Deaf geographies, and other worlds.

Day um… 18th January

So much for no-one reading… my brother Stephen has been on here and commented that he’s reading… he’s a lecturer at Brunel in Information Systems and Computing with a particular interest in perceptual media and eye tracking (which Jo is very excited about)

Second, this blogging malarkey actually works! Following the advice of Sam and David (see days one to three!)  I contacted the Chronicle regarding the article by Lennard Davis that I mentioned last week and told them I’d blogged it… And they wrote back… And I replied… And then they wrote back again, and so did Lennard Davis… And so we started a little discussion about what he’d written and what I’d written which was very fruitful. I’m sure he won’t mind me putting a quote on here.

Perhaps the difference has to do with a US vs. UK perspective. The UK’s scenario has always been one that was more about the continuities between disabilities and the way that the environment disables people. In the US there has been a very different genealogy in which Disability has been seen as a free-standing identity and the idea was to develop pride around a disability identity.”

I think this is perhaps something we’d both agree on, although I did point out to him that whilst this is the stance of a lot of disability theorists, most Deaf theory here doesn’t talk about Deaf people being disabled by their environment nearly as much as it talks about them as a linguistic and culture minority. If you want a good example of this see Ladd, Batterbury and Gulliver (forthcoming) in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, which should be out later this year.

In fact, geographical researchers on disability here are moving away from the environmental model in which disability is an impairment, to take it on as one of an infinite range of physical othernesses. Interestingly, this could perhaps even pave the way for a return to considering Deaf people within a continuum of disability identities without squashing the question of their linguistic and ontological otherness, although I find it hard to reconcile this kind of constructivist take on identity with the evidence that Deaf people still feel it necessary to construct themselves as linguistic others, and assert their right to own BSL and all contexts in which it is used (Gulliver 2004).

But, it’s the UK versus US aspect that interested me with particular reference to Deafhood, which I’d assumed had had some impact within the US Deaf community as far as I could tell from internet and rumours within the academic community. It turns out that it’s not as mainstream as it perhaps appears. So what does Deafhood, with its explicit rejection of Deaf as in any way impaired, look like within a disability politics model as opposed to one that is, as it is in Europe, primarily based on identity and ethnicity?

It makes me wonder if instead of seeing the Deaf community as a single global unit with a single voice and then worrying about the political direction that they are taking, we should instead be charting questions of representation, audience and becoming; Who is it that represents the Deaf community and how did they get to be where they are? Who’s listening to them, from where and with what aim? What evolutions are happening within the Deaf community? Where are they coming from?

Davis is certainly one voice, Paddy Ladd is another, the BDA in the UK are another, IRIS in France are another, the Deaf person in the street are a mutliplicity of others… and the span of the diversity is enormous (as are the number of visions of the ideal society of/with d/Deaf in and out). It will be fascinating to see how Deafhood plays itself out in this forum.

BTW – the PhD is advancing, and the supervisor question is being slowly resolved. However, I’d like to be writing faster than I am… keep plugging away.

Gulliver, M. (2004) – BSL Ours. Thesis submitted for the MSc in Deaf Studies at the Univeristy of Bristol. UK.

One comment on “Day um… 18th January

  1. Gill Meller
    January 19, 2007

    Glad to see someone documenting the progress of a PhD,I am working mainly from home and don’t get to discuss this with colleagues so I shall read with interest.

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