Updates from September, 2011 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Mike Gulliver 8:35 am on September 30, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Deaf identity, , , identity politics, post-modern, spatial turn, utopia   

    Fracturing the Gallaudet utopia? 

    A recent article by Daniel de Vise in the Washington Post highlights changes that are occurring at Gallaudet, with the inclusion of so many more students from largely hearing, or mainstream backgrounds.

    To quote:

    Gallaudet University in Northeast Washington was always a place where students could speak the unspoken language of deaf America and be understood.

    That is no longer so true. For the first time in living memory, significant numbers of freshmen at the nation’s premiere university for the deaf and hard of hearing arrive lacking proficiency in American Sign Language and experience with deaf culture.

    These newcomers are not only deaf, but also hearing people arriving to be trained as interpreters.

    So what impact for Deaf space there?

    I guess initially two things spring to mind.

    The first is that this is bound to have an impact on the DEAF spaces produced to this point on the GU campus. I can’t imagine that those who took-for-granted the knowledges that they perform in producing a ‘DEAF=like us’ space before will continue to be able to do so in the same way with so many non-DEAF=like us people around.

    Will that lead to enclaves, hybrid spaces, hybrid identities, a new definition of DEAF, a series of parallel cultures? All of the above? I guess we’ll have to wait and watch.

    The second is that, like it or not, what’s happening at GU seems to mirror larger debates within the Deaf community and of the spaces that they produce and inhabit; debates which many have suggested represent a move towards a more descriptive way of talking about a much wider range of those who are, or might be, characterised as ‘Deaf’ or who might be involved with the Deaf community in some significant way: ‘DEAF’ (Gulliver 2009), Sign Language Peoples (Batterbury et al 2007?), Deafhood (Ladd 2003), Post-deaf (Davis 2008?), Deafnicity (Eckert 2010).

    The root of all of these ‘new’ (in fact very old – read the 19th century Deaf press to see how little the modern identity-political ‘Deaf’ has in common with longer-term vision of a signing, visual community) debates appears to derive from a fracturing of a polar ‘Deaf/hearing’ identity imposed by the colonisation of Oralism, an opening up of a number of taboo areas (discussions about deaf bodies, for example (Kelly 2003) and a recentring of identity in the individual, and in individual performances of capability and belonging. Essentially, a spatial turn in Deaf Studies, that pursues wider Deaf realities from a starting point in spaces of/from the body – and then moves to the production of social, cultural, linguistic, political, ethnic (the list goes on) spaces of being.

    Given that the individual is not fixed, and that the flux of individuals through groups leaves those groups un-fixed, it’s hard to see how DEAF/Deaf/deaf – or any other space – can remain fixed, except as a snapshot, or a limited utopian vision.

    And yet, that’s what Gallaudet appears to represent in many people’s minds… a utopia, a Deafspace haven in the midst of a hearing world.

    So what happens as the contestatory nature of that Deafspace/hearing-world dichotomy begins to break down within the boundaries of Gallaudet itself. How does the imagination of a culture cope with the reality (like it or not – that’s not the question here) of staunchly post-modern performances of Deaf (or Signing people) identities?

    I don’t know – but we might find out soon enough.


  • Mike Gulliver 9:26 am on September 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: disability, disabled, human rights, impairment, United Nations   

    ‘Disabled’ or ‘with disabilities’ 

    I recently overheard someone saying that it’s no longer ‘correct’ to talk about ‘disabled people’. Apparently, the UN and other international organizations use “people with disabilities” instead.

    If that’s true, then it represents a considerable challenge to Deaf Geographies. It takes us back to the point where the difference between a person considered ‘non disabled’ and one considered ‘disabled’ is with the person. i.e. inherently attached to their body.

    But of course, this is meaningless within signing spaces – where Deaf people aren’t disabled at all – hearing people who can’t sign are.

    In Deaf space, those considered with a disability aren’t disabled, whereas those who are without a disability are disabled.

    Of course, you could say that those who can’t sign are disabled. Chances are that their peripheral vision isn’t quite as good as those who can sign. But of course, that’s not considered a disability.

    The UN definition returns us to the 1960s; and a dangerous definition of what is considered ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’, ‘impaired’… and given that the UN is the guardian of all things ‘human rights’ and decides what is and what isn’t appropriate intervention or provision for those with disabilities – I’d go as far as to say that they define what is, and isn’t, fully ‘human’.

    The fact that they do it without any apparent reference to the differently produced spaces of human life is, frankly, terrifying.

    A similar post, that takes a different angle is available at http://mikegulliver.wordpress.com

  • Mike Gulliver 9:20 am on September 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: capacity, , individual, performance, production, representations of space   

    Where’s DEAF space for the individual? 

    A question that’s been rattling around my head since the IBG in London is what is DEAF space for the individual? After all, isn’t it a fundamental part of ‘DEAF’ (particularly as defined by Padden & Humphries as ‘like us’) that it is only really mobilised as part of a collective/community? And isn’t ‘DEAF’ – as a collective term – anathema to individual productions of space?

    I don’t have a full answer – performances of space change so often and in such subtle ways that I’m not sure that there is a single, definitive answer.

    But I think part of the answer is that there a tension between the ‘ideal’ of individual freedom; spaces described on an individual basis – and on a moment by moment, case by case, basis – and the inevitability of what happens when those spaces are represented (either by the person themselves, or by others) and the tensions and codings that get involved at that point.

    Ultimately, there’s nothing extraordinary about the spaces that emerge as a series of people who are physically more visually oriented go about their being-in-the-world – at least, no more extraordinary than any other spaces produced by other individuals who are simply ‘perceiving’ their environment and ‘capabilising’ (!) it accordingly. They are just… spaces.

    That is, until individual capabilities (either mechanical, or existential) become contingent upon also establishing those spaces alongside others. That’s when spaces become grouped, identified as ‘same’, polarised, defined, marked, Othered, valued, devalued.

    It seems to be at that point where ‘human’ breaks down into different categories… ‘DEAF’ perhaps being one of those, alongside ‘hearing’, ‘normal’, ‘same’, ‘different’, ‘safe’, ‘dangerous’ etc.

    Perhaps the key to individual DEAF spaces is the way that those categories then get authored back into an individual’s ‘representations’ of space (to draw on Lefebvre)… and the way that shapes the performance of spaces which would otherwise we produced ‘value free’ by the simple interaction of bodies and environment.

    Something to ponder anyway ;)

  • Mike Gulliver 3:30 pm on September 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply

    First item added to the list of resources – O’Brien (2005) – https://deafgeographies.wordpress.com/resources/

  • Mike Gulliver 8:30 am on September 21, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: references,   

    Deaf Geographies references – how you can help 

    As part of this blog, we’re looking to provide access to as many papers and other published works as possible that mention Deaf Geographies.

    There are two key aims for this:

    1. To gather as much background as possible to inform what we do
    2. To provide a resource to help the Deaf community (academic and non) to understand the value of Deaf Geographies, and start to generate engagement around some of the concepts

    A further aim is to start to make this information available and useful to the hearing academic community – and to begin to build power (in a Foucaultian sense) over the way that knowledges in this area are authored by the mainstream.

    Both explicit and implicit references are useful –  anything that refers to, or discusses Deaf performances of space and place, Deaf topographies, Deaf utopias/dystopias, and so on is also welcome. There’s no limit to the coverage, which will grow and diversify as references and papers come to light.

    Also, given the particularly spatial nature of Deaf community colonisation from the mid 19th century, ancient as well as modern resources are welcome. It would be nice to tie the theoretical association of DEAF people and geography (which appears to date most explicitly from 1994) into colonisation, or even pre-colonisation period historical material on Deaf utopias, the nature of DEAF realities and so on.

    How you can help

    Here are three ways you can help.

    • Send references – If you feel able, pleas email me as many references as you can. I’ll then try and find copies of the papers and make them available.
    • Send resources – If you have e-copies of papers or simply ‘bits’ of relevant documentation and are happy to pass those on, then please do. If they are big, I can set up a file transfer location or you can use something like <https://www.wetransfer.com/>.
    • Start discussions – If you feel really adventurous, send in a paper with a short review, or a few comments on the content which can then feature on the blog with space for discussion. Particularly useful here might be papers that are not explicitly on Deaf geographies, but that are pertinent to the way that Deaf geographies might be theorised.

    And finally…

    Finally, the Deaf Sandbox blog is an informal space for us to present and discuss ideas linked to Deaf Geographies, so if you’d like the ability to post to it, then please let me know.

  • Mike Gulliver 8:11 am on September 8, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: cyberspace, iconicity, online, , v-lists,   

    Where are the V-lists 

    I’ve been following several debates on a list for Deaf academics recently. It’s predominantly a list with academics in the US, UK, Australia etc… there are very few from non-English writing countries and all discussions are held in written English.

    So, a recently mail caught my eye asking why it was that there was no method for posting in sign language – either ASL, BSL or any other – to help those academics who aren’t so comfortable with English to quickly access the discussions.

    The idea that this is even a sensible suggestion is one that asks some pretty tough spatial questions of the linguistic prowess that the hearing world professes over the DEAF community. Hearing world taken-for-granted linguistic/national divisions look rather silly when you consider that a group of internationally dispersed DEAF academics could conduct academic discussions using sign languages and all make sense of each other.

    When you see DEAF people communicating at something like a World Federation of the Deaf meet, the idea that hearing people struggle to communicate effectively with a person who’s grown up only a few miles from us makes our spoken ‘languages’ look rather pathetic.

    Compared to the way in which natural sign languages are able to flow towards each other in the iconic – spoken languages’ sound=morpheme system is very limited.

    So sure – sign language can’t talk round blind corners – and isn’t so easy if you’ve got both hands full. But spoken language is just as limited, but in different ways.

    No one is ‘better’ – just different – and to work effectively – each exudes different space.

    Anyway – back to the original question – where are the V-lists?

    Well – the fact I’m writing this in English suggests that it’s not quite as easy to post in sign. I’d have to record it first using tech that’s not always available, then store it somewhere, then embed it – whereas with WordPress I simply point, click and type.

    But it is possible with something like Twitter – you can simply start the tweet, and then video – twitter does the linking and sends out a message with the URL included.

    The web is still a largely text-based space – that’s a systemic limitation imposed by the space that a text vs. a video file takes up. But there are ways around that. Clunky though they might be, perhaps we need to start exploring those as a way of suggesting an alternative use of online spaces, one more suited to Deaf geographies?

    A different version of this post, with thoughts expanded slightly differently, is available at http://mikegulliver.wordpress.com/2011/09/08/where-are-the-v-lists/

  • Mike Gulliver 8:05 am on September 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    This is the link for the main Deaf Geographies site… http://deafgeographies.weebly.com

  • Mike Gulliver 3:43 pm on September 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bourdieu, Finland, , Justice, Lefebvre, Minority, Policy, , Soundscape, Swedish, Validity   

    News from the RGS-IBG 

    Having just returned from the Royal Geographical Society, Institute of British Geographers conference I thought it worth putting up information here on the papers that were presented and some of the discussion that followed.The session (only one at the IBG – as opposed to the 3 planned for the AAG in Feb 2012!) was entitled “Intersecting Geographical Imaginations: Social Geography and Deaf Studies” and featured four papers:

    • Anna-Maria Slotte (University of Helsinki, Finland) – Citizenship viewed from a minority within a minority perspective. The Case of the Finland-Swedish deaf

    Anna Maria’s paper described the situation of a community of fewer than 300 Deaf people using Finland Swedish sign, a language positioned on a dialect continuum between Finish and Swedish sign, and their experiences as Deaf members of the Finland Swedish community. Her paper focused on issues of identity, language sustainability and the citizenship experiences of those who belong to such a small community, within an already small community.

    • Dai O’Brien (University of Bristol) – Mainstream schools as a space of identity development for d/Deaf young people

    Dai’s paper was a primarily theoretical exploration of how best to approach spaces of identity development of Deaf (often) individuals within mainstream schools – the primary situation of most Deaf children in the UK. Describing some of the assumptions of formative reports (Warnock in particular), Dai covered some of the difficulties of using Lefebvrian theory – particularly the way that it struggles to map the spaces of the individual, and laid out Bourdieu’s approach as one that was more pertinent to his research.

    • Gill Harold (University College Cork, Ireland) – ‘Hear ye! Hear ye!;’ Exploring geographies of sound and questions of Deaf citizenship

    Gill’s paper described the city from a Deaf-centred perspective and considered its social reproduction in light of the phonocentric tendencies which are implicit in the design of urban spaces and the audist bias which underpins civic interactions. Highlighting how the long-standing conflation of speech with language is a misnomer which has had far-reaching implications for Sign Language communities, she described the need to see cities as multi-sensory scapes – as places that could also be ‘Deafscapes’.

    • Sarah C.E. Batterbury & Mike Gulliver (Bristol University) – Justice versus validity: debating the social geographies of DEAF/Sign Language Peoples’ emancipation

    Sarah and Mike’s paper was presented as a debate between two views: a pragmatic, resource allocation based policy approach, and an idealistic, utopia-as-method approach. Each presented the core of their argument separately. Sarah’s as ‘Linguistic Justice’ – secured through the application of human rights. Mike’s as Validity – secured through a full appreciation for the foundations and equality of DEAF space. Their paper presents the tension that exists between these two approaches and questions whether either is entirely possible.

    For the moment, the abstracts are available in full from the RGS conference website.

    The session was chaired by Mary Beth Kitzel who also presented at the AAG in Seattle in April. Discussion after the papers was facilitated by Tracey Skelton who, along with Gill Valentine, is one of the only geographers to have written on the situation of the Deaf community.

    As always, there was as much worth in meeting up and taking time to catch up as there was in the papers themselves. General feelings afterwards were that although conferences are good as landmarks in the year, we would all appreciate a forum for more ongoing contact.

    So, watch this space – where we’ll be discussing some of the ideas that came up throughout the day.

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