MIKE GULLIVER

Deaf geographies, and other worlds.

DEAF space or the question of ‘what if’…

A problem is looming that is going to only get bigger… Having spent the last 6 or 7 years exploring the way that members of a self-recognising DEAF community produce spaces for being… and called it ‘DEAF space’, another ‘Deaf space’ is emerging which means something different.

This puts me (or rather, my work) in rather an interesting position; I’m finding that my work is being redefined by a popular expression of something that’s not what I researched at all…

I have no desire at all to fight over the name…

Firstly… because I know where Deaf space has come from (the Gallaudet architecture project)… and I know the people involved (notably Hansel Bauman).  I like Hansel and his work… I even shared a platform with him at the recent AAG in Seattle. His work is firmly part of Deaf geographies and he’s a contributor on the DEAF space blogs.

So… there’s no issue there of telling Hansel that his work is wrong… it’s not… it’s just different.

Second… I don’t really even know whether ‘DEAF space’ is the best label for what I’ve been researching… see the previous post on boundaries of DEAF space for more on that… (mind you, I don’t know whether ‘Deaf space’ is any good for what Hansel’s been looking at, but it’s as good a name as any other).

Finally… I’m not really sure that there should be a difference made… after all… all you have to do is look at DEAF space (as I’ve described it… as a space that allows DEAF people to ‘fully be’…) and extend the utopian side of my thinking to a point where DEAF people start to have control over their built environment… and you end up with a Deaf space.

However, I guess it’s the need to see that linear path of argument, and then to follow it back and forth in a number of directions… and wonder what happens when space veers off it suddenly that makes me uncomfortable… that’s the kind of mental game that academics like to play… but how relevant is it really to the DEAF community?

That’s where Paddy Ladd’s Deafhood is so good, for all its potential theoretical fragility… it is an easy to grasp concept that really carries weight and moves people to action (or internal evolution), even in a popular form…

Deaf space as Hansel’s working on it, in a popular form, looks pretty much like what it is… environment designed around a different way of being human… it’s not ‘accommodation’ or ‘access’, it’s the social model of disability flipped around and given to the DEAF community…

Whereas what I’ve been researching is actually a kind of DEAF utopics… and what I’m moving gradually towards is a utopic theory that not only encompasses DEAF space, but extends that to others who life their lives from within differently able physical bodies…ultimately problematising the ‘DEAF’ of ‘DEAF space’.

Perhaps I can continue to use DEAF space… but actually start referring to it as only a part of what I research, which is more a kind of multiply sensed, human ‘what if’…

What transformative power is there though, in something that is necessarily a thought experiment… ?

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This entry was posted on June 1, 2011 by in Musings and tagged , , , , .
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