Deaf geographies, and other worlds.
For those of you unaware of what’s going on in my life, I’m getting married on the 1st September to a lovely lady called Jo… To anyone in a similar situation… do it… don’t even hestitate (BTW… congratulations to Olivier who has just got engaged 🙂 )… although you might want to talk to your intended about the time that it will add onto completing your PhD, particularly if you are limited in time and funding… which we are… but that’s another question.
So, this week is a final week of trying to get as much done on empirial chapter three as possible so that I can hand it in to Paddy, Yvonne and Robert and let them read it whilst we’re doing last-minute preparation and then enjoying a well earned holiday and sorting out the move into our new flat in Cardiff.
And, lo and behold, up pops an interesting question from the writing… which is what do you do when the Deaf community pretty much re-makes theory as it’s perceived by the rest of the academic world?
You see, Deaf people in their daily interactions are only partially reached by movements and discourses that colour the hearing world… Spaces and places, essentialism and anti-essentialism, phalocentrism, feminism, nationalism… all of these theories that are built based on hearing world events, discourses and discussions… on the way that the hearing world works. Instead, because Deaf people primarily live and move in a world of knowledge mediated by sign language and by visual information (not the same as writing… but that’s another question too)… they naturally respond to human and social behaviours to come up with entirely different shaped concepts. Porous and inclusive nationalism… holistic and necessary essentialism… person-based spaces… ‘placeless’ spaces…
I’m supervising an MSc thesis at the moment on the parallels between feminism and Deaf theory… and it’s very revealing to see the way that Deaf people’s thought simply explodes the boundaries of essentialism, becoming, biological determinism and so on in a way that is not with feminism… and is certainly not against feminism… but is simply Other to feminist theory that is, whether we like it or not, primarily still formulated as a challenge to dominant, phalocentric theory…
On the other hand Deaf theory, at least non-adversarial Deaf theory (theory that’s not challenging something like Oralism) is simply authored by Deaf people within the Deaf community… Consequently, it develops in its own direction and then surfaces fully formed to challenge hearing knowledges… Thus, for example, there is no need to challenge a fixed (but also constantly evolving) biological determinism, or becoming, or essentialism since all are in some way necessary to the evolution of the Deaf community… neither one, nor the other… but both at the time are enemies and friends at the same time.
Kat, who’s writing the thesis, and myself are hoping to publish some of this at a later date… However, dropping it into a tradition that is already pretty adversarial might not be enormously comfortable and it’ll be interesting to see what reaction it brings.