emerged almost fifteen years ago when DeafBlind people in Seattle, Washington, began to figure out how to communicate with each other and inhabit shared spaces without the intervention—often called “help”—of sighted people. This process quickly led to the rejection of many sighted norms and the discovery of new practices, including a language in an entirely unprecedented modality. It turns out that sight and hearing are not necessary to the building of a world. Protactile DeafBlind people are laying claim to corporeal spaces and transforming them, and then we include others by inviting them to join us. This has meant a profound shift in values and meaning. Many ideas flow from this shift, and the seminar introduces some of those ideas while nudging participants to engage with them. Concepts discussed include co-presence, co-novice, distantism, vidism, and reverse inclusion.

Arika is sponsoring this seminar specifically for DeafBlind participants, including five from Scotland. It also includes two guest presenters, the DeafBlind advocate Bryen Yunashko and the Protactile linguistic anthropologist Terra Edwards. The seminar is conducted entirely via email, on a listserv.

Whilst this is a closed event specifically for participants in the DeafBlind community, Arika and John Lee Clark are working together to producer further public events, publications and seminars inspired by and emerging out of this series, to be announced soon!

About the Facilitator

John Lee Clark is a DeafBlind poet, essayist, translator, and Protactile educator. His writings have appeared in diverse publications, including The Chronicle of Higher Education, McSweeney’s, The Nation, The New York Times, The Paris Review, and Poetry magazine, which published his essay, “Tactile Art,” winner of the 2020 National Magazine Award for criticism. He is a Disability Futures Fellow and an Archibald Bush Leadership Fellow. He makes his home in St. Paul, Minnesota, with his partner, artist and author Adrean Clark, their three kids, and two cats.

John blogs at

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