Deaf geographies, and other worlds.
With permission, this is reproduced from a Facebook post by Annelies Kusters who is a Deaf academic colleague. It presents an alternative to the generally polarised views that have come from people watching the Samsung ‘city signs for a day’ advert.
“There has been written and signed a lot about the Turkish movie in which people in a deaf Turkish man’s neighbourhood learn phrases in sign language. People thought for example that it is heartwarming and/or inspiring whilst others feel that it is exploitative. I want to say something entirely different about it: watching the movie, it strikes me that this is about short interactions with people in the city: taking a taxi, buying something, greeting people, saying sorry, etcetera. Such short interactions are of course not full conversations, but they are important to enable one’s movements through the city, and the quality of such interactions has significant impact on how one feels during those movements. During our research project on gesture in Mumbai we found the same situation as depicted in the movie, but it was not a situation set up by a company to make a commercial, and the interactions we observed were natural, not staged. In the majority of the world (!), hearing people don’t need a sign language course to know how to communicate with their hands, during short interactions. Deaf and hearing people communicate in gesture when deaf people move through the city, buy/sell things, serve or are served, take public or private transport, and so on. It’s also possible to have short conversations about the family, health, the news, sports, work and so on, in gesture. Deaf and hearing research participants indicated that when compared with fully fledged signed or spoken languages such as Hindi or Indian Sign Language, gestural interactions are of course limited, but the point is: it suffices for successful communication during such short interactions in everyday life. If you are interested to get an impression of how it works, see our paper”
The open link to that paper is: http://www.mmg.mpg.de/en/research/all-projects/deaf-hearing-gestural-interaction-in-mumbai-an-ethnography-of-communication/