Deaf geographies, and other worlds.

Boundaries on DEAF space

It’s been  while since I posted… largely due to work and family factors.

However, something has recently cropped up that has prompted me to post.

Recently, I was asked to present something at London’s Healthy Deaf Minds on DEAF space. The evening was great and there were about 120 people there… conversations afterwards were really interesting, and several people went away pondering the question of how a DEAF space micropolitics might impact on the more traditioanl form of Deaf politics.

A few weeks later i got a Facebook message from someone who was there and who chatted to me afterwards about his work on cued-speech, the system where deaf people’s speech is prompted by syllabic  handshapes positioned next to the mouth… Apparently, he has asked to present something at HDM and been turned down because ‘DEAF space is BSL only’.

If this is true, then DEAF space has been lifted from its non-temporal, descriptive, core-out roots… and mobilised to exclude things that are not ‘DEAF’.

This is not something that should surprise. Since DEAF is a descriptor of (what’s expected)… and one of the elements of what makes a ‘deaf’ person ‘DEAF’ is their adoption of a contestatory ‘Deaf’ politics, then it follows that DEAF currently contains a large chunk of ‘Deaf’… and it also then potentially follows that DEAF space would be ‘BSL only’.

But, that ignores the descriptive potential that was at the origin of ‘DEAF’ as a concept; that allows DEAF to describe something completely different should that emerge as ‘expected’ within the community… something that could, potentially, be the opposite of BSL; cued speech for example. 

Which rather led me to wonder if my use of DEAF is actually as problem-free as I originally thought… and to conclude that it clearly isn’t…

… which means that there is another piece of work to be done to look at the way that DEAF emerges from particular spaces and cultures and knowledges produced by a section of a larger humanity… perhaps containing the notion of exclusivity…

It goes beyond a DEAF geography, and back towards a geography of humanity as the entirely of those who live from within situated physical bodies…

2 comments on “Boundaries on DEAF space

  1. Ben Karlin
    June 1, 2011

    Mike, I really enjoy your blog but being in the US and on the street instead of an academic have not really got the hang of Deaf nation and Deaf World yet. DEAF space is well beyond me.
    Just what is included inside the circle of ‘things that are Deaf enough’ also is beyond me. Some have made their peace with CIs and want to help CI Kids embrace Deaf identities instead of think of the technology as an imperfect cure.
    Cued Speech? Not Deaf enough.
    Bad signing, that is signing with intrusions of English grammar, syntax, speech, an overload of fingerspelling and initialized signs; is it Deaf enough? Does it make a difference if it is produced by a Deaf person as some kind of contact sign language or by an interpreter? Is one inside the circle and the other out?
    I’ve been present at alumni association meetings of elderly Deaf people who graduated from an oral school. Were those meetings–with their signs barely understandable to anyone let alone one another–were they Deaf enough altho many of them do not share current Deaf political views?
    I propose these as real questions, not just to stir up trouble or try to make some point. I don’t know the answers.

    In the meantime, I am so stimulated and impressed by your blog. Struggle to understand it but really enjoy it and glad you are back to making entries.

    • Mike Gulliver
      June 1, 2011

      Hey Ben… thanks for writing, and thanks for reading 🙂

      I guess the question of ‘things that are Deaf enough’ could be seen from two directions…

      If you start with the idea that you know what ‘Deaf’ means… then it’s easy to say if something is ‘Deaf enough’… like if you know how much sweetener you like in your coffee, you can say if it’s sweet enough. It means that – at some point – you have to make a decision about whether someone with a CI is truly ‘Deaf’… or whether someone’s signing matters…

      Whereas, if you start with those that you recognise as ‘Deaf’… like you’d say… ‘oh yeh… they’re Deaf… different, but same as me’… then the whole concept of ‘Deaf’ is defined by the people…

      Often, both start the same way… but the second one has more room to move as the community changes…

      Anyway… great to hear from you… keep reading 🙂

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on March 16, 2011 by in DEAF, Musings.
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