MIKE GULLIVER

Deaf geographies, and other worlds.

DEAF space

DEAF space

Setting aside more traditional accounts of the history of a problematically defined ‘Deaf’ community or of spaces ‘for deaf people’, my research focuses on the emergence of a DEAF space – a space produced by deaf people themselves in pursuit of what Henri Lefebvre calls ‘Totalité‘; or the full expression of what it is to be human, from the situated origin of a predominantly visually-oriented body, and its evolution towards a fully valid, visually-authored reality.

This DEAF space is not (necessarily) compensatory. Nor is it (necessarily) produced as an antagonistic response to the spaces of the hearing world. Rather, it is a space that has the same validity as that of the hearing world; emerging from the desire for peer communication, authored through (and authoring) traditions, communicated by natural language over time… into a more or less complete reality that is just as complex and rich as that enjoyed by the hearing world, only produced through predominantly visual media.

Defined from within it ‘DEAF’ is, therefore, not a term that sources its meaning within the hearing world. Rather, it is a depiction of the sign language form, meaning “like others like me” or “as expected”… a descriptor that is entirely self-referencing, and not defined by any form of fixed audiological, political or identity-based criteria, but free to flow over time as the nature and permeability of what “like others like me” means evolves.

Internally referenced, DEAF space flows between a pole of total autonomy; where DEAF people become less ‘DEAF’ and more simply ‘people’ who are utterly ambivalent towards the expectations of hearing society and free to author reality from a starting point that assumes nothing more than a visual experience of the world… and a pole of total colonisation; where DEAF people have no opportunity to even imagine what ‘DEAF’ might be like, and are authored as the less-than-human ‘deaf’ until they comply with the expectations of an Othering, hearing world.

The key to either of these two poles, and everything in between, is that they rarely exist, and are almost never mutually exclusive towards each other, or to a hearing reality. Rather, they are performed and produced constantly within and entangled with each other in the same person, as interstitial spaces within a whole space of humanity. Evidence of a fundamental tension between humankind’s extraordinary variation and its refusal to acknowledge anything that is ‘Other’ as anything other than ‘Other’.

I study this DEAF space, and its relationship with the hearing world to both understand humanity in a deeper, more informed way and to challenge the taken-for-granted knowledges of a hearing world that most often refuses to consider the validity of realities other than its own.

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