Deaf geographies, and other worlds.
Where was day three you ask? Am I getting tired of blogging already?
Ok… so I think an essential element of keeping yourself interested in blogging, unless you’re totally self-obsessed, is having people read your blog… as far as I know, no-one’s reading this yet, which makes it harder to write. I guess, if i were only using this as a forum for publication and dissemination then that would be OK as it’s then up to an audience to read it or not but if you’re looking to develop links with other interested parties, be aware that it’s not going to happen overnight.
Also, blogging is fine as an activity but it does take time out of the day and the last thing I want to do sometimes is sit here and type in an entry when I need to get on writing the PhD. I guess one key is not to feel guilty if you don’t enter something every day and only to type when you have something more to add. Anyone tracking this with RSS would be mighty cheesed off to find that there was nothing but drivel being added on a daily basis. Better, I think, to wait and add something of value.
These are not criticisms, simply comments, and things to bear in mind when you decide to use a blog as a publication method.
Ok… well, yesterday, having submitted the plan to my prospective supervisor (who hasn’t replied yet. Perhaps the debate that i’ve been having with Jo about people’s e-mail etiquette can wait for another day), I actually started typing yesterday. 500 words on the emergence of the small Deaf community around Etienne de Fay in the Abbaye de St-Jean in Amiens. Much of that might go into an appendix but it all needs typing, so I don’t regret the time. Today I plan to push on with that and get up to the Desloges examples.
Other than that, most of my thinking attention has been take up by an article by Lennard J. Davis sent to me by David Brake http://blog.org and forwarded by Sam http://www.samkinsley.com/ concerning the recent Deaf protests at Gallaudet. The article can be found here: http://chronicle.com/temp/reprint.php?id=j1kwykr398gz88fxgrdp8tj6n7wldcny
You can read the article for yourself but in case you want a summary, Davis is responding to the recent high profile Deaf mobilisation over the leadership of Gallaudet university which he sees as based on a short-sighted backlash from the Deaf community over the failure of Jane K. Fernandes to fit the architypal Deaf ‘mould’. He argues that although Deaf people have suceeded in re-defining themselves away from the disability model and towards a model of linguistic and cultural community identity, this move is fundamentally flawed by being based on essentialised aspects of identity which flounder in what he calls a ‘new age of post-identity’.
He says: “I am arguing that defining the deaf or any other social group in terms of ethnicity, minority status, and nationhood (including “deaf world” and “deaf culture”) is outdated, outmoded, imprecise, and strategically risky”
The article is well written, but unfortunately the clearest message it gives for someone reading from within the academic Deaf studies community is that whilst Davis is clearly passionate about the dangers of essentialised identities, he sadly appears to have missed recent evolutions within the Deaf community that are embracing a becoming-processural ‘Deafhood’ and leaving the fixity of previous models behind.
Now, I’m not going to go into the definition of Deafhood here, particularly as it has no one definition and will continue to be defined and re-defined by generations of Deaf people for years to come. You can see my meagre first attempt on wikipedia here (if a Deaf person would like to take over and add more that would be great?) . A much fuller exploration is available here in ASL video or in the book by Paddy Ladd which started it all off. There will also be a Deafhood site going live soon at www.deafhood.com. In some ways, it is an idea that is already showing flavours of geographical diversity as American Deaf take it one way and European Deaf go another. This isn’t a problem and actually mirrors what happened (and is still happening) with other movements like Feminism, Postcolonialism, Black or other racially based-studies, Nationalisms… the list could go on.
And it is this inherent diversity that is so visible within Deafhood that suggests that Davis’ concern over the political foundations of the recent Gallaudet protest is perhaps more influenced by his background within disability studies (which, incidently, is also being transformed by alternate considerations of physical Otherness into a ‘becoming’) than it is by real observation of the facts. The key to the Gallaudet protests was not the enforcement of an essentialised identity. Rather, it was based on exactly the kind of self-questioning, reflexive movement that Davis is looking for. It’s a shame he appears to have missed it.