Deaf geographies, and other worlds.

20 days… 4500 words

It’s going slowly… more slowly than I would like.

I had to stop at the beginning of last week and restructure the way that I was thinking about writing. I ended up with words full of information I didn’t need and had to go back to putting up peices of paper on the board and brainstorming until the ideas came clear again. I never realised quite how selective you have to be to write a thesis but it really is restructive, sooo restructive. I’ll give you an example.

Imagine trying to write an account of Deaf history without going into any depth on the abbé de l’Epée or the whole oral vs manual debate… you can do it, but only if you concentrate on issues and characters that would normally appear to be marginal. For example: One of the central characters of the first chapter is Azy d’Etavigny. Who? *nods* yeah right… actually, he was the best known student of Etienne de Fay and ended up propelling Pereire to fame by his mastery of oral performance… in fact, he is the first example that we have of a deaf person who grew up in deaf space and acquired sign language and then preserved that deaf space out into the hearing world. However, because he’s always been associated with the careers of Pereire and others, he’s always been masked by them and pulling him out into the limelight seems somehow wrong; not for him as he is well worthy of study but because the other, better known characters don’t get a proper mention and you feel like you’re missing out great chunks of data.

Such is the inertia of history as it’s been told over time… and I suppose the importance of what I’m trying to do in telling it differently but I can already see objections from some who embrace a more traditional approach wanting to know why I haven’t figured the principle characters. I have to let the references and setting-up do the foundation work for me there so that my story can be seen for itself, and also in contrast to the more traditional accounts.

So, that was the struggle – how to write a history of deaf spaces rather than simply fall back into newly discovered information about the traditional story. That’s perhaps for another day.

Hi Gill, if you’re reading, thanks for your encouragement. I’ll try and keep this up so that you can see what it’s really like writing a thesis.

Hi also to Miles who has mailed me about a presentation I’m doing this Friday at CDS in Bristol on ‘Who owns Deaf history’. Miles is the author of a vast amount of research into the Deaf community in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. There is a great reference bibliography here , information on South and South-West Asia, on Africa, and the Ottoman Court. Along with Groce’s information on Martha’s Vineyard, this is amazing stuff on early Deaf communities…

What we need is a site to pull this, and other Deaf historical material together… anyone got time to compile and host it?

I’ll try and write the presentation in a format that is readable, and make it available on here, or linked.

Now… back to Desloges and the spaces of the Paris Deaf community.


This entry was posted on January 29, 2007 by in Musings and tagged .
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